Constantine episode 5 review: Danse Voudou

Constantine's latest episode sadly won't do much to support the case for season two renewal. Here's Kylie's review of Danse Voudou...

This review contains spoilers.

1.5 Danse Voudou

My question from last week bears repeating: Why would you make up your own crap when you’ve got all of Hellblazer to draw upon? Do we need to send Garth Ennis up there to smack these people upside the head? The episode isn’t bad, really. But like every episode besides A Feast Of Friends —and unlike Hellblazer—it just isn’t memorable.

First, let’s get the big news out of the way: Constantine smokes in this episode. Not sneaky “I was smoking off camera” stuff, but actual lit-cigarette-in-the-mouth action. I’m not sure how that happened after all the brouhaha about not smoking on network television, but I’m not going to question it. It’s the last piece of the perfect live-action Constantine portrayal, and that’s reason to celebrate. Dare we dream that this is preparing us for Dangerous Habits? (Or maybe the writers will decide they can come up with something better. Boo.)

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This week’s adventure brings Constantine, Zed, and Chas to New Orleans—which, like the show’s Chicago, is entirely lacking in any of the real city’s flavour. Here, two urban legends have come to life. One is the Japanese kuchisake-onna legend, about a spirit of a woman whose face was cut by scissors, and who asks victims if they think she’s pretty before stabbing them with her own set of scissors. The other is the vanishing hitchhiker, about a spirit of a boy who asks for rides and then abruptly disappears, causing a driver to crash.

It turns out that both these spirits were accidentally resurrected by Papa Midnite, who was trying to help loved ones communicate with them. Something called the Rising Darkness is messing with Papa’s powers, and he and Constantine put aside their differences to lay the spirits to rest. Their partnership produces some interesting conversations about the different belief systems behind Papa’s voodoo magic and Constantine’s cynical street magic. It gets quite spiritual for a while, and it would be interesting to delve deeper into that rich topic. Papa Midnite falls easily into the role of spiritualist, and he and Constantine make a thoroughly entertaining team.

Fans of the DC occult universe were doubtless pleased to see Detective Jim Corrigan, whose future is teased in one of Zed’s visions. Corrigan is a nice foil to the rest of the cast as an outsider who begins by ridiculing the occult but, through close encounters with it, is quickly forced to change his tune. He doesn’t get much character development, but there are hints that he could, and that if he does, it’s going to be good.

Speaking of side characters, Zed and Chas are finally pulling their weight this week. Each tackles one of the two spirits while John and Pape Midnite cast the spell to lay them to rest. True to the urban legend, Chas deflects kuchisake-onna’s attack by responding to her questions with more questions. (“Do you think I’m pretty?” he says. Yes, Chas, we think you’re beautiful.) Zed distracts the hitchhiking spirit by talking about his grandmother and the struggles young people can have with family.

Danse Voudou also offers a formal introduction to Cedella, Papa Midnite’s sister. He killed her and uses her skull to communicate with the underworld. It would be nice if Constantine dropped the silly spirit-sniffing bracelets and such from his bag of tricks and stuck to a few truly chilling magical artifacts like this one. Cedella tells Constantine that he cannot stop the Rising Darkness, and that someone close to him will betray him.

Though Danse Voudou is lacking in major missteps, it is also lacking in anything especially fresh, insightful, or impressive. This sort of thing might be tolerable on another show, but knowing what Constantine could be makes its moments of mediocrity harder to swallow. On the bright side, the show saw an impressive 38% rise in the 18-49 demographic. Was that due to last week’s fabulous episode? Let’s hope the new viewers this week weren’t disappointed. Constantine is still promising, but with the push for instant ratings gratification, a promise might not be enough.

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