John Constantine. One of my favorite characters. But, I can't really say that I like him. There are so many characters in my list of favorites that I know I would be great friends with if we ever got the chance to hang out; you know, like having a coffee with Donna Troy or hitting Mardi Gras with Armstrong. But Constantine, as a friend, is probably best in small doses. You know, drinks after work on Friday, but probably not a weekend trip anywhere. He's kind of an ass. But he's so cool, you just can't bring yourself to completely cut him off.
Image courtesy of NBC
To say that I was apprehensive about Constantine coming to network television is an understatement. Maybe if it had been on the CW or Fox, but NBC? The home of the peacock. I just couldn't feel confident that they would be able to take a chain smoking, comic book occult specialist and successfully create the John Constantine that I have spent years getting to know.
The pilot didn't do much to improve my confidence. Sure, the special effects were awesome. Matt Ryan did a great job of portraying Constantine. He was just the right amount of anger, humor, and dark wit. The episode set up the situation for the series (ie: Constantine is involved with a young girl, Astra, being lost to Hell due to John's failure). But the female supporting character and the editing left a lot to be desired. I love Lucy Griffiths. She was incredible in Robin Hood and True Blood. And her acting was great in the pilot. But her character was just all over the place? She's the daughter of an old friend, in danger from supernatural baddies, and there's an amulet involved. It was a bunch of cliches all tied together in a confusing mess. Luckily, the series decided to go a different way and get rid of Liv, Lucy's character. But, wow. The editing at the end of the pilot to include the scenes to explain why Liv wouldn't be in future episodes was really a mess.The way the last 10 minutes of the show was cut and pasted together was pretty awful. However, one great thing they did with the story was introducing the map showing where literally all Hell was breaking loose. This was an awesome way to allow Constantine to have a "mystery of the week" formula and hey, it works great for the Winchester brothers.
Episode 2 introduced us to Zed. Familiar to comic fans, Zed was just what the show needed in a female sidekick. She has a reason to stick around with Constantine since his image inhabits her dreams on a daily basis. She's tough and mysterious and makes a great foil for Constantine's smart-assedness. The episode confirmed that the map and its bloody dots was indeed going to be our mystery map for the series and it worked great for episodes 2 and 3. However, after episode 3, I still wasn't convinced that Constantine could make itself stand out from the other supernatural series and give viewers a reason to tune in every week. As mentioned before, we already have Supernatural to give us our weekly creepy demon fix each week.
But "A Feast of Friends," episode 4, finally gave Constantine a solid direction and established him as a unique and interesting television character that we want to learn about every week. Spoilers ahead, just in case the episode is still sitting on your DVR. This episode gave us a little background into John Constantine the man and I thought it was great. An old friend, Gary, shows up after accidentally allows a hunger demon to escape. Gary is a mess on a lot of levels and John's reaction to seeing him again opens a small window to John's past. Gary and John are old friends. Gary was there when John was responsible for sending Astra to Hell. John obviously has resentment regarding Gary and his privileged upbringing. Again and again throughout the episode he pushes Gary away. And then John ends up saving Gary. He guides Gary into becoming the human sacrifice that is necessary to rid the world of the demon. Zed thinks Constantine used his friend as a convenient vessel. But we see through the way John supports and stays with Gary, that really John is helping his to give his life purpose. Gary had been lost for so long and he finally found a way to be of value.
Also, limits were expanded. This episode was gruesome. The effects of the hunger demon were devastating to the host body as we saw those poor, sorry souls gorge themselves as their bodies were consumed from the inside out. It was exciting to see NBC push the boundaries because the world of John Constantine is gritty and violent. His magic doesn't come with a "bibbity-bobbity-boo"in a faraway castle, it is comes with blood and pain in a dirty back alley. NBC opened threw the door open to Constantine's world and I can't wait to see where they take us next.