On the D/L – Constantine
Season 1 Episode 2 – “The Darkness Beneath”
John Constantine heads to a mining town to investigate the supernatural themed death of a miner and meets the mysterious Zed (Angélica Celaya).
There’s something about this episode that makes it feel like an “average Constantine episode” while also being a story that would easily have fit into early seasons of Supernatural (yes, I will continue to make this comparison). The formula is very familiar – the audience sees an event that is up Constantine’s alley, he learns about it and goes to investigate it before finally solving it. It’s a proven formula so there’s nothing against using it but it does result in what will become an average episode.
Of course this formula merely gives us a way to see John Constantine do what he does best and allows us to spend another 42 minutes with him. Constantine’s characterisation elevates the material above average and the subplot involving the introduction of Zed compliments the story nicely.
Matt Ryan is on top form again as John Constantine. His quick wit and impatient attitude getting him to solutions quickly and means that nobody will really care if he sticks around. Every scene that involves Constantine is great and packed with witty dialogue on his part. There are a few subtle allusions to his smoking habit which I find a little baffling considering this is a show where we see someone roasted alive in a shower but they can’t show a guy smoking. Still it’s nice that they are working within their constraints and keeping that aspect of the character.
I find Zed really interesting so far. She’s a great foil for Constantine and they bounce nicely off each other. There’s an instant attraction between them but the show is self aware enough not to make a big deal out of it and directly addresses it in an admittedly funny way. There’s plenty of mystery around her such as the unrevealed reason why she draws Constantine all of the time and has to seek him out. Her psychic abilities should become useful throughout the show and help take the show to interesting places.
She has an immediate advantage over Liv by being in the know about the world John Constantine inhabits so there’s none of the consistent questioning of what things mean or why things happen which just lets the story tell itself. We did get the basic rules last week but this week Constantine just says or does things and it’s meant to be accepted that he knows what he’s talking about rather than having to explicitly explain it all the time.
I like how the show doesn’t make a big deal out of their meeting, they simply bump into one another casually and then spend the rest of the episode with Constantine trying to get rid of her. Their meeting becomes something of a microcosm of John Constantine’s character. On the whole he doesn’t really have a grand plan and is moving from place to place solving problems in the hope of stumbling across something big. There’s no real indication of his tortured past here which could mean that he’s concealing it under his “in your face” attitude or he’s simply a guy who just gets on with it no matter how bad things appear to get.
As I suggested above the story and mystery was a little by the numbers and there weren’t really any surprises in there but it was never boring at any point and the mining town was an interesting setting to explore. Minor characters weren’t used all that often which kept the focus on Constantine and Jed throughout. The downside to this was that it was fairly easy to figure out who was behind the attacks but the resolution was actually pretty clever and made a lot of dramatic sense. Hats off to the effects people on this one as well, some really impressive stuff going on there.
A solid episode of this new show but not an overly remarkable one. I get the sense that this will become some kind of standard formula for the series at least for the first season. The story wasn’t overly inspiring and had little in the way of surprises but it was well told and ticked over nicely.
Part of the episode’s purpose was to introduce replacement sidekick Zed (Angélica Celaya) who was very strong psychic abilities and a mysterious connection to John Constantine. She’s a good character so far and a great foil for Matt Ryan’s Constantine. Her abilities are used in interesting ways as well so I am interested to see how she affects the show.
The episode loses points for the story being fairly standard fare but can’t fault the characterisation of John Constantine so far. Matt Ryan excels at this role and delivers some top notch snappy dialogue with a constant sense of irony. I find his impatient attitude constantly entertaining and I like his approach to solving the mystery of the week.