Christopher Olson (Seems Obvious to Me) and I have been working on a project analyzing the portrayal of exorcism in cinema for the past several years. That project is about to reach fruition with the publication of our book Possessed Women, Haunted States: Cultural Tensions in Exorcism Cinema from Lexington Books this November 15th (https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781498519090).
In the book we argue that the 1973 film The Exorcist provided the foundation for a narrative around which an entire horror subgenre developed. In our book we argue that this “traditional exorcism narrative” deals with non-dominant groups (i.e. women, people of color, non-heteronomative individuals) gaining power through possession but then being suppressed through the act of exorcism. Because of the importance of this film, when we heard the Fox television network was developing The Exorcist series, we knew we would have to pay it special attention.
The series premiered on Friday, September 23rd, and I livetweeted my thoughts on the series as it aired. I collected those thoughts in this Storify: https://storify.com/CarrieLynn/the-exorcist-on-fox
Overall, the first episode seems to set the foundation for a story that aligns with the traditional exorcism narrative, as well as building on exorcism movies that came out after 9/11. There is potential for some truly creepy imagery and themes — the whole eye thing freaks me out — but the pacing is very rushed right now. The mystery seems less about one individual being possessed and more about a demonic conspiracy. This type of storyline would work if the number of episodes were restricted — such as on HBO or Netflix, where a season only runs 8 to 13 episodes. If the series is meant to be the standard length of broadcast networks, then this storyline will be dragged and padded out too much, dulling the horrific impact of its imagery and themes.
It remains to be seen how the season will unfold. I will keep watching, but I am hoping it gets scarier. Any show that claims to be a successor to the scariest horror movie of all times needs to deliver on those scares.