After last week’s penultimate episode, it was unclear what to expect from The Exorcist season finale, “Unworthy”. Obviously the matter of Andy (John Cho)’s possession would need to be resolved and presumably the return of Mouse (Zuleikha Robinson) would have an effect on Marcus (Ben Daniels), but most everything else was up in the air. The Exorcist is a perennial “bubble” show in that it has a loyal fan-base and a Friday time slot with reduced studio expectations, but struggles with low ratings; would show-runner Jeremy Slater swing for the fences and risk a (potentially unresolved) cliffhanger or would everything be wrapped up in case this is the end of the series?
The answer is a little from column A and a little from column B.
A lot of the Kim family drama is resolved in more or less the way you would expect. Andy‘s exorcism is relatively brief compared to the drawn out experience of the first season finale. Rather than offer an extended variation of something we’ve seen before, the focus is on Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera)’s “mind palace” experience in Andy‘s consciousness with the demon.
While the continued focus on Tomas‘ vulnerability to possession is a nice bit of continuity, the scenes of Nikki (Alicia Witt) stalking him and Andy aren’t particularly memorable compared to what’s come before (including last episode). It’s as though all of the visually distinctive choices were claimed earlier in the season and director Jason Ensler was left with nothing unique for the finale. The one outlier is Nikki‘s memorable entrance as she rises from a pool of black goo.
My biggest issue with the resolution of Andy‘s storyline is that it feels like another delay tactic. I discussed this at length in last week’s review, but here Mouse more or less lays out what will happen. Because she’s been uninvolved with the Kim family, however, it doesn’t make sense for her to be the one to murder Andy; she has no emotional investment. Having Marcus do it makes much more sense – he has a stake in the outcome – but having him protest the murder, allow Tomas to nearly be possessed and then circle back and kill Andy feels anticlimatic. It would have gone down better if Mouse‘s dialogue had been cut.
For me, the finale worked best not in these action sequences, but in the quieter moments like the emotional goodbye at the hospital. It’s an ingenious decision to cut between Tomas delivering the message in the present and flashbacks of Andy speaking because it makes it seem as though Andy is speaking directly to the children. While his words, and the denouement involving Rose (Li Jun Li) adopting all five foster kids, are a little too pat, this resolution is undeniably cathartic. It’s also very reminiscent of the Rance family living peacefully on their ranch at the end of season one.
The non-Kim portions of “Unworthy” worked hard to set in motion events that could carry over into a potential season three. The bracketing device involving Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan) being possessed while in a coma wraps up his brief arc and introduces a personal villain for Marcus and Tomas to battle in the future. Sidebar: The long shot of Bennett lumbering after his nurse with a giant pair of garden shears (?) followed by the quick cut to a decapitated statue is amusing, but a little too on the nose. Come on The Exorcist, you’re better than this!
The dissolution of our primary exorcists’ partnership feels a little less convincing. Marcus‘ belief that murdering Andy has made him unworthy feels too much like a writerly plot device designed to introduce conflict and divide the protagonists for a brief time. The fact that the final scene is of Marcus‘ premonition (seemingly from God) that Tomas is in danger suggests that the pair won’t be separated for long, so why bother separating them at all?
All in all, season two has proven that The Exorcist not only has enough juice in it to sustain multiple seasons, but that the writers know how to balance scares with emotional investment, while also introducing new characters and season-long mysteries. Despite the low ratings, let’s hope that FOX does right by this little gem and gives us a third season.
Odds and Ends
- Two very obvious (enjoyable) callbacks to the original 1973 film: Andy delivers Reagan‘s memorable catchphrase “What a lovely day for an exorcism” and later Nikki does a spiderwalk up the stairs.
- Not to nitpick, but earlier in the season Rose made a big deal about Andy raising 5 foster kids as a single parent. She’s now in the exact same position, only she’s a brand new foster mom. I call shenaningans.
- Despite the sweetness of seeing the kids all pile on Truck (Cyrus Arnold), it was also established that he would never be allowed close to Verity (Brianna Hildebrand) again after he attacked her. So shenaningans x2.
- If Marcus is taking a breather from performing exorcisms, couldn’t he have at least ended up shacking up with Peter (Christopher Cousins)? Throw us queer fans a bone!
- It’s been said before, but it needs to be said again: the set design and make-up team on this series deserves every accolade. That top image of Nikki is so beautifully executed that I want to frame it and put it on my wall.
That’s a wrap on Nightmare on Film Street‘s coverage of The Exorcist. Thanks for reading along and hopefully we’ll recovene next year for round three!