On the D/L – Constantine
Season 1 Episode 5 – “Danse Vaudou”
John Constantine heads to New Orleans to investigate a series of ghost themed murders in the area. He and Zed team up with police officer Jim Corrigan (Emmett J. Scanlan) who is uninitiated into the ways of the Supernatural.
After last week’s strong episode giving the impression that the series is beginning to settle on a format that works for it, this episode reinforces that with another strong story that keeps the characters at the center and lets the events happen around them. I also appreciated that there wasn’t necessarily a singular antagonist that needed to be stopped. The ghosts were more portrayed as a force of nature that causes problems without having any real malicious intent. It’s kind of like they’re hunting an animal that is acting purely on instinct. It’s a refreshing change of pace and adds to the sense of mystery since motive isn’t something that is being looked for.
We learn little bits about John Constantine’s character here that might seem like unimportant details at first but are actually quite illuminating. One major revelation is that he doesn’t really see Voodoo as being entirely legitimate but he does understand how it works for the most part, at least enough to see things in a way that doesn’t occur to Papa Midnite. We also learn that he’s been quietly assessing Zed ever since he met her and chooses his moments to question her carefully. His strength of character is perfectly reinforced when he has the opportunity to converse with his dead mother -something that he calls one of his main objectives in the pilot- and turns it down to use this favour he is owed to learn something that might help more people in the long run.
Papa Midnite returned in this episode and he was used a lot better than he was in his last appearance. The voodoo magic sequences were nicely shot and a visual feast to behold. There’s a real sense that Papa Midnite is an expert in his field but it was also great to see that veneer crack a little when it was revealed that he’s not as in control of this particular spell as he thought he was.
Further complexity is added to his character when he shows regret when he is told his spell is what caused the deaths to happen. Giving this character a sense of morality and showing that he has some boundaries is instrumental in assuring this character’s longevity withing the series. It’s good to know that not every meeting between John Constantine and Papa Midnite will be Constantine evading Midnite’s attempts to kill him. The reluctant truce in this episode was played really will with Matt Ryan portraying John Constantine’s contempt for Midnite perfectly.
Chas was probably the best he has been so far. It was interesting to see his methods for investigating the case and how they relate to his ability to survive fatal injuries. The trial and error approach suits him since he can shake death off, come back and try again as shown by him testing the ghost by asking random questions to see if she has some kind of trigger. The scene where he shrugs it off and confuses the paramedics was particularly hilarious. Charles Halford has some great comic timing.
Zed was used really well in this episode by continuing her role as the emotional connection to the case. Her psychic abilities help her relate to everything on an emotional level and she does her best to understand the people involved. Her angle involves things like speaking to the grandmother of one of the ghosts or trying to talk to the ghost himself and it’s an interesting approach. There’s a real sense of compassion to her which directly contrasts with John Constantine’s detached nature. She might signify something that John has been missing on prior cases and allows things to be approached in unique ways. Parts of her past are teased as well and we learn that she changed her name for reasons that remain unclear. The mystery of Zed is being teased really effectively.
Zed spends most of her time with Jim Corrigan -a character known as The Spectre in the comics– who recognises her from a missing persons case in the past. Through him we learn a little more about her but are still left with more questions than answers. Scanlan does a good job of playing a man who has had his first supernatural experience and is struggling with accepting what he’s seen with his own eyes. He’s definitely a good man who just wants to do the right thing but acknowledges that he’s in way over his head. He and Zed have great chemistry and work well together. Hopefully he will return in the future.
More references to the main season arc are given here than ever. The “rising darkness” is responsible for amplifying Papa Midnite’s spell in a way he didn’t expect. John makes references to the rules having changed and not being sure how to deal with how different everything is. I think the continued references were a little vague for the most part and should have been explained a little better given how connected to the plot of this episode they were. I do find the prospect that there’s a pending betrayal coming John’s way. Based on the current collection of regulars that means he will either be betrayed by Zed or Chas. If it turns out to be a random person from his past who shows up only to betray him then I’ll be sorely disappointed.
Not quite as strong as last week but a definite sense that the show is heading in the right direction. The threat is nicely changed up with more of a force of nature than an antagonist with specific motivations.
The characters are all used really well with little tidbits of John Constantine’s character teased throughout the episode. It’s clear that he’s keeping a close eye on Zed while continually pondering this rising darkness that he’s become aware of. His sense of responsibility and strength of character are one of the cornerstones of this episode.
Zed is being firmly established as the emotional connection to the story with her psychic abilities allowing her to connect to the people involved in a unique way. Her methods are more informed by compassion and this helps her investigate in unique ways. There are elements of her past and her character in general that are teased slightly but kept mysterious. Her presences still remains a welcome one.
Chas was nicely portrayed in this episode with his unique abilities informing his methods as well. Since he can shrug off death so easily he is able to adopt a trial and error technique that produces some genuinely hilarious results.
Papa Midnite’s contribution to this episode was handled far better than his last appearance and helps make the character seem like a complex antagonist with a clear moral code. Adding these layers to the character will hopefully make subsequent appearances more intriguing.
Tying the season arc to the events of this episode is a really good move, it shows that it underpins almost everything that Constantine does and makes it something that he should always bear in mind. It also proves to be a challenge as the rules are changing meaning that Constantine is slowly getting out of his depth in a world that he thought he knew. Given how close it was to the episode’s plot it felt that there should have been more concrete information given but for now I’m interested to see where they go with this.