Fox’s The Exorcist
Season 2, Episode 3: “Unclean”
Directed by Ti West
Written by Manny Coto
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Safe as Houses” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “One for Sorrow” – click here
We begin on the River Seine in France. More of the “vocare pulvere” – the ceremony of ash – around the table of Cardinal Guillot (Torrey Hanson). They’re served tarts with something… extra special on top. There’s an eerie comparison to predatory animals and demons while the cardinal fawns over a cat. Everyone has a tart, then Guillot spews blood along with the others. They all catch fire, the table with them. And their server, a woman with a scar across the face named Mouse (Zuleikha Robinson) leaves the place behind, taking the sweet kitty with her. Oh, I like this lady.
“All nature will be renewed by fire”
Out in Washington, Andy (John Cho) is burying the creepy fetus that Shelby (Alex Barima) brought home the night before. Things are odd, for sure. At the same time, Caleb (Hunter Dillon) is facing his lie about Verity (Brianna Hildebrand) being out by the well with him, only he says it isn’t a lie, that she was holding his hand then… gone. Even with all the tension involved with Rose’s (Li Jun Li) social work visit, Andy tries to get by as usual, plus she’s decided not to make a fuss over the incident at the well.
But Shelby can’t shake the feeling in the woods, believing that something bad is lurking out there. He clutches his Bible, unable to let go of it or the sense there’s an evil close.
Father Marcus (Ben Daniels) and Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) are at their latest destination, the former having received a call from a deacon, a close friend. They’re at a house in a quiet neighbourhood, the home of a Mrs. Graham. She has a daughter named Harper who’s troubled. For six months, she’s been a different person, having visions of an “imaginary playmate” from much earlier in childhood.
Sound familiar? Not unlike Reagan and Captain Howdy. Upstairs, the priest tag team find poor Harper in bed looking horrible, very clearly wrestling with a demon underneath. Mom is distraught, she says something “unclean” has hold of her daughter. The priests start trying to figure out if there’s anything signalling genuine demonic possession. And, oh, there’s good proof. Well, it seems. There’s a drawing Harper apparently did three weeks before, showing two priests battling a monster. However, there’s a Chris McNeil book on the shelf, one with which Mrs. Graham is familiar. I wonder… hmm. Possession? Or Munchausen’s of sorts?
They talk with the girl, she says her friend’s name is Tobias. Although things seem off. Marcus charms and questions, probing to find out if this is real or a big hoax and a waste of time. Then she vomits the familiar green pea soup, convulsing.
What about Father Bennett(Kurt Egyiawan)? He meets with Mouse, telling her about how wrong things went with Guillot. She informs him about the tragic fire. Now, it seems these two might become their own tag team, similar to the priest and the renegade ex-communicated priest.
Speaking of the lads, they’re questioning the situation. They have to be sure, if not an unneeded exorcism could fuck the girl up bad, for life. But then a wound appears on mom’s side from across the room as Harper chomps and chomps at nothing. CREEPY SCENE! Dig it.
We find out a bit more of Andy’s inner life. He has a beer with a friend by the water, talking about a life he imagined long ago. He mentions the inexplicable briefly, wondering if anything’s happened on the island. But he dismisses the talk himself. Meanwhile, I feel like there’s going to be demonic trouble for Shelby. Just because demons love to fuck around with the religious, the deeply faithful.
Now comes a connection – Rose goes over to the Graham house. Mom doesn’t want to let her inside, of course, and the social worker pushes back against that. Uh oh. And up in the bedroom, Tomas is breaking out all the tools. He claims to have had a “vision of this girl.” Marcus believes evil has stained him after he let that demon in his noggin. He’s getting a complex over his feeling of power.
Except now Rose has seen them outside in the window. She’s ready to call in the cops. Before she leaves, she drops info that Harper’s been sick her whole life. This interests the older renegade priest.
Andy is taking little Grace (Amélie Eve) outside, she’s conquering her fears and taking off her unsettling pillow mask. They take a walk down to the garden with the sunflowers together. Above them, a gigantic flock of birds soars. Down at the water, Shelby sees them as he prays to the Lord. Andy runs with Grace inside just as the birds begin pelting themselves into the house by the dozens upon dozens. Some actually fly through the windows. Dead birds, everywhere. Hard thing to explain to a girl as a young as her.
We discover that the lake has dark significance for Andy, where his wife Nicole killed herself. Shelby’s religion leads him to believe there’s an evil force in that area. Poor foster dad can’t take that, though. He draws the line.
Marcus has figured out that mom’s been drugging her daughter, injuring her, even herself, all to make it into a big story. Sickening. We do get a sweet moment where Marcus tells Harper she’ll be stronger after she makes it through this ordeal; she is a survivor. This sends Mrs. Graham on the defensive with a hammer. She gets Tomas when he’s looking through her arsenal of pills. Then she goes after Marcus, who fends her off but takes a few knocks in the process.
Police arrive with Rose to break it all up. Later, our priest tag team is at the hospital. Marcus says that “at least with a demon you know where you stand,” but with evil in regular people, a parent who’d hurt their child, it’s unpredictable. This situation also reveals to Tomas his fallibility, he isn’t an all-seeing visionary, he is a man, a priest, only with faith to guide him. Naturally, we see Rose talk to the two men. She’s going to get Andy to take Harper in. Oh, this is going to get real interesting.
Cut to Antwerp. Father Bennett goes with Mouse to a dingy-looking basement. There is Sister Dolores, or “what‘s left of her.” Plagued by a demon, chained to the floor.
FUCK YEAH! This is another great episode. One of my favourites, probably, of either season. Lots of good stuff happening, and we got to see a different thing going on in terms of the possession, a hoax with horrific consequences. Just a wild ride. Great Ti West episode this time around, too.
“One for Sorrow” comes to us next week.