On the D/L – Constantine
Season 1 Episode 6 – “Rage of Caliban”
Before I begin I’d like to announce that I’m now a regular on a podcast. I will be appearing periodically on the podcast on http://scifipulse.net/ as well as writing a regular column on there. My first instance of that will be in the near future but for now my first contribution can be heard here. Please do have a listen and laugh at the sound of my voice as well as supporting this awesome site.
A Halloween themed episode just in time for Thanksgiving to give us a creepy The Omen or The Exorcist vibe with a demonic child causing problems for those around him. In terms of the story there were no real surprises here with every plot point being pretty predictable. It wasn’t badly done by any means but a little more effort might have made the story a little more compelling.
A lot of the predictability comes down to the absence of Zed from the story. Apparently she’s at some kind of non refundable art class which has got to be one of the flimsiest excuses I’ve ever heard for a character being missing. Everything I know about Zed so far tells me that she wouldn’t hold attending an art class over saving lives. It’s something that Constantine and Chas should have called her about and have her come running. It might have been that she turns up a bit later so they have to get along without her for a while. I wonder if the writers feel like they’re leaning on Zed a little too heavily so have to remove her from certain stories otherwise everything will be resolved a little quickly.
If Zed had been there I can see how her abilities might have wrapped things up really quickly. For one thing she would have known the identity of the spirit almost right away but it might have been interesting to see her compassionate approach when dealing with the parents for instance.
Despite the predictable nature of the story I had a lot of fun with this episode. Matt Ryan delivers the goods as John Constantine as expected and more of an insight into his past is given through his interactions with Manny. In previous episodes I’ve felt like Manny’s presence has been more or less killing time but here he fed into the emotional core of the story. I like that his appearances seem to be a slight bending of the rules on his part. There seems to be some cosmic and/or mystical force that prevents him from physically interfering in events but he makes it clear that he can offer guidance, vague guidance but guidance nonetheless. It was interesting how Manny admits to Constantine that he’s been around for his entire life which includes when his father abused him as a young boy. This conversation is also important in giving John the clue he needs to figure out the identity of the spirit. His abused childhood provides a direct link to the abused childhood of the spirit.
Another thing I like about John Constantine is that his tragic past isn’t all that makes up his character. He is mostly abrasive in his dealings with others and his introduction in this episode showed a really fun side to him. Seeing him sneak out of the window of a woman he spent the night with as her boyfriend shows up was a lot of fun. There’s a hint that he’s not the least bit prudish when he offers to make breakfast for 3 when he learns that she has a boyfriend. One thing that can always be counted on is that Matt Ryan will give us a nicely layered performance.
Chas is along for the ride here and his presence actually feels a little awkward on the whole. He takes the role of Constantine explaining what he’s up to and what things do but it all seems like stuff Chas should know about already. There were some really good moments involving the character like him being honest when holding the enchanted sword that makes the truth come out. He mentions things about people who have been around and left in the past which isn’t anything new but it was a good way to have it reinforced. I would like to see this show play up the loss angle a lot more given that it’s supposed to be a cornerstone of John Constantine’s character.
One real problem is that John Constantine manages to solve every case so far -with the exception of “A Feast of Friends”– a little too neatly. One thing I’m really looking for from this show is to see him fail quite spectacularly as it would really drive home how big a deal this Rising Darkness” is. Up until now we’ve heard it mentioned with some fear behind the words and had constant references to the rules having changed but for now John’s methods seem to be working and he’s had no real trouble dealing with the threats that have come his way. A failure to teach him humility would go a long way towards increasing the stakes.
There were some great visual touches in this episode like John Constantine confronting the demon in a haunted house arena. The cheesy recorded noises and the things jumping out at him reminded me a little of The Guest which had a similar climax. Matt Ryan played the impatience and frustration perfectly. I got a kick out of him punching the monster statue when he’d just had enough
Rage of Caliban
A solid if predictable episode of Constantine that held no surprises in terms of plot development but told the story really well. A memorable visual climax to the story also helped make it entertaining.
Matt Ryan always manages to bring many layers to his performance as John Constantine. He embodies this character so perfectly that each episode is entertaining purely because of him.
The absence of Zed from the episode was definitely missed and the excuse given was really flimsy. It might have been more effective had she turned up halfway through the story. It was good to See John and Chas flying solo but her presence would have been an asset to the story.
Manny was used to the best effect in this episode giving more context to his relationship with John and making his role in events a lot clearer in general.
Chas’ presence was fairly forgettable and him asking John how things worked did feel out of place for his character but he did enrich the back story a little by mentioning the names of people who were gone.
One thing letting the show down a lot is how neatly things are generally solved. All of the mention of the Rising Darkness is something that suggests the failure rate should be a little higher.