‘The Exorcist’ Season Finale Recap and Review: ‘Chapter Ten’

How did Fox’s ‘The Exorcist’ end? What are its chances at being renewed for Season 2? We break down the finale and the show’s future.

The Exorcist has been the biggest surprise of the fall. The Fox series was supposed to be good, but it wasn’t expected to be the jaw-dropping, gasp-inducing thrill ride that has kept audiences on the edge of their seats for the last ten weeks.

That just set the bar for Season 1, Episode 10, called “Chapter Ten: Three Rooms,” exceedingly high. The finale had to cap an astounding season while also showing why the series deserved a Season 2 in the face of difficult ratings. It did both those things in delivering a nearly perfect hour of television.

Picking up where the previous week left off, Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) storms into the Rance home aware that Angela (Geena Davis) had been reclaimed by the demon. He only manages to get himself knocked unconscious, during which he starts to experience a vision of himself in Mexico with a man he believed to be Father Marcus (Ben Daniels).

The actual Marcus remains a prisoner of the Friars of Ascension. But he’s surprised to see that Brother Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan) isn’t dead; he was just being held captive as well, though much worse for wear. Brother Simon (Francis Guinan) gives them the “join us or die” speech before stabbing both of them, meaning that they’ll literally bleed to death otherwise.

While everyone continues to threaten everyone else audiences see what’s going on inside Angela’s head. She begs the demon to let her family go to no avail. And Fake Marcus keeps needling Tomas about all the lies he’d told to get to this point and how God never really wanted him in the first place.

Ben Daniels happens to be fantastically good at putting the screws to somebody (just watch any episode of Law & Order: UK), but it’s Alfonso Herrera who steals the scene and runs off with it, as Tomas is brought to tears while being taunted with his dying grandmother. Watch the clip below and you’ll see how much more The Exorcist has been than just another horror show:

But Tomas isn’t the only one getting screwed with. Simon is using Marcus’s captivity to taunt him with his past as well, saying that he shouldn’t let his life be the last thing that the Catholic Church takes. Yet Marcus is tougher than Simon gives him credit for, raging that he saw God on the other side when he was confronted with that demon as a child, and that he’s not dying for the Church but for Him.

Maria Walters (Kristen Fitzgerald) finally tells Simon they need to leave, but after he snipes at her one more time, she appears to be having second thoughts. Never mind the demon that Simon summoned before he left.

Back at the Rance home, the demon continues to struggle with Angela inwardly while outwardly she begins to turn the family against each other. She insists that Casey (Hannah Kasulka) attack Katherine (Brianne Howey) or she’ll dismember Henry (Alan Ruck). Katherine takes the hammer and hits herself to save her father, while the real Angela continues to sob inside her own head as the demon keeps telling her to let him in.

The spirit that Simon summoned circles Bennett but ultimately inhabits Mrs. Walters instead, which enables Marcus to free himself and his colleague. If only he knew what Fake Marcus was doing to Tomas, trying to get him to kill himself. But just as he has the knife to his throat Tomas declares that “Suicide is a mortal sin.”

As he finds the courage to own his various lies and mistakes he gains his self-confidence back, saying that he has love, hope and faith to draw upon. He finally declares himself an exorcist and comes to just in time to send Angela flying across her living room. It’s time to break some furniture.

Henry and Katherine are determined to flee the house while Tomas battles Angela but Casey can’t leave. She picks up Tomas’s bible and joins his fight, and soon her sister and father come back to help as well.

The combined strength of Tomas and her family can be heard by Angela inside her head. “I’m done,” she declares before telling the demon, “I’m tired of letting you win. You want me? Come and get me.”

Pope Sebastian (hey, it’s Bruce Davison in like his billionth TV show ever) arrives in Chicago as a wounded Marcus staggers onto the street determined to stop Simon and his brethren. Simon gets to the Pope’s car but Marcus sneaks up behind him and kills him, while in her head Angela beats the demon to near-death.

Some time later Marcus sits on the Rance family’s front step with Casey as they both figure out what to do next. He assures her that “I’ve never seen anyone fight longer or harder than Casey Rance.” Casey gives him a goodbye hug before driving off with her father and her sister.

As for the priests, they’re all hanging out in a restaurant (doesn’t that just sound like the start of a great joke? Or a sitcom?). “I’ll be in touch,” a recovered Bennett tells Marcus and Tomas. “Do try to stay out of trouble.”

But Tomas asks Marcus to remain in Chicago and train him as an exorcist, while the audience gets a hint that there’s still evil in the world as Maria Walters and the Superintendent meet to talk about how “Sebastian was never the finish line.”

And some time later, the Rances appear to have re-started a happy life elsewhere, with a now wheelchair-bound Angela telling Henry that she feels “safe.” Let’s hope she stays that way.

“Chapter Ten” does exactly what The Exorcist needed to do in order to pay off everything that it had set up before. Even as it made its story as big as it could possibly get – what’s bigger in the scheme of the Catholic Church than an assassination attempt on the Pope? – it turned around and brought the finale back to the most simple and intimate level. And in doing that, it resonated so much more than most season or even series finales ever do.

Especially with finales the reflex, the expectation, is bigger and better. But many shows have demonstrated over the years that’s not always the best option. By breaking its story down into those three rooms The Exorcist gave us chillingly intimate storytelling between characters.

Ben Daniels and Alfonso Herrera continued to push each other to new heights even to the very end. With everything that the former has done this season, now including playing an evil version of himself, it’s appalling that he doesn’t have more acclaim. And the latter has proven he’s a true leading man.

Geena Davis came back in this episode with a vengeance, and it’s fantastic that the show didn’t kill her off, which can also be said for Kurt Egyiawan. After rooting for both those characters it’s a nice reward for fans that they made it (especially Bennett, because that guy really got screwed).

And give the show credit for knowing what not to bring into the finale. Jessica (Mouzam Makkar) stayed gone, seen only in Tomas’s head. The show could’ve had her turn up one last time but that would have undercut their appropriate farewell last week and had little to do with the actual point of the episode. Likewise we didn’t spend too much time on the Pope; basically it was a Pope cameo.

The script wasn’t so much about fighting the demon as it was each of the main characters – Angela, Tomas and Marcus – fighting their own emotional battles so that they could beat the demon. Rather than so much of the horror genre where the focus is on the evil or the gore and the characters often become little more than victims to be picked off, “Chapter Ten” was as the rest of the show has been – strongly character-driven and taking its protagonists on a real and raw journey that happened to be illustrated by a battle between good and evil. The Exorcist should be applauded for its fresh and incredibly rewarding approach to the genre.

The only issue here is with the ending and one could call that a semi-unavoidable problem. The scene of Mrs. Walters and the Superintendent talking about how that wasn’t really their master plan is the same kind of cliffhanger-type conclusion that’s now become par for the course in so many horror films. It’s as if the bad guys can never really lose. From a viewer’s standpoint you wish they could have left it at Simon’s corpse in the middle of the street and let us have the victory.

But because The Exorcist is still fighting for its second season it almost has to go that route, because it has to show that there is a story for Season 2. That story obviously can’t involve the Rance family; that’s been told. And with the show having established early in the season that there are multiple demons it basically laid the groundwork for this conclusion. It’s frustrating given how overdone it is yet at the same time from a writing point of view it feels like the cliche had to be part of the equation.

Other than that though “Three Rooms” is without fault. It delivers everything that The Exorcist fans deserved and packages it up with the same fantastic performances and solid scares that have been there all season long. The only thing this show can really do to earn a Season 2 is to be the best damn show it can be, and that’s what it did on Friday night.

Will it actually get there? That’s where it gets tough. The ratings have continued to tumble through the season, with last week’s episode delivering less than two million live watchers. We’ve already talked about how The Exorcist has a poor time slot and incompatible lead-in, so that’s part of it but the fact remains that its numbers are dangerously low. You have to give Fox credit for keeping the show on the air the whole season – but bringing it back is another story.

This series is a perfect example of the battle between TV’s art and business sides. If The Exorcist were to be judged purely on its quality, and how it has pushed the envelope for Fox so well, then it would be fitting for the network to take a flier on it and give the show a second season to try and find a bigger audience. It has more than earned it on creative merits.

But from a ratings (and thus money) perspective, it’s not producing. Its audience for Episode 9 was almost 15 percent less than the World’s Funniest clip show last year. (Think about that and just let your brain explode.) We’d venture to say its renewal depends on how many new shows Fox has in the pipeline for next fall. If there aren’t as many new shows clamoring for spots on the schedule the network can afford to hang onto this one, but if it needs the room then it won’t be so forgiving.

And that’s a shame because The Exorcist has succeeded at everything that was within its control. It’s been incredibly well-acted, solidly written, and not only did justice to the original film but found a very interesting way to connect itself to that legacy.

The cast and crew clearly gave this show all that they could – now we’ll have to see if the network, and perhaps some time-delayed viewing audiences, will return the favor. It’d be ridiculous if this series could beat the Devil and then get killed by math.

What did you think of the Exorcist season finale?