Four mid-season finales of comic book inspired shows aired this week, and all four of them had an inspired cliffhanger. Not a bad time to be a geek, huh?
So this week was probably the most well-balanced episode of Constantine yet. The entire cast is finally all present and accounted for in the same installment (well, almost all, we were not treated to Manny) with meaty roles for each player. We were also introduced to a new major player in John Constantine’s life while our intrepid band of heroes tried to solve a Mexican mystery dealing with the abduction of new born infants by an ancient entity. So while you’re trying to figure out what Agent Skye has become, who the Reverse Flash could be, and how the heck Oliver Queen will survive that plunge off that mountain, join us as we examine a very atmospherically frightening episode of Constantine.
This was the first episode of the show so far that effectively managed to balance two plots at once while building the mythology of the series. We were treated to the introduction of a newly revealed member of the famed Newcastle crew in the form of Sister Ann Marie who summoned John and Chas to Mexico to help solve the mysterious infant abductions. It was pretty clear from Ann Marie’s initial spectral message to John that she had no love or trust for him after what went down in Newcastle, but she was so desperate to save the babies that she called on him anyway.
Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if Ann Marie joined the cast permanently as she arrived on screen fully realized and complex, a woman who is trying to make up for her sins in a very different way than John. The episode quickly established that Ann Marie introduced John to the Dark Arts scene back in the day and was also a former lover of the mage. We were even treated to an old photo of John and Ann Marie in their younger days as punk rocks wizards. Awesome.
Chas and John arrived in Mexico and quickly got to work on solving the mystery of the child abduction. While all this was going on, Zed was back in the US trying to build a romance with that non-descript nude model form last week. Things quickly went south for Zed’s love as Mr. nude model was revealed as an agent from an organization tied to Zed’s past, a group that also has Zed’s father as a member. It’s nice to have even a brief look into some part of Zed’s past as anything that fleshes out her still rather flat character is welcome.
While Zed was in deep trouble, John and company set about solving the baby mystery. The setting of the Mexican convent gave the episode a suitable creepy atmosphere as the whole thing felt like a low budget Guillermo del Toro joint complete with an over the top creepy ass vampire monster that would have made The Strain proud. The episode even delved into some ancient world myth by having the aforementioned creepy ass vampire monster be a Lamashtu, an ancient Mesopotamian deity that feeds off children. See, I told you it was all very del Toro.
The thematic focus of the episode was the difference in the manner by which Ann Marie and John dealt with Newcastle. Ann Marie repented through the convent, helping those in need to wipe the stain of Newcastle off her soul, while John took up arms against the darkness to prevent a Newcastle from happening to anyone else.
Ann Marie likes to think of herself as pure, as above the mire and filth that Constantine wallows in, but the episode’s climax proved otherwise. Ann Marie and John confronted the Lamashtu after she was revealed to be one of Ann Marie’s fellow sisters and defeated her.
In truth, the climax to the battle with the wanton Lamashtu was bit too glossy as John used an ancient artifact to purify the sewer water that the beast stood in. The whole episode was filled with that special sort of crusty filth that Constantine uses so well, and having the episode’s dénouement be some special effects laden gloss went against the show’s strengths. That being said, the Lamashtu really was a pretty rocking creature feature.
With the babies safe, Ann Marie and Constantine made their way back topside when they were confronted by another Hell beast even more terrible than the Lamashtu, a creature foreshadowed in one of Zed’s visions earlier in the episode. This beast (another great creature design with a del Toro aesthetic) frightened even John. Ann Marie shot John in order to distract the creature so she and the baby could make their escape. The pure-hearted Sister Ann Marie betrayed a friend to do what needed to be done to keep innocents safe. Now, she had blood on her hands and on her conscious. Maybe she wasn’t so different from John Constantine after all.
As for Zed, her nude model Judas is dead and she was taken by her father’s organization. So she and John are both in deep trouble as the darkness enigmatically continues to rise.
Those Magic Moments
Sister Ann Marie first appeared in Saga of the Swamp Thing #37. Like in this episode, the events of Newcastle so scarred her that she became a nun. After her death, her ghost continued to haunt John Constantine for many years. One has to wonder if this is the fate in store for television’s version of Sister Ann Marie.