Will 'The Exorcist' Return For Season 2? Just Like The Characters, Its Fate Is Uncertain

It's been clear for several years that the current television landscape is obsessed with horror, exemplified by such shows as American Horror Story, Hannibal, The Walking Dead, Penny Dreadful, Bates Motel, Scream, Scream Queens, The Strain, and this year's resurrection of The X-Files. But probably the last iteration of this trend that anyone would have expected — or would have expected to be successful, at least — was a modern-day reboot of the most beloved horror film of all time. And yet new FOX drama The Exorcist has been a surprisingly effective scare factory this fall season and, as it heads into its Season 1 finale this Friday, fans are probably wondering if the series will live to haunt them another year. Will The Exorcist be renewed for Season 2? Or will FOX banish it to TV hell?

This one's a hard call to make. Looking strictly at the numbers, one wouldn't expect the series to return for another batch of episodes in 2017. According to TVByTheNumbers, The Exorcist has the second-lowest average rating of any scripted show on FOX with 0.68, coming in above only Ryan Murphy's Scream Queens (0.64) and well below the network's top-rated program, Empire (3.28). Those ratings are low enough for TVByTheNumbers to have The Exorcist listed as "Likely To Be Cancelled"; the site saw the show was in trouble as far back as its second week on the air, referring to its prospects as "pretty frightful" after ratings fell 40 percent week-to-week from the series premiere.

But these numbers don't exist in a vacuum, and there are other factors one should take into consideration when weighing the future of FOX's horror show. First of all, there's the fact that The Exorcist airs on Fridays, the one night of the TV week that has lower ratings thresholds than the rest. Networks expect shows to get lower ratings, so the fact that the horror show is coming in lower than almost all the rest of FOX's crop is hardly surprising. (The fact that it's coming in higher than a show that airs on Tuesdays isn't so much encouraging for The Exorcist as it is worrisome for Scream Queens.)

Secondly, you have to look at the landscape of all of FOX's scripted series, since those are the shows that The Exorcist will be competing against for a renewal. And in fact, most of the network's shows haven't been performing super great this fall, either. While Empire is still by far FOX's highest-rated show, its Season 3 numbers are definitely lower than Season 2's were, and that downward trend is reflected across the board. Out of the network's 15 current scripted series, TVByTheNumbers only has seven of them — less than half — ranked as "Likely To Be Renewed" or higher; the rest are "Toss-Ups" or lower. FOX can't cancel half of its slate in one fell swoop, so some of the network's shows (even ones that might be struggling a bit) are bound to survive the culling.

TV Promos on YouTube

Then there's the fact that creator and showrunner Jeremy Slater is actively and optimistically planning a second season of The Exorcist . "The goal is not to tell an anthology story, because I don’t think this is American Horror Story," Slater told Variety in an interview last month. "The characters who survive this first season and still have story left to tell, you will absolutely see them again going into Season 2. I think our two priests, Marcus and Tomas, are probably going to be the spine of the show going forward. But the idea is to aggressively tell a new story every single season." In fact, the promo for Friday's episode, "Chapter Ten: Three Rooms" (above), notably advertises it as the "Season Finale," not the "Series Finale," which must mean that FOX hasn't yet decided to pull the plug. And in this case, no news of cancellation is certainly good news.

When you combine the show's strong critical reception (it has a 77 percent Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) with Slater's plans, the fact that the show airs on Fridays, and FOX's general performance this fall, there's enough reason for The Exorcist fans to have at least some hope that the show will survive for Season 2. At this point, a renewal may admittedly be a bit of a surprise — but it's certainly not out of the question, either. Unfortunately, viewers will have to go into this week's season finale without knowing whether they might actually be watching the last episode of the show ever. The fate of The Exorcist — like the souls of its possessed characters — is currently trapped in limbo.

Images: Jean Whiteside/FOX (2)