[Photos courtesy Jean Whiteside/FOX]
Season One, Chapter Two: “Lupus in Fabula”
Written by Heather Bellson
Directed by Michael Nankin
Previously on The Exorcist “Chapter One: And Let My Cry Come Unto Thee”, introduced all of our players in the newest version of The Exorcist story; Father Tomas Ortega of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church and the Rance family in present day Chicago. Angela Rance is a working mother of two daughters, Katherine and Casey. Since a (as yet unexplained) event last year, her husband Henry appears to be suffering from memory loss; he cannot work so Angela supporting the family.
In our Chapter One recap we saw what led Angela to believe her reclusive and sullen daughter Katherine (or Kat), was possessed by a demon. By episode’s end we, along with Father Tomas and Angela, learned that is was Casey who suffered from possession instead of her sister.
“Lupus in Fabula” begins in a dank, dimly lit cellar with several young boys waiting anxiously. They don’t look happy about being there. A priest with a remarkable resemblance to Donald Pleasance tells them, “The world don’t know who you are & don’t care!” During his little pep talk another boy enters the room, running to a bucket he promptly vomits into with a “Sorry, Father Sean!”
Another child is selected to face whatever made the first child puke. He chooses a book from a table strewn with crosses, rosaries, and Bibles. After a loooong walk through more dank dripping corridors the boy faces a chained, demon-possessed man growling “Lupus in Fabula, venit enim ad me,” while lunging at the child. Despite his obvious fear, the young child begins reciting from Matthew 7:7-8. “Ask and you shall receive…”
In Chicago, Angela Rance heads into the kitchen for a midnight snack. Setting down her tablet, she sees Casey sitting at the table. In a deep male voice Casey murmurs “so fresh … so wonderfully supple…” as she runs her hands over her body. Angela uses her tablet to record Casey. The male voice tells Casey “your lying, sneaking mother … she’s watching you. So it’s time that you wake.”
Casey is distraught, but doesn’t seem to remember what she was just saying and doing.
Charcoal black credits of Chicago and (hopefully) ink dissolving in liquid give way to a teen leaving home and listening to as he bikes beneath the El.
Father Tomas tries and fails to make the case to Auxiliary Bishop Egan to perform an exorcism on Casey Rance. Recounting his experience seeing a possessed Casey in the attic and playing the kitchen footage recorded by Angela only gets a recommendation that Casey see a psychiatrist. Bishop Egan subtly warns that Fr. Tomas needs to keep his focus on the job of rebuilding St. Anthony’s. His work has been noticed by the Church hierarchy and he needs to be ready for the upcoming papal visit, not pursuing spurious cases of demonic possession.
Angela, at work at a swanky Michigan Avenue hotel that looks like the Inter-Continental on the outside and The Four Seasons on the inside, gets good news regarding the pope’s visit. Her hotel will host the papal entourage, although not Pope Sebastian himself.
A strange phone call from home interrupts the meeting. Instead of Casey, what Angela hears is the ragged panting of someone who sounds very ill. She leaves work, but finds her home empty. Casey’s phone is in her room atop a pillow.
Henry, Casey, and Kat (!) return home from a coffee house run as Angela lifts her daughter’s phone off the pillow … and a blood-red millipede scurries off the pillow. Ew. OF COURSE Angela then lifts up the pillow … to a gigantic, wreathing mass of millipedes. Triple Ew times infinity.
Father Tomas returns from a jog to find Father Marcus is his new roomie, done touring Chicago and ready to start exorcising demons! Fr. Marcus has also been raiding the fridge, reading the letters we saw last episode from Jessica in Evanston and pawing through Fr. Tomas’s DVD collection; he’s a natural at the moocher/invading privacy roommate thing.
The next scene at Casey’s lacrosse game is notable for the following.
- Sullen sister Kath ventures out in daylight (again!) to cheer Casey on.
- A girl on the opposing team commits several flagrant fouls against Casey.
- An unnamed character I’ll call Creepy Tall Man (Robert Emmet Lunney) sits down next to Kat. He and Casey acknowledge each other and gives her a friendly wave. As Creepy Tall Guy smiles in approval Casey gets away with a hit on her tormentor and inflicts a spectacular, Joe Theisman on MFN-esque broken leg.
During a walk past a homeless encampment, Fr. Marcus warns Fr. Tomas to break off whatever relationship he has with Jessica. Fr. Tomas insists that he knew Jessica before he became a priest, that nothing happened and that the letters just remind him of something beautiful he gave up.
A brief scene at the Rance’s let us know that demonic possession helps Casey win at Jenga and that Henry seems to be recovering quite well from WHATEVER happened to him last year. Compared to last episode’s silent and distracted nonentity, this week’s Henry is amazingly coherent and involved. Doesn’t help him notice that Casey can control Jenga towers, but it is progress.
Remember that Homeless Guy From Last Week trying to tell Fr. Tomas something from across the street? Well, he’s back this week to cut in line at the St. Anthony “Homeless to Houses” soup kitchen. While Fr. Marcus helps advise Angela on using the Holy Water she just stole from the font in the Casey’s drinking water that night, Homeless Guy From Last Week asks Casey if he can touch her because “He Chose You!” (Gee thanks!). Fr. Marcus leads HGRLW away only to hear the man repeat “Lupus in Fabula, venit enim ad me” in the same demonic voice from his childhood encounter.
That night, Fr. Marcus goes back to the homeless encampment. After the HGFLW is picked up by a van labeled “Tattersal Landscaping” Fr. Marcus encounters an old woman covered in boils and sores. The woman speaks in a variation on Casey’s demon voice to taunt Fr. Marcus as “the one we used to fear. Until you lost the boy!” Fr. Marcus cannot drive the demon out of the woman and she wanders away, mocking him as a “vessel of Nothing.”
“Lupus in Fabula” wraps up with a series of scenes that ramp up the creepiness and plant clues that could (I hope) pay off as the season progresses.
First – we see the Rance family dinner. Mom’s made soup – looks like split pea (this will be important shortly)! Angela apologizes to everyone in general for missing family time and to Kat in particular for (as Kat puts it) “thinking I’m the Devil”. Casey’s Holy Water mixer provokes no reaction whatsoever. After a toast from Henry to “getting stronger every day”, Casey bails on clean up, races up the stairs and barely makes it to her bathroom to puke up a prodigious amount of pea soup vomit …followed by a GIGANTIC, ENDLESS, WRITHING MILLIPEDE.
Casey goes outside. Creepy Tall Man stops at the gate and asks if he may come in. Casey tells him “something’s wrong with me”. CTM replies “I’m afraid not my dear. Just a glorious seed breaching the soil…Now tell me everything.” We see Casey lean on CTM’s shoulder; she seems relieved to see him and have someone to talk to. Henry looks out the window – and sees his daughter leaning over into empty space.
Second – Fr. Tomas finds Fr. Marcus’s Bible/Exorcism Scrapbook and decides he can play the “reading private stuff” game just like his new roomie. Fr. Marcus returns from his failed exorcism and decides this is the best time to tell his tragic backstory. Turns out he was in that dank cellar because he was “sold to the Church for five quid and a birth certificate” and enrolled in Father Sean’s Bargain Basement Demon Fighting School.
Instead of kicking Fr. Marcus out, Fr. Tomas then confesses he met with Jessica but didn’t break things off. Their first roommate argument resolved, Fr. Marcus and Fr. Tomas discuss Beatific Visions and recite the Prayer of St. Francis.
Finally, we meet up with the music loving Bicycling Teen from waaay back at the beginning of the episode. He finally gets home, but is too busy listening to his tunes to notice his family being slaughtered. He meets a similar fate. A squick-tastic montage of blood draining, limb severing, and plopping harvested organs into lunch buckets ends as men and women (including HGFLW) leaving several houses with their lunch buckets. The silently walk down a darkened street until they meet up with the Tattersall Landscaping van to take off for parts unknown.
Fr. Marcus listens to the news of the Englewood Massacre and stares out the window at a large billboard announcing the upcoming papal visit. Below a photo of Pope Sebastian (seen from behind with no face visible) read a factual but somewhat ominous phrase –
HE IS COMING
Parish News and Notes
*It felt like there were some vital scenes missing between the ending of last week’s episode and the beginning of “Lupus in Fabula”. There was no indication that Angela saw anything other than a normal Casey in the attic in the pilot’s finale. Yet when Fr. Tomas visits Bishop Egan, we learn they’ve discussed Casey’s situation and come up with a plan to gather evidence. It would’ve been less jarring if we’d seen that last week instead of Fr. Tomas dumping a garbage bag in a trash can.
*Angela, dear – you are working with Fr. Tomas to gather evidence of your daughter Casey’s possession. He’s already gone to the Auxiliary Bishop to make a case for exorcism. I don’t think you have to steal Holy Water. Heck, you could buy a couple cases of bottled water and he’d probably bless them for you.
*I’m hoping Jessica in Evanston ends up like Olivia’s sister and niece on Fringe – seldom mentioned or seen unless it’s vital to that week’s plot.
*We learned St. Anthony’s Catholic Church is located in the Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago. In real life, there is a North Lawndale and a South Lawndale on Chicago’s West Side.
*The current pope in The Exorcist‘s universe is named Sebastian. There has not (yet) been a real life pope named with this name. St. Sebastian is the patron saint of athletes, soldiers, and “those who desire a saintly death.”
*It probably isn’t connected, but it is interesting that the young Father Francis in Dominion: the Prequel to the Exorcist (2005) suffers a martyrdom similar to St. Sebastian’s.
* The Prayer of St. Francis recited by Fr. Tomas and Fr. Marcus is not just a holdover from 70’s folk masses but has hung around to be recorded by artists from Susan Boyle to Sinead O’Connor.
* The Beatific Vision isn’t officially quite what Fr. Marcus describes. As developed by St. Tomas Aquinas, the BV
is a term in Catholic theology describing the direct perception of God enjoyed by those who are in Heaven, imparting supreme happiness or blessedness. In this view, humans’ understanding of God while alive is necessarily indirect (mediated), while the Beatific Vision is direct (immediate). Outside of Catholicism, as well as in Catholic and other Christian mystical tradition, many hold that it is possible to experience God directly while still on earth.
*While we’re on the subject of St. Tomas Aquinas … The Creepiest Spiritual Retreat Center Ever is again referred to as St. Aquinas. My 1992 copyright “A Guide to the Saints” has a St. Thomas Aquinas, but no Aquinas in between Appolonius and Arsenius the Great. Oversight, Sign, or Something else?
*The ill-fated bicyclist listens to “Chum” by Earl Sweatshirt.
*While we are not “beyond pea soup”, at least Casey has the manners to throw it up into the toilet and not somebody’s face (yet). A nice nod to the original film?
*Creepy Tall Man may be this show’s version of “Captain Howdy,” the invisible friend Regan MacNeil contacts using a Ouija board in The Exorcist. In the film Captain Howdy befriends Regan during her parents contentious separation; did the Rance family’s crises – Henry’s brain injury, Kat’s mysterious accident – give CTM a “in” to begin manipulating Casey?
The Exorcist airs Friday nights at 9/8c on Fox.