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The Exorcist - Janus - Review: "Walkin' After Midnight"

The Exorcist 2.01 "Janus" - Review:
Directed by Jason Ensler & Written by Heather Bellson

When The Exorcist aired for the first time last fall, it had a lot of pressure resting on its shoulders, especially given that it was based off William Peter Blatty's novel of the same name whilst also serving as a sequel to the 1973 film of the same name, the original The Exorcist movie that is arguably one of the scariest horror films ever made, and one of the best, too. I was kind of expecting it to flop as a result, especially given a distinct lack of knowledge about any of the cast or creative team involved, but was really pleasantly surprised when they turned it around into a show that quickly became my favourite new show of last fall. And against all odds, Fox has decided to renew this slow-burn serialised story for a second season, which came as a big surprise due to its low ratings, but quickly proved to be a welcome one, as based off the strength of Janus's premiere, it's great to have the show back on again on a weekly basis. Every horror fan needs a little bit of horror TV in their life, and this show fills that void for me perfectly. I'd even go far as to say that taking everything into account, this show is probably the best horror series on air at the moment, if not at least a very strong contender.

It's interesting to compare The Exorcist to AMC's Preacher in how it goes about adapting its source material, even if it was adapted from a comic book rather than a novel. Rather than start with the main events of the source material it decided to use its first season largely as a prequel, putting the major players in place for the second season to start adapting from the comic. The Exorcist decided to show what the other, more conventional approach to adaptions, along the same lines of HBO's brilliant The Leftovers TV series which already wrapped up the contents of its book in the first season, before moving on, tackling new ground. Following in it stead The Exorcist has allowed the fresh change of pace to have a welcome, exciting feel that incorporates a new cast of characters and new locations with so far, excellent and mostly unpredictable results.

The biggest addition to the cast is John Cho in the form of Andrew Kim, a social worker who looks after a home of schoolchildren. Cho is someone who is always a reliable addition to any television show, and he makes an exciting addition to the cast even if he isn't crossing paths with Father Tomas Ortega and newly collarless Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) just yet. He's someone who has the best interests of the kids under his care in mind, and has set up a large house in a remote area where he does his best to look after all of them. All the kids so far play their part well, with the most notable addition to the ranks of the youngsters in terms of acting talent is Brianna Hildebrand, who plays Negasonic Teenage Warhead in Fox's hit superhero movie Deadpool. Here she plays a similiar role as the rebellious teenager Verity, albeit without any mutant powers. The many new characters who we meet in this season gives Janus the chance to breath some fresh air into the series, and it almost feels like a brand new pilot in its own right. You don't really need to have watched anything of Season 1 to know what's happening here, but for the most part, it helps provide background to the characters of Keane and Ortega.

Both Keane and Ortega are characters who we first meet on the run from the law in Jefferson County, Montana, where they're on the back of a truck driving through fields being chased by the police. Here, the two characters find themselves in the middle of an exorcism, trying to exorcise a demon out of a woman's body. The woman in this case is Cindy, who has been tempted by the demon into letting it into her soul. Cindy's husband it so happens is among the members of the law who are in pursuit, not having believed Ortega and Keane's story about her being possessed and presume that it's just a regular kidnapping. This of course means that Ortega and Keane are racing against the clock, and whilst they are able to lose the cops and seek refuge in an abandoned barn, they don't have the tools that they need for the Exorcism, so Keane sends Ortega out to get them from a nearby store. Ortega runs into trouble with the police in the process.

Ortega meanwhile opened up his mind to the demon lurking inside Cindy and as a result he's now experiencing visions. The first one he sees opens the story with a bunch of children dancing around at a party with a creepy, haunting version of Patsy Cline's brilliant Walkin' After Midnight playing in the background, as a bunch of kids are horrified by a piñata. Keane puts it down to the fact that they haven't slept in days, but knows more than he's letting on, enough to be reluctant to leave Ortega alone with Cindy and her demon. Keane explains to Cindy when she is able to talk that for demons, it's all fun and games, and they deliberately go after whatever the people they're trying to possess desire the most. The demon is haunting and always makes a formidable presence at times when it's on screen. Eventually, Ortega's able to experience another vision towards the end of the episode when he returns from his supply run, and while Keane faces off against the cops, he gets a look into the vision and sees an abandonded Church, where he meets Cindy inside. Cindy lashes out a hand from inside her mouth when Ortega sits down to talk with her, but ultimately, it's to no avail - as by now, the police have arrived, and are able to free Cindy from Ortega and Keane, not realising that Cindy isn't entirely Cindy anymore.

The show itself was one very much of two halves. The high speed, intense action that came with Keane and Ortega being on the run was split up with the much slower paced drama that establishes Andrew's household and we get an insight into the mentally and physically challenged kids that he looks after. The dysfunctional family lives on an island only accessible by boat, where they are joined by a social worker Rose Cooper (Li Jun Li) who has come to look after the kids and see how they're progressing. There's clear history between Rose and Andrew that will no doubt create some conflict in the future - and does anyone want to bet that Rose will need rescuing at some point? And with the two having put their romantic history in the past, it'll be interesting to see how the show explores that development going forward.

The episode itself didn't immediately put Ortega and Keane on the case at Andrew's home. He's still not entirely aware of the fact that one of the children, the blind Caleb (Hunter Dillon), may be the first person to play host to a case of demonic possession on the island. The scene where he was standing on the well, or at least trying to for ten seconds to prove a point, was creepy and atmospheric, and especially with the nearby abandoned house being very unwelcoming with regards to the whole ball incident, it's almost certain that we'll be returning there in the future. And the whole myth about there being a Witch on the island is also something that's just begging to be explored, it's too good of a stone to leave unturned. Even though I would have liked Ortega and Keane to be addressing the central case in the first episode, it does admittedly give more time for Andrew, Rose and the kids to become more familiar to the audience, as we get to see what life is like for them in the calm before the inevitable storm.

What did you think of Janus? Let me know in the comments section below and check out the next episode when it airs on Fox next Friday at 9pm!

About the Author - Milo MJ
Milo is an Arsenal FC supporter and loves TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, Justified, The Wire, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Person of Interest. He reviews Preacher, The Exorcist, Star Wars Rebels, Star Trek Discovery, Silicon Valley and Veep for Spoiler TV and will be covering Castle Rock, Counterpart, Krypton, Marvel's New Warriors, Rise, Marvel's Runaways, Succession and Trust. He also contributes to comic reviews on a weekly basis for All-Comic. He also regularly watches and reviews films on Letterboxd, and you can find his ever-changing list of 300 favourite movies here.
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