It’s somewhat fitting that after receiving its potential death sentence from NBC, “Constantine” follows up with easily its strongest episode yet that shows exactly why this series deserves a stay of execution as it continues to deliver the most unique viewing experience on network TV.
With little more than a TV budget, “Constantine’s” sixth episode packed in as many genuine scares and jump in your seat moments as any recent full-length feature film. “Rage of Caliban” also offered up more evidence that NBC dropped the ball in debuting the show on Oct. 24 instead of September like other new shows instead of giving it a weak late in the roll-out season, especially since this episode featured a Halloween theme. Fun fact: this episode was actually the second one shot in the series, which would have been the Halloween episode meaning we don’t get Angelica Celaya’s Zed tonight.
But first, Constantine has to do the emergency walk of shame as his one night stand’s boyfriend is about to return home and Constantine has to leave out through the window. It’s in these moments that star Matt Ryan really shines as he’s able to flesh out Constantine more as a bit of a scoundrel, yet still very likable even if he really is awful with people. That’s further illustrated when Chas touches the Sword of KnNight, which makes its holder tell the truth and begins spilling that he feels Constantine won’t listen to him about his past relationship and Constantine awkwardly asking if Chas wants to say anything afterwards.
From there, C & C Occult Factory are off to Birmingham, Alabama where some strange events have been occurring. A string of children have been left orphans as something is killing their parents. After some digging, Constantine learns that a child killed his parents 25 years ago and that evil spirit is inhabiting and possessing other children. Its latest victim is a timid boy named Henry. Henry’s father is ready for his son to finally toughen up without needing to be coddled by his mother.
But once the spirit possess Henry, the show provides a thrilling take on horror films like “The Grudge” and “Insidious” while managing to put a Constantine spin on it. Few things are as unnerving on screen as a possessed child and this episode effectively taps all those buttons from Henry setting light bulbs on the floor and causing his father to step on them and telekinetically driving a bird to a glass window in front of his mother. And then there’s that insane shot where a Rottweiler is thisclose from Henry’s face.
While visiting the first victim, now a catatonic 40-year-old in a mental health facility, proves fruitless, Constantine manages to make a bit more headway with Henry’s parents. In the fact that the mother somewhat realizes something is wrong with her son and considers using Constantine’s card while the father knocks him out for suggesting their son is possessed. That leads Constantine to a cozy prison cell where Manny returns and hints that he may have been Constantine’s guardian angel since he was a little boy.
After Henry throws another telekinetic temper tantrum — the episode’s one weaker special effects scene (but again, this is operating on a TV budget) — the mother frees Constantine and works with him and Chas to free Henry. Trying to aid another child gives Constantine flashbacks to his failure with Astra, his greatest misstep and the reminder that he doesn’t have a flawless record with this occult business.
Constantine’s first attempt to stop the spirit — a seance at the first victim’s house fails — they travel back to Henry’s house. This was one of the show’s better Constantine vs. evil spirit confrontation and felt a bit more hard-earned than some others as Constantine has to chase Henry through a haunted house complete with a roomful of skulls and hanging slabs before conjuring a spell that releases the spirit from poor Henry.
After news broke of NBC opting to halt production of “Constantine” after its initial order of 13 episodes, supporters rallied across social media campaign with #SavingConstantine earlier this week. Al Roker conducted easily the most ill-informed and awkward interview with Ryan and Angelica Celaya at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade clearly oblivious to the tenuous fate of the series as he congratulated them on their new hit show. But all the attention and social media buzz would have meant nothing if this episode fizzled, and this delivered exactly what was needed — another compelling reason to keep the show on the air. Time to do your part and spread the word. This is a show worth saving and one worth the time investment especially at this pivotal juncture as NBC decides its fate.