On the D/L – Constantine
Season 1 Episode 10 – “Quid Pro Quo”
Constantine finally gets around to a long overdue exploration of Chas and his daughter -among other people in New York- is afflicted with a mystical coma.
This episode gives us our first look at John Constantine’s past through a flashback. Chas is the focus of the flashback but he is there too. It seems that 2 years prior to this episode he and John were at a bar to watch a gig and get drunk at the same time. John drunkenly leaves with a girl but puts a spell on Chas in case he harms himself drink driving. Almost immediately after John’s departure the club catches fire and 47 people are killed but it turns out that the spell allowed Chas to absorb all of the departed souls and use them to resurrect himself like extra lives in a video game.
I wasn’t expecting to ever get an explanation for Chas’ resurrection ability as I assumed it was just something that he could do. This show doesn’t often explain mystical occurrences in such exquisite detail so this was a nice surprise. It adds an interesting layer to his character knowing that his immortality is actually finite. As of the end of this episode he has 29 lives left by my count so one day he’ll be on his last one. I wonder if we’ll ever get that far and what effect it will have on the show when we do. It’s sort of like Doctor Who without the personality and actor shift.
More interestingly is how Chas having this ability has inspired him. He feels a sense of responsibility to use the extra lives he carries to help others. At one point he had 47 souls inside of him and he feels bound to honour them by doing good. It’s a nice touch that he carries around a photo album to remind himself of all of those people. I like that his motivation extends beyond a loyalty to John who was already his friend before he gained this ability. It gives a level of personalisation to his mission and adds a large amount of depth to his characters.
It was also great to see Chas’ home life through his ex wife and daughter -who have so far only been mentioned- which adds another side to the character. This episode saw Chas seem helpless and vulnerable which is really new for the character. It was interesting to see him acting differently to how we normally see him. His daughter being one of those affected out of what looks to be a lot of people does a nice job of anchoring the story and keeping the emotional connection close to the characters that we follow.
I wasn’t quite as on board with the way Chas’ wife Renee (Amanda Clayton) reacted to the situation. It was the same “distraught TV-wife with a husband who works a lot and is never home was a result” that we’ve seen a million times before. There were only a handful of scenes to explore this but the material on display wasn’t the greatest. I think the writers could have come up with a more interesting way to have Chas’ relationship with his wife break down. Her being freaked out by the supernatural life he leads would be one example.
This episode introduced 2 Hellblazer characters with the medium Fennel (Roger Floyd) and Felix Faust (Mark Margolis) making appearances. Both were characterised as people who have known John Constantine for another years and know enough not to like or trust him. I like how this show has us being in the middle of John’s career so he’s already met pretty much everyone he knows in the comics already.
Fennel’s appearance was minor -and probably his one and only – but Faust’s was significant. I liked how Margolis portrayed Faust, he seemed weathered and experienced with a nicely over the top evil edge to him. It was great how he manipulated the situation to try and achieve his own goals. The ending does look like he won’t be back but I think he’s powerful enough to overcome grenade based destruction.
The plot of this episode was massively tied into the Rising Darkness subplot. John mentions that Faust used to be very small time trying to gain a level of power that he just didn’t have but the Rising Darkness has changed things and allowed him to become as powerful as he’s always wanted. For the first time he is dangerous and John really doesn’t want to underestimate him.
Zed’s story came into the plot slightly where she started to explain to John what was happening with those people chasing after her. John finally chose to push her for answers given the direct danger involved. I’m guessing this cult will tie into the bigger tapestry of the Rising Darkness in some way which will make Zed’s connection to it significant in some way. I also imagine we’ll meet her mysterious father before too much time passes.
There were some aspects of the episode that didn’t work quite as well as they could have. As I understand it this episode was based on one major Hellblazer story but incorporated elements of another. When Faust sent John and Zed to take down a demon named Calibraxis it came across as really extraneous to the plot and seems to only exist to shoehorn in an action sequence to an episode that didn’t really need one. Given that the resolution of this subplot added nothing to the story it could have completely been done without.
A really strong episode that gives us plenty of insight into Chas’ past as well as aspects of his personality we haven’t previously seen.
I found it interesting to see a flashback that explains how and why Chas has his resurrection powers as well as his underlying motivation for using them to help people. It’s great for adding extra dimensions to his characterisation and gives the actor plenty of opportunities to bring a depth and vulnerability to the character that we’ve not seen before.
The story is nicely told with Chas’ daughter anchoring the story to give it the emotional weight it needs. The introduction of Felix Faust gives Hellblazer fans more comic book lore to chew on as well.
One part of the story where John and Zed hunt a demon at Faust’s request feels completely extraneous with no real impact on the plot. It seems so out of place that it should have just been cut.
With only 3 episodes left Constantine definitely feels like it is building to something, it’s just a shame that the chances of renewal aren’t looking strong at this point.