This Constantine review contains spoilers.
After this week, Constantine has just two episodes left…and we have a bit of a misstep. This week’s episode was eerie enough with an effective Freddy Krueger riff and some nice metaphysical twists, but it was all a bit seen it before and never approaches the highs some of the better episodes of Constantine have hit.
“A Whole World out There” begins with four dopey college kids conducting a séance. Yup, the whole college kid séance deal. Constantine, we thought better of you. Of course, the four dopes are all sucked into some other world where the ghostly form of the dude that played Ethan Rom on Lost starts tormenting them. Now, it’s always good to see good old William Mapother get some work, he plays one of the best mysterious strangers in Hollywood, and he does his job perfectly in this episode making for a pretty cool one off Constantine villain, but man, were those kids dumb.
Of course, John Constantine is called in to investigate and the series repeats one of the few mistakes it has made during its brief run. Chas and Zed are nowhere to be seen. The episode writes them both out (Chas is chilling with his family and Zed is “recovering”). Notice how on The Flash or Arrow, every episode has at least something for every cast member to do? That allows for a series to build a character mythology. Constantine has a relatively small supporting cast and needs to foster its growth every chance it gets. Excluding Chas or Zed or both every other episode stunts their character growth and forces the series to lose a sense of cohesiveness.
OK, rant over, back to Ethan Rom and the dumb as a box of spanners college kids.
With the four dopes in deep demonic doodie, Constantine pays a visit to his old pal Ritchie Simpson (played by another Lost alum, the always brilliant Jeremy Davies). Davies is at his twitchy best as Simpson, a character I assumed was written out of the series as we haven’t seen him since the pilot. Poor Ritchie has given up and the episode does a really good job at portraying just how sick of life the college professor is. We see him just playing tape recordings of old lectures rather than engaging his class but when Constantine arrives to help those dopey kids, Ritchie isn’t happy.
The series is getting a lot of mileage with those that were present at the Newcastle tragedy and Simpson is just the latest in a line of folk that Constantine must make good with. Ritchie was a fascinating character, an old school punk rock disciple and a nerdy genius…you know, the kind of the character that Simpson always plays. Simpson served as an exposition machine as he told John just how the ghost of Ethan Rom (actually the character was named Jacob Shaw; I’m just having a blast with the Lost callbacks) is tormenting the kids that summoned him during their very ill advised séance. The story of Shaw was a Lovecraftian tale of geometry gone mad and a frightening look at theoretical dimensional physics and astral projection combined with the speculative science of the Singularity. The whole thing was smart and thought provoking and it took an actor with the character acumen of Simpson to sell it in way that made it understandable.
So Constantine and Simpson knew what they were up against, a madman who was able to construct his own reality on another plane who had mastered the rules of physics on that plane. Shaw managed to trap three of the kids in his own personal hell reality and hunt them to his heart’s content. The fourth went to Constantine for help. Ritchie explained to her that Shaw would be able to reach through any reflective surface to abduct her. So what does she do? The genius whips out her cell phone. Like, I said, dumb.
The battle between the two Lost actors really wasn’t the gripping part of the climax, the gripping part was Ritchie’s reluctance to leave the dimension. The whole episode focused on the toll living in Constantine’s world takes on the human psyche. We got to see a glimpse of Gary Lester again this week, still trapped with a demon inside him, and we got to see just how the events of Newcastle had affected Ritchie. Constantine cajoled him back to the physical plane, to not stay in Shaw’s world where he could control every aspect of reality. It was a poignant moment of hope and a renewal of life as John continued to make up for his past misdeeds. Yet, sadly, the last thing we see is John Constantine, in his skivvies, smoking, drinking a bottle of cheap hooch, not able to find the same solace as Simpson did. The price is high indeed.
And speaking of former actors on Lost, Harold Perrineau did show up this week as Manny the angel and did absolutely nothing. But it was cool to have a trifecta of Lost players.
With some fine performance and a cool premise, this week’s Constantine was entertaining but disposable, and with only two episodes left, the series can’t really afford disposable.
Those Magic Moments
– The house in which Shaw committed his murders; the house that stands in the mad geometries of a parallel dimension was very reminiscent of the House of Mystery, another classic and long time DC horror setting. Sadly, Cain and Abel where nowhere to be found.
– Simpson taught at Ivy University, the college setting where the Silver Age adventures of The Atom took place. Sort of appropriate for a place where physics went mad. Alas, Ray Palmer was nowhere in sight. Maybe he was there, just really small. Or he was skyping with Felicity Smoak.