Episode 7 of Constantine has been watched, digested, noted and thoroughly enjoyed. I have to say that, despite this being a Zed heavy installment and having zero Chas, it was another step forward for the show. It was well crafted from soup to nuts.
We open by following a second-generation snake handling preacher in rural Kentucky named Pastor Zachery and his sister Sarah (wonderfully portrayed by Patrick Carroll and Juliana Harkavy) as they try to keep their father’s church going. Snake handling’s a risky religious pursuit (which is why it’s illegal in a lot of states) and the pastor gets himself bit. He’s getting ready to shuffle off this mortal coil when, POOF, he’s got a feather in his hand. But before you can say “pass the strychnine” he’s back up and ready to on, fully healed. And he’s not the only one. One touch from Pastor Zachery and a one legged man, who I took to calling “Tiny Tim” in my notes, has his leg back. Awesome! Epic! Miraculous! And this is where we all say…
“What could possibly go wrong?”
In a word: PLENTY!
We cut away from our snake handlers to Atlanta and, funny that, it turns out that Zed really was going to art classes. Now I’m not one to grip about something small (okay…I am but that’s that the point) but we’ve seen Zed’s “art work” before. What the hell does she need to go to classes for? She’s pretty much got it down. Anyhoo, the reason I mention this scene for two reasons.
- There’s a great missed joke that could have been grand. Zed is sketching a nude male model when she looks down and sees snakes around her feet. She shrieks. She jumps. She’s asked if she’s okay. What should have happened was her blurting out, “I saw a snake”. The male model should have responded: “Yeah you did, baby. Now how’s bout you, me and the snake get a cup of joe.” HILARIOUS, RIGHT!? Shut up. Don’t judge me.
- The male model, Eddie (David A. Gregory), does approach Zed and it looks like our girl might be working her way towards having a hot date. Because, you know, we need more Zed (note: this is sarcasm which does not translate well on the internet). More on this and Eddie later but remember things are rarely as they seem in this show.
Moving on, Zed’s back in the “John Cave” and the map tells our duo (GIVE US MORE CHAS) that they are heading to Kentucky for their next outing. And with that, we’re off on our adventure.
Now that I’ve welcomed you to the episode with a somewhat conventional (for me) review, let me get back to what I’m used to. Telling you what this episode did well and where some tweaking needs to be done. To be honest though, there wasn’t much tweaking that needed to be done with this one, other than the obvious.
No, this show didn’t have the personal touches that mark the high points of the series so far (“A Feast of Friends”) but at the same time it didn’t have the low points that mar it either (“Danse Vaudou”). We got to see a lot of development with side characters and a lot of tiny little flares that most won’t notice on a first viewing. Also, as an upside, we had a lot more of Manny (Harold Perrineau) but, as a downside, it was also a Zed heavy episode. Let’s discuss…or, rather, let me get rambling.
Collateral Damage/Acceptable (Encouraged) Losses
A hallmark of the Hellblazer books was showing how magic and the occult going wrong affected not just our hero but those who just happened to wander into his world. This episode did a wonderful job of showing the collateral damage that comes with being too close to John Constantine and the darker side of magic.
Pastor Zachery was a great example of this. Not only was he forced, in the end, to confront the fact that he wasn’t going to heaven but also that what he was doing had an effect on the world around him, his flock and his own flesh and blood. The stronger he got, the sicker his sister got. His “healing” was flawed and soon ghouls were arising to attack a random doctor, a deputy who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and the rest of his followers. My note to the show: Run with this. Give us more of collateral damage, yes, but dole it out to people with names and faces we can connect with.
This was a missed opportunity in the past (“The Devil’s Vinyl”) but with this story they managed to hit all the right notes. I felt for the doctor just trying to do his job with only a few lines. The deputy who was snuffed only had to show up to be sympathetic. His death seen through the dash camera of his patrol car really hit home. Knowing that this is what his brothers in blue and family would most likely see when it came time to sort out what happened was deeply heartbreaking. Let us see how the rising darkness is affecting the world and every day people. That is one of the keys to bringing people in with an emotional hook.
Television shows have so many moving parts that it is very easy to miss them if you’re not looking for them. From multiple viewings of each episode, compared to other shows I watch over and over, this show does the little things better than most of them.
It doesn’t matter if it’s scouting the locations, the costuming or the makeup Constantine has really nailed down the minutia of how to make a great show. I really felt as though I was in rural Kentucky (I’ve actually been to places like this and felt very much at home) with where they set the show. From the grass to the woods and the river, there was no doubt they were out in the sticks. They could have shot it in a field behind the studio in LA but, regardless, they found the right field to shoot it in.
Costuming is also an easy place to fall down and the show certainly didn’t fall here. They rose and it showed with the characters and who we perceived them to be. I loved the subtle transformation of both Zachery and Sarah as one moved towards power and the other towards decay. These were done softly just by straightening a tie and buttoning a shirt’s collar on the pastor while the other showed by pushing her clothes slightly askew. Sarah felt more rumpled and used up by what was happening to her as things moved along, really selling the decline.
Then there’s the angel Imogen (Megan West), who’s costuming was glorious. With her character, though, it was the makeup that really showed the change, as it did with the “ghouls” created by her magic gone wrong.
Imogen, as a weakening angel who’s “lost” a feather to Zachery, showed her decline through eye, lip and skin makeup. The slight tinge of red on her lower lids, the dryness of her lips and the pallor of her skin made me believe that she was falling apart. It’s so subtle that you don’t really consider it. You just believe it.
Later, when she’s rejuvenated with the return of her feather, you can almost taste her evil just in what they do with the same three areas; eyes, lips and skin. You can also see all of these little changes in those “healed” by Zachery; those who later turn into the little monsters John and company must fight off.
It’s the little things that make or break a show. If Constantine were being judged solely on these things it would be a platinum level hit every day, all day.
Manny, My Frienemy Angel
One of my little pet peeves with Constantine is that you have a heavyweight actor like Harold Perrineau who, to date, has only been used in an auxiliary role. There’s been very little flushing out of who he is and, at times, conflicting interpretations of what exactly he can do…or will do. This episode rectifies a lot of that.
This episode gives us a great look into what Manny is really capable of on one hand while actually showcasing what he can do as a fully formed character. He’s flawed, not omniscient (that we are aware of…my bet is still that he’s got a closer tie to The First of the Fallen than they are showing us) and conflicted about how far over the line he can go to assist John. This vulnerability makes him far more compelling as a character than his previous role as John’s hangnail. If he truly is on the side of angels (PUNS ARE AWESOME) then showing him as someone who wants to help but is constricted by the rules established by a higher power makes him someone more accessible to viewers.
That is IF he is on the side of angels. Something he said during the episode points to a heel turn for our leather clad winged buddy. Like so many other things on the show, it was subtle.
Manny mentions that angels are “compartmentalized”. In other words, not all the angels know what is going on with their feathery co-workers. This is how Manny doesn’t know Imogen but, more importantly, it’s how she might not recognize him for who and what he truly might be.
Imogen is fallen because she killed a mortal. This leads me to believe that her fall came after the war in heaven. With things being compartmentalized she probably didn’t run across Manny walking the halls of the silver city and, with that logic in place, probably wouldn’t have met him hanging around the gates of hell either. My theory is still that Manny might be The First of the Fallen and, until we see him pay the price for interfering with matters on earth by killing Imogen, I’m sticking by my guns.
Zed. Why did it have to be Zed?
I’m a bit perplexed by the continued focus of the show being put on Zed. To me she’s the weakest link in the cast, both acting and character wise. Yet the show keeps running back to her as a focus for the episodes. Baffling.
The show runners have hinted that they are going to be moving towards doing the “Dangerous Habits” arc but in every episode we seem to be learning more about Zed’s background while veering away from telling us about John. Every week they seem to pass up opportunities to tell little stories with our hero in favor of pushing the Zed objective.
Example: John’s wielding a small scythe in this outing that he took off “the Grim Reaper himself”. Wait…what?! There’s a story there! I want to know more! Even if it’s one minute’s worth of back and forth with a gag, you can’t throw in a point like that as a throwaway. What’s more, Zed should react to it.
Zed is all about the angels later in the show so why isn’t she even vaguely interested in the fact that that John has stolen from the manifestation of death himself? Come on guys, give me something little. Even if it’s, “Oh that’s a story for another time, love” after Zed has pushed on the subject. Let me know that what John’s saying to her has some sort of impact. As it is, John could be talking to himself for all the play his comments get with her.
We also get a look into the potential for Zed to start dating (remember, I told you I would come back to Eddie later). I wish I could say I cared but I just don’t. Granted they saved Eddie’s involvement with the show with a nice little swerve at the end, Zed still is not an interesting enough character for me to care about her awkward attempts at dating nude male models. Now, granted, her potential date looks to be hooked up with the “…family” that Jim Corrigan mentioned in “Danse Vaudou” and that makes it a bit more compelling. I just felt like they could have gotten there in shorter order.
At this point, and I hate saying this, if the whole Zed arc ends with her not coming back I’m not going to be effected in any profound way. As an afterthought, she’s fine, but the stronger episodes have been the ones where they focus on the guy whose name is on the shingle out front.
Oh and her “blind” searching for Manny in the scene where the angel first meets Imogen was just uncomfortable. Who does that?
On the whole, Zed issues aside, this was another strong outing for the show and further proof that it needs to be kept alive. Now let’s close out this review with a little bit of babbling stuff. You know, just in case I have alienated all of you by now.
An Issue With NBC
I wasn’t able to watch the night of the show because I was out and about. So, I’m watching it through OnDemand and about half way through the episode NBC runs a commercial for “Woman Crush Wednesday”. This is a three hour block of “The Mysteries of Laura”, “Law & Order: SVU” and “Chicago P.D.”. Now, I’m not going to take shots at this lineup, I’m in anger management to deal with my dark desires to scream and rampage, but I am going to call NBC out for the work it’s doing to save a weak link like “The Mysteries of Laura” by giving it heavy hitters to wrap itself around.
“Constantine” is a show that has obviously had an effect on a good many people but it’s not getting the love it deserves. How to remedy that? Well, aside from giving it a decent timeslot and putting it between a pair of shows that fit with it (“Dateline” is never a good cap for a horror/occult show). This is my suggestion.
Seeing as how you now like the idea of “bundling” shows with a theme, what better way to do that than “Heartless Bastard Fridays”…or whatever day of the weak you want, I don’t really care. You’ve got two other great anti-heroes in your schedule in “The Blacklist” and “Hannibal”. Package and promote all three together and watch John fly. It doesn’t matter what combination you use. Red – John – Hannibal. Hannibal – Red – John. John – Red – Hannibal. It doesn’t matter. All three can play off one another and push ratings by bringing fans all three into one place for one three hour block. Let that idea role around your brain for a bit. Now give it a shot and see if I’m not right as rain.