This post originally appeared on Panels, which is now Book Riot Comics
This is John Constantine, leave your name and soul and I’ll get back to you.
Jay: We get a ‘previously on…’ Filling us in on all the plotty-type stuff. So maybe this will be a mini-season finale, something that delivers some answers.
Dave: They definitely want to hit home the Rising Darkness and the Brujeria, that much is clear. Also: someone is going to betray John.
Jay: Three young women are woken up in bed by a man with a southern accent talking about his wedding night….uh oh. This could go wrong. I think this is based on issue four of Hellblazer, when John’s niece Gemma runs away from home.
Dave: Yup — the title ‘Waiting for the Man’ is taken from that issue, and this looks to be pretty similar at the start.
Jay: But that was in an English setting, and it touched on social and political issues of the day. There are certain cliche’d elements to the story, but because of the setting, those tropes becomes useful tools along the way.
Dave: I’ll be honest, I’m immediately slightly disarmed by the redneck trucker dude. He seems such a caricature right away. He was more of an unknown presence in Hellblazer — the way a child might see an adult figure.
Jay: In that issue we really get into Gemma’s head, and see the world the way she does. Can they pull that off here?
Dave: You nailed it. That’s exactly what’s bugging me here.
Jay: By transplanting this story to the American south, it starts to heighten the cliches. We’ll see….but I’m nervous.
Dave: I’m also immediately drawing a line to the tone of HBO’s True Detective, and I’m nervous — that mix of occult and creepy southern redneck is a really tough mix.
Jay: The three child brides go to a deserted fairground, where they find a runaway. She’s lost, she’s lonely, and she’s getting a weird chat-up line. “If you’re married to The Man, you’ll never be alone again.” Not the most feminist of arguments, really.
In the original, it was more about a lost kid wanting to fit in and be treated nice. But with this added ‘southern gothic’ feel, they’re really laying on the marriage aspect.
Dave: Yeah, she comes from a broken home, seems like they’re trying to play to that. Which, in fairness, IS a thing for many girls. Maybe less so today, but there are certainly still girls raised to believe that they grow up and get married and THAT’s their future. However, I think for today’s audience, you’ve got to give that context or it can be… problematic.
Jay: So, while the child brides go play pickup, their cliche’d redneck boss waits in a van. A security guard spots him and gets attacked for his troubles.
Dave: Yeah, still getting that True Detective vibe here. Hmm.
Jay: Cue opening credits, for the last time this season. If the show does come back, or if it morphs into a new thing as rumoured, I hope we get different opening credits. Something simple, urban, and moody.
Dave: Oh, I agree. Although I’m much more interested in what they morph the actual show into. I’ve got a lotta feelings about this, Jay. We’re going to have to come back to this.
Jay: Alex Segura is back! Jim Corrigan calls John in to help investigate weird goings on, dead bodies with branding on the skin.
Dave: What I appreciate here is that the show has run enough that they no longer need to rely on something like a scry map. It feels much more organic that there are a network of people across America that KNOW John from previous dealings, and they know to call upon him when something “strange” happens.
Also, sidenote: Did you catch the mention of “The Spectre co-created by Jerry Siegel” in the credits?
Jay: A good reason to hope for more episodes is to see the Spectre story grow. Back to the story, we immediately see where the branding comes from, as we cut to the cliche redneck guy. He’s talking about his wedding day and warming up a branding iron. We hear someone screaming in the background. Is it the security guy from the cold open, maybe?
Dave: I’m thinking so. Lots of occult symbols here. And I definitely appreciate that they’re going with classic approach here, though I’m still finding it weirdly mixed with the southern trucker dude.
Jay: John, Zed and Corrigan exhume one of the dead bodies and John uses holy water to reveal that the marks were done by a satanic branding iron. I think that’s a double-header….
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Dave: Well, it wouldn’t be a finale without a few of those, I suppose.
Jay: Just as we think the scene is over, BOOM, the corpse sits up. Gary Lester, from way back in episode four, is using the corpse to deliver a message to John. I liked the aside, the way they were willing to undercut the shock or horror of the moment for Gary to say, “oh, Hi Zed.” I’ve not been digging this so far, but I liked that.
Dave: Yes! This was a nice beat. Funny, odd, kind of its own thing. And built off the momentum of earlier episodes of the series.
Jay: Gary warns John that there’s a bounty on his head, and we cut straight away to Big Papa M who intends to make good on that prize. Oh, and he kills a guy, too.
Dave: This feels like a really awkward scene. Back to the first introduction of Papa Midnite, without some of the nuance from when John and Midnite worked together.
Jay: Next up, John, Corrigan, and Zed head over to talk to the mother of the runaway from the cold open. Blah blah, daddy issues, the usual. The runaway wakes up in a house that’s too brightly lit to be spooky, and is approached again by the three child brides. They lead her through a doorway….
Dave: We cut back to John and Zed. Two interesting notes — we get a close-up of his lighter, which is gold and has a cross on it. Not sure I’ve seen that before. And he makes a lot of fuss about smoking cigarettes and lung cancer and fate. Feels like either foreshadowing the “Dangerous Habits” storyline… OR NBC wouldn’t let him smoke unless they mentioned that it was bad for you.
Jay: Zed tells John that she saw Corrigan dead in her vision. Then Manny appears to Zed. NICE. I like this, tweaking the rules of the show, giving her more purpose. Makes me think….maybe this should have been the deal from the outset? An angel appearing to Zed (or a Zed figure, or maybe wassername from the pilot) and not John. Leading her to working with John. Manipulating Joh without ever having to talk to him, but also giving an easy way to get the audience into John’s world and give us some exposition along the way?
Dave: Ooh. Nice — yeah, that would have been smart move. Or at the very least, have Manny get really pissed off at John, so that Zed is caught between them. Could also lead to some good tension.
Jay: John starts putting together a spell on the fly, cobbled together from what he finds around the girls room rather than an artefact. I like this. I’ve wanted more of this kind of improvised magic.
Dave: And this is actually fairly similar to the comic book issue, in which he uses his niece’s objects to divine her whereabouts on a map. I like this version — a little bit crazier, more fun for TV.
Jay: The spell lets him see through the Runaway’s eyes, tracing her to the fairground of the cold open. Then we cut to the girl herself, being dressed and groomed ready for her wedding.
Ummmm….why is she going along with this, again? In the comic there was logic to it. Gemma was approached by three cool kids in fashionable clothes, talking about being allowed to do whatever they want. There was a kind of Peter Pan/Neverland promise to their words. Here? This makes no sense. It’s just odd for the sake of odd.
Dave: I do like that she’s questioning things a little bit, but… you’re right, it’s not enough. We need a bit more to see why she likes this treatment. I will say I did like the line, “we’ll have to do something about the smell, though,” and the looks exchanged from the other girls. That’s subtly sinister.
Jay: Big Papa M resurrects the guy he killed as a Zombi, and sends him to kill John. Ummm….since he’s a dead body at this point, and is being used as a weapon, imma gonna call it….
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Dave: hahah… oh, all right. I will say that while I like the added external threat, I just can’t see how this bit with Papa M can realistically pay off well enough in the finale. Seems like one thread too many.
Jay: John, Zed and Corrigan head to the fairground and find the security guard’s abandoned car. (Really? Like the guy just went AWOL from his job with a car and nobody noticed? I mean, it HAS to have been more than 24 hours, for Corrigan to be investigating the missing person, right?)
Dave: maybe the security people noticed right away because the car was missing, and that’s why Corrigan is investigating?
Jay: Good point. Let’s roll with it. Zed is tormented over whether to tell Corrigan about her vision. John gets attacked by the Zombi, but Corrigan intervenes.
Dave: I really like the abandoned funhouse setting.
Jay: Zed conjurs a vision and sees the guard, bleeding and scratching out a message in the floor. 4 Delano Street. Because it’s from issue 4, written by Delano, gettit? Meanwhile Big Papa M puts a spell on a Crow (Raven?) and sends it after John. But I’m going to be kind, the bird is alive, we won’t count it as an artefact.
Dave: True — but he uses that freakin’ dust for ALL his spells, so maybe THAT counts?
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Dave: I did like the Delano nod. Cute.
Jay: John, Zed and Corrigan head round to the address from Zed’s vision. I can’t help but think, this is one of those times -as with episode 3- where the show simply ignores all logic and police procedure. Sure, Corrigan got the info through magic, but nevertheless, this is the house of a suspected kidnapping and maybe murder. Corrigan is a cop. He’d cook up an excuse and go there with backup.
Dave: What you don’t know any cops who would just roll into a crime scene with a somewhat dodgy foreigner and a girl they’re crushing on?
Jay: When they break in…to the house with no legal cause or warrant…they find the security guard dead. He’s been crucified. See, now Corrigan is at the scene of a murder, and he’s got two people contaminating the scene, and he has no legal reason to be there. He’s way off the map now.
Dave: I do like that John notes that the guard also “deserved to be found.” I also like the sickly green and red lighting in this scene.
Jay: John realises the spooky black bird is a spooky black bird. He sends the others away before trouble starts. He….sends the cop from the crime scene….I just…..I can’t….
Dave: uh… I got nothin’. This is really odd. It’s this kind of insular logic that makes it feel more fantasy and less grounded in reality.
Jay: Now the runaway meets her suitor. She says she’ll stay with him. She knows something we don’t.
Dave: Guh, OK, this goes back to what you were talking about. First, because this is TV, it can’t be inside Vesta’s head. And we also “see” the performance of the actor. So, immediately, we sense that The Man is really super-creepy, which makes it harder for us to believe Vesta would stay with him. And on top of that, we lack the narrative caption boxes that explain what Vesta sees. The only thing this bit really has going for it is the fact that we can sense that some kind of magic is involved. She’s perhaps not seeing reality as it is because as she turns to look back at the other child brides, they’re gone. Mystically.
Jay: Big Papa M has followed the bird to the house, where he shoots John. As John lies spilling blood, BPM spills that the seasons big bad are the ones who’ve put the bounty on John. BPM puts a bullet in our heroes head, but we find out it was the security guard, reanimated as a zombi and with a glamour spell making him/it look like John. So…..
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Dave: Well, and is Midnite using the gun that never misses? If so… that’s another one.
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I like the glamour spell bit. I admittedly used something similar in the Sparrow & Crowe comic book, of course, so y’know I’m a sucker for that misdirection. Wait — after John leaves and calls Zed, they’ve found the house of the guy because he killed his wife six years ago and said the devil made him do it? So… is this our killer? How is he not in prison or a psychiatric facility? And if there was a freed killer living in the area, wouldn’t that be suspect number one?
Jay: At the wedding, we see the runaway having second thoughts. Or, first thoughts, really. She tries to escape mid-ceremony.
Dave: It’s the devil altar. That’ll give any bride second thoughts.
Jay: Certainly ruined my first marriage. John tracks down the three child brides and finds they’re dead, and have been for some time. Meanwhile, at the fairground the cliche’d redneck is chasing down our runaway. Because she ran away. (Well, if you’re good at something….)
Dave: The child bride reveal doesn’t surprise us because of the comics. But I’ll bet its a decent reveal for new viewers.
Jay: John meets up with Zed and Corrigan, at the redneck’s house….which is apparently right next to the fairground? They save the runaway, and the Corrigan looks all set to arrest the killer, despite the total lack of police work in the episode. That guy wouldn’t even go to trial, there’s just nothing there to build a case on. Too many rules broken. John convinces Corrigan that the man needs to die, and the cop lets him loose to try and escape. Kind of pointless, really. In a better episode, there would have been a way for this scene to be very effective. As is, it’s just limp.
Dave: I’m a bit saddened by how disjointed this all seems. The last time they used a direct issue of Hellblazer it was one of their better episodes. Here, they tried to use the basic plot, but mucked it up with all of the really flawed police procedural elements, as you’ve said. Both John and Corrigan deserve better treatment. And what’s more? They take agency away from the character of Jim Corrigan by have John whisper in his ear about getting that vigilante justice. It should be Jim driven to justice outside the law, if they’re setting up the character of The Spectre (who is, in the comics, God’s Spirit of Vengeance). I guess if they take the time and show that Jim starts to do this more and more, and LIKES it more and more, then the eventual Spectre transformation could be effective.
Jay: Then we see cops bursting in on the house where Big Papa M is lying unconscious next to a tortured, branded, crucifed, and shot security guard. Umm who called the cops? And what is their case? There are post-mortem bullet wound to the victims head and chest that they can trace to BPM’s gun but….eh. There’s just not been enough logic in the episode.
Zed tells Corrigan about her vision, and they share a kiss. John witnesses it and walks away, into the rain, for one last scene with Manny.
Dave: Well, we’re running the line of the cliché love triangle, but I dig the tone here, the sad solitary figure of Constantine in the rain… And I like the line where Constantine asks Manny to “be an angel and hold it for me” as he takes a piss against the wall under the overpass.
Jay: Then we get to see what happens with Big Papa M. He’s under arrest, but the car stops. Time stands still for everyone except him. We’ve seen this kind of thing before….
Manny is the big bad? Finally something interesting in the episode.
Dave: Interesting, and yet… it feels totally off the mark, like… “what’s the craziest reveal we can leave them with? The angel is bad!” Because we’ve already seen a fallen angel, and we’ve seen her interact with Manny, and we’ve seen him consider and reject those feelings. We’ve also seen him experience humanity and get a bit lost in it. It just feels more like a retroactive alteration that something that we can track through the season and say, “Oh, I can’t believe I missed that!” You know?
Jay: You’re right. So….I have to say, this one bummed me out. The season started bad, but then is found itself and we all started to see what it could be. It had a run of episodes that actually made it a show i was looking forward to each week. Over the christmas break, I found myself looking forward to ‘Saint Of Last Resort: Part 2’ more than the return of The Flash. But since then, the momentum has stalled. And the last couple of episodes has me questioning whether they really did figure the show out, or whether they just struck lucky with a run of good episodes in the middle by accident?
Dave: I’m in the same boat. The “Saint of Last Resorts” two-parter feels like the high point of the series. It gave us hope, Jay. And then… sigh. This finale feels more in line with the premiere episode — disjointed, flawed, unsure of what it is.
Jay: Still, the takeaway is that I like Matt Ryan’s take on John, and I want to see him given a second chance in a better vehicle. I like Manny, I like where they went with Chas, even though they still don’t always know how to use him in an episode. And I liked this version of Zed.
I just…..I dunno. What do you think? Are the tools there to save this, either in a second season or in the rumoured reboot over on SyFy?
Dave: There are definitely the tools to save this, though leaving it with Manny and the Rising Darkness does sort of hurt them, in that it demands that these plot points be answered, while I kind of want a bit more of a clean reboot. The SyFy channel is a big question mark for me. In the past, they’ve had shows heavy on formula, like Warehouse 13 or Lost Girl. These shows are similar to what Constantine is NOW. But, on the flipside, some of their more recent series – like 12 Monkeys, which I’ve just started watching – rely less on formula and more on a larger, serialized tapestry. Given that we like Chas, Zed, and John… I could see them building a darker, more nuanced series out of these characters. And I’ll add to that a possibly controversial opinion: I think I’d prefer that they move away from the source material. I think we liked this show the most when they played to the strengths of the actors and the medium of television. I’d rather they not try to shoehorn in stories like “Waiting for the Man,” and just look to the cast and their chemistry to find new stories.
Well, that’s a wrap. What did you think of the season? And what are your hopes for the show?
This isn’t the last of us, though. You’ll see us talking more about John Constantine very soon…..
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