Apparitions 1:1 (Spoilers)

Or Exorcist John Deed really. An old hat of an idea, but enjoyably slow-burning, and with strong acting and sky-high production values. As with writer/director Joe Ahearne’s earlier effort ‘Ultraviolet‘, ‘Apparitions’ involves the supernatural in the modern world, with a unbelieving central protagonist who can’t ignore the evidence – in this instance of Satan. Well I say unbeliever, but Martin Shaw’s Father Jacob is a Catholic priest, promoting candidates for sainthood, which means he has to prove miracles. With Mother Theresa he has a problem – her death ten years ago coincided with a true miracle – Vimal (Elyes Gabel), his current protégé’s leprosy was cured. Only it was The Devil’s doing, and a demon took up residence in the father of a girl who has just come to him for help…

And how beautifully mundane Donna’s father’s (Shaun Dooley) possession is. A very well-written role, balancing issues involving the law, human rights and religion. In the real world the notion of possession is of course preposterous, making Shaw’s intervention a difficult business. It’s a very similar concept to Russell T Davies’ ‘Second Coming’ on the whole, but told with much greater subtlety. Given the subject matter, the central conceit would of course ultimately be impossible to stomach, but Martin Shaw brings considerable authority to the role. Whilst he brings perhaps too much of his BBC Leading Man persona to the role of Chief-Exorcist-in-the-wings, he also brings believability to a script which otherwise could have come across as corny.

The exorcism when it comes, comes with a huge price. Donna’s (Romy Irving) father is saved, but only at the cost of Jacob’s protégé Vimal (Elyes Gabel), picked on by both Satan and the Church for being gay. Some of the symbolism is confusing – why is it that Vimal must pay the ultimate price for ‘using his healed skin’ to act on his sexual orientation? Is Ahearne backing up homophobic Catholic doctrine or is he hinting at the dangers many religions suggest come with acting on physical desire? Dooley’s demon suggests that both Gabel and Irving are simply patsies – their faith matters! If they fall from being close to God, then Shaw will question God, undoing his expected succession as Chief Exorcist. It hasn’t happened this episode, but we’ll have to wait and see. A good start!

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