The episodes of Constantine that have aired thus far have had a decidedly Vertigo flavor. For the most part, they have been cerebral tales of horror or just downright nasty gorefests that have been a tribute to the world that Karen Berger built. But this week, for the first time since that moment where Liv (remember her?) picked up the helmet of Dr. Fate, we had some action pulled right from the DC Universe proper and it was kind of a blast.
Played by Emmett J Scanlan (In the Flesh), this version of Jim Corrigan did not go full Spectre (you never go full Spectre) as of yet, but his fate is foreshadowed through one of Zed’s visions. I think that through Corrigan, we have now seen the potential of Constantine as a series that has one foot in the DC Universe and one foot in the roots of Vertigo, so there are really tons of potential stories that the series can draw from without ever pigeon-holing itself into one genre.
Like with Atom and Firestorm over on the CW shows, the folks running Constantine seem to be doing a slow burn with the Spectre. “Danse Vaudou” introduced Jim Corrigan, created a bond between the cop and Zed, and then hinting of his dark fate. It all worked rather well as Corrigan was appropriately jaded and rumpled. In fact, the first time we see him is taking a drunken piss in a New Orleans alley. The show might have plucked Jim out of his 1940s roots but there is still a noir quality about the character who must solve a series of seemingly unrelated murders with the help of Constantine, Zed, and Chas.
Hey! They gave Chas something to do this episode. All right!
The case of the week, as shown to team Constantine by Liv’s map (which made a clumsily executed and exposition laden return this week), dealt with Papa Midnite calling up lost souls for cash to speak with their guilt ridden loved ones only to have the souls return to life. These souls were filled with rage over the unfairness of their deaths and they kill whoever crosses their paths. Whether it was a model who had her face slashed or a young hitchhiker who was killed in a horrific car accidents, these restless spirits used the tools of their own demise to kill. Rather appropriate for a story that introduced the Spectre, isn’t it?
In fact, other than the presence of Team Constantine, this could have been a Spectre story. The ghost of the Asian model who slashes people with scissors had the same visual aesthetic as many a Bronze Age Spectre villain and would have felt right at home in a ’90s John Ostrander comic. Make no mistake though, the episode was totally character driven. With Constantine’s dogged determination to put the spirits to rest and Corrigan’s reluctant denial of the unearthly, the meat of this episode was in the characters. The plot was a bit paint by numbers but it was brought to life by the individuals involved. It was nice to see Zed have something to do rather than be window dressing as the bond she formed with Corrigan really showed her compassion and bravery. And her final, bloody vision regarding the future Spectre was a show stopper, green hued lighting effects and all.
As for the villain of the piece, Papa Midnite, this week’s episode was a way better spotlight than the one from a few weeks ago. Papa was first portrayed as an over the top gangster with some abilities and a mad on for Constantine. This episode really played up the con man aspect of the villain but also showed his infectious charisma as a cult figure. A viewer would totally understand why and how Papa attracts followers but “Danse Vaudou” also showed that the voodoo priest does have a code of honor. After Papa found out that his spells have created vengeful ghosts, he helped Constantine find a way to let the spirits rest.
The ending was exciting enough with the families of the ghostly killers letting go of their loved ones while Chas and Zed faced down two of the deceased but it felt like the series needs a more cohesive mythology if it is to survive. The one off episodes, like the hunger demon episode last week, pretty much rule but any time one of the show’s unifying plot ideas are brought up, like the map or Manny, they feel tacked on. Elements come and go without purpose. There was no Manny this week while last week had no map or Chas. If the overall story arc of the series catches up with its ability to scare, we will be in for a treat.
Those Magic Moments
– Good to see that Warner Bros. gave Jerry Siegel, co-creator of some dude named Superman; a creator credit for the Spectre.
– In Adventure Comics #432 (1971), the Spectre turns himself into a giant pair of scissors to punish a murderer, cutting the perpetrator up like a paper doll. It was one of the most horrific and iconic mainstream comics of the early Bronze Age and remains one of the most infamous Spectre moments in the character’s eight decade history. It was nice to see that scissor motif along for the live action debut of Jim Corrigan.