[Review] - Constantine, Season 1 Episode 4, "A Feast of Friends"

Courtesy of Warner Television
Finally, an episode that feels true to the source material, but not bound by it. But first, an ongoing issue I have with the series: John's tie. I'm a tie man, I appreciate a good tie, and from moment one, I spotted something off with Johnny's. Last week, I figured out what was setting me off: it is tied wrong. Or, rather, it is tied so that it is loose. The pulled loose look is meant to convey the ramshackleness of Constantine's nature, the worn to the edge lifestyle he has adopted. That his situation is so relentlessly grinding, that he must pull loose his tie for even a moment's deep breath. And that would result in an off balance tie, which adds to the overall sense of haphazardness. The tie worn by Matt Ryan has been perfectly tied, with balanced ends, to look loose. To give the illusion of disheveledness. And perhaps that is intentional, yet another smokescreen that Constantine affects to suggest that he doesn't care about himself or others, but actually pays intense and specific attention to every detail. Like tying a tie just wrong.

This was a ballpark episode, as far as this series and NBC in general is concerned. And it achieved this level of quality in two ways. first, it focused on the characters, establishing motivation that inspired action to move the plot forward. And secondly, it ramped up the horror aspects, which lulled the audience into accepting the hero has the focal point of hope, only to dash that concept expertly. If this is the level that the series is able to achieve weekly, or continue to improve upon, the rest of this season should be something to look forward to.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that address the being inside you.

Returning to a complaint I had last week, this episode featured Chas in no way. Clearly, the writers have no idea how to use the character that they've established, which as I mentioned in my breakdown of the pilot, they skewed heavily from the source, and have painted themselves into a corner. This week, they didn't even try to shoehorn him in, as they did with poor Zed. Because this episode moved about under it's own inertia, with only a couple well placed moments of exposition, there was no real need for audience surrogates or narrative asides. And what I've taken from this is that, the producers have written themselves into a different kind of corner. From these four episodes, I distinctly feel that the series would have been better as a road show, in the vein of the old Incredible Hulk series, with John being the lone traveler, and all these additional characters, like Zed or that random jittery fellow Jeremy Davies played in the pilot, would be recurring characters, as John crisscrosses the country, finding horrors wherever he settles. At least under that scenario, he would need a chauffeur.

But, the established set up seems to be working for them, in as much as having a base of operations hasn't really been a plot point until now. This episode opened the door for something I suspect will come into play further along: if John Constantine has a fixed address, this means people will know where to find him, be they friend or foe. It was a bit of both this week, as an old chum of John's turns up after having accidentally unleashed a hunger demon upon Atlanta. Gary, a junkie largely responsible for the badness that befell John in Newcastle, and forced his exodus from England, turns up in a bad way, and John is forced to clean up his mess.

What worked so well about the episode was how every character behaved exactly as they were expected, which is to say that nothing was out of character and for the sake of the plot. John acted partly out of duty, and partly out of his own twisted morality. Gary had done a wrong in the past, so the thought of sacrificing him for the greater good restored a balance. And, Gary wasn't particularity worth saving anyway, which in John's mind meant he was a tool to be used, nothing more. So while Gary was seeking redemption, and was acting according to his own sense of self, John was as well. They were just working in competition.

It brings to the series the truest sense of who John Constantine is from the comics, and that is a ruthless hero. His willingness to sacrifice others in the name of the greater good, and his tendency to view everyone except for children as expendable means that Constantine is more often than not alone, not because he wants to be, but because those around him eventually die. That is his tragedy; he would be able to stop the death, stop the loneliness, stop the villainy, if he removed himself form the mystical equation. But he cannot resist returning to the darker realm. He cannot let a demon go exorcised, and inevitably that means those he cares for get put on the butcher's block. And that is a big ask for an American network TV hero, even one that airs at 10. That they've taken a handful of episode to introduce this side of him so explicitly was likely smart. That they've introduce this side of him so explicitly so early on in the run was also smart, as the audience can now adjust themselves to this new, more honest characterization. Wherever Constantine goes, it won't be a happy place.

This episode also brought back Manny, who like Chas hasn't found a solid enough place thus far to be considered interesting. though, this episode, because the focus was so much on character, used his two scenes better and more effectively than this appearances thus far. The first one, as John and Gary attempt to assault the demon head on, gave us a better and more subtle reason for Manny to be around: he's testing John. He gave Constantine the opportunity to stop what he was doing, to walk away from the situation he was about to put himself in. If John had walked away, the demon would have continued to run rampant, killing, but John would have been spared personal sacrifice. By going after the demon, Manny knew that John could save hundreds at the cost of one. If the ongoing battle is for a hero working for the sake of heaven or hell, John comes out in a wash. If the battle is for the sake of John's soul, does his intent outweigh the cost of his action? The last scene, as Manny sits silently alongside John, both basking in the sins of their success, suggests that the series is more willing to tackle deeper, more philosophical questions than I generally give David S. Goyer credit.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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