I’ve been getting down a bit on the last few episodes of Constantine for not world building enough, for not focusing on a shared mythology that binds the usually self-contained episodes of the series into a shared narrative. Well, this week’s episode fixed all that. By delivering a third act surprise I really didn’t see coming as well as shedding some much needed light between the until now teased war between Heaven and Hell.
Things started out typically enough with Constantine and Zed being drawn to a Southern Baptist Church where a faith healer had developed miraculous healing powers. Because every episode of this series has to write out one of the co-leads, Chas is conveniently pushed out of the episode as Zed and John investigate this snake handling man of God.
The story is pretty much shaped like you would expect it for the first two acts, with Constantine trying to find out how the preacher (no, not that Preacher, that Preacher is coming to AMC and how freakin’ cool is that? This is just a run of the mill faith healer with seemingly divine powers) is able to heal his flock.
Zed and John question the nature of religion and divinity and the whole thing is rather interesting if mundane. The preacher heals his congregation of myriad ailments and Constantine can’t quite believe all this magic will come without a price. It turned out that when the preacher was bitten by a snake and died, he managed to pull off an angel’s feather as he was being taken to Heaven.
I apologize for the heavy recap, but you need to understand the fragility of the plot before you see how the episode masterfully turned a typical McGuffin hunt into a masterful plot twist. Ok, so we’ve had a few looks at the nature of heaven through Manny, John’s angel pal, but not a whole heck of a lot, just glimpses or fragmented ideas of the place of angels and Heaven in the shared mythology of Constantine.
This week, we got to see a new angel, a female celestial named Imogen. Imogen was dying because her stolen feather kept her trapped on Earth while all those the preacher healed were turning violently demonic. The healed were really the only source of horror in this episode but they were very effective with the healed church goers acting ape like and visceral after the preacher laid hands upon their suffering bodies.
So Imogen was a wilting little angel and our heroes had to get their hands on the feather. This is when things followed the grand Hellblazer tradition of sacrilegious daring as the always street smart Zed faked a desire to be baptized and picked the preachers pocket as she was being dunked. Now, here’s that ingenious turn. While Zed ran to return the feather to the wilting Imogen, Constantine discovered that the preacher once was guilty of killing a man in a hit and run. Imogen wasn’t an angel charged with taking him to Heaven, but a demon who was going to drag him to Hell. Well I’ll be knackered.
So now we have seen that there are Fallen Angels in the world of Constantine and that they are filled with hatred for the celestial host and for humanity. All of a sudden, the world of the series has opened up and the overarching plot has been made evident. Constantine and Zed operate in a world where Hell is trying to pour into the world of the living and wreck havoc on God’s favorite children, humanity. All of a sudden, with that one reveal of the preacher’s sin, the series has expanded into a very fascinating and high stakes holy war with Constantine caught in the middle.
The story ended up being a defining moment for Manny, a character who for a number of episodes was almost an afterthought. John’s guardian angel was integral in defeating Imogen by breaking his vow of non-interference by tearing out Imogen’s black, demonic heart. So what started out as typical one and done episode ended up defining the world of Constantine and his place in the larger scheme of a Biblical war between Heaven and Hell. Not bad. This might have better served the series if it aired earlier because this storyline could have been the glue that bound the overreaching mythology of the series together.
We have a keener understanding of angels and demons now but the series still hasn’t revealed much about Zed’s past. This episode, her visions were important to kick off the action of the episode and she also was the one who deceived her way into retrieving the feather, so after her trivial contributions to the past few episodes, Zed had a big role to play this week. The only issue was that by not revealing much about her past, by playing coy and keeping Constantine, and by extension the audience, in the dark, the series is making it very difficult to care about the character. The series can try and make her a mystery, but making her a complete cipher will endanger the integrity of the emotional resonance of the character.
But this week we cared, and the world of Constantine became a whole lot grander in scope.
Those Magic Moments
When Constantine brought Imogen’s heart back to his lair and placed it on a shelf, it sure was put next to the Psycho Pirate’s Medusa Mask. In DC lore, the Medusa Mask allows its wearer to effect the emotions of anyone who gazes upon it. Between all the Crisis on Infinite Earths allusions in The Flash and the weapon of the Psycho Pirate, a villain who played a huge role in the Crisis, appearing on Constantine, I’m ready for the skies to turn red any day now.