A few moths ago, I wrote a piece on the recent influx of DC comics product that has made its way from the pages of the books onto the small screen (if you missed it, its here). At the time of writing that, I had yet to see Constantine (NBC, 2014-15). Following a 30 day free trial on Amazon Prime, that has changed.
When I started watching, I knew NBC had already passed on a second series and that the show runner was shopping around for a new home. The announcement came that the show was officially dead as I was exactly half way through watching.
To say I was disappointed was an understatement, don’t get me wrong, the show isn’t perfect, but DCs reluctant demon hunter and ultimate anti-hero is most definitely gone to soon from our screens.
Find out why, by reading on…
First appearing in Swamp Thing in 1985, the working class magician, con man and occult detective John Constantine’s own Hellblazer comic book ran from 1988 to 2013 totalling 300 issues.
Constantine is a massively flawed hero, he is dead pan, ruthless, devious and not without a vice or two. He is also driven to make the most of his existence and determined to do good with his life.
Now, the TV series wasnt the first time the character had been transferred to another medium, Warner Bros had a go with Constantine (Dir, Francis Lawrence, 2005), which cast Keanu Reeves as an American John Constantine. The film itself wasnt bad, but the reinterpretation of the character just didn’t work. On the plus side though, it was my introduction to the character. Following the film, I went to my local Forbidden Planet and picked up a few Hellblazer collected volumes. I love this character, I love how he is flawed and noble at the same time and the fact that he is a bit of a dick makes you root for him even more.
I don’t profess to be an expert on the character and the history, which is probably why I enjoyed the show, when more devout fans (Welshy) checked out after the first few episodes.
So, what is it all about…
When we first meet John Constantine, he has committed himself to a mental hospital following a disastrous exorcism resulted in a child’s soul being taken to hell. He is a mess and racked with guilt. A message from a friend sparks him back to life and he begins his quest to fight an impending darkness which is ominously rising and affecting the magical balance in the universe. Joining him on his quest is a beautiful woman called Zed, who is suddenly afflicted by visions she doesn’t understand, his loyal best friend and “survival expert” Chas and Manny, John’s mysterious guardian angel, who may or may not have a hidden agenda.
After a slightly clunky pilot, and a few poor early episodes, the show really finds its feet as the darkness beings to become more pronounced. There are a few nods to the broader DCU, with Papa Midnite, Felix Faust and Detective Jim ‘Spectre’ Corrigan all popping up.
The rising darkness arc is the driving force behind the series and as I mentioned it is an intriguing one, however, in the background, there is the failed exorcism that is referred to as The Newcastle Incident. It is a failure that tortures Constantine, sums up why he is the way he is and drives him to do something good with his life. Several characters who pop up during the series, were with him during his biggest failure and are all similarly affected by it. Episode 4, A Feast of Friends, is a particular stand out.
The supporting cast is good and but what really makes this work for me is Matt Ryan’s performance as Constantine. He captures the character perfectly, completely looks the part, is equally at home with John’s deadpan sense of humour as he is during his weaker moments, in particular, when he meets up with love of his life in Episode 8, The Saint of The Last Resort.
As far as the episodes go, there are two main stand outs from me. Episode 5, Danse Vaudo, which sees Constantine come in contact with Det Jim Corrigan and form an uneasy alliance with Papa Midnite to combat some Voodoo magic gone wrong and Episode 7, Blessed Are The Damned, where John and Zed investigate a rural preacher who has the power to heal and end up facing off with a fallen angel.
The season ended on a semi cliffhanger, with the audience discovering who is responsible for the impending darkness, which opened things up perfectly for a 2nd season, which now, will never see the light of day.
I, for one, am gutted. It was always a gamble for a network like NBC to run a show like this. Having such an edgy anti-hero at its core. The chain-smoking, foul-mouthed (well, bollocks and bloody, but hey, this is network TV) British leading man, was always going to be a hard sell.
I hold out hope for the story to be continued in comic form, or that The CW will find a way to write John Constantine into a guest role in the Arrow/Flash universe. Until then, I am going to borrow the entire of the New 52 run of Justice League Dark from Welshy, as, for now at least, I need to get my John Constantine fix elsewhere.
Thanks for reading x