RECAP: CONSTANTINE 01×07 – BLESSED ARE THE DAMNED

This post originally appeared on Panels, which is now Book Riot Comics

The Constantine Files

 

This is John Constantine. Leave your name and soul, and I’ll get back to you.

John? John Constantine? This is Peter from NBC. Listen, dude, I know you’re trying to make a point, but this is the third morning in a row I’ve had to pay someone to remove a talking horses head from my pillow. Come on, man, never heard of greetings cards?


Jay: So we start out in the country somewhere, at one of those small culty-type churches. The ones that show up in the occasional episode of X Files, and in season four of Justified, where people really like snakes. And I’m not saying that because I mind; I tend to enjoy those. I think the show has built up a little trust in me after three good episodes.

The preacher wants to use poisonous snakes, but his sister wants him to use safe ones, says the people won’t know the difference. This is part of why I like this theme; whether or not the character uses a dangerous snake says something about their faith. 

Dave: This bit also touches on some father-son themes. You know, “Daddy would be disappointed.” That can be a bit cliché, but I think it’s a relatable driving force for a character. I like the touch where he’s reading scripture and… he’s just not eloquent like his father was. He stumbles. And then he realizes: “I need the snakes.”

Jay: So the guy gets bitten, looks to be dead but then….he’s back. Was it good CPR? Was it a miracle? Is it the spook of the week? While we’re still wondering the deep nature of that puzzle, the preacher heals a one-legged man, growing him a new limb.

Dave: At this point I’m thinking: Man, Peter Parker’s radioactive spider-bite’s got nothing on these snakes!

Jay: “I got bit by a spider and all I got were these crappy super powers. That guy over there was near someone who got bit, and he gets a whole new leg.” Anyway. Now we’re at Zed’s art class. I guess we get our answer as to why she ditched John last week for one of these…she wants to stare at the nakedness. But today she sees the snakes at her feet instead. 

Dave: I’ve been skeptical of the “quick excuse” departures for Zed and Chas because I feel like we don’t really know them yet. It ends up feeling like the hand of the writer. However, scenes like this one — these work for me. As someone noted in the comments on a previous recap, it makes us feel like Zed has a life outside of John. These solo scenes begin to accomplish that.

Jay: She runs over to Hogwarts to tell John and I really like Matt Ryan as John now. And Chas is off this week. Of course he is. Zed’s vision of snakes ties in with something John has seen on the map. As much as the show is improving, I still don’t like the map. We have our first two artifacts of the week. 

Artifact Count: Two.

Dave: A scythe taken from the grim reaper himself! I like the artifacts when they pop up as these odd little asides. The banter between Zed and John is improving. I like the fact that John’s probing about Zed’s background has taken on this playfulness. Less overwrought, forced sexual chemistry. And I love John in this scene, packing his bag — rabbit’s foot, condoms… oh, we’re going to see a preacher in a church? :tears off one condom and packs the rest:

Jay: John and Zed go to see the preacher dude as he heals the sick. It’s all rustic atmosphere and yellow lighting.  

Dave: That first shot of John in his coat, flicking away his cigarette before pushing through the bible-toting masses? That is the John I dig, right there. The incongruity of his attire against the masses. The sneery attitude. Yes. And then inside the church, Zed gets upset about preachers “conning” the rubes, and I like this bit of character from her — she’s uncertain, searching — though I felt like her dialog was a bit.. stilted? Not sure if it’s the performance or the writing, honestly. It’s quickly pushed aside by John’s PERFECT response to the idea of Heaven, “watching, judging… damning.” That was perfect. We’re less than 10 minutes in, and I’m loving this depiction of John.

Jay: Next we’re in a hospital with the guy who grew a new leg in the cold open. Except now he’s a killer demon thing. Without coffee I get the same way. 

Dave: He’s done got his kickin’ leg back. Maybe it’s a demon leg? Just goes around kicking doctors and babies and old ladies?

Jay: Back to the church. Interested by what they’re doing with Zed here. There’s something beneath the surface, something in her reaction to religion. It’s a different tone to both John and Chas. 

Dave: Agreed. I feel like we’re finally getting a grip on Zed. Piecing together her story from the episodes, she’s disappeared from her old life, changed her name, she comes to John because she’s been drawing him, and now… she’s learning about own abilities. We’ve gotten all that, but what we’re getting here is the emotion behind it. What caused her to run away in the first place? Something related to both her fear and her belief in Almighty.

Jay: A cop pulls over the crazy killer demon guy, as he walks along the side of the road. I figure it’s probably because the cop is a detective and he sees a guy with glowing red eyes covered in blood. But crazy killer demon guy does some more crazy demon killing and runs away. 

Dave: Runs away like an animal. I’ll be honest, I was hoping he’d kick that cop to death. Like, that’s his thing — demonic kicking attack!

Jay: If this was the 80’s and there was an action figure line for this show, that’s what he’d do. We get more of a debate between Zed and John. She wants to believe. (I wonder where we’ve heard that before?) She wants to meet Manny. I like that, it gives her something different. I also like that it seems the preacher believes he’s genuine, at least that’s what we’re being presented with at this point, it adds a nice moral wrinkle.

Sandcastle

John uses magic to conjure an angel. A nice reversal of the cliché. The show is getting good at things like that. Manny does his exposition bit. It seems that delivering exposition through such an obvious source, through dropping an angel into the middle of episodes, makes it so unsubtle that it actually works. 

Dave: I liked seeing John sort of irritated that Manny doesn’t come when called, so he’s got to do some manual labor, drawing sigils in the dirt of the riverbank and doing a whole ritual… ending it with a “Please.”  I agree about Manny’s use — this could be handled really poorly, and I’m a little skeptical about the “rules” Manny appears to be following… do they seem inconsistent to you, or is that just me? The whole “riddle” thing seemed a bit silly, but then again ancient, angelic loopholes probably would involve riddles, wouldn’t they? 

Also, this is perhaps very minor, but I noticed that Zed is dropping a little Spanish in this episode. I know the actress, Angelica Celaya, is Mexican American, but I don’t feel like we’ve heard her utter any actual Spanish prior to this. The reason I feel this is noteworthy is because it may be a sign that the writers and actors are jelling, playing off of each other. Zed doesn’t have to be the Zed from the comics. Let’s see what her ethnicity, her cultural background can bring to THIS version of Zed.

I know that’s a lot of put on a quick, “pobrecitos” and “Ay, Dios mio” — but I’m noting it because I think it’s a cue I’d like the see the writers follow.

Jay: I hadn’t noticed, but that’s a good point. So, they follow the clues Manny gave them and find another angel -Imogen- in the woods. She says her wings were damaged while carrying the preacher to the afterlife, so he was resurrected and she fell to earth, and now Zed can see her. 

Dave: I like that touch. It’s not anything I think I’ve heard before. It’s a cool wrinkle.

Jay: I like the idea of angels being compartmentalized, it ties into the idea of bureaucracy being an issue for them. It gives the idea of paperwork, lines, of middle-management. 

Dave: Structuring heaven has definitely been done before (Supernatural has done a LOT with angels), but… as we’ve both said in the past — magic has to have rules. And the same goes for any otherworldly element. Now, this also borders on world-building; we’re seeing the edges of a larger, invisible world. One that we have to now understand. John and Zed have little pieces of it. It’s a good place to put your characters — in a maze with no overhead view. 

Jay: John casts a protection spell. Something I’m going to call Checkhov’s protection spell. There’s a good conversation between him and Zed while he works. Zed is in awe, she’s now seen proof that everything she was told as a child is true. John is still the same as ever, though. He already knew that all of this was true -in some form- but it still doesn’t mean he believes in it. This is an idea I like, I wrote about it for Panels before. As he says, “you can’t just pray evil away, you still have to fight.” 

Constantine - Season 1

Dave: It’s a good demonstration of John’s jaded character — he HAS the knowledge Zed wants, but it hasn’t made his life better. It’s also a great demonstration of Zed’s character, in that she’s questioning everything and wants to believe — to make sense of it all. You alluded to this earlier, but… she’s almost the Fox Mulder of this series, isn’t she? Only instead of being teamed up with Scully, she’s actually teamed up with the Smoking Man.

Jay: Good call.

There’s tension between the preacher and his sister. He still seems to believe in what he’s doing, but she has doubts, she thinks it’s more about ego and pride than god. I think we know what the reveal is going to be, but they’re playing it well. 

Dave: Magic has a cost. That’s the golden rule.

Jay: John goes to visit the preacher, tells him he knows about the angel feather. Here we start to see the preacher knows more than he lets on. He knows that it’s the angel feather that’s behind all of this, and he’s guarding it. John tries to take it, but gets thrown across the room by magic. I’m not including the feather as an artifact, howsabout you?

Dave: I mean — it could be… if it ends up in a vault by the end of this episode. But for now, I’m just thinking of it as a bit of poor Imogen’s essence.  Then again the line, “that was the feather, not me,” does make it seem artifact-y. I’m on the fence.

Jay: Feather, we are watching you.

Zed gets attacked by the crazy killer demon guy, but John turns up in time to save her. The crazy killer demon guy gets killed. It seems fair. 

Dave: Checkhov’s Scythe? Although, what is it that actually gets him? A tent spike? Anyway, this gives them their plan of action — get the feather back to Imogen before more bad stuff happens.

Jay: Zed infiltrates the church and steals back the feather from the preacher during a baptism, while more crazy killer demon things attack the congregation. 

Dave: OK, Zed is protected by the feather… this is edging onto our artifact list.

Artifact Count: Three.

Jay: Zed races to get the feather back to Imogen. Meanwhile, Manny and Imogen have a nice little scene where they talk about the pleasures and pain of being mortal. All of the things angels never get to see. Just as Zed wants to experience the numinous, Manny wants to feel reality. And Imogen is being all too honest about what he wants to hear….we’re getting to the reveal.

Dave: I liked the Manny-Imogen scene. The experience of pain and pleasure from an outside view.

Jay: Meanwhile, John and the preacher are under siege in the church from the crazy killer demon things. And here we get the reveal. It wasn’t heaven that the preacher was on his way to, it was the other place. And I don’t mean Belize. So now John realises they need to stop Zed from doing the exact thing she’s about to do….

But it’s too late. Zed delivers the feather, the fallen angel heals to reveal that she’s…a fallen angel. We saw it coming, but it was still deftly done, to hide the answer in plain sight. 

Dave: Damn it. I’ll admit — I didn’t get the twist like you did. That was a great reveal. The pacing of this episode is working really well for me. Building and building. I like the shift in the conversation between Manny and Imogen, where it leads Manny into a dangerous line of thought. He pulls back, but it’s just enough that we can see how a Manny can become an Imogen. How close that line is.

Jay: But then Imogen is prevented from escaping by Checkov’s protection spell. We get the full story. This has all been an attempted jailbreak, a fallen angel wanted to break into the mortal world and used the preacher to do it.

Dave: What I like about this is it feeds into Zed’s story as well. She wants to believe in this golden heaven, and she’s quickly learning that a beautiful angel… can be a killer.

Jay: And Manny is forced to step up, he kills the fallen angel. Nice, another episode with costs. And the preacher is still trying to be a decent man, still trying to do the right thing. 

Dave: I like the end scene with the preacher. This experience has given him perspective. Made him a better man. A better preacher. It’d be easy to make him crazy or weak or hypocritical, but they don’t. Yet again, they swerve from the cliché and impress me.

Jay: John has Imogen’s heart in a jar, stored away in Hogwarts. And this point, I’d guess that would make it qualify as an artifact, but since I enjoyed the episode I’m tempted to give it a pass and say it doesn’t count until it crops up again for future use. What do you think?

Dave: I dunno, man. As I said earlier — anything that goes into a vault puts me into Ark of the Covenant territory… a pulsing, evil heart in a jar? Let’s put it on probation.

Jay: I think you’ve won me over again.

Artifact Count: Four.

Psycho Pirate Mask

Dave: Waiiiiiit just a minute… did he put that evil jar next to the mask of the PSYCHO-PIRATE???

Psycho-Pirate_Roger_Hayden_001

Artifact Count: Five.

Jay: And finally the Zed ‘mystery’ seems to be going somewhere, as the coda shows that some mysterious fella tried to set a trap for her. 

Dave: I’m much more into Zed this episode. Why? Because she’s got her own plotline, her own life, and because they structured the episode in such a way that John and Zed had plenty of time to bounce off of one another, revealing aspects of BOTH characters, and how they differ.

Jay: Okay. Four episodes in a row that I’ve enjoyed now. That’s more than half of the season so far. I guess I have to call it; I’m liking this show. 

Dave: This was another good one. I’m with you… we’re not just on steady ground, we’re actually gaining momentum.

Artifacts Of The Week: Five.

Radioactive Spiders: Zero.

Homework:

1. Do you agree with our ruling on artifacts? Once it’s used by a main character, or if it ends up in storage at Hogwarts, it’s an artifact.

2. Do you agree Zed is working better now?

3. Was that the Psycho Pirate?

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