Constantine 1×12: Angels and Ministers of Grace
This is John Constantine. Leave your name and soul, and I’ll get back to you.
Hi John — this is Bob from the SyFy channel. So, there’s a CHANCE… just a CHANCE, mind you, that we might pick you up for our little network. We’re thinking maybe we call it “Hellblazer.” Eh? Whatcha think? Lemme know. ‘Kay, bye.
Dave: The penultimate episode! here we go!
We open on a well-dressed white woman walks through a bad neighborhood.
Jay: She’s walking through the east end of Glasgow.
Dave: She’s looking to score… a ready made syringe of some kind. Immediately I’m wondering if this is drug use or something magical. And then I think, what’s the difference? Which could be an interesting metaphor if they go that way…
Jay: Wait, she just walks up and does a drug deal on the street? No runners? No distractions or drop offs? What kind of business is this?
Dave: The lights flicker and a large deformed man in a trench coat attacks her and pumps the syringes into her, causing her… veins to blacken?
The deformed man immediately makes me think of Sloth from The Goonies. Could Chunk be far behind?
Anyway, back at Jasper’s bunker, John returns from errands and Chas asks if he’s picked up any cilantro. Right off the bat I just want to state: if Chas is cooking with cilantro, that pretty much cements him as a hipster in my mind.
Jay: Done and dusted. The great ‘Hipster Chas’ mystery is settled.
Dave: John walks in on Zed meditating. They talk about Greek mythology. I like John’s line that “Heroes are usually jerks at heart.”
Jay: I liked the line about heroes. Reminds me of the bit in Firefly where Mal points out that anyone who ever had a statue built of them was probably some kind of ass.
Dave: Manny returns to talk about the Brujeria. “Are you giving me a case?” So, we’re pretty much flat out going with the procedural here, are we?
Jay: I liked that John basically called Manny of being an exposition tool. The show’s not scared to have John voice what we’re all thinking. And this leads to….
Dave: Ooh, Manny torches the scry map! But… but… how we will find the monster of the week?
Jay: YAAASSSSS!!!! No more map. I like that they call it out, too. “The scry map is a crutch.” Though we can’t miss the chance to call…
Occult Artifact: -1
Dave: I like it when Manny disappears, Chas realizes what’s happened and says, “I hate being used,” which is immediately proceeded by Chas showing up at the ER with a giant screwdriver in his leg as John uses him to get access to the patient with the black veins.
Jay: It feels like everyone in the show is self-aware enough of their role, without drawing attention to it in a late 90s kind of way. My issue with it is that I’m not sure it’s playing by the rules of the show. Chas has a whole load of lives stored up, but does that mean he automatically heals from a major wound? Shouldn’t he need to die in order to reset himself? I don’t know….it’s a good joke…but it feels like they’re suspending the rules for the sake of a joke.
Dave: Agreed. He resurrects; he’s not Wolverine. Or is he? If they’ve not outright broken the rules, they’ve certainly stretched them here. Or John just needed someone to take a wound, and he knows that even if Chas dies from an infection he’ll come back?
Anyway… Zed touches the woman and sees light from above and the silhouette of an angel. The woman goes into cardiac arrest, and then Zed begins to seize.
Also, there’s a big, brutish man with skin grafts on part of his face. Immediately he’s suspect #1 for the viewer, but I’m pretty sure he’s not the guy from the cold open.
While they get Zed sorted, John starts talking about dark matter. I dunno… I’m not sure it’s wise for them to start tying scientific theories in with the usual mumbo jumbo. But let’s go with it.
Jay: Yeah…I feel like there’s a lot of room for that to be done, and for horror, magic, and sci fi to blend (Ghostbusters…Sci Fi film?) But it’s a tricky balance to get right. Can they pull that off?
Dave: You’re right — good call with Ghostbusters — but it has to be handled carefully. It’s too easy to tie “dark matter” to “black magic.” So, I’m skeptical. Let’s see how it plays out. Zed wakes up, she talks to Dr. Galen. Zed has a brain tumor.
OK, I’m immediately annoyed by the tumor thing. If they wanted to play the “it’s-science-not-magic” card, they had to do it MUCH earlier in the series. At this point we the viewer have seen her visions be too exact to be hallucinations induced from a tumor.
Jay: I’m going with it for now, because I like that it sticks to the idea of real human costs, of mortality and a price to pay, but the line they need to walk here is razor thin, and it’s very easy to get it wrong.
Dave: Now we come back to a stereotypical drunk janitor. He’s going for a bottle he’s stashed when he’s attacked by a big brute. RIGHT after he talks to the guy with the skin grafts. we’re meant to associate the two, but seems waaaay too obvious to me.
On the rooftop, John confronts Manny the Angel over Zed. I like this – the raw emotion. It fits with the guilt he carries. The infuriating nature of Angels in this world… and then… John makes a pretty nice move here. He drops a vial of The Air of Hades—
Occult Artifact Count: 1
—and carves a sigil into Manny’s chest, trapping Manny into the host body he’s riding.
Jay: I loved this idea, It takes one of the basic rules of the series so far, and breaks it, but in a way that comes across as daring rather than cheap. This feels better than the Chas thing. I like where they go with it. Manny smelling death for the first time, it ties into the overall theme so far of this episode, of forcing magic and reality to collide.
Dave: Human Manny and John look at the next victim. John opens chest — a purple heart in his chest. The Heart of Darkness. Cute.
Waitaminute… Black Diamond. ECLIPSO??????
Jay: Ummm….I think…..
Dave: Holy shit, they’re doing Eclipso!
Dave: Eclipso puts us into DC Universe territory about as much as Doctor Fate’s helmet, hints of the Spectre, and Felix Faust. It’s something you’d NOT see in classic Hellblazer stories, but it’s something you’d see (and probably have seen) in the pages of the New 52 version of Constantine.
Personally, I’m kind of an Eclipso fan — there was a series back in the 90s by Keith Giffen and Robert Loren Fleming, if I recall correctly, that really turned a somewhat goofy Silver Age-y villain into this immortal dark god. Always thought that had some good potential, even if it did spin out of a pretty terrible cross-over event that includes covers with plastic purple crystals attached to them. Ah, the 90s. This tangent brought to you by Dave’s Nostalgic Brain.
So, is skin graft guy Eclipso? That would kinda fit with the whole eclipsed moon face that classic Eclipso has, but… still seems too easy.
Doctor Carroll and the whole “pleasures of the flesh” thing is a pretty funny turn for Manny the Angel. I think scenes like this help remind me NOT to compare this to the comics but to let it be its own thing — Chas the hipster knight, Manny the Angel trying to understand humanity…
Jay: And I think he gets a very quick understanding
Dave: Hah! Back at the bunker, John uses Chas as the guinea pig to test ANOTHER Black Diamond that he has at Jasper’s Bunker.
Occult Artifact: 2
Say, is that the cattle prod from the previous episode?
Jay: Can we count it as an artifact?
Dave: Not until magic is involved, Jay.
John returns to the hospital and learns that Manny, in his human body, got a little action on the side. They talk about how difficult it is to be human. I like this moment. And I like some of John’s lines here, especially how people get through the day: “A little bit of denial and a whole lot of gin.”
Jay: I liked, “I wasn’t around when they made those rules.”
Dave: Back to Zed and Doctor Galen. Zed might not want to remove the mass. She’s questioning what’s “supposed” to be. OK, I’m lightening up on the tumor thing — it doesn’t seem like she’s questioning if the visions are real. It’s more that she’s wondering if the tumor is a PART of her gift.
Jay: Yeah. I’m still onboard with it. They’ve played it right so far. But…..let’s see.
Dave: Doctor Manny walks in, and we learn, conveniently that Doctor Galen was hit by shrapnel while in the Middle East. He’s got Iron Man style shrapnel close to his heart. OK, so the Doc is definitely our Big Bad.
I like Manny’s compassion with Zed. He basically lets her know he can’t answer her questions, but the answers are within her.
Jay: Yeah, I liked the honesty in the scene.
Dave: So, John searches for Morris, the skin graft guy, who by now we know is a red herring. Morris is attacked by the deformed guy. John tries to stop him but is overtaken.
Is there any way the deformed guy ISN’T Doc Galen at this point…?
Jay: Well….there’s a chance that it’s…..No. No. There’s no chance it’s not Galen.
Dave: Manny and John stop to talk about FEELINGS. “You’re fighting a war. Wounds are inevitable,” says Manny.
During their talk, John gets the missing piece, way behind the rest of us… The Doc was in the middle east, Jasper’s diamond came from Baghdad, therefore… Doc is Eclipso! (Note: I know they aren’t calling him Eclipso. I don’t care.)
Jay: I’m going with you on that.
Dave: Back in her room, Zed is telling Galen that she chooses not to do the surgery. Uh-oh, you don’t wanna make Eclipso angry—!
But, of course, it’s too late and now we’ve got our big finale as Manny, John, and Zed flee through the hospital, trying to figure out how to stop Doc Eclipso. Y’know, It’d be nice if Chas was around, no? But he’s busy, uh… Still doing research?
Jay: He’s off watching some hip band. Or riding his fixed gear bike.
Dave: I just cringed a little as John said, “The Doctor is NOT in.” C’mon. They can do better than this.
Jay: I agree. The formula of the show is dragging it down a few notches here. There are interesting ideas to play with here, making science and magic collide can be as interesting as making faith and magic collide, but they’ve not quite found the heart of the idea.
Dave: I think you’ve nailed it. Oh, and look we have our solution — it was in Zed’s vision all along: holy light can stop Dark Matter. Sure.
Thus, John must reverse the spell on Manny and let him go, hoping he’ll return… and he does. He sends Galen to heaven and the shards of Black Diamond reassemble themselves into their case, because magic.
Jay: BECAUSE MAGIC.
Dave: Final scene. Zed is praying in church. John sits down behind her and tells her a secret. How he starts every morning is by imagining everyone he cares about is dead. That’s a good little moment for the two of them.
Manny appears. Zed can see him now. He answers her question about her gift being divine by saying “well, I’m here aren’t I?”
I’m coming around on the whole tumor thing, but only in the sense that IF the tumor is a byproduct of using/tapping into magic, then Zed has to weigh it as a cost — just the way John does.
Jay: That’s a good way of putting it.
Dave: I also like that shot of John lighting a cigarette with a votive candle — nice touch.
Overall, this one was a bit of a let-down for me. We had some good momentum building a few episodes back. Then the last episode brought that bit to a halt, but I didn’t mind because that story felt smaller and more Hellblazer-y to me. However, this week’s episode feels much more ConstanTEEN, like the New 52 comics, but without the momentum and unique quality that had helped previous episodes. It wasn’t terrible, and there were some good lines and ideas in it, but it feels like half a step back.
Jay: I think I agree. There was something there for them to play with, but they just couldn’t tie it all together.
Dave: And with one episode left it seems like we aren’t getting any kind of conclusion to either The Rising Darkness OR the Resurrection Crusade. Hmm.
Jay: I think we’ll need to get used to the idea that the show will be a frustrating oddity. One (truncated) season that really struggled to overcome it’s formula, but had a run of episodes there where it really started to do something interesting.
Dave: Which, honestly, is more than we dared hope after watching the pilot. So we have that.
OCCULT ARTIFACTS: 2 New Artifacts – 1 Scry Map = Eh, let’s just call it a wash. We’re glad the map is gone.
1. As we submit this piece, there’s a new rumor that Constantine could move over to the SyFy channel and be renamed “Hellblazer.” What do you think about this possible move?
2. This week also saw a huge shift in DC Comics’ strategy, opening up for more diversity in the line-up. Ming Doyle and Riley Rossmo have been announced to write and draw, respectively, a new Constantine: The Hellblazer title. Good news or bad? Will you give it a shot?