Constantine: Quid Pro Quo Review

A Breaking Bad alum turns up in the latest episode of Constantine. Here's our review...

We knew sooner or later that Chas’s daughter would find trouble. Since Constantine‘s pilot, the series has gone out of its way to remind fans that Chas had a daughter, and it was fate accompli that the poor daughter of the almost unkillable Chas would attract the attention of some vile wizard or dire beastie. What we didn’t know was that the threat to the fruit of Chas’s loins would be such a classic DC foe. A foe played by a Breaking Bad alum no less! 

That’s right, none other than Mark Margolis, who portrayed the bell ringing mute son of a bitch Héctor “Tio” Salamanca on Breaking Bad, played Felix Faust, a classic DC villain if there ever was one. Margolis chewed scenery like it was bubble gum choosing to play Faust as a cross between Emperor Palpatine and Nosferatu. He was vile enough I guess but the hammy acting choices would have fit right into the Adam West Batman. Well, at least his wardrobe matched the aesthetic of the villain’s Silver Age look. Felix Faust was always a major DC villain and a legit threat to the entire Justice League. But the Faust portrayed on Constantine was a doddering old failure of a sorcerer who was taking one last grasp at black magic glory by capturing the souls of innocents so Constantine would help him fight off a demon with Predator powers that feeds off sleepers. Gasp, it was even more convoluted than I just made it seem. The slimy portrayal of Faust does match the weaseley sorcerer’s character history but Mr. Margolis didn’t really do much other than scowl behind a desk. 

Wasted villainous opportunities aside, the episode was really about Chas and his history as Constantine’s strong right arm. Chas’s journey into immortality began at a nightclub fire eerily similar to the real life tragic The Station nightclub incident that claimed the lives 100 people in 2003. Before the fire, a drunken Constantine cast a protection spell on Chas that drew the souls of the dying into his body. As people died all around Chas, their souls were drawn into Constantine’s best mate. Later in the episode, Constantine told Chas that the spell was originated by Merlin to protect King Arthur. That’s sort of a cool little addition to Chas’s story, that Constantine’s strongest ally has a spell on him that was meant for England’s greatest champion. Sadly, Chas was wracked by guilt over all the lives that were lost in the fire were now his. He wanted to use those lives to help other, and even though each life spent brought Chas one step closer to death, the noble hero thought it a small price to pay to help others. His newfound mission cost him his family adding an element of noble tragedy to Chas’s history.

The Felix Faust plot was just background to relate Chas’s origin and while that origin tale was moving and effective, I kind of wished they would have burnt a lesser known villain to tell it. It doesn’t seem like Faust will be bedeviling Chas or Constantine anytime soon as Chas blew the wizard up with a hand grenade in order to save his child. There you go, a wizard who went toe to toe with Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern was blown up by a cabbie with a grenade. Actually, now that I typed that out, I realize it was pretty cool. But when you have an award winning actor from Breaking Bad playing a classic DC baddie, maybe it should be more than a one off?

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One positive outcome was that Mrs. Chas witnessed the sacrifice and gained an insight into her ex’s nobility. After this episode, Chas now stands as  a richer character and possibly the only real hero of the series. The Samwise Gamgee to John Constantine’s chain smoking, womanizing, black magic wielding Frodo Baggins.

Constantine played the role of problem solver this week, helping Chas with a myriad amount of mystic weapons including a makeup brush once used by Aleister Crowley and the tendon of the mythic Achilles. He tracked down Faust, got one of his medium pals burnt to a crisp (hey, a well done medium), and took out the demon for Faust in order to save Chas’s daughter’s soul. He also got smacked by Chas’s ex-wife and punched in the jaw by Chas. Is it me or does someone deck Constantine at least once per episode. Zed was along for the ride and didn’t really do much other than act as sleeping bait for the demon and comfort Chas’s estranged wife. The episode did cover the cult led by Zed’s daddy. Constantine now finally knows that Zed’s father is after her. That little plot thread got tucked away for later and with three episodes left this season and no promise of a renewal, let’s hope we get some answers on the Zed front sooner rather than later.

All in all, I never thought I’d see a version of Felix freakin’ Faust on television, even if it was a hammy disposable version. The episode was a bit paint by numbers but saved itself by unraveling Chas’s fascinating and selfless origins. 

Those Magic Moments

Felix Faust first appeared way back in Justice League of America #10 (March 1962) and was created by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky. He bedeviled the Justice League for decades. The New 52 version of the character recently fought the John Constantine led Justice League Dark which established a literary history between Faust and Constantine. The New 52 Faust is an emaciated husk of a wizard and more in line with the version of Faust featured this week. I still wish that at some point he rang a bell though. 

Marc Buxton, columnist and recapper, feels that someone better put on the damn Doctor Fate helmet soon just in case Constantine is put out to pasture by NBC. 

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2.5 out of 5