If this week’s episode carried the same tone and tenor of last week’s installment, I was planning to call the series out on being to glossy, to point out that the world of John Constantine should be filthy and guttural, a word of infection and ugliness that can only be defended by a man whose heart and soul is in the gutter. I was going to call the series out for being too clean. And then this episode happened.
Seriously, I hope you didn’t watch this one while eating dinner, that would have been a waste of a perfectly good chicken pot pie, because this episode was as sick as they come. Between the swarms of filth beetles, bug eating, eye removal, raw meat devouring, fevered cannibalism, and almost constant bloodletting, this episode was like a gore hound’s wet dream. If you didn’t gag at least once, you probably should take a long, hard look at your life.
This episode introduced another of the players of the already fabled Newcastle incident, the inciting event for Constantine’s history and character. When Gary Lester is detained at a nearby airport, an ancient hunger demon is let loose and it is up to Gary, John, and Zed to rie the world of this ancient and disgusting evil.
Did I mention the hunger demon is disgusting? Like “how did they get away with this on network television” disgusting. The demon is just the right degree of nastiness that the series needed to set itself apart of the crowded supernatural television procedural pack. You want to go on a diet? Just watch this episode as the demon jumped from host to host devouring anything edible in sight. The demon showed just how nasty dark magic can be, that it isn’t glamorous or sexy in an Anton LaVey sort of way, but downright eating rotting meat off a filthy floor nasty kind of way. This is the world I have been burning to see John Constantine in.
Lester was a great addition to the proceedings because he was a warning of what John could become. He also is a walking arraignment of Constantine’s past sins as he admitted that he was only in Newcastle because he wanted to follow every whim of the punk rock mage back in the day. So it was Constantine’s hubris and charisma which caused the Newcastle incident and the horrors to poor little Astra, which is why Constantine goes out of his way to help people and fight really gross hunger demons today.
Lester did not find salvation in helping others effected by dark magic. No, Lester found salvation in a needle and syringe. Good on the series for not pulling punches and, four episodes in, really rendering that scabbed-over world presented by Alan Moore and Jamie Delano so many years ago. Lester was a pure Hellblazer character, broken and flawed. His very existence was a source of guilt to John who saw his former friend as a walking testament to his greatest failure, but Constantine being Constantine, that didn’t stop the mage from trapping the hunger demon within Lester, basically confining his former mate to an eternity of agony. That’s the real John Constantine, a man who would sacrifice his best friend to save thousands.
As for the battle and origins of the hunger demon, this was not your typical TV beastie in execution or origin. Did we mention he was gross? Well add to that the thing was downright scary forcing its host to become slavering mindless beasts that endlessly devoured anything they found in front of them whether it was popcorn off a theatre floor or a hapless security guard’s face. The origins of the demon were also fascinating as the series took us to the Sudan, giving the series a welcome sense of international flavor, where Lester freed some poor Sudanese soul of the demon to, in Lester’s mind; find some salvation from the Newcastle incident. This sparked the demon getting free in America and Constantine’s hunt for the constantly consuming monster.
Constantine’s battles with the demon were memorable and intense, with from the monster causing a possessed girl to do the Bray Wyatt Exorcist crabwalk to the final confrontation with the thing, this episode showed the battles Constantine must face if he is to find forgiveness for Newcastle, battles with the nastiest kinds of demons in the nastiest of places. This is the Constantine I wanted since I heard about the series.
Zed’s roll was kind of tacked on this week as she shared a vision with Lester causing her to relive his heroin addiction. This created a bond between Lester and Zed but the episode could have carried on just as easy without her. The writers seem totally obsessed with Constantine, as well they should be, and seem to be finding it difficult to find interesting arcs for Zed, and let’s not even discuss poor Chas who was conveniently written out for the second time in just four episodes. Even Manny seemed to be used only for dramatic effect as the angel was nothing more than an exposition dump whenever he appeared, although, the episode’s climax did use Manny to great emotional and dramatic effect.
But we forgive the warts because the episode was a horror hound’s dream come true, a truly brave and disgusting look into the ultra seedy world of John Constantine. OMG, I just realized, Cookie Monster could be a benevolent hunger demon. Yeeesshh!
Those Magic Moments
The whole hunger demon and swarm of beetles thing was first utilized in a rather different form in the very first issue of Hellblazer by Jamie Delano and John Ridgeway (1988). A great deal of the imagery was lifted directly from that inaugural issue. If the series wants to keep borrowing from the Constantine classics, you won’t hear any complaints here.