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TV Series Review

Demon possession can be a difficult thing to identify, especially in teens. Are they sullen? Angry? Do they like to sit alone in dark rooms? That could be just normal adolescence, right? Or it could be something else entirely—especially if the teen suddenly starts spitting profanities in Latin.

Angela is pretty sure one of her teen daughters is possessed. Father Tomas—a young, logical priest from the local parish—isn't as certain. Or, at least, he isn't until he sees one of the girls psychically killing rats in the attic. After that, he's pretty convinced that he's not just dealing with a typical case of late-adolescent angst.

But Thomas is an exorcism novice, a guy who didn't even believe in demons until he stared one down in Angela's attic. Knowing he's in over his head, Tomas calls in Father Marcus, a priest who's seen his share of demons and (we hope) expelled most of them.

But Marcus wonders if there's more going on behind the curtain.

"God, for your future reference, isn't the one who works in mysterious ways," he tells Tomas. "You're being manipulated, my friend, by forces you can't even begin to understand."

Possession is Nine-Tenths of This Show

Fox's new series The Exorcist is a reimagining of sorts of William Peter Blatty's 1971 novel and 1973 movie of the same name. Indeed, much of the television series feels familiar. Angela and her daughters are well-to-do. Her prosperity and 21st-century cynicism leaves her ill-prepared to deal with the dark forces that have invaded her house. A young priest plagued with his own troubles gets paired with a grizzled veteran—a man who's seen more than his fair share of evil and done his best to expel it.

But the characters are different: Unlike the single mother in the original Exorcist, Angela is married to a mentally impaired husband named Henry. Regan, the original 12-year-old victim, has been replaced by older teens Casey and Kat—one a bubbly high-schooler, the other a moody cynic apparently home from college.

And the relational dynamics are more complicated, too. Father Marcus has been in retreat since his last attempted exorcism, a supernatural fight that claimed the life of a young boy. Father Tomas apparently has secrets that we can only assume the devil would very much like to twist to his own ends. Henry seems to be slowly fading into dementia, leaving Angela to deal with the crisis on her own. And Casey, a moody college student, has long had a prickly relationship with her mom.

"I liked my friend's stupid Wiccan craft store on Facebook, so now she thinks that I'm out drinking ram's blood or something," she tells Tomas. "Do you know how embarrassing that is?"

And let's not forget the mysterious characters who haunt the narrative's edges: the strange homeless man who shouts silently. The sagely spoken oldster, eyes covered in dark glasses, who offers enigmatic advice. The show is determined to throw its viewers, like Father Tomas himself, off-kilter—to make us wonder who or what he can trust.

Exorcise Your Best Judgment

In an age in which religion is rarely mentioned on television, The Exorcist is an explicitly spiritual—and an explicitly Christian—exercise. It suggests that God is real and the devil is, too, and that the only hope to defeat the latter is trust in the former. The show's tagline, "Every soul is a battlefield," is a truism that most religious leaders would say is spot-on.

But many of those same religious leaders would likely have plenty to say—and to scorn—when it comes to The Exorcist's horrific content.

Exorcisms aren't clean, easy affairs. Some demons are very resistant to leave their hosts—killing them if need be. The evil forces within torture their victims through all manner of gross afflictions and contortions. And frankly, to more cynical eyes, the priests' treatment of these tormented souls doesn't always seem that much better. Possessed people are sometimes tied and chained to beds or chairs, with even fellow priests prone to tell exorcists to back off.

As for sexuality, it's suggested that Father Tomas has struggled to keep his vows of celibacy. Hints have been dropped regarding Casey's sexual identity as well. Characters drink and swear. Even though the premise of the show supports the idea of God, moments within it can demean both Him and religion in general. Demons twist Scripture to taunt and destroy.

The original Exorcist was intended, according to author Blatty, as a "sermon that no one could possibly sleep through." And like its predecessors, this TV series may encourage healthy spiritual curiosity among some. But does that justify all the unhealthy content Fox feeds us in this problematic reboot?


Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

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Episode Reviews

The Exorcist: Sept. 23, 2016 "Pilot"



Readability Age Range





Alfonso Herrera as Father Tomas Ortega; Ben Daniels as Father Marcus Keane; Hannah Kasulka as Casey Rance; Geena Davis as Angela Rance; Brianne Howey as Kat Rance; Alan Ruck as Henry Rance; Alan Metoskie as Homeless Man; Mouzam Makkar as Jessica






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On Video

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Paul Asay

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