REVIEW: The Exorcist, S2 Ep9 – Ritual and Repetition

the exorcist s2 ep9 tomas

In the penultimate episode of season two, “Ritual and Repetition,” The Exorcist works its way toward the season finale with a dramatic hour full of nonstop action. When the storylines that have been established over the past eight episodes start to converge on the island, everything is thrown into utter chaos. All hell has broken loose—kind of literally—and it results in some gripping character-driven moments to rival the horror that transpires. While The Exorcist has delighted in causing its characters (and audience) emotional distress this season, it’s impressive how the show has remained constant in its success each week. As we’re barreling toward the inevitable end—hopefully of this season, not the series—the payoff of the gradual worldbuilding and character dynamics reaches satisfying heights, compounded by tight storytelling and the show’s expert grasp of the horror genre.

Last episode ended with Tomas in a demonic trance, so when we meet up with him and Marcus, he’s still out of it. Marcus has to drag him out of Andy’s vacated room, but all of his attempts to rouse Tomas from his comatose-like state are futile, even as Marcus prays over him. He has no choice but leave Tomas behind, a decision made reluctantly but with the best intentions in mind. There’s nothing he can do for Tomas here. Tomas has to fight it himself, and Marcus has other problems that need immediate attention—if he isn’t too late to stop whatever hell Andy is currently unleashing upon his family. We’ve seen the two of them separated before, but this situation seems more worrying; there’s Tomas’ soul to consider, which the demons have been after for months now. And history is intent on repeating itself, the demon appearing to have gained the upper hand in using Andy to commit murder. Everything is stacked against these characters and they’re facing insurmountable odds.

the exorcist s2 ep9 verity

Elsewhere on the island, there’s some shady suit types from the Vatican who are on the hunt for our favorite priests. We’ve had hints that the clergy involved in the conspiracy that’s infiltrated the church have been attempting to track down the rogue exorcists, and now they’ve caught up, guns drawn. Once they open fire on Marcus and Tomas’ abandoned truck, someone else answers with their own bullets: Mouse, who makes sure they don’t get far. It’s a relief to know that she’s arrived on the island in the nick of time. There’s enough to chaos to go around—having another exorcist there could prove to be extremely useful.

Hoping to catch up to the Kim family, Marcus arrives at the neighbors’ house to find it empty, the neighbors long since murdered. There’s traces of a struggle—blood on the walls, broken furniture and picture frames. It’s eerie to watch Marcus follow the clues left behind, putting together the pieces of what happened. And it’s even more chilling when we get to see the truth intercut between, as Rose and Verity attempt to escape Andy. It’s a clever storytelling device most of all, interesting in the way the scene presents the conflict to keep its audience in suspense, letting the horror unfold at the same time Marcus figures it out.

Meanwhile, Andy is gathering up the rest of the kids. Even though he looks like death warmed over, he assures Shelby, Harper, and Caleb that he’s healing and the priests succeeded in helping him. Shelby isn’t buying it, not for one second. Nevertheless, Andy carts them back to the derelict barn on their property. The kids all know now that they’re trapped, and their best defense is to stick together. Shelby takes the lead as any good older sibling would, placing himself in harm’s way to protect Harper and Caleb in the hopes of giving them a chance. It doesn’t work, but that’s not what counts here. Shelby has always been shown to be a selfless and kind character. His bravery here is at the core of how well The Exorcist creates its characters and makes its audience care about them as if they’re part of the family, too.

the exorcist s2 ep9 calebOne of the most unsettling scenes of this episode occurs through Caleb’s point of view, an effective tool that’s a tribute to the best kind of horror—the action that happens off screen and makes a wild imagination more horrific than any gore fest. We only hear Shelby’s and Harper’s screams of resistance while Caleb stares blankly ahead, his eyes unseeing. We feel his panic, his terror as he’s forced to listen to his siblings hurting. But Caleb is defiant, not helpless, so he climbs out the car and arms himself with a rock to defend himself. Unfortunately, Andy subdues him, and he ends up dumped in the barn to join the rest of the family, who’ve all been tied up. Verity begins working to free herself from the ropes at Rose’s insistence that she’s “not a victim,” a mantra that many of The Exorcists characters could live by, especially those who routinely kick the genre’s outdated tropes to the curb.

Rose and the kids suffer psychological and physical torment from possessed Andy. As always, John Cho is an absolute delight to watch, even if he’s putting these characters through hell. He gleefully declares this whole ordeal as something they should do as a family, while taking jabs at them with that special brand of demonic sarcasm. This demon is currently winning, and it’s having a fun time shoving it in everyone’s faces.

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