[Review] - Constantine, Season 1 Episode 7, "Blessed Are the Damned"

Courtesy of Warner Bros Television
Before we get into the particulars of this episode, I want to take a moment to give the appropriate kudos to the show for handling something very deftly and very creatively. Before the show began, one of the many worrisome announcements that was made was the NBC would not allow Constantine to smoke on the show. Smoking is an integral part of the character, not simply a stylistic choice or frivolous bit of anti-social behaviour. Smoking is a morality lesson, a physical manifestation of the character's self destructive aspects. And when it gets the better of him, a metaphor for the demons that reach and gnaw at him. Removing the smoking, while not debilitating, suggested a neutered approach.

Since then, the show has expertly framed his habit so as never to show him actually taking a drag off any cigarette. Like testing how much nudity is acceptable in prime time, they have showed literally every other part of the procedure of smoking a cigarette, without inhaling. The Standards and Practices folks clearly have a measure of degrees, and the show is riding those degrees with finesse. a few episode back ended with John lighting up. This episode started with him flicking away the smoldering ruins of a butt. I don't advocate the glamorization of smoking, and they certainly haven't done that. And I applaud the skills they've demonstrated in finding a way to include something they clearly agree is an integral part of the character, while still following the specific letter of instruction passed down by the Powers That Be. But I also have to wonder how effective a ban is when they can show everything except a minor bit of action in the middle.

Hit the jump for the brief review, which contains spoilers that, at this point, feel like TV characters should stay away from snake-handling.

The show has spent the last 6 episodes talking about Hell, and angels, and a great and growing darkness billowing up from beneath. This episode, more than any other, really threw us into the middle of the stale-mate between the kingdoms of good and evil, and provided us some much needed elaboration to the angels' story. Manny has suffered, not just from under use, but from that frustrating inclination to speak in non-specifics, as though forcing a mystery onto the character is akin to character development. This week, we took steps to correcting that, as we saw Manny desperate, as learnt a bit more about what angels can and cannot do.

All throughout this episode, I felt slightly cheated. Here, the writers have landed an angel literally in our laps, and they didn't do anything with her. I felt my ire rising as Imogen would disappear for large chunks of the episode. Really, show, I head-shouted at my screen during commercial breaks. You're going to turn Zed into a fan girl and not use the opportunity to do anything interesting with an angel. Turns out, I need to be giving this show a lot more credit, because after two acts of under-utilizing the angel, the third act upended our expectations, and did something very interesting with her.

So let's talk about angels. The show isn't really treading new ground with the notion that angels are essentially petty dicks that view humanity as the undeserving inheritants of earth and God's love. Supernatural took this position, as has pretty much every piece of modern fiction involving humanity's winged protectors. They also aren't the first to impose a non-compete clause in the the angel's contracts, allowing them to observe and guide, but not take direct action. It's this passive observance that almost always causes problems, and Manny's own journey appears to be structure around the desire to lend aid and his inability to do so. It isn't original, but it's good enough.

That Hell is an impenetrable bubble is a different sort of notion, and that demons and fallen angels and the like cannot simply walk out of Mordor does set Constantine slightly aside from the usual. It gives this growing darkness, the hanging threat of ambiguous danger, some heft. If this thing is powerful enough to punch a hole through Hell, what do you think it's going to be like when it gets here? And will it be enough to get the angels off their wings and into the fight? I find myself actually excited about finding out these answers, and I like that Constantine, with a few exceptions, doesn't seem interested in drawing a lot of forced connections to the magic side of the DC universe. It didn't work great with Jim Corrigan, and I'd rather never see Zatanna or The Phantom Stranger show up if the choice is between wasted opportunities or the show carving out it's own, independent identity.
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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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