[Review] - Constantine, Season 1 Episode 10, "Quid Pro Quo"

Courtesy of Warner Bros Television
It's about damned time. After ten episodes of only barely remembering that Charles Halford is part of the past, the writers finally got around to giving Chas an episode of his own, which managed to fill him with more definition and characterization than the past nine combined, swept away all traces of ambiguity about his backstory, and had him at the focus of an emotional and character driven story. One that I couldn't find much fault with. While my personal preference is for characters to become more defined as the series progresses, rather than saving everything up for one lump burst of exposition, at least they gave Chas the benefit of attention.

And in the process, they managed to introduce another character from the comics, and put an original spin on cheesy villain. Constantine hasn't been shy about bringing comic characters into the series, but they have been more inclined to do it on their own terms, for the sake of a mostly original storyline, rather than peeling them directly off the page of the books. And that is my favourite kind of adaptation.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that want to tell you about some friends of theirs.

Of all the potential ways they could have taken Chas' apparent immortality, I feel that this one was the best. And not just because it puts an end limit on the number of times that John's antics won't get him hurt. But because it was, ultimately, caused by John making a mistake. And that feeds nicely into the image of John being as much lucky as he is clever, and that more often than not, it's his stumble-bumming and improvisation that works in his favour than this keenly hatched plans. So that, while drunk and basically kidding around, he inadvertently charmed his friend into becoming unkillable is a nice twist. It also says a lot about the condition of John's friendships: cursed and doomed, with a slice of nobility.

That Chas started his curse carrying the souls of 47 "lesser knights", and has 32 left actually suggests that his and John's life was a lot less death-happy before the series started, since Chas has died at least five times over the course of the show. That is a significant increase from ten deaths over two years. I doubt that the writers have given that math much thought, but it serves two subtle uses. One, it suggests that as the Rising Darkness rises, the threats are becoming more dangerous. And more importantly, the longer you spend in John Constantine's company, the greater the chances of you dying become. Chas would have bit it long ago, and the likelihood that those 32 remaining lives will run out sooner rather than later increases every day.

Chas' curse also served as a subtle way to introduce the long history of DC's magic into the show. The curse was developed by Merlin, to protect the Knights of the Round Table. If the series was lucky enough to get a second season, I'd hope this was backstory enough to introduce Jason Blood to the roaster of carry-over characters. It's little, off the cuff details like that, that help to world-build. We've got angels and demons and all that, but very little attention has been paid to Earth, and with this much magic flying around, it can't hide under the cover of "it's just like our world, but with magic." This would be a substantially different world, even without capes. The show needs to embrace showing off more of that.

It also introduced Felix Faust to the mix, if only briefly, as a decrepit old man who thanks to the rising darkness, suddenly found himself in possession of powers that he'd longed for his entire life. And used them to start soul-sucking the Bronx. As character interpretations go, it worked. Certainly, the centuries old, robe wearing, devil-deal making comic character wouldn't have fit in with the desperation soaked reality that John lives in. But a too-good-to-be-true power surge and selfishness fits in perfectly. Tying it into the Rising Darkness, that as the membrane between worlds thins it is increasing the level of power other minor mages are able to siphon off is a solid direction to take. That Faust accidentally targeted Chas' family is a contrivance to the extreme, but anything short of a targeted attack would have felt the same way, so I'm willing to give it a pass.

The writers though appear only to be able to focus on one character at a time. In past episodes, this manifested as literally only one character accompanying John at a time. Now, it seems that if both are around, one absorbs all the development and the other gets to be useless for the episode. Zed, who was moving towards becoming a stronger and more assertive character, dropped back into the role of ingenue this episode, wide eyed and constantly surprised. Her exclamation that Faust's hideout was invisible was particularly groan-inducing. And then the writers got rid of her for the back half by having her glimpse something greater than herself, which left her hospital bed-ridden for the last twenty minutes. Which was also a contrived way to reintroduce the not-mentioned-since-the-pilot plot of John seeking out his dead mother's spirit, though why the writers felt we need yet another subplot at this late a stage is beyond me.

Fiction for me is all about character. If a character doesn't have a purpose and isn't being developed, than I struggle to see the point of them. I've felt this way about Chas since day one, as the writers seemed utterly disinterested in developing him beyond his being the Chewbacca of the team. It was nice that they finally saw fit to give him meaning. However, spurts of development are not health, because it means the rest of the time, the character is just hanging around, riding the status quo. It makes for less interesting television, and yet it seems to be the only way the writers are willing to move things forward with characters that aren't John. And that is discouraging.
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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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