Why in the Hell Aren't You Watching The Exorcist?

Ben Daniels in the “Chapter Six: Star of the Morning” episode of The Exorcist. Image: ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jean Whiteside/FOX
Ben Daniels in the “Chapter Six: Star of the Morning” episode of The Exorcist. Image: ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jean Whiteside/FOX

At first, we were skeptical about The Exorcist TV series. But when we finally got a chance to watch it, we realized it’s not a wan imitation of the movie—it’s a wonderfully unsettling expansion of the movie’s universe. If you’re a horror fan and you’re not tuning in, you’re missing out.


After we saw the pilot, we came up with three things The Exorcist would need to do to succeed, and the show has accomplished all of them, easily, while taking twists we could never have expected. The fact that it’s constantly unpredictable is one of the show’s greatest strengths, along with the fact that the characters, who are dealing with some insanely bizarre circumstances, actually feel weirdly relatable in spite of everything.

Without giving too much away, since the whole point of this is to get you to watch The Exorcist for yourself, the show takes a very creative approach to depicting possession. It’s not just a girl tied to a bed speaking in tongues (though it eventually gets to that point). The demon targets teenager Casey by drawing out her deepest insecurities and “helping” her overcome them; we see the process happen gradually. We observe the demon enter her life as an older man that only she can see, and we can literally watch the battle for her soul as she wavers over whether or not to give in to his demands. Along the way, we get to see her use her newfound evil powers in some oddly satisfying (but still utterly horrifying) ways, taking down a bitchy sports rival and a disgusting subway groper in ways that are truly demonic. But we also see the emotional pain she inflicts on her family, and the agonizing turmoil she feels within herself, too.

The priest characters are also unusually complex. The younger priest, Father Tomas, is a little less interesting—he has some old temptations clouding his judgment that become more prominent as the show progresses, but he’s generally in “What the fuck is happening?” mode at all times, the ideal audience surrogate. The (slightly) older priest, Father Marcus, is the show’s best character; he’s been fighting demons for the Catholic Church since he was just a boy, but lately he’s been spending just as much time fighting the church itself. And with the demonic presence on Earth on the rise (Casey is just one brick in a growing wall), he’s starting to realize a greater conspiracy is afoot. But he’s not doom and gloom 100 percent of the time; there’s a fantastic sequence where he winds up on a “spooky places” tour of Chicago, and ends up bonding over supernatural know-how with the eccentric hosts.

The show returns tonight after a week off following a hell of a big reveal that involves one of the show’s other major characters, played by Geena Davis, whose ambiguities are starting to gel in some really interesting ways. Right now, you can catch up on The Exorcist’s first five episodes on the Fox website. Make your own “the power of Christ compels you” joke here, and get to binge-watching. Halloween is over, but there are plenty of scary times ahead. Did we mention that the Pope is about to pay a visit to The Exorcist’s Chicago?

io9 News Editor, here since 2016. Previously SF Bay Guardian newspaper (RIP), SFSU (MA, Cinema Studies), member of the SF Bay Area Film Critics Circle, big fan of horror, metal, and verrry small dogs.


Dr Emilio Lizardo

Well, there used to be a website that would talk about genre shows and give recommendations as to what was worth watching and what wasn’t. Sure, it was only their opinion, but you learned about these things and in a time where many people watch TV timeshifted without commercials, it was useful. They could tell you that this thing that looked cool in the promo was thin, bad, and not worth your time. Or that this other thing that you thought was just a cheesy remake was far better than the original and you should check it out. Then, once a week, they would remind you what shows were on every week so you could make sure to catch them.

Unfortunately, that website does not really do that anymore. They published maybe an article or two a couple months before it even premiered in the deluge of content that is Comic-Con and an occasional blurb in “Morning Spoilers,” then nothing. Maybe they are too busy talking about comics, anime, toys, and (some) horror. Although they used to talk about all that stuff and still find time to cover other forms of genre as well as technology. So I don’t have a great place that tells me what I might want to check out because maybe I might like it. That is why I am not watching The Exorcist.