October 29, 2016

THE CULTURE WARS ARE A ROUT:

THE EXORCIST TAKES CHRISTIANITY SERIOUSLY (Wesley J. Smith, 10 . 28 . 16, First Things)

Christian love is the life-blood of the new Fox series The Exorcist, in which devout Catholic characters grapple with demonic forces, putting at risk their lives and even their souls.

The Exorcist stays remarkably true to the feel of the best-selling 1971 novel of the same name and the classic 1973 movie based on the book. While the show tells a different story, its primary protagonists are, as in the book and movie, two troubled priests who agree to fight a possessing demon at the request of the victim's mother (played by Geena Davis). Fr. Marcus (Ben Daniels) is an experienced but broken exorcist whose last case resulted in the death of a boy under his care. His partner in demon fighting, Fr. Tomas (Alfonso Herrera), is a rising-star Hispanic priest from a poor parish in Chicago, tempted by his ambition to become "the first Mexican pope." The demon's victim is again female, only this time she is a young adult named Casey (Hannah Kasulka) rather than a child. And yes, internecine church politics threaten to impede the (from the audience's perspective) genuinely needed exorcism.

There are important differences as well, and I think they add materially to the plot. A Vatican official delivers a papal letter of excommunication to Fr. Marcus, but he is secretly supportive, sending him to a cloistered convent to witness how holy nuns overcome demonic possession. There is more than one way to defeat the dark side. Fr. Marcus and Fr.Tomas wield their crucifixes as weapons and fling holy water while shouting, "It is Christ who commands you!" The abbess, Mother Bernadette (Deanna Dunagan), takes a gentler, more feminine approach. Bringing to mind the loving heart of the Mother of God, she successfully frees a possessed man through fervent hugs and ardent prayers, receiving on her person the physical scars of the demon's violent lashing out. Fr. Marcus is deeply moved, and we later see him crooning quietly over an unconscious Casey, holding her gently in his arms.

We also witness the demon "Salesman" insidiously at work. Salesman is depicted as a dirty and increasingly seedy-looking man (Robert Emmett Lunney) whom only Casey can see. This demon is full of anguished hate: "Do you know what it is like to have Paradise within you and never be allowed to touch it?" it demands of Casey as she struggles against its violent domination. Moreover, it makes clear to Casey that possession is an intensely personal action for the demon.

The stakes are also much higher in the television show than in the novel and movie--although the saving of a human soul is always high-stakes. A great evil is afoot in Chicago, and it may be connected with the pope's impending visit, which is advertised with signs reading, "He is coming." That may be a two-sided message: Fr. Marcus warns that Satanists are preparing for something big, committing mass murders and removing the organs of their victims to be used in conjurations.

Like all good serials, each episode of The Exorcist leaves viewers wanting more.

Posted by at October 29, 2016 8:23 AM

  

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