REVIEW: The Exorcist, S2 Ep8 – A Heaven of Hell

the exorcist s2 ep 8 nun mouse

After a break for the Thanksgiving holiday, The Exorcist continued its slow burning psychological horror, offering a character-driven installment to follow the twisting, fast pace of last episode. Though “A Heaven of Hell” gives its viewers a little room to breathe, it isn’t much—an ominous, unsettled feeling weighs heavily over the entire episode. There’s a sense that something terrible is on its way, and the buildup toward that is anxiety inducing as viewers wait for the inevitable.the exorcist s2 ep 8 marcus tomas

“A Heaven of Hell”—a fitting reference to John Milton’s Paradise Lost—found our beloved characters scattered again. The Kim kids are safe at their neighbors’ house, but they’re dealing with the aftermath of Andy killing Harper’s mother in their own ways. For Harper, that means a resurgence of her nightmares. Rose, as always, is doing everything she can to protect them, even if it means making tough decisions. She wants to get them off the island ASAP, but that means they’ll go into temporary housing and likely be separated. Verity, as the eldest, is the most vocal and rational about the ordeal. Andy murdering someone is a real world consequence that can’t be explained away by demonic possession. Their family is crumbling apart before their eyes and there’s not much they can do to keep it together, though they’re all stubborn enough to try. There’s no going back for any of them at this point, and for Verity that means leaving her home and facing a system she’ll age out of soon without the family she’s come to love. She’s also not sold on the exorcism. Thus far in the season, she’s been presented as a skeptic who doesn’t put much hope in prayer, because it’s never done anything good for her. This episode is a huge one for Verity, as we’ll see her tested to the limits of her own beliefs.

Meanwhile the exorcism continues, and Andy isn’t doing so well. It’s hard to get through to him; he’s still trapped in his own mind, under the influence of the demon taking the form of his wife. To him, the room is safe and comforting, the exorcism only a far off echo that Nikki encourages him to ignore. Ominously, she tells him they’ll leave when the time is right…

And for Marcus and Tomas, the time constraints and the resistance of the demon are wearing the two of them thin. They’re sleep deprived and mentally exhausted. Exorcisms are taxing work by themselves, but with the outside stresses piled on top, it just adds to the intensity of their job. They’re subsisting on terrible coffee and working in tandem as best they can, but Andy is slipping away from them and further into the demon’s clutches. Marcus’ exhaustion is evident when the demon taunts him, bringing up past secrets surrounding his connection with Mouse. Tomas, meanwhile, is freaked out by the body of Harper’s mother in the bathtub and the house’s disembodied whispering as the demon tries to slip inside his mind. Neither one of them seem willing to divulge this information to each other, even when the demon has really turned up the dial on its nasty taunts. Tomas at least tries to ask Marcus about the secrets in his past (involving what seems to be a former exorcism partner, no less, so Tomas’ unease is warranted), but Marcus assures him it isn’t important.

Elsewhere, Mouse and Bennett are on their way to warn Marcus and Tomas. Bennett is still badly wounded after their encounter with possessed Maria Walters, but true to form, his dry humor hasn’t left him. He’s adamant about getting to our priests in time, selflessly putting them before his own wellbeing. It’s nice…but really, Bennett needs to go to a hospital. He does, only because he’s passed out from blood loss and can’t protest against it. Before he loses consciousness, however, Bennett asks Mouse about her past with Marcus. This triggers the first of a couple of flashbacks that delve into Mouse and Marcus’ past, finally shedding light on what the two of them have kept a mystery.

the exorcist s2 ep 8 mouse attacked

Twenty years prior, Mouse is a nun preparing to take her vows and Marcus is a shaggy haired priest. The two have a lot of flirty tension, but really, they seem like two people who have found a rare connection in an often isolating line of work. Marcus asks Mouse if she’s sure about her path. Mouse laments her doubts, tells Marcus how lucky he is to believe and have proof of his beliefs while everyone else just hopes it’s real. Whereas Marcus was chosen by this way of life, Mouse seems to still be attempting to find her place in it. It’s an aspect of serving the church that isn’t often touched upon. It’s even better that The Exorcist chooses to explore it over two seasons. For those working in the church on this show, there’s always been these different shades of belief. And doubt. And hoping. And realistically, there’s a fluctuation between them, where there are equal moments of doubt and hope or belief.

Again, Mouse brings up the “what if” aspect. She tells Marcus he could leave the church and run off, but it’s all he’s known and it’s his sole purpose. Marcus is tempted by a normal life in the present, too, when he and Peter share a conversation about what’s been going on. Marcus doesn’t share much of anything, but Peter genuinely wants to know what’s up after it’s over. He entices Marcus with another date, an ear willing to listen, and the possibility of retirement. Marcus doesn’t picture himself in a normal life, much less sticking around the island. This job is all he’s ever known, so how could he walk away from it? Peter has been a wonderful addition to this season; he has an easy, calm presence. He doesn’t push Marcus too much but just enough to let him know that he’s there to listen. (And that, you know, he’s single and available).

With the exorcism appearing ineffective at this point, they need a way to get through to Andy, so Marcus appeals to Rose to allow one of the kids into the room. Rose isn’t keen on this, but they’re running out of options and time with Andy’s soul at stake. Verity steps in to volunteer. It’s a pivotal moment for her, for a lot of reasons. She’s been a skeptic this whole time. Her relationship with Andy has been on shaky ground. She knows she’ll regret it if she doesn’t step up to help Andy.

the exorcist s2 ep 8 verity

Verity is utterly fearless here, staring down the demon’s jabs (in her parents’ voices, to add a layer to the angst) with steely determination to break through where prayer can’t. She takes them in stride, calling out the lies and focusing on the good: how Andy and Nikki have been a positive influence in her life. It’s revealed earlier that she wants to be an engineer and go to college, but with her eighteenth birthday coming up, that doesn’t seem likely. Andy and Nikki once gifted her with a book, encouraging her to pursue this, believing in her when no one else would. It’s a heart wrenching scene, with a beautiful, emotional performance by Brianna Hildebrand. The way Verity tearfully calls Andy “Dad” and tells Andy how much she loves him and wants him to fight for her and her siblings. And then there’s Andy: resisting the demon’s power, its violence, trying to protect his daughter.

Another set of flashbacks shows Mouse venturing into a room with a demon, alone, which the demon reveals has become a habit of hers without Marcus’ knowledge. This isn’t the Mouse we were first introduced to, the one who sets an entire table of demons on fire or jabs them with syringes of holy water. This Mouse is nervous, scared, and inexperienced. But she faces it anyway, determined to learn…and ends up possessed because of it. Marcus attempts an exorcism, and it’s here that we see Marcus’ exorcism methods are also different than we’re used to. He’s still kindhearted, of course, but there’s none of that hard edge to him yet. He’s softer, more vulnerable, and the demon teases him with his and Mouse’s relationship. He blames himself for putting Mouse in danger, for trying to form a connection with someone else. In the end, he can’t finish the exorcism and skips town, leaving Mouse to the care of other priests who rid her of the demon. He runs off because it’s easier—always moving, never forming attachments to a place or person. It’s an intriguing parallel to Verity, who in some ways shares a lot of common ground with Marcus. Here, Verity has finally found a home and she’s reluctant to leave it, especially because it’s not by choice. Marcus could find a place, but for him, it’s easier to run before he leaves too much collateral damage.

Which is, unfortunately, how the demon tries (and nearly succeeds) in throwing Marcus off as the exorcism proceeds. Marcus is ready to deck the thing in the face for implying that maybe Mouse didn’t survive after he left, and he would’ve if Tomas wasn’t there to pull him back. It’s good to see them working so well alongside each other, keeping one another in check. Tomas does it even though he’s the one in training because Marcus, though he’s experienced, can go off the edge, too. Tomas suggests shifts, so Marcus goes off to take a nap and Tomas is alone with Andy. Previously, he’s seen the manifestation of the demon in the form of Nikki sitting on Andy’s chest, so the demon has clearly been working him, trying to find a way into his head.

the exorcist s2 ep 8 tomas marcus

Elsewhere on the island, Rose is working to get the kids out when Verity suddenly disappears. Rose goes after her, but Verity wants to go back for the book her parents gave her. It holds sentimental meaning, and if this whole thing doesn’t end up going well, she wants something to hang onto. It’s her one constant in this chaos, so Rose agrees and they return to their neighbors’ house.

The action cuts between the buildup of tension at the neighbors’ house and Andy’s exorcism, where Tomas has been praying quietly. Marcus appears well rested and encourages Tomas that he’s an exorcist, not an apprentice, and thanks him for keeping him in line. But there’s something amiss here…

As Verity moves further into the house, she finds her neighbors brutally murdered. And at the Kim household, Marcus is revealed to be still fast asleep, while Tomas is upstairs, praying, his eyes milky white and the bed empty. Andy has escaped…and turns up just behind Rose and Verity, looking a little rough and completely at the will of the demon.

A hell of a cliffhanger, literally. The Exorcist is notorious for this kind of buildup, stringing the audience along, wondering where this will lead and how bad it will get. Then the last minute reveal hits like a ton of bricks. As of right now, things look incredibly grim: possessed Andy is on the loose and Tomas also appears to be compromised, from the trance he was left in at the end of the episode. Since the demons want him so badly, this one fed off Tomas’ arrogant streak, his need to prove himself, and might have succeeded. With only 2 episodes left, the stakes are dangerously high. Part of the fun in being terrified is wondering just how everyone will dig their way out.