This Constantine review contains spoilers.
The vast array of DC’s television series all ended with pretty tense cliffhangers and Constantine was no exception. The titular mage chest was shot and about to be devoured by a demon that looked like it sprang from one of Clive Barker’s worst (or best) nightmares. How did it all turn out? Read on, and discover why I am deeply hoping that there will be much more Constantine in our future.
This episode, the first one back after the holiday hiatus, featured a John Constantine that resembled his Vertigo comics roots moreso than any episode so far in the young series. This was a Constantine that would do anything to survive, like walk the darkest paths of reality to make sure he drew breath for one more day. This is the Constantine that has been thrilling comic fans for decades, an unpredictable magical con man who knows no limits. This was the Constantine of Delano, Moore, Ellis, and Ennis. This was a man who was about to be devoured and needed a way out.
So John Constantine gave himself over to a Pazuzu demon (yes, a demon with the same name that possessed little Regan in The Exorcist) in order to escape the nightmare in the sewers. It worked and it pissed off Manny the angel who admonished John for allowing himself to be taken by the forces of darkness. Again, this was the most Constantine moment of the series thus far. How many times has the comic book Constantine used dark magic to escape an even darker fate?
John isn’t the only character to resolve a cliffhanger this week. When we last saw Zed she was kidnapped by agents of her father. We still don’t know who Zed’s daddy is but we do know that he sent the absolute worst operative to bring Zed in. Yeah, the fat, doughy, cultist was able to knock Zed out, but she was able to escape his van in record time and dose him with his own syringe. Seriously, are these cultists hiring off Monster.com? The escape did allow Zed to join Chas and the now Pazuzu possessed John down in Mexico. The story of Zed’s parentage will have to wait for another day I guess.
With Zed on the scene, we got to the meat of the episode with John in a Mexican prison for killing five members of a notorious street gang and Zed, Ann Marie, and Chas on the outside desperately trying to save him so they can perform an exorcism before John is lost to the demon. Johnny boy going all demonic on a bunch of cartel scumbags was entertaining as hell but it was trumped by Zed getting into the prison by pretending to be a, ahem, working woman on a conjugal visit and Chas taking a simpler route by just decking one of the guards. Of course, the mega powerful witch Ann Marie had her own magical method to get in and help exorcise John.
Let’s talk about Ann Marie for a moment. For a character just introduced, she certainly has a great deal of depth. Her betrayal of John and her subsequent regret marked her as a character very similar to John, a woman who will do whatever it takes to keep Hell’s forces away from the world of the living. I’m glad Ann Marie survived her debut, I was certain she would buy it after she betrayed John, but there is more to this witch turned nun to explore and I look forward to her return.
Chas was also used effectively this episode, he of course died once again (he is DC’s version of South Park’s Kenny after all), but he was revived and ready to help with the exorcism. Zed didn’t really do much other than look shocked during the whole ordeal but the show finally managed to have an episode with all three leads in the same place at the same time, so we’re making progress.
Matt Ryan was a tour de force in the episode, playing both the barely holding together Constantine and the demon. He is certainly putting his all into this character and I can see his performance becoming iconic if the series gets to go a few more seasons. His swagger, his confidence, his amount of self assuredness that borders on insanity, Ryan uses all of it to bring Constantine to life, and in this episode, he seemed to have hit his peak so far.
The only complaint I had was the ease in which Ann Marie expelled the demon from John. The exorcism was kind of over as soon as it began, but the journey was fun and dark and everything one would expect from this series. We also had more with the Rising Darkness and the villainous Brujeria seemed to be new players in the grand tapestry of dark things to come, but the episode was really about Constantine and what he would do to keep fighting the darkness that is here in the mortal world.
A good start to the backend of Constantine’s first season, and if the rest of the installments mirror the quality of this one, than I truly pray the show will return for a second season.
Those Magic Moments
The portrayal of Manny the angel really mirrors the way celestial beings have been used in many Vertigo books like Hellblazer, Sandman, Lucifer, and Preacher, aloof and arrogant beings who follow their own agenda and only giving a fig about the struggles of humanity when it fits their divine plan.