Monday, 9 March 2015

Constantine: The Darkness Beneath

Yes, it’s Monday night again (amazing how fast it comes around) - so you know what’s coming next. Yes, it’s another Constantine rewatch and review! Tonight it’s episode 2: The Darkness Beneath. So hey-ho, let’s go with a three-word, three-theme review.

Warning! Danger, Will Robinson!
Here be SPOILERS for Constantine series 1 episode 2!


Ah, where do we start? How about the opening, with pretty much the Big Bad taking control right at the outset to kill a bloke who obviously bullies his wife. Her fear of him is palpable, and we’re made to feel sorry for her. Later on we find out exactly how much she didn’t miss him when he was gone, and the change in her behaviour, and appearance, are subtle but excellent background touches.

The episode title itself may or may not be a misdirection; there is certainly something nasty under the town, but it’s something dark that comes up to kill. So is this the ‘rising darkness’ that Manny was talking about last week in the pilot episode? Time will tell.

More misdirection comes along when, at the house after what I assume is a town gathering out of shared misery, the missus makes a move on John just when he’s trying to pick up clues from the scene of the crime. He tries to let her down gently and escape but it all kicks off - she’s a vindictive one, that woman. And I’m already worried; John’s not good at fights. He gets in a few good shots but he’s floored pretty easily by the local mine owners. He gets right back in the bloke’s face though, like a Jack Russell that knows his unpredictability makes bigger dogs nervous. And right there was something that should have made me realise - the missus said it, right to John’s face, and he missed it as well; the key to the whole thing. But hey, no-one’s perfect, and it’s hard to be on the ball when you’re pretending to be one thing and you’re really not interested in the other.

Anyway, I love how John announces to the pub - in the middle of a wake - that it could be actual dragons killing people. No shame, not when it comes to getting people to tell him what is actually going on in the tiny Welsh mining town (and that was a nice touch, it being ‘Welsh’). He gets a whiff of an idea and off he trots to check out the mine and see if this ‘knocking’ that people are hearing is what he thinks it is. Here we get Hellblazer!John - he knocks on the mine wall, and it knocks back really bloody loudly. He shits himself and runs - who wouldn’t? Well most protagonists in modern shows. But not John. He knows which way the wind blows, and he makes sure he’s ahead of it. It seems he’s found the monster - or has he?

More misdirection: Ellis McGhee the ex-priest has a son who died - it’s him, right? It’s got to be! John is having as much trouble as Gregory House, M.D., guessing at clues in the air and putting the wrong theory together to explain them all. John guides Zed into and out of a vision, which leads them to the fallen father, and it looks like they have his number. Until it turns out, between Zed and Ellis, that John has the case upside down.


Chas is out of the picture due to an arrest warrant still out on him - a nice bit of back story slipped in there. Seemingly the next shot, Bear McCreary gives us some excellent music to accompany the woman hinted at, at the end of the pilot. She’s sitting on the floor frantically drawing to the excellent score going on around her. One corner of her drawings clearly says the artist is ‘Zed’. (At which point a million Hellblazer fans punched the air - it’s Zed! From the comics! Or is it?) She’s certainly drawing very industriously, like she has to get it all out. Spot all the Hellblazer covers - and random panes - that she has ‘drawn’ and ‘painted’ and left lying around her apartment. Nice. How many did you name?

She literally bumps into the mystery man from her visions, poor Con Job, and ably picks his pocket. She gets his driver’s licence (a suitably old UK one, which was a nice touch) and apparently info on where he’s staying in town. When John gets back to his Honeymoon Suite, he finds his pock-pocket has beaten him there, emptied his wallet of his ninety quid, and been through his rubbish bins to find his boarding passes from Atlanta to Pennsylvania. As an aside - it’s never made clear just how she managed to find where he was staying. Starting with all the buildings around where they smacked into each other, and eliminating each boarding house or hotel one by one, would have taken days. Perhaps she saw a vision - something the show hasn’t revealed she’s a victim of just yet.

When she does grab him by the arm and prove she’s a clairsentient, he makes out he’s helping her use her gift when in fact he’s using her to get more info on what happened to the dead bloke in his current case. He then does the dirty and legs it out of the window rather than take her with him - another Hellblazer move that had me grinning.

The exchange between the poor half-drunken priest at the bar and Zed was very illuminating - and certainly very welcome:

Zed: “Have you seen an Englishman? Wears a trenchcoat?
Man: “[He] stick you with the bar tab too? My advice: don’t waste yourself on that one.”
Zed: “I don’t have a choice.”
Man: “My son had that effect. When he was alive. Left behind clutches of weepy girls who swore he was the only one to give their life meaning.”
Zed: “It’s not like that.” Pause. “It’s like that but not the way you think. I mean it’s just that he means something to me. I don’t know what.”

At last - a character that wasn’t going to do the Stephen Moffat simpering girl thing and just fall at the feet of the male lead. About fucking time.

She has a face-off with John, and she doesn’t back down. She does take it in, she’s not brushing it off - she’s processing it but finding other things scarier than anything he could show her. Again, she’s got my respect. She not in-your-face ‘feisty’ or ‘firey’ or any of those things that modern writers think that ‘strong’ women are, but just a woman who’s seen a lot of shit and knows how to deal with lesser bollocks. As she tells John, she knows what she’s running from. Whatever it is must be scarier than John’s life. Which is really quite worrying.


Catching two youngsters shagging in the boarded up church apparently makes John disappointed in human nature - him, the bloke who shagged a succubus in a graveyard, and a cosmetically-reconstructed virgin on holy ground. I don’t think he has any legs to stand on here. But he does pull off a little magic and see that there is something rotten in Denmark. He doesn’t seem at all phased about the church being a holy place. Hmm.

It’s obvious that Zed has faith in something bigger than herself - and that may or may not be the ‘destiny’ that threw John in her lap that day in Heddwich. She has a fierce need of something to believe it, it seems. If John turns out to be worthy, then big things could be put into motion here. It’s exciting to watch; literally anything is possible if you put John on a case with Chas on his one side and a clairsentient on the other.

The question is, what does John have faith in? Certainly not the church, although he does employ the famous scribblings from their best-selling book when it suits him. Faith in what he knows, what he can prove, then? John and Zed race off to track down the last few people who could be a victim, if their new theory formed by ‘interrogating’ the ex-priest is correct. We get treated to a bit of SFX and the monster. Using nothing more than a reminder of what it used to be, and a quick spray painting of the alchemist’s symbol for earth, John and Zed make the ‘monster’ leave - and have the one definable clue that tells John exactly who did this.

John then drives - drives - to the Big Bad’s house and this is starting to look like one of those unfortunate Hellblazer corners that he gets himself into. John knows the villain only managed to use so much magic to use the dead for their own means because the season arc helped them. Nice bit of intersection there. But the Big Bad has forgotten who they’re dealing with - John Constantine doesn’t play if he can’t win. He gets one over on the Big Bad, and it’s all over. Well, until he has to get back to his boarding house and shower the crappy little town off him so he can leave. Who’s waiting for him? Zed, of course. She kinda lied about leaving town without him. Who wouldn’t? She has big things on her mind, concerning all kinds of reasons to believe in what he does. He just assumes she’s there for a quick shag - and that’s John all over, isn’t it? But oh no no, he’s not her type and she’s there for more important reasons:

Zed: “You see, John… I’ve been waiting for you, and you found me. I don’t know what I’ve been waiting for and you don’t know what you’ve found. The question is, are we going to help each other or not?

I like her already - almost as much as I like John, and that’s saying something. She’s quietly forceful, not passive aggressive or a ‘bitch’, but someone used to doing things by herself and getting shit done because of it. Now she’s found the man in her pictures - and her visions - she’s going to have to adapt. And force John to, as well. Which will be the fun part.

We finish on a nice wrap-up - the miners are safe, even if they’re all jobless and hopeless now that the mine is shut for good; ex-priest Ellis is back in his church, and Zed is keeping a watchful eye over a totally knackered John. Or is she? As John puts it to ease us out of the episode:

John: [voice-over] “I suppose it could be liberating to take a leap of faith, to shrug off the burden of proof for the promise of hope. It takes trust to turn darkness to light, and those who trust risk putting their faith in the wrong hands - for there are those who pray for you, and there are those who prey on you, and no matter how careful you are, sometimes you just can’t tell the difference.

It sounds like Matt Ryan enjoyed recording that voice-over, and it definitely looked like John and Zed had the right kind of Team Desperate chemistry. There was a moment when I’m sure they both thought they were going to get a shag in, but the moment was stolen and it never came back. Which I think is a good thing - you should never find out if God has a sock drawer. Angelica Celaya was amazing in this - this is the challenge that John needs, this is the draw of the series, this is the interesting wrinkle in Manny’s plan to get John to stop the ‘rising darkness’. Zed and her one-woman clairsentient\psychic intervention is about to shake things up for everyone. And I couldn’t be more glad. If the pilot episode was wobbly, then this episode has caused it to find its feet. The emergence of Zed, and all that this means for John and even Chas, can only improve on what is a solid start to a series.

Final vote? Nine out of ten. It may have been reshuffled to get shown second and not third, but I think it worked. If this is what we’ve got to look forward to (and I know we have), then bring it on. Can I just watch the next episode now instead of next week? No? I have to wait? Oh alright then. If I could sod work off and watch the entire series over night, I would. Unfortunately, I have shit to do before I can sleep and then go back to work.

Which brings this to a close. Thanks for reading, and if you’ve taken part in any of the Save Constantine activities at all recently or repeatedly, then I thank you from the heart of my bottom. We need a season 2, and I’m not stopping with the voting and petitioning and e-mailing until we get one, on any network.

Peach and lube, everyone. Peach and frelling lube.

1 comment:

Norman Rampart said...

Howdo Soupy....Glad to see yer still out there babe. 4D x

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