On the D/L – Constantine
Season 1 Episode 11 – “A Whole World Out There”
John Constantine works with his friend Ritchie (Jeremy Davies) to investigate strange occurrences at a university.
This episode gives us another puzzling thing to ponder. Why aren’t Zed or Chas in it? Early in the episode John gives us an update on their whereabouts and it’s tenuous to say the least. I can accept that after the events of the previous episode Chas would want to take some time out to look after his ex wife and daughter but giving Zed time off to get some sleep has to be one of the most half assed excuses I’ve ever heard.
In the 11 episodes so far there have been a few that have missed out one or both of the characters and I’m never really sure why. There was the time Zed was away because the episode was filmed before she existed in the show but beyond that the characters seem to come and go for no real reason. It’s a strange thing to do because Constantine has such a small cast that it doesn’t make sense to leave out the main characters so often. It’s strange that it’s become a staple of the show but it does usually provoke a laugh to hear what half baked excuse is being peddled this week.
Anyway, John is taking some time to catch up on his melancholy and decides to have himself a smoke and a drink while spending time in the company of the memory mirror so that he can look at his friend Gary to remind himself of what he’s lost.
Of course he can’t do this forever as Manny has other ideas. He shows up and for some reason decides to openly tell him that he needs to go look in on his friend Ritchie. This struck me as out of character for Manny as he’s normally so cryptic and mysteriously helpful but I’ll give the episode the benefit of the doubt as John directly calls him out on that. I sort of take it as Manny is trying to be more helpful as he’s fed up of being unable to interfere. I get the impression that there might be an upcoming episode where he has to make a tough choice and I look forward to seeing that.
From here the episode is a bit of a mess. It turns out that some stupid teenagers are dabbling with magic and manage to conjure up the spirit of Jacob Shaw (William Mapother) who likes to pull people into an alternate reality and hunt them for sport. If you think that sounds a little bit like Nightmare on Elm Street then you’re exactly right. The setup is almost the same with the victims being sent to another world -though in this case not the dream world- and retaining their injuries when they are returned to where they started. Mapother is a really engaging and sinister villain who manages to chew scenery really well but there’s just not a lot to him. Other than knowing that he likes to hunt people in his magical dream world I’m really not sure there’s anything interesting about him. It’s a shame as there could have been an opportunity to take the show to a really dark and disturbing place to explore this complex and diseased mind.
It was good to see Ritchie again and Jeremy Davies has great on screen chemistry with Matt Ryan. The dialogue between the two characters feels like they have known each other for years and -in the case of Ritchie- have built up a significant level of resentment in that time. Their interactions were the best part of the episode but as with Jacob Shaw there wasn’t really enough substance to any of it.
The main problem that I had was that the plot felt like something of an unfocussed mess. It was almost an exercise in how many horror movie tropes can be crammed into one episode. None of it felt really all that organic or interesting and there was a severe lack of meaningful jeopardy in the narrative. I didn’t really care about any of the victims so it was difficult to be invested in their survival. Some of the individual sequences were pretty good though such as a memorable scene involving mirrors.
There was almost a really powerful moment when Ritchie expressed desire to stay in the dream reality because he can’t handle living in the real world any more and would rather choose his own reality. This makes complete sense from a character standpoint as it completely fits with what we already know about Ritchie. It’s a shame that the episode opts for the happy ending and has him come back. Losing Ritchie would have reinforced the idea that John Constantine is doomed to lose those who make the mistake of being his friend and would have added to his long list of regrets.
An episode that felt almost entirely disposable. It was good to see Ritchie again and have John Constantine interact with someone else from his past but there wasn’t enough going on to make any of this feel worthwhile.
William Mapother manages to play an engaging and sinister villain but his motivation is a little too shaky to give him the presence he really needed. The episode was heavily marred by a lack of characters that could be in any way empathised with. They all seemed like typical horror fodder so I was unable to become truly invested in them.
Other missed opportunities such as Ritchie’s non sacrifice and a general lack of building up the main series arc also prevent this episode from feeling like anything more than killing time. Hopefully the final two episodes of the season will pick up the pace.