REVIEW: The Exorcist, S2 Ep6 – Darling Nikki

the exorcist tomas marcus crucifixes

Leading up to The Exorcists sixth episode of the season, there was a lot of hype generated for “Darling Nikki.” Creator Jeremy Slater tweeted that it contained “his favorite scene we’ve ever done, period” and that it was the “best” episode in the series thus far, in his opinion. A few of the actors and writers behind the show echoed his praise, touting the episode’s 9-page scene involving the leading characters. The Exorcist makes good on all of these ambitious promises, delivering a tense and evocative hour of television.

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Following the demon’s creepy shift from little Grace, Andy finds himself face-to-face with his deceased wife Nicole. She’s like the Ghost of Andy’s Tortured Past—a vision in white, gliding along in a flowing dress, almost angelic. It’s a departure from last season’s demon, who came in the form of a salesman dressed in gray. Nicole, in comparison, is relatively disarming. Alicia Witt sells every single second of it with the same unnerving undertone we saw in Grace, dousing John Cho’s Andy in melancholy glances and whispered endearments.

It’s a cruel trick to play, but the perfect one to lure in Andy once he lowers his defenses. He was able to shake Grace off, but now that the demon is wearing the image of the woman he’s still grieving, how can he say no? This season has been playing around with a lot of psychological, slow burn horror, and this episode really ups the ante in that department as Nicole preys on Andy’s grief and stress. We see a noticeable shift in Andy’s demeanor this episode once demon starts to work its way into his mind. He’s distant, on edge, irritable. The traces of warmth and paternal empathy have started to fade, though he convinces himself and those around him that he’s doing things because he’s concerned for his family.

And the fractures in the Kim family are apparent. Verity is recovering from the attack and is worried for Truck’s fate. Truck has been sent to a psychiatric center and might not be returning to the household. He gets a visit from Andy and Rose where Andy is less than comforting. Truck speaks about a person in his head, telling him to attack Verity, and Andy wonders if it’s Nicole. The whole visit has Rose starting to feel like something is…off.

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So when Marcus and Tomas show up at the house again, she’s hesitant about the demon/exorcist angle, though she knows Andy isn’t 100 percent. Tomas has told Marcus about what he experienced in the house and the two realize they’re dealing with a demon (possibly an ancient one) that causes children to be killed by their loved ones. Rose is still skeptical but allows the two of them to do an assessment for the safety of the entire family.

The Exorcist has a storied history of crafting family dinners that feel like your worst nightmare, and this episode is no exception. Once Harper outs Tomas and Marcus as exorcists while they share a meal, the tension settles so heavily over the dinner table that every biting retort feels like a rubber band about to snap. It’s horror in the most subtle of ways, designed to make the audience squirm at the secondhand embarrassment, the unpredictability of it all. And it’s just as effective as the show’s gory moments.

Meanwhile, Mouse and Father Bennett have moved on to Chicago to seek out Maria Walters. Last time Father Bennett and Maria crossed paths, he was bleeding out and almost forcibly integrated with a demon. This time around, the power has shifted significantly in Bennett’s favor. He enjoys it a little bit, as he well should. Maria, it’s revealed, is suffering with terminal cancer, making her both useless to the demon currently inhabiting her and the greater network in the conspiracy. But Mouse and Bennett are determined to get answers, so Mouse employs the crafty use of an IV filled with holy water to torture the demon into submission.

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Once the two of them go digging, Maria taunts them about the danger Tomas is in and we get teased with some backstory on Mouse, who as it turns out, knows Marcus. The reveal is especially chilling in just how we learn the information. Now we know why Mouse shouldn’t be allowed to have guns—she lashes out in response to being backed into a corner, with deadly consequences. With their ties to Chicago looking like they’re severed, it’ll be interesting to see where Mouse and Bennett go next.

Back at the Kim household, the tension continues. The much-anticipated scene is an interrogation: with Rose supervising, Tomas and Marcus try to goad the demon into showing itself through Andy. Nicole stalks around the room, hovering, keeping Andy in line so he appears somewhat normal. The sequence doesn’t drag or halt the overall pace of the episode, but rather escalates the feeling that the walls are closing in on poor Andy. The volley of questions between the characters shows off some superb writing and acting—every actor sharing this almost claustrophobic scene brings their A game. It truly is one of the best scenes in nearly two whole seasons of The Exorcist, and demonstrates the show’s ability to turn seemingly innocuous conversations into something much more sinister.

It’s here that Nicole’s angelic facade starts to crack; she shadows Rose with an ugly case of demonic jealousy, taunting Andy while Rose voices her concern. Marcus and Tomas are forced to leave, but do so reluctantly, and resolve to watch the house from a distance. After their departure, Rose and Andy share a quiet heart-to-heart. Andy’s stress and grief shine through and it’s perhaps a moment of lucidity for him. But we’re not so sure we can trust him. Rose is wonderful here, always the beacon of compassion and the level headed presence that’s sorely needed. Maybe in an effort to escape the demon and Nicole’s lingering memory, Andy tries to move forward with Rose. Is it desperation? Maybe. Did Marcus and Tomas cast away the doubt and make him realize something’s not right? Possibly, unless it’s another demonic trick. Rose is for certain an anchor for Andy right now, but as things heat up, it isn’t quite enough to make Nicole disappear. She’s latched onto him; his mind is consumed by her and that has an interesting effect…but also dangerous, as the demon has set her sights on Rose.

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Elsewhere in the house, Harper gets an ominous visit, which drags Marcus and Tomas back into things. The slow build that’s been created throughout the episode rises to an almost literal roar. The thunderstorm raging outside seems to echo what transpires in the house, only helping to increase the chaos that transpires. Nicole flexes the full range of her demonic strength and Andy might not be strong enough to keep her at bay. The action swells in an alarming fashion, and the last five minutes of the episode are so disturbing and mind-blowing that they’re best left unspoiled.

 

The Exorcist airs Fridays on FOX at 9/8c.