Saturday, 14 March 2015

Constantine: The Devil’s Vinyl

I told you I was doing the entire series, didn’t I? I know it’s not Monday yet but I’m just not prepared to wait that long. So here we go - another Constantine review, organised under three headings. Hold my tea, it’s time for:
Warning! Danger, Will Robinson!
Here be SPOILERS for Constantine series 1 episode 3!


Where do we start with this one? Why not Jasmine, the woman who made the contract in the first place, with the ambulance chaser in the hospital. Did she deserve to have her contract end and her soul sent to Hell? Yes. Oh don’t look at me like that - she knew what she was doing and she signed it anyway. I’m not judging her for it, I’m just saying, she understood completely what she was getting into. The fact that it was for the whole ‘I’ll gladly sell my soul if it gets rid of my husband’s cancer’ thing is unfair, but so’s life. The fact that she wasn’t the one trying to get out of the contract was interesting - and a nice twist to bring in a favourite ‘villain’ of the comics - but that’s for later.

She segues us into Bernie - and mate, when someone tells you not to listen to a record, YOU DON’T LISTEN TO A RECORD, so yeah, he deserved what he got. Yes, if he hadn’t done it we wouldn’t have had a climax to the episode teaser and John wouldn’t have had anyone to question later. But still, Bernie - judging you.

How about Zed? Does she deserve to be trusted yet? She helped John gain access to the morgue (like he wouldn’t have picked someone’s pocket himself five minutes after she’d done it), she found Moonrise Records in about three seconds on Google where John was seriously considering going to a library. She smacked a dude over the head before he could knife John. She knows and uses American SIgn Language to get the actual story of what happened at the crime scene. Everything she does seem to come from a position of wanting to help - but why? Is she really that compassionate or is she trying to atone for something? John doesn’t seem to be totally on board with her yet; she invites herself along on the case and his reply is a dour “Knock yourself out, MacDuff”. Does this mean he’s expecting Zed to find out what he’s really about and harm him?

Matt Ryan deserves an Emmy. I’m just going to say it now and get it out of the way. There, I feel better already.


We had a few points of insight here - we meet Bernie the record producer. Why is this important? John shares something about himself with Zed: “Back in Jurassic time I fronted a punk band called Mucus Membrane. Yeah, that’s right - I wasn’t always an upstanding warlock. Bernie here produced our first and only record. He tried his best, but… to tell you the truth we were just a bunch of wankers trying to get laid.” We get one of John’s mates, dead, and him a little unsettled by it - but this is ‘first friend dead’. How many more will we see over the series? Well I’ve seen it, so I already know, but basically the death toll is more Hellblazer and less Star Trek.

The singer set down in acetate for future generations to be haunted by was called Willie Cole. How close this was to the legend of Robert Johnson, the real-life blue singer who may or may not have ‘sold his soul’ to the devil, we will never know. Those of you who’ve watched the Supernatural episode Crossroad Blues will be familiar with the rumoured tale of Robert Johnson; he was a pretty good harmonica player but a terrible blue guitar player. He was alleged to have gone to a crossroads and sought the help of the devil, who promised him ten years of expert guitarmanship before he would return and claim his soul as payment. Of course, it’s entirely possible that Johnson actually died of syphilis, or of being caught by a jealous husband. But then the Faustian myth is much more exciting, innit? This episode draws on this and makes you think you know what’s behind it all - until it shows you that it’s not.

Papa Midnite, then. It seems him and John have something of a professional history, even if they don’t appear to have met face to face before. John describes him as a voodoo priest, and seems to have a good idea what the man is capable of. Papa Midnite knows John by reputation, it appears. And the two of them clearly don’t like each other, much less trust one another. Something of a departure from the comics, but then, this is set early on in John’s sordid career, so perhaps we’re looking at how they came to be wary of each other. Nice.


Yes, I’m going to shoe-horn a few in here. Quick-fire comebacks that characters slip under the radar they may be, but one of the reasons I like this show is the way they’re not waving their arms and being as cool-as-shit as possible about everything. We don’t get slow-mo moments, we don’t get Hollywood glossy action scenes, but we do get Johnesque lip and backchat:

Chas: “Let’s say hi to his Satanic Majesty.” [They get inside and John is naked, covered only in blood, learning a new spell.]

You’re going to have to respect my boundaries. I don’t do zip-ties without a safe-word.

[As John is tied down and left to die - and then it starts to rain:] “Yeah, great. Why not.

When Manny the angel appears to speak to John, but of course, not get ‘involved’ and actually help him:] “Cut me loose and I’ll show you - you celestial wank.” “ Next time I see him I’m going to punch him.

[Zed orders them to go do the next act; Chas says they should follow her. John isn’t so sure:] “Alright but we don’t have to just jump when she says.” Beat. “Ok that’s long enough; let’s go.”

So what’s the verdict on the episode? Solid, made sense, tied up loose ends, gave us something to think about before the next show. Zed is starting to eclipse Chas in her usefulness to John, and if they’re not careful, I am going to like her just as much as John himself. She’s not pushy, she’s not in your face ‘feisty’, she just quietly gets shit done. Every show should have a Zed. This episode gets a steady eight of ten, for setting us up with new characters, for doing established characters right, and for giving us a good twisty story whilst showcasing some of Matt Ryan’s best reaction faces.

And there we have it, folks. 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.

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