This review contains spoilers.
1.4 A Feast Of Friends
A Feast Of Friends is Constantine’s first direct adaptation of a Hellblazer story, and it poses the question: why the hell would the writers make up their own storylines when they could be doing this? This episode is drastically scarier, more emotional, and more thought-provoking than the last three. It captures some classic comic moments beautifully, and also makes a few questionable changes that are sure to have fans talking. For non-comics readers, this is your first real look at what you’re getting yourself into when you step into the world of John Constantine.
Constantine’s old friend/hanger-on Gary “Gaz” Lester (Jonjo O’Neill), a member of the infamous Newcastle crew of his younger days, comes to the U.S. to seek help from Constantine in dealing with a hunger demon. While high on heroin, Gary drew the demon, Mnemoth, from a boy in Sudan (killing the boy) and trapped it in a bottle. The demon takes the form of a swarm of beetles, takes over a person’s body, and forces him or her to eat madly and incessantly. The person then dies, and the demon moves on to someone else. Mnemoth is set loose at the airport, and Constantine must put a stop to it.
Constantine leaves Gary with Zed and tracks down the demon with help from Zed’s psychic powers and a trippy shared vision with a shaman. Eventually he agrees to Gary’s requests to let him help him. He encourages Gary to drop the drug habit and make something of his life. It turns out that Constantine has plans for exactly that. The demon needs to be bound in a human vessel before it, along with its vessel, can be destroyed. Gary condemns Constantine for manipulating him, but agrees to do it. The result is a slow and tortuous death for Gary, which a guilty but determined Constantine must watch.
I don’t want to get too specific about how it goes down in the comics, because if you don’t already know, I hope you’ll read it for yourself. (This story is adapted from issues #1 and 2, so you can jump right in.) But I will say this: as bad as this is, what John does in the comic version is a whole lot worse. So much so, that maybe the showrunners softened it out of fear that mainstream viewers wouldn’t be able to handle such a morally compromised hero.
One could argue that this is untrue to Constantine’s character and waters down the effect of the ending. But even in Hellblazer, the level of cruelty Constantine is willing to carry out varies depending on who is writing him and the time in his life. What he does in this episode is not what he does in the comic version of this story, but it is something I can picture him doing. It’s not out of character. It’s just different. Whether it’s good different or bad different is up to the viewer, but on the whole, this episode does capture the story and feel of it source material well.
Constantine and Gary’s complicated relationship makes for an intriguing dynamic as the two deal with the hunger demon and with their dark history. The pitiful, desperate Gary is expertly portrayed by Jonjo O’Neill (who also gets points for being named Jonjo. That is so bamf). The influence of the hunger demon isn’t quite as gruesome as in the comics; there’s only a little eating of human flesh, and nobody eating himself. (Is eating oneself allowed on network television, or is that like the smoking thing?) The beetles don’t go quite as far as their ink-and-paper counterparts, either. Like most good horror stories, though, the truly scary thing about this episode isn’t the demons without, it’s the ones within. In this case, it’s about friendship, betrayal, addiction, and impossible choices.
Zed has yet to get interesting, and Chas is once again pushed out of the picture. Manny pops in a few times to be all creepy and cryptic; he’s a curiosity, but doesn’t have much purpose yet. It makes you wonder why these characters exist at all. In fact, in the comics Manny doesn’t exist, and Chas and Zed appear only occasionally, Zed only in the first few dozen issues. The character of Constantine is more than capable of carrying a series without them.
Next week’s episode appears to be another original story, which is a shame. But the cast and crew of the show frequently talk about adapting other comic arcs, so we should get more of that, hopefully soon. Sadly, the show’s ratings dropped this week. I have a lot of hope for Constantine right now; each episode has been better than the last, and A Feast Of Friends is excellent. Let’s talk this thing up, guys!
Read Kylie’s review of the previous episode, The Devil’s Vinyl, here.
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