When FOX announced The Exorcist television series in 2016, a lot of people were not happy about the idea. This is usually the case when studios try to mess with beloved horror movies or franchises, but I was still curious to see if the show would be a horrible cash-grab. To my surprise, The Exorcist turned out to be one of the best horror shows in recent years, with compelling characters and storylines, and multiple twists that made the show better than what I could have ever hoped for.
The first season of the show starred Geena Davis as Angela Rance, a concerned mother who turns to Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) for advice on her daughter’s strange behavior. The pilot episode reveals the first twist, that it is not Kat Rance (Brianne Howey) who is possessed, but her other daughter, Casey Rance (Hannah Kasulka).
The show has some great moments between the family that create the same tense atmosphere that the 1973 original movie had, such as a game of Jenga in which the demon possessing Casey shows Angela a small taste of what he can really do. Something that the television show very cleverly does is show the possession from the point of view of Casey. The audience gets to see the deterioration of the young girl from the inside out, and how it effects the rest of the family, as well as Father Tomas. We also see many clever nods to the original movie, such as a gory version of the head spin, more pea soup vomit, and many more.
However, one of the show’s best moments comes in the closing scenes of the fifth episode. If you have not yet seen the show, I highly suggest you watch it before I spoil it for you, as this scene was written so well that I was speechless even after it was over. Angela visits Father Tomas at the church, and begins to tell him a story of how she went through something similar as a child, and her mother exploited it for money, causing her to run away and change her name. The secret would be revealed to hardcore fans of the original Exorcist seconds before, as we see a close up shot of Angela’s bible, that reads:
To Rags. Love, Mama. 1974.
That’s right, Angela Rance is actually Regan from the original Exorcist, all grown-up, completely changing the plot of the show and adding another layer to the already complex characters. This explains all the subtle references to the movie, showing us they were much more than easter eggs, they were a hint to a big part of the plot.
At the same time, Regan’s mother Chris is brought into the show, played by Sharon Gless. This is my only problem with the entire show: what they did with Chris’ character. Angela reveals that her mother used the story of her demonic possession and exploited it for money, which seems like something that the Chris from the 1973 movie would never do. The show makes it seem like they are going to use that storyline when the demon leaves Casey and possesses Angela, aka Regan, once again. I thought that the season would end with Chris sacrificing herself to save her daughter, bringing the story from the original movie and the television show to full circle. But instead, the show has the now-possessed Angela kill her mother, which was a tremendously wasted opportunity.
There was also a separate storyline involving a satanic cult and the arrival of the Pope, but the possession of Casey and the return of Pazuzu, the demonic entity from The Exorcist, seemed to be front and center for the majority of the first season. The season wrapped up the story of Regan, and season 2 follows Father Tomas and Father Marcus (Ben Daniels) following a different possession in a foster home near Seattle, making the show similar to an anthology series. Despite some wasted opportunities, The Exorcist provides a terrifying yet emotional story of a family torn apart by demonic possession, and while nothing can live up to the original movie, it is still a must-watch for any horror fan. If you have not yet seen it, you can watch all ten episodes of the first season on Hulu or FOXNow, before the second season begins on September 29th.