REVIEW: The Exorcist, S2 Ep7 – Help Me

the exorcist s2 ep7 kim family

With the aptly titled “Help Me,” this week’s addition to The Exorcist gives the audience a chance to experience demonic possession firsthand, offering an emotionally charged and horrifying episode. The Exorcist is a series that consistently impresses every week, but this latest installment is phenomenal in its own right—packed with Emmy-worthy performances and stunning visuals and writing. It’s not only a dizzying glimpse into Andy’s possession, but something more: an honest, raw portrayal of mental illness and grief. “Help Me” is unlike anything else on TV; certainly different from the show’s previous format, but the departure from the norm is daring and exceeds expectations.

Other than a scene with Rose discussing the exorcism with Marcus and Tomas, the audience experiences this episode nearly exclusively from Andy’s point of view. Rose keeps a clear head (as always, she’s the unyielding voice of reason), explaining that she can’t hold the kids on the island for long, or else social services will come looking. And there’s the body of Harper’s mother to deal with, which is an added issue altogether. So, now that they’re working against the clock, Tomas and Marcus have to move quickly to free Andy from the demon’s claws. The threat of the outside world closing in heightens the level of urgency in an episode where the stakes are already high.

the exorcist s2 ep 7 marcus tomas

What The Exorcist series gets right that the film franchise doesn’t is showing the exorcisms and possession from the point of view of the possessed, and putting emphasis on the possessed person’s ability to fight the demon themselves. The priests aren’t doing all the heavy lifting here; they can help and guide him and offer support, but it’s up to Andy to find the will to fight the demon. He has to resist its illusions and manipulations while stuck inside his own head. As a result, the audience is pulled along for the ride.

We traipse through Andy’s headspace, weaving between memories of his past and hallucinations conjured up by the demonic Nicole. Some are real memories, like a funeral service for Nicole where the family scatters her ashes in the garden—a moment that’s absolutely gut-wrenching. Some are recreations of real memories, but twisted around to make Andy doubt himself. Andy has to fight for control of his true memories while the demon pushes back with a practiced hand, drawing strength from his every weakness and weaponizing Andy’s overwhelming guilt.

At the center of Andy’s jumbled thoughts is the day of Nicole’s suicide. We get a couple of versions of it, each one more warped than the last. It feels like there are fragments of truth in each one, but we never get the full story. That mysterious rock makes its ominous appearance, and it’s revealed that Nicole used it to help weigh herself down in the water. But does it bear an even more sinister connection?

Andy has his moments where he knows her tricks aren’t real, where he knows his family better than the demon’s lies. But once she weasels her way in, it’s hard for him to keep her out. This demon delights at pulling him into its emotionally wrought game, aiming to cause as much psychological damage as possible. It knows that Andy has never taken the time to deal with his grief over Nicole. He’s a father, first and foremost, and his role was trying to keep his family together in the aftermath of her death. He’s never taken stock of his own emotions, instead pushing them to the furthest corner of his mind and unfortunately within the demon’s reach.

the exorcist s2 ep7 andy water

An open discussion of depression also takes place here, as Andy attempts to find a foothold amid the trippy hellscape of his mind. We see a real memory where Andy tells Verity, “It’s not just about being sad.” Later he reaffirms depression in the psychologist terms he’s familiar with, citing it as a disease, a chemical imbalance in the brain. It’s a mental illness that doesn’t always present itself in obvious ways. It’s invisible and takes hold much in the same fashion that Andy’s possession has been portrayed. The Exorcist has never shied away from representing mental illness. In a show built on exploring the psyche and how it can come under attack from outside forces, it’s also important to acknowledge the inner demons. The real and painful ones that don’t always make sense but can still leave devastating effects.

What the demon preys on next is Andy’s feelings of regret—it tugs at this string with frightening precision. It teases him with those lingering “what if’s” and offers him a life where he saved Nicole in time. But is he willing to hand over his soul? Is he willing to trade a life that doesn’t exist with Nicole who’s really not Nicole, and to hell with his children?

That’s the key in Marcus and Tomas’ efforts (even Rose’s) to reach Andy: his children. From episode one, we’ve seen just how compassionate Andy is toward his children, how much he cares for and about them. Buried in Andy’s memories are happier times with Nicole and the kids, including a Christmas card picturing taking session (which really shows off how believable and realistic this family is drawn), and Nicole and Andy discussing taking Verity into their home, thus becoming parents for the first time. Andy’s love for his kids is incredibly strong. It’s one of the good things he still has left in his life, and it could in theory break the demon’s hold.

In The Exorcist, love has been a driving force behind much of the show’s storytelling. Compassion and love in all its forms and the relationships it influences are used as weapons against demonic possession. But the demon is counting on Andy to fail even in this, planting seeds of doubt in his mind that the kids should take responsibility for Nicole’s death. It exploits Andy’s love for his wife instead. Like it’s done with its past victims, it’s out for the kids’ blood and wants to use Andy as a tool for murder. The question remains a focus throughout the episode: is Andy strong enough to fight against this?

the exorcist s2 ep7 andy verity

And here’s where the episode reaches its maddening peak, as Andy wakes in the rotting bedroom where the exorcism has taken its toll on the physical world. His warped perception carries over into reality, making him believe that Marcus and Tomas are his enemies. They morph into demons, and it’s about as disorienting and horrifying as you’d expect. (Maybe even more so). After all, they’re supposed to be the good guys, and it’s jarring to see two of your favorite characters turn into monsters. It’s a testament to the twisted brilliance of this sequence, which firmly places the audience in Andy’s point of view. We see what he’s seeing close up; it’s uncomfortable, maddening, and makes your skin crawl. You can’t wait for the torment to end. The action pauses in a beautiful freeze frame shot with droplets of holy water suspended in the air, only after an exhausted Andy begs, “help me.” John Cho gives a powerful, heart-wrenching performance throughout the entire episode and this single moment is agonizing.

Unfortunately, it’s just another cruel demonic trick—we expect Andy is asking for help from the trained exorcists, but it’s really the demon who answers his call. It’s already destroyed his perception of them, positioning them as the antagonists. So, he’s given a choice between her and the love for his kids and a chance at salvation. While the demon takes over, Andy’s deepest regret is ultimately his downfall.

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