Okay, there’s no two ways about this: this series is not playing around with its depiction of evil, and it’s going to put a lot of people off (as is clear from some of the reviews that are flying around the internet). I do genuinely wonder if some people expected this to be some sort of PG-13 Buffy-esque take on the subject of exorcism, with attractive teenagers able to get rid of incredible demons and make a quip afterwards. William Peter Blatty’s novel wasn’t that; the original movie wasn’t that. As one of the characters points out in this episode, if you believe in God, then surely you have to believe in His opposite? And what ways is a demon or a devil going to show itself in 21st Century America? By being a sleazy pervert, by appealing to the baser nature of humanity – and by treating people as dirt.
Which is precisely what is happening, as Casey comes further under the control of whatever it is that is stalking Father Marcus. Hannah Kasulka is consistently strong, whether as the unaffected Casey, the Casey who is tempted by the demon’s beguilement – and as the possessed girl. The final scene of the episode, on the subway car, has to have been humiliating to play, but she carries it off perfectly – and kudos also to Alan Ruck for a fine performance throughout this episode too.
The confrontation between Ben Daniels’ Marcus and Kasulka’s Casey is the highpoint of the episode, with Alfonso Herrera pitching his contribution at the right level – once Father Marcus starts his “chat” with Casey, Father Tomas takes a back seat but it’s his reactions that sell it (look at the moment just before he activates the video camera). Herrera is also confident in the church politics scenes, and I’m hoping that we’re going to get some clarity soon regarding Brother Bennett’s role and exactly what Marcus’ status is – is he really as badly regarded by the Church as would seem to be the case initially?
Whereas the recent Damien series confronted questions of temptation and the conflict between a human and demonic nature, The Exorcist has gone straight for the jugular in terms of evil. The ten episodes are not going to be a comfortable watch – but nor should they be, if they’re to be true not just to their forebears, but also to the real ministry of exorcism…
Verdict: Harrowing and powerful fantasy. 8/10