As if this show hasn’t courted enough controversy, in this week’s episode, Father Jacob is called to a woman’s health clinic where supernatural forces seem to be at work, as the drama continued its third outing. A 70 year old Italian woman had arrived at the clinic wanting an abortion, despite being six months pregnant and very nearly at the upper limit of permissible termination.
As the doctor began the termination however, things – as they do in this brilliant show – took a turn for the demonic and with flickering lights and instruments flying about, the termination didn’t go ahead, leaving the pensioner mother in a ‘trance’ like state. Enter Father Jacob whose business card was in the lady’s handbag although he had no idea who she was.
When Jacob told the ever hostile Sister Ruth that he was going to the Hallum Clinic to see the woman, Ruth – in one of the best one-liners of the series – said, “So if anyone calls I’ll just say you’re at an abortion clinic helping out?” Then we saw Ruth pressing speed dial to speak to the villain of the piece, Cardinal Bukovac. How awesome to have the Vatican on speed dial!
On his arrival at the clinic, Jacob passed a group of disabled rights protestors outside. One of these protestors – who looked very creepy indeed – later approached Michael at the seminary gates and told him they’d served together in Bosnia. Michael had no memory of his time in the forces or this man but the mysterious stranger seemed to know him. Indeed, it turned out he knew him very well, but not for the reason he said; he wanted Michael back in Satan’s fold but Michael ran back inside the gates of the seminary refusing.
Meanwhile, a 15-year-old girl called Lisa turned up at the clinic for the morning after pill following a rape. However, when she took the tablet, she began vomiting and convulsing and only stopped when Jacob silently prayed over her and placed his cross on his forehead. At the seminary gates, the mysterious stranger began to bleed from his eyes and told Michael that Jacob was trying to kill the “messiah in the womb”.
Back at the clinic, the doctor – Janice – attempted to administer prostaglandin through an IV which would, in theory, have the same effect as the morning after pill however as the procedure began, the IV exploded and Jacob was forced to abandon his prayers when the souls of hundreds of unborn aborted babies seemed to be screaming from within Lisa. He told Janice that an exorcism would send those souls straight to hell and he couldn’t do that given that these were in the main, innocent souls.
At this point, I couldn’t help but admire the bravery of the script writers because not only were they tackling the extremely contentious issue of abortion and the Catholic church’s stance on it, they also brought the even more sensitive issue of the destiny of the unborn into the plot. Yet despite these being exceptionally emotive issues, the acting and script writing wasn’t judgemental and somehow managed to convey empathy and concern for individuals rather than blanket criticism or moralistic preaching. Neither did it express an opinion on either side of the argument.
The fantastic acting on the part of Martin Shaw as Jacob and Siobhan Finneran as the pragmatic Sister Ruth translates the script into a very believable screen presence and we next saw Ruth arriving at the clinic with the 70 year old lady’s husband. They were initially met with hostility from one of the clinic’s staff – Zoe – who didn’t approve of the ‘religious factor’ at the clinic however once inside, Janice, using Jacob as an interpreter, explained the abnormalities that afflicted the unborn child and recommended the termination. Ruth could not condone it and tried to argue otherwise while Jacob battled with his own feelings on it. He believed the foetus was demonically possessed so of course wanted to kill the demon but his faith and beliefs regarding the sanctity of pregnancy were at odds.
In the meantime, Lisa had identified her former partner, Craig, as one of the protestors however, when Jacob visited the disabled man, he didn’t exhibit any signs of possession. Jacob then discovered that someone had been tampering with Craig’s medication and that someone was Simon, the mystery man who’d been to see Michael. He’d been giving Craig diazepam mixed with foetal tissue that had been taken from aborted foetuses. It also transpired that it was he who’d arranged the meeting between Craig and Lisa and that Craig had been a virgin before he had sex with Lisa.
Back at the clinic, an odd noised altered Janice and as she timidly checked the clinic, a dog appeared at the top of the stairs. It was the same dog that had been at the gates of the seminary just after Simon’s visit to Michael. However, a policeman then walked into the clinic; he’d come to tell Janice that Zoe was dead. She’d been picked up by what she thought was a minicab outside the clinic but the driver was Simon.
He’d brutally murdered her in the back of the car using a method that mimicked a D&X termination procedure. Yet again, the script writers boldly introduced information about this controversial procedure which is widely condemned by the anti-abortion movement. A D&X involves removing the brain of the foetus with a scalpel or scissors so that the reduced head may pass through the birth canal. This is what Simon had done to Zoe.
Later, at the clinic, it transpired that Rosa, the elderly pregnant lady, had initially been willing to conceive and carry the child at her husband’s behest however what she didn’t know was that the child would be a demon. When she found out the unholy nature of her unborn child, she’d sought out an abortion but her husband, Pietro – being a worshipper of Satan – couldn’t allow it to go ahead so he went to the clinic to try to kill his wife in order that the child could be born.
Jacob caught him in time and made him leave before he could harm Rosa. Jacob then left Ruth at the clinic to pray for Lisa and Rosa while he went to Craig’s house where he found the disabled man dead that bottom of his pool. He also found Simon there who preached to Jacob about the power of Satan. As Jacob prayed at the poolside, the women in the clinic began to cry out and convulse and the sound of hundreds of babies cries filled the air however, as Jacob continued the ritual, Lisa and Rosa’s unborn children were exorcised of the demons that had been possessing them.
Simultaneously, Simon walked on the water of Craig’s pool while Jacob continued the rite of exorcism. In a rather short and disappointingly effects free and rather too easy exorcism, the demon left Simon’s body and it sunk into the pool only to disgorge reinstated with all the burns that had afflicted Simon before his possession. However, as the demon left Simon’s dead body, he visited the ever troubled Michael in a dream and told him he would “be next”.
In the closing scene, we saw Michael praying for the strength to resist Satan when – in a voice that sounded very much like Cardinal Bukovac’s – he was told that he’d “passed the test” and that the voice speaking to him was that of God.
Next week’s episode will tackle head on yet more controversial subject matter when a sinister apparition of the Virgin Mary haunts a Muslim family. They seem to have a connection to Michael and Father Jacob realises he will lose Michael’s soul forever unless he can convince the family that the apparition is a fake.