The Exorcist finale: Creator reveals why [SPOILER] had to die
WARNING: This article contains spoilers about the season 2 finale of Fox’s The Exorcist. Read at your own risk!
Poor, poor Andy. His ill-fated finish may mean the demise of the demon as well, but even so, the character brought to life (and death) by John Cho never got a chance to say goodbye to his foster family.
He did, however, have time to leave them messages via Tomas (Alfonso Herrera), who nearly integrated with the demon to save the foster father, but was saved by Marcus (Ben Daniels) at the last second. The second season of Fox’s The Exorcist then ended with Tomas and Marcus going their separate ways — Tomas with Mouse (Zuleikha Robinson) to tackle the evil within the Vatican, and Marcus exiting exorcism as a whole — only to have Marcus hear from God himself that he’s needed, in order to save Tomas.
Not everything wrapped up so ominously, though: At least Rose (Li Jun Li) was able to become a foster mother and take in all the children Andy left behind. Creator Jeremy Slater talks balancing the light and the dark elements of The Exorcist, the scenes that were left on the cutting-room floor, and what could come next if the horror drama received a third season. (Hint: He’d love to form a “Supernatural Resistance Squad.” Yeah, you’ll see.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start by talking about that final scene, with Marcus hearing God’s voice again. Why end the season on that note?
JEREMY SLATER: My whole goal for this second season was to make our Empire Strikes Back season that changes Marcus and Tomas’ dynamic a little bit. We felt the most interesting story this year really would be building up their brotherhood and then tearing the two of them apart at the end…. Over the course of this season, Marcus has felt like he’s been falling further away from God. That moment is going to be critically important for Marcus going forward because it’s God calling him back into the field saying, “You’re not quite done yet. You have one more mission, and it involves Tomas in some fashion.”
My takeaway from that last scene is that Tomas has managed to get himself in danger in the months since they parted, but we deliberately left it vague enough that we can write the story in a couple of different directions if we’re lucky enough to get a season 3. And I also didn’t want to leave the audience on this note of despair, especially considering our ratings. There’s always a chance that we wouldn’t be coming back for a third season, and so to just end on them kind of fractured forever with no hope of reunification seemed too grim. I wanted to give audiences that sliver of hope at the very end.
Well, what happened with Father Bennett isn’t hopeful: What’s going on with him at this point? Is he completely integrated?
Bennett has definitely been integrated. He’s been turned to the other side. Part of that was because behind the scenes, we just love Kurt Egyiawan so much, he’s the best actor, and for two years now, we’ve struggled to find ways to integrate — no pun intended — Bennett into the larger story line.
That goes hand-in-hand with what I felt was a small problem this year, which was, we never had a central Big Bad, a face for the conspiracy, just because we never had the time or the resources to devote to an entire story line back at the Vatican, so the idea of taking this character we love and are attached to and flipping him and making him the Big Bad of season 3 felt very exciting. It would give us a chance to see a new side of Bennett, and what’s amazing about it is that Marcus and Tomas have no idea that Bennett has been turned, so at some point, they will come into contact with him, and I think that’s going to provide a lot of great, dramatic tension just in terms of when he’s going to make his move.
There may have not been a central villain at the Vatican, but there was one with Andy’s story. In the end, did Andy have to die? Would Tomas have at all been able to save both Andy and himself if he let the demon take over fully?
We struggled with the decision to kill Andy all year long, and it became much harder once we actually cast John Cho and saw how good he was and how much he loved these kids. It became this brutal decision where we were waffling a little bit about, “Should we go through with this?” It just feels like a narrative cheat if Andy gets exorcised, and Rose bends the rules and brings the kids back, and they all hide a bunch of bodies in the woods. He did bring this evil into everyone’s lives, and he had to answer for it in some fashion. It was important to have Andy go out as a hero, but it definitely seemed like it was the right story to tell creatively for him.
And we wanted to make sure Andy’s sacrifice meant something. There was actually a version for a while that we were talking about where our big cliffhanger wasn’t necessarily the Marcus moment with God, but it was ending with Tomas sitting on a bench having a conversation with an old man who’s there feeding the pigeons, and at the end of the conversation, realizing that the bench was empty and no one was there. It was a little bit of a cliffhanger where you weren’t supposed to know if he was talking to God or if the possession had taken root. But creatively it felt like it was stepping on Andy’s sacrifice, and it did feel like, if Andy wasn’t destroying this sort of serial killer demon that had preyed on hundreds of children and families over the centuries, then it felt meaningless to us.
I know at the start of the season you wanted to explore unconventional families, and one of the more hopeful parts of the finale is seeing Rose take in all of Andy’s foster children. What do you hope people take away from that?
It’s a little point of light, and we love the kids so much that we knew going in from the very beginning that if we really were to take Andy away from them, we still had to find a way to give them a happy ending. We realized the first day of filming, watching John interact with those kids, I think [executive producer] Sean Crouch and I looked at each other and said, “Oh my God, they have to get their goodbyes at the end of this season. They have to get their happy ending, because the audience is going to fall in love with these kids or we’ll break everyone’s hearts if they just wind up scattered to the wind.” So that was hugely important.
So where are you with season 3? Any updates?
You know, I don’t think anyone knows at this point. I think this Fox-Disney deal… it doesn’t mean great things for 20th Century Fox as a studio and Fox as a network, but you also never know. Now, we’re not necessarily on brand for Disney, but they’re also going to need a lot of content to fill their streaming platforms and networks, so I don’t know. I think there’s a lot of options.
We definitely have passionate fans at the network and at the studio — we just don’t have the audience — and so I don’t know whether the option is to roll the dice and just keep producing the show because it’s something they believe in, or maybe taking our very loyal fan base that would probably follow us anywhere we go. I think that would be hopefully an attractive prospect if you’re a streaming service or something like that that wants to be competitive in the horror genre. I feel that we’ve made the best horror show on TV for two years running and the fans that have discovered us will follow us. I remain optimistic.
Well, if you do have a season 3, where would you like the story to go?
Mouse and Tomas went off on their own to take the battle to the Vatican by using Tomas’ sensitivity powers to sniff out the corruption in the Vatican, and months later Marcus got a message from God telling him Tomas is in trouble, so something bad has happened along the way, and you don’t know whether that’s Bennett or something else, and that’s going to be the big driving question going into the season. What happened to Mouse and Tomas?
I also think, if we’re lucky enough to get a season 3, this year we talked about how we wanted to bring in elements from other cultures and other faiths and start exploring other ways that other religions out there may be fighting the same battle. They may have other methodologies and other names for evil, but they’re all kind of fighting the same thing. Each year we talk about doing that, and then when we start putting out 10 hours of TV on the board, we always realize we don’t have time to do it justice.
This year, we started with a four-episode arc about the First Nations tribes up in Seattle, and that got compressed down to a single episode because we had so much story to tell, and then that got compressed to half an episode, and we were like, “Well now it just feels like we don’t have enough time to do it justice, so better to not do it at all than to do something potentially offensive.” And so I think moving in to season 3, that’s going to be very important, because at this point the church is compromised, so if Marcus is looking for Tomas, he will have to, by necessity, start looking at friends in other faiths and other religions and start building a sort of supernatural resistance squad. As Mouse says in the episode, “The Catholic church is the single largest, most powerful, and richest organization in the history of mankind,” so if you’re going up against an enemy, there’s no enemy more terrifying. I think that would be something very interesting to pay off in season 3.