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
John? It’s Keanu. How you doing? Are you well? I am not well. I just read back through the contract from that movie we did, and apparently you own my soul and image right? Duuuuude. Not cool. We need to talk.
We get a ‘previously on…’ Usually they annoy me. But it’s been a million years since the last episode, so this one helped.
When last we saw our heroes….ummm….our traitorous manipulative…….when last we saw our characters, John was left nursing a gunshot while an Invunche stalked him. Sister Anne-marie had added ‘attempted murder’ to ‘baby saving’ on her resume, and Chas was doing…well, he was doing something, I’m sure.
Jay: And so here we go. Into an episode that, against all odds, I’ve been looking forward to for weeks.
We start with John and the Invunche. He’s mucking about with blood and a spell. If I’m reading the scene right, he cancels all the protection spells that surround him while holding the amulet from last time…
Dave: Uh-oh, I think I know what this means—
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Dave: Yup, there it is.
Jay: …which draws the invunche in for attack but also then allows John to summon Pazuzu in to possess him? Or uses blood of the Invunche mixed with his own…or both….either way, nice trick. And maybe a clever way of playing with the ‘demon blood’ idea from the comics.
Dave: I had a MOMENT of despair. For some reason, I still believe this show is going to let me down. “Here it is,” I thought, “they’re going to throw in some magic as a plot device to help John get out of this fix.” But then…
Jay: It works nicely to drive a wedge between John and Manny, because now the angel doesn’t want to work with him.
Dave: Exactly. Magic has a price. Has John soured his whole deal with Heaven because — in a panicked moment, he reached out to Hell instead of Heaven for a quick save?
Jay: Now off to Zed, who is in the back of a truck after being abducted by a sinister cult in the previous episode. She manages to break free AND steal the truck. We never see her take off the handcuffs though, which leaves me with an amusing image of her trying to drive.
Dave: Hah! I totally missed that. What I like at this point is that this storyline is not directly following any source material, so I didn’t really know if Zed would wind up back with her father, or if she’d escape. And what the costs are for that. I’m so glad that she continues to be active in her own storyline, though.
Jay: Back to John and Chas. HI CHAS! HOW YOU DOING? And they confirm it was option A; John allowed himself to be possessed by Pazuzu. Kinda making this episode a sequel to THE EXORCIST. (I hope there are no scary scene of nurses beheaded with scissors in this one.)
Dave: It’s a nice trick, and it really shows us a lot about John, while not being exactly like anything I recall from the comics.
Jay: And now we have a new problem. John is possessed, and the demon is taking over. Which leads to him waking up surrounded by dead bodies, and being arrested by armed police. REALLY LIKED THAT.
Dave: I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying this. This goes beyond just magic having consequences. These are the consequences actually TAKING OVER THE PLOT.
Jay: John’s visited in jail by someone from the British Consulate, talking about red tape and the problems of a Brit being arrested for killing Mexicans….in Mexico. I liked that, too. Nice attention to detail, showing that there would be an added quirk to John’s situation.
Dave: Yeah, that’s the first thing I’d totally forget to deal with if I were writing a scene like this. So, good on ya, writers. Plus it gives us an added bonus for John, which pays off…
Jay: In the prison yard, he pays someone for information using a wallet that he stole from the Consulate guy. Because he’s a grifter.
Dave: Damn straight. This is great. It’s not always about the spells. Sometimes it’s those other, uh, life skills. I feel like we’re seeing a good balance here.
Jay: Manny turns up. He’s not quite given up on John, though it’s up to our pasty Brit to get himself out.
Dave: Random side note: My only odd bit with this scene was that when Manny shows up, time freezes, right? And in one angle of the shot, we see a guy’s elbow — clearly an actor not moving. But behind Manny and behind John, in the other angles, the folks in the prison yard are still moving. It’s silly, I know, but when Manny disappears, it creates that momentary confusion — was time frozen? Or was John just standing there mumbling to himself?
Jay: Good point. Once you see that, you can’t notice anything else. It’s like Chas’s hat. Speaking of which, Chas (HI AGAIN, CHAS!) and Zed confront Anne-Marie to enlist her help. For getting John out of his current situation. Which was caused by….Anne-Marie. Fun times.
Dave: I think it’s a good call to draw a line between Zed and Ann-Marie. Zed is essentially the Ann-Marie who HASN’T yet been screwed over by John’s life. The idea being that if Zed stick around, eventually she’ll end up in a convent, too. Or worse, of course.
Jay: Next up we see consulate guy again. He’s visited in his office by a mysterious guy who is clearly a villain. He’s using the consulate guy to get information on John.
Dave: You’re not kidding. He looks like a Bond villain. Or like a stand-in for Mads Mikkelsen on HANNIBAL.
Jay: Oooooh you’re right.
Dave: Which makes sense, because…
Jay: He turns into a snake and eats the consulate guy. As you do.
Dave: I still don’t love it when they resort to the CGI effects, but… let’s go with it.
Jay: Back in jail, John is cornered by people belonging to the same gang as those he killed. He tells them they wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. They don’t listen. Then they do indeed, find a dislike for him when he loses his temper. Pazuzu takes over and…well….that’s a wrap for those guest actors.
Something else I’m liking about this possession thing, is that it ties into the pilot, when we saw John face off against a demonic version of himself. Now, we all know that was a last minute change, because the original version of that showdown was with someone else and they re-shot it, but it’s a change that’s worked well.
Dave: Matt Ryan handles it well, too. There’s a lot of this episode that involves a different side to Constantine — there’s still attitude, but far more desperation. And a thing wriggling inside of him, trying to get out. Ryan handles it all pretty well.
Jay: Anne-Marie locates John in prison, leading Chas (HI CHA-…okay, I’ll let it go) and Zed to him. Armed with a dictaphone loaded with exorcism spells…
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Dave: Oh, we’re going there now?
Jay: You betcha. Also they’ve got a ceremonial Tibetan…thingy…
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Chas and Zed find different ways to get into the prison. Zed’s way in -posing as a prostitute is a bit trite and clichéd. But I laughed at Chas’s way -beating up a guard and getting arrested- when we saw his little bloody-mouthed grin.
Dave: Yeah, Zed’s thing was… well, you can see figured they’d get some male gaze appreciation there. The one bit about it that I do like is that it plays on Zed’s cultural identity. As we’ve noted before, if you’re going to cast a Mexican American actor, you might as well play to it. So the fact that she may have grown up with a certain familiarity with this culture (specifically prostitution and corruption in the Mexican prison system), is a decent card to play. Though in the overall execution, I agree, it ends up feeling a little easy.
Jay: Anne-Marie doesn’t need any ruse or pretence, her Nun’s outfit gets her in. So now John is tied down while Chase, Zed (in a nun outfit) and Anne-Marie attempt an exorcism.
Dave: So, Zed’s gone from hooker to nun in a couple of scenes. I feel like there’s some weird commentary there… or maybe they’re just desperately trying to appeal to different fetish crowds out there in order to drum up some viewers.
(I kid, I kid…)
Jay: They’re interrupted by snake guy, who is revealed to be Snake McClure, who you may recognise from such stories as The Garden Of Eden, and The Garden Of Eden 2: The Nakedness.
Dave: The Brujeria is really busting out the Old Testament here.
Jay: Snake McClure kills Chas, and then Anne-Marie uses the ceremonial Tibetan thingy to kill Snake.
Dave: But, of course, we know with Chas that death doesn’t take. When are they going to get to THAT story?
Jay: Anne-Marie reckons they can make an exorcism work if they get John back to Hogwarts, because all the magic mojo there will weaken Pazuzu. But first they have to figure out how to sedate John for long enough to get there.
And then, this is when it becomes the kind of show I would write. They round-up all of the prisons dope to use as a sedative. John says if it doesn’t work, at least he can “go out riding the worlds greatest high.”
Dave: Such a great scene. And when you look at the entirety of the episode: John begins the episode by healing himself using magic. Now the ramifications of that have put him in prison and potentially made him a heroin addict, and that may only be prolonging the inevitable death.
Jay: And then in order to sneak John out of the prison, Anne-Marie uses her neat astral projection trick to appear naked in front of the guard while also wheeling John out in a bodybag. Really funny way of playing with old prison-film tropes there.
Dave: It was a nice touch. A little silly in the midst of all the tragedy, but it was a beat we needed. Well played.
Jay: Back to Hogwarts, and the exorcism starts. This is where that small tweak to the pilot episode pays dividends again. In the first it was John facing off against a demonic version of himself, now we have his Constanteam facing off against a possessed John.
Dave: I like a few bits here. First, I feel like we don’t see exorcism handled all that often in these supernatural shows. They tend to favor werewolves and witches and vampires, OR they do a sort of “action hero” version of exorcism, where it’s a quick violent thing. But from The Exorcist on down, the whole rites of exorcism have been a fascinating sequence for many a horror movie fan. I’m glad they’re facing it head on in this show.
Also: I like that Anne-Marie runs the exorcism. It only occurred to me when I saw her putting on that cloth ribbon thingy (I’m sure it has a proper name, but I don’t know it), that it is almost ALWAYS the role of the male priest. It’s a nice twist on the familiar trope.
Jay: Good point. The exorcism works.
Dave: I really liked that Zed took a very active role in helping Anne-Marie do what she needed to do. I think it works for her character because she’s new, because she’s been observing everything carefully, and because there ARE parallels between her and Anne-Marie. I like the premise as well — Anne-Marie needs to forgive herself; she believes SHE created John Constantine. That’s some powerful guilt. This revelation gives her the strength. Because ultimately, that’s what these stories are all about — demons must be dispelled through understanding — sometimes it’s names and rules of magic, sometimes it’s about understanding ourselves.
Jay: Anne-Marie heads off. Leaving us with one final shot, and shades of Picard after being freed from the Borg, with a dark and troubled expression on John’s face.
Dave: What I really enjoyed about this episode was that the entire plot spun directly from the consequences of John’s move to use Pazuzu for protection. It’s ”out of the frying pan, into the fire” storytelling, and it’s the kind of thing this show needs to use deliberately: magic might save your life, but it’s not going to make that life any easier.
Jay: I agree. This has been my favourite episode so far. I think this and the previous episode might make a bet introduction to the show than anything that’s come so far.
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1. What are your thoughts at this point? We have three episodes left, are you hoping for a second season?
2. There were fifty languages on the dictaphone. I’d like to hear a Welsh exorcism. What language would pick?
3. Is it any coincidence that the best episode so far is the one with the least amount of the fake-looking neck tie?