The Exorcist showrunner teases season finale
The Rances are really in need of The Exorcist when the show airs this Friday.
The Fox show’s season finale sees the family trapped in Angela’s (a.k.a. Regan MacNeil) clutches following her choice to not only let herself get repossessed to save her daughter but also fully integrate with the demon after her soul.
And raising the stakes in the final hour is the fact that one half of the team’s priestly exorcist duo, Father Marcus, has been captured by the Friars of Ascension, a secret organization of demon worshippers intent on murdering the Pope. This leaves Father Tomas all on his own, as he goes face-to-face with the Salesman in an attempt to save Angela’s life.
With all three parties in dire straits going into the episode, EW spoke to creator and showrunner Jeremy Slater about what fans can expect. And if the wait is really tough, EW has exclusive photos from Friday’s episode.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you know you wanted Angela, or Regan, to get repossessed?
JEREMY SLATER: That was part of my plan from the beginning. I knew that if we brought Regan MacNeil into the story, and tied this into a larger mythology, that it would be very unsatisfying to reduce Regan to the same role that Chris MacNeil had in the original film. It would be a waste of Geena Davis’ talents and this iconic horror character. The audience just expects more, so we knew that if we were bringing Regan in, and if we were making this entire season a continuation of her story, then we need to have a dramatic, satisfying payoff to that. And it felt like the most obvious and satisfying answer was, Let’s give the demon what it wants. Let’s give it what was denied to it 40 years ago and see what happens when it finally gets its hands on Regan. That’s actually how we got Geena Davis, because in her amazing and illustrious career she’s actually never played a villain before. And she was really looking for the opportunity to do some evil things. And as you saw, she kind of sunk her teeth into the role. She’s a really, really fun bad guy.
Will Father Tomas be able to take her on without Marcus’ help?
Things definitely don’t look good for Father Tomas going into our finale. We’ve spent this entire first season setting the idea that Tomas is a guy who needs to get his s— together. He is not the exorcist. He is not well equipped. The last time you saw him in a room with a demon, he was tested and he failed in a very public way and that was a simple case of possession. This is something much more dramatic than that; it’s a case of demonic integration, which is a kind of merging of the host’s soul with the demon itself. It’s a permanent possession. Even Father Marcus has said that integration is permanent. It’s something you can’t come back from. So Father Marcus alone in that room would be outmatched. The fact that it’s Tomas, who has these flaws that he’s been wrestling with the entire season, makes him extremely vulnerable and the least qualified guy to be in that room. This was always the culmination of Tomas’ journey, the moment where he’s either going to step up to the plate and be tested and fail, or it’s the moment where he’s going to accept his destiny and become something greater. So we knew if we were telling this origin story throughout the first year, it needed to come to a head in the most dramatic fashion possible.
And what is in store for Marcus? What is he up against?
Marcus is in a pretty bad state. He figured out the villains’ plans just a fraction too late. And by the time he realizes this conspiracy was all around him, and well under way, his allies had already been picked off. He went right after the head of the serpent and tried to take out Brother Simon, who is the figurehead of this evil cabal of angel worshippers and he failed. He was caught off guard. When we last saw him, he was kind of tied up in Brother Simon’s hotel room, and Brother Simon was trotting out that familiar urn of cremated ashes which they use to summon a demon and place that demon inside a host’s body. In episode 10 you’re going to see Marcus presented with a really tough choice, which is, You can either accept this demonic integration and know wealth and power beyond imagining and live forever… or you can say no and you can die here and now. So Marcus is caught between a rock and a hard place. There isn’t a great third option for him.
We also saw the Salesman, through Angela, tell Maria that she’s not fit enough to become a host, and it clearly affected her. How is she dealing with that going forward?
We’ve been playing with Maria Walters throughout the entire season as a figure who is obviously menacing and evil, but I do think there’s something tragic about her. There is a deep tragedy in a character who has always been this close to success and yet continuously gets passed over at the last possible second. And Maria is someone who has seen a lot of her chances to become integrated, she’s lost those chances and she’s becoming more and more desperate as the season goes along, that if she doesn’t reach out and take what she wants, it may never happen. So Maria is a fun wild card to throw into the mix with all these larger conspiracies and demons fighting demons. The idea of a purely human villain who was incredibly ambitious and incredibly power hungry, but also a little desperate and sad really appealed to us.
I wasn’t expecting her to stick around as long as she did. But it’s exciting to see what she gets up to next.
She’s a fun character to write for because she’s so unpredictable. And because the actress who plays her, Kirsten Fitzgerald, does such a good job of playing all of her emotions just below the surface and kind of making you, as an audience member, guess as to what Maria is planning or feeling. She really brings a level of mystery and intrigue to that character, that we saw early on in the season, and just leaned into heavily and said, “Oh, this is what she’s great at. Let’s write more scenes for her where Maria can be a little more sphinx-like and inscrutable.” And again, you’re not quite sure what side she’s calling.
With Angela now fully integrated, is there another exorcism in the cards?
You’re going to see a new kind of exorcism. And that was really important for us in the sense that our single greatest challenge for turning a property like this into an ongoing television show is, how do you keep these exorcisms fresh? How do you tell the same sort of story over and over again, for let’s say, seven seasons. Knowing that you’re always going to be reading from the same Latin rites and sprinkling holy water. We dropped some hints in episode 5, but you’re going to see in episode 10 in a much more dramatic way. We’re trying to find new ways to visualize what an exorcism can be and to take that battle and make it less about the words that are being said in a room and make it a more psychological game of cat and mouse, between the demon and the priest. So there are definitely some elements of Lost and The Leftovers, and Battlestar Galactica and Inception, and a lot of fun genre homages and elements that we are heavily borrowing from to kind of bring something new to the possession story and to kind of give us a way to tell exciting, engaging stories that aren’t relying on the same boring exorcism tropes over and over again.
RELATED: The Best and Worst TV of 2016
The Exorcist season finale airs Friday, Dec. 16 at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.
Fox’s 2016 TV series stars Geena Davis.