Since its debut in late October, “Constantine” has been the most unique of the comic book-based shows on network TV. It hasn’t experienced the usual early series struggles of finding its identity, has a perfectly cast lead in Matt Ryan and hasn’t shied away from the source material’s bizarre tone, but it was lacking something to truly make it must-see TV either late on Friday or on DVR/On Demand.
With this week’s episode, “Constantine” felt less like a TV show and more like a horror film with Constantine thrown in the mix to easily be the series’ best effort so far.
Constantine’s old occult-battling buddy Gary Lester (Jonjo O’Neill) has come to the states for a visit — unfortunately not alone. His suspicious behavior at customs rightfully leads to him being detained and a custom officer investigating the curious bottle Gary brought along. Gary pleads with the officer not to touch it, but he does and a swarm of beetles fly out and into the officer’s mouth. Demon possessions have been a staple of the show thus far, but the creepy factor is magnified when it involves something that would unnerve people on their own like beetles, spiders, rats, etc. so this threat seems more frightening.
In addition to very aggressive behavior, the demon swarm makes its inhabited user extremely hungry until it overwhelms that body and has to go to another one leaving its previous user a dried out husk.
Gary comes to Constantine’s cabin for aid, but Constantine isn’t ecstatic to see his former ally, who he’d written off due to his heroin addiction. After their split after the Astrid incident, Gary was broken and traveled the world looking for another high. His travels took him to the Sudan where he saw a man, with his face marked to indicate he was housing a demon. Looking to atone for his earlier mistakes, Gary was able to free the man and house the demon in the bottle, but now it was back on the loose.
Constantine encounters the demon in a grocery store — amusing moment of the night: when Constantine sees the Days Without Incident sign and takes the time to erase it and put the count back to zero. The demon pulls a Bray Wyatt at spider-walks backwards at him furthering the horror movie feel, but Constantine is able to subdue it. Sadly, Constantine needed a bigger bottle as it’s not strong enough to contain it for long. Realizing he’s outgunned, Constantine goes to his ally, Nommo (Charles Parnell, “42“) for assistance.
Nommo isn’t a lot of help, but we do get the craziest scene so far in the show as Nommo and Constantine take a drug that allows them to see what the other sees. Beyond a trippy moment of flashy effects, Nommo reaches over and pulls out Constantine’s eye (ewwww). This episode is really hitting on the unnerving scene quota and it’s making the show feel much different than anything else on network TV. Nommo reveals the demon was a hunger demon in the Sudan and a desperate shaman sacrificed one of the villagers to get it away from his people. And with Gary’s rotten luck, he just so happened to encounter that villager and free the demon.
Zed is back at the cabin with Gary, who wants to do something to help Constantine so he grabs Zed, whose Rogue-like abilities get overwhelmed by Gary’s withdrawal symptoms. Constantine has known Gary too long and while Zed is convinced he wants to help, Constantine finds him trying to get high again. Angelica Celaya keeps reminding me of a young Jennifer Lopez and she is making a solid moral counter to Ryan’s more cynical Constantine.
Gary apologizes for screwing up now and for being high when they tried to save Astrid. Constantine is surprisingly forgiving and has Gary help him steal a blade that can stop the demon. Manny appears to make sure Constantine wants to go through with his plan, but he’s already made up his mind. The time-freeze segments when Manny shows up are always fun if for nothing else than watching everything besides Constantine and Manny stop moving. Constantine has a little fun with a security guard and makes him do a little ballet and Vogue while Gary gets the blade.
Constantine and Gary reach the theater where the demon is gorging on popcorn and Constantine finally shares his plan of stopping it. A live body must be used to contain it and since the show isn’t named “Lester”…
This was a solid bastard move by Constantine. The demon had to be stopped, his junkie friend wasn’t serving much purpose and it was kind of his fault in the first place yet Ryan reveals Constantine’s conflict as his eyes slightly water. It’s such a simple gesture in this case, but it’s the difference of Constantine just being a bastard instead of a cold-hearted one. Gary agrees to it and Constantine seals the demon in him.
Zed is shocked to see Gary possessed and is angry at Constantine for tricking him. Constantine reminds her when they first met that people around him die and if she can’t handle that she should go. Zed asks what room Constantine wants Gary in and the episode ends with Constantine holding Gary’s hand as Manny enters the room to conclude a spectacular show.
Right now, “Constantine” is on the bottom tier of comic book series, but if the writers start consistently delivering more episodes like this, it could quickly join “Arrow” and “Flash” as the best around. The series is trending up and getting better each week so I’ve got higher expectations for next week’s show, but this is definitely one you’ll want to catch if you missed Friday.