Review: Constantine Series Premiere

Review: Constantine Series Premiere


Season 1, Episode 1

“Non Est Asylum”

Rating: A+

Now this is a show I’ve been waiting for for quite a while. I was actually waiting for a movie reboot, but a series? I will totally take you up on that, DC. For those of you not in the loop, or feeling a vague feeling of familiarity, that may be because this is not the first time John Constantine has graced our screens. Keanu Reeves played him in the eponymous movie back when no one cared what happened to comic books on film. That movie was fine and dandy, it just wasn’t Constantine. No, John Constantine is a blond-haired foul-mouthed Brit with a penchant for chain smoking and a vague resemblance to Sting. While the chain smoking is a problem these days for network television, and Matt Ryan doesn’t so much resemble Sting as Jason Stackhouse, everything else they’ve gotten pretty spot on.

Constantine makes his living as am exorcist. Hellblazer is the name of his comic. Caught in between the forces of Heaven and Hell, Constantine exists in the human world, albeit in the shadows.

When we meet Constantine, he’s checked himself into an asylum in the North of England. We quickly discover the reason why; a failed exorcism of a girl named Astra, which resulted in her soul’s condemnation, has driven him to the brink. During a group therapy session, he sees something strange and follows it to a possessed woman painting on a wall filled with giant roaches. After a very cool exorcism scene, full of exploding jars of paint and stained glass windows, John sees the words written on the wall by the ‘entity inside’. ‘LIV DIE’, in deep, blood red. “What does it mean?” the girl asks when she awakens, after getting over the initial shock of the moment. “It means I’ve been wasting my time here, luv. It means I have work to do.”

It turns out that demon was a friend of his, and Liv is his daughter, who is need of the kind of protection that only John Constantine can provide. Enter Liv. Liv is here to learn she’s a Scry, a person with the ability to track where evil is and where it will present itself. Sadly, we are not getting a set up for the entire season in this episode, as the original plotline had to be re-written to accommodate the exit of the actress that played Liv, exited the show shortly after filming the Pilot, but all plot lines are tied up and John even gets a little bit of a goal for the season. Liv passes on her heirloom necklace so we can move onto the next one, and honestly that’s okay with me. She’s not terrible, but she also bears a passing resemblence to Rachel Weitz which puts Constantine the movie in her mind.

I don’t think the show has the courage to delve in Constantine’s darkness. It’s quite sad, as this is the same network that brings us the insane, beautifully grotesquely macabre opera that is Hannibal. As it stands, it’s the loss of Astra, and Constantine’s responsibility for her death and her own soul’s condemnation, that has condemned his soul to Hell. He summoned a demon more powerful than the one that had possessed her and was going to use it to defeat the other demon. Instead, it killed the girl and took her soul to Hell. Dark, I know, however, in the comics, it’s John’s attempt at suicide in his teenage years, which came close enough to kill him for a few moments. This is the driving force behind his actions as an exorcist and crusader for the forces of good: to get out of going to hell when he dies. It doesn’t make the show any less cool to watch, but it does take away some of the weight of John’s words, since in this it was in the service of others that he was condemned. In an argument on the street over his sentence, there’s a righteousness in what he says, rather than a selfishness. This makes Constantine a little more likeable than he is in the comics. NBC’s strict no-smoking policy also pretty much ensures we’ll never see one of the greatest storylines from the comic, and the basis for the film, the “Dangerous Habits” arc.

Harold Parrineau’s Manny is a little wooden, but I’ve come to expect that of Angels. the effects on his wings are cool, but don’t pack the punch of the shadowy wings seen in Supernatural, televisions other big Heaven/Hell drama. Jeremy Davies is playing a version of the same character he played in Lost, Justified, and virtually any other show he’s been cast in, but that makes his performance as Ritchie Thompson no less enjoyable to see unfold. It’s always funny to see twitchy character actors play scientists, I imagine they have a lot of fun learning to convincingly speak Science. Charles Halford’s Chas doesn’t get a whole lot of dialogue to enjoy, but really all he had to do to make us love him was show up and not be Shia LeBeouf.

The final showdown between the demon hunting Liv and Constantine himself was pretty cool. The way the demon uses Constantine’s coming Hell-visage as well as a fake Astra to trick Constantine was a really nifty way of acknowledging the whole “demons tell the truth to get in your head” thing,

All in all, this is one of the best pilots I’ve seen this season. Maybe it’s just that they’ve had the time to see mistakes made by Gotham and The Flash made, though they were fairly few, it always came back to pacing (which is ironic for the latter), but Constantine never lags in his first outing. There’s always something going on, something cool or scary to look at, a nod to the fans here and a clever quip there. Plus, an extremely cool final scene that sets up Constantine’s replacement for Liv. From this episode, I’d say it’s yet another televised win for the DC universe, and shockingly, a win for a Friday show for NBC. Who’d have thought comic books would make such great serialized television? Aside from, well, every fan out there.

Stuff And Things

  • – Well, we start out in Northern England, which is a very good sign
  • – “It says master does it? Well I should really change that to ‘petty dabbler’, i don’t like to put on airs.”
  • – Love that he uses an old fashioned cab to get around
  • – “Master of the dark arts?” “I’m getting new ones made…”
  • – Matt Ryan’s accent sounds like a mix between his own native Welsh, Manchuian, and Constantine’s own Liverpool(ian?)
  • – Speaking of that final scene, it was really cool to see such a direct acknowledgement to the comic books by featuring Constantine art so prominently all over that apartment.
Categories: Entertainment