[Recap] THE EXORCIST heads into the woods to flesh out its backstory

After a two week sabbatical, FOX’s The Exorcist returns for its fifth episode of season two, “There But For The Grace Of God, Go I.” The last new episode had just delivered a major twist. *Spoilers* Grace (Amélie Eve), the agoraphobic youngest charge in Andy (John Cho)’s foster home, was actually a demon that only he could see. Episode five picks up immediately where we left off. 

“There But For The Grace Of God, Go I” proves to be a backstory-filled episode of the series, which is appropriate since the season is nearly half over. But, we still don’t know that much about many of the new characters. Usually this level of exposition can weigh an hour of television down, but writer Rebecca Kirsch manages to integrate the tidbits in in a fairly organic way.

   

Following a confrontation with Verity (Brianna Hildebrand), Andy realizes that he’s not alright. In an attempt to escape from the house – and by extension Grace – he takes the kids into the woods for an impromptu camping trip. This provides some much needed insight into how Shelby (Alex Barima) and Verity ended up in foster care, while fleshing out Shelby‘s religious beliefs and Verity‘s distrust of the church. The latter is still the more compelling character, likely because Hildebrand is the bigger star and entrusted with more screen time, but The Exorcist has repeatedly shown that there’s compelling drama to be found in diametrically opposed beliefs, so it’s likely that Verity and Shelby‘s conversation will be important as the season progresses.

Of course this is still a horror series, so there has to be some scares, too. The heavy lifting is handled primarily in Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera)’s storyline, which essentially finds him investigating the Kim house by himself as spooky stuff happens. Director So Yong Kim does great work in these scenes, allowing the camera to eerily drift away from characters to explore the ceiling or abandoned hallways.

These scenes helpfully reinforce the narrative development from the first few episodes of the season by establishing Father Tomas‘ connection to demons: ever since he let a demon invade his mind, he seems capable of sensing evil. Even if he can’t physically see Grace when she’s standing next to him, he knows that danger is afoot in the Kim household.

Unfortunately the twist involving Grace doesn’t pack the visceral thrills I was expecting. Sure, seeing her passive aggressively threaten Andy in the woods is cool (especially the gag-inducing effects work when the wasp crawls out of his chest sores), but she’s creepy, not scary. It’s not until the final scene when Grace has obviously been replaced by an adult wearing the pillow-case mask that a tingle crept up my spine. With the demon child swapped out for a more appropriately unsettling threat, The Exorcist has opened up brand new avenues for horror. I’m very excited to see what Andy‘s dead wife Nicole (Alicia Witt) brings to the table next week.

John Cho, Amélie Eve
Andy (John Cho) grapples with literal demons in 2×05

Odds and Ends

  • Not to pat myself on the back or anything, but I totally called it when I suggested that there was a romance brewing between Marcus (Ben Daniels) and Peter Morrow (Christopher Cousins), the helpful man who has been filling him in on the island’s murderous backstory. It’s nice to see Marcus get a happy moment before this entire situation goes to hell.
  • I quite liked the way that Kirsch weaves the depictions of the old murders into Father Tomas‘ vision and the topsy-turvy way that Yong Kim films them; it’s as though we’re falling into the past at odd angles. There’s also a nice visceral impact each time Father Tomas accrues a new murder-related injury.
  • Not much happens in the Antwerp, Belgium scenes with Mouse (Zuleikha Robinson) and Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan). He finally kills Sister Dolores (Karin Konoval) and they decide to head to Chicago. That’s it.
  • Bye (for now?) Truck (Cyrus Arnold) – we hardly knew you. It’s entirely possible the non-descript foster child will reappear later, but for now Grace‘s unwitting The Blair Witch Project pawn has seemingly dealt his last blow and been carted off the island by social worker Rose (Li Jun Li).
  • In addition to Truck‘s Blair Witch homage, Father Tomas replicates the infamous image from the original 1973 Exorcist film when he appears in an extreme low-angle shot staring up at the brightly lit window.
  • Finally, I’m curious how many viewers saw the Nicole reveal coming? I anticipated it because previous episodes rarely, if ever, said her name, then suddenly she was being name-dropped all over the place in this episode.

The Exorcist airs Fridays at 9pm EST on FOX. What did you think of “There But For The Grace Of God, Go I”?

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Joe Lipsett

Joe is a TV addict with a background in Film Studies. He co-created TV/Film Fest blog Bitchstolemyremote.com and has written for Bloody Disgusting. He enjoys graphic novels, dark beer and plays multiple sports (adequately, never exceptionally). While he loves all horror, if given a choice, Joe always opts for slashers and creature features.