On the D/L – Constantine
Season 1 Episode 9 – “The Saint of Last Resorts Part 2”
Constantine returns after a pretty long break with the conclusion to the cliffhanger that saw John Constantine mortally wounded being shot by Ann Marie to delay a dangerous Invunche.
The most jarring thing about this episode is how little connection it seemed to have to the previous one. Other than the connecting tissue of Zed’s predicament, Anne Marie’s involvement and the cliffhanger the first part is basically a self contained story with little feeding into this episode.
It’s a shame really as the cliffhanger was a really good one. The Invunche was a really nice visual effect and stands apart from anything else encountered on the show prior to that point. To see it resolved and dealt with so quickly and easily was a little disappointing. I expected a larger confrontation than the one we got. Seeing the creature slink off made me wonder what trouble it might cause.
Luckily the focus of the episode went a long way towards making up for it. Having John Constantine possessed by a powerful demon for a whole episode was a great decision and played out really well. I really liked that the episode didn’t play it safe by having John somehow prevented from doing unspeakable things while possessed. He has a lot of blood on his hands as a result of his possession and this will undoubtedly have consequences for John’s already large amount of self loathing.
Matt Ryan does a great job of playing the possessed John Constantine. He put across the internal struggle perfectly with lots of restrained anger just bursting to be released. There was also a strong sense of desperation to his performance as he found himself cut off from the support he needs to exorcise the demon with time very quickly running out. I was impressed that the possessing demon seemed to have a really strong personality despite not having much dialogue. Things like making sure John was arrested to increase the chances of the possession becoming permanent before enough could be pulled together to get rid of it suggest a formidable drive and intelligence.
One thing this episode reinforces is that John Constantine’s strongest asset is his friends. The way the other characters pull together to help him out is really well done. I’m impressed at how they’ve build Zed’s trust in him over a really short time. A few episodes ago she was apprehensive about doing what John said and trusting him to do the right thing but there seems to be a connection here that suggests a close friendship.
John’s relationship with Manny is handled better here than it ever has been. As soon as John invites the demon to possess him Manny is absolutely disgusted in him doing this and claims that he’ll get no help from the Angels or God any more. For Manny this goes far beyond his duty and there’s definitely a personal disappointment for him when he speaks to John. Something tells me that Manny has gotten a little too close to his subject and this is probably against whatever orders he has been given.
I found it interesting that John immediately assumed that he’d get no help from Manny as he lay dying in a sewer but Manny reminded him that he never even asked. I wonder if it would have been different had John asked Manny for help. It seems that Manny is very close to breaking the rules to directly help John. It will be hard to make this different to the same story idea over on Supernatural but it makes a lot of sense given the characterisation. I really liked the subtle hint that Manny helped John overcome the possession at the end.
The prison environment was done really well though the lack of guards in the courtyard was a bit confusing. It seems that a Mexican prison is allowed to descend into some kind of dog-eat-dog anarchy with no interference from anyone. It does seem a little The Shawshank Redemption but so is pretty much every episode of a TV show set in a prison. I liked that visually it was a really distinct setting and it gave the audience some insight into how John behaves in high pressure situations. Naturally his demonic visitor will affect this somewhat but there’s plenty of John’s established personality influencing things.
John and Ann Marie’s relationship gets plenty of focus in this episode. Ann Marie is in denial over her feelings for John. She pretends that she’s done with him but it takes almost no convincing to spring her into action. Her guilt over introducing John to this life in the first place cleverly becomes an important part of the episode when she has to overcome her own emotional hangups to save John and get rid of the demon. I like how their history underpins every one of their conversations and ties into the story at several key points. I wonder if a Newcastle flashback is going to be explored in the upcoming episodes to flesh out this story. I sort of hope not as I like the periodic mentions as well as the underlying mystery surrounding those events.
There were some confusing choices in this episode when it comes to the other characters. Zed’s escape from her captor was so clumsily handled that it felt like her predicament was only added to the previous episode to create a cliffhanger for her. It reminds us that she has had a troubled past and it comes up a lot throughout the episode. It’s clear that there’s a conversation between her and John coming soon where Zed tells her everything.
I was also confused by the inclusion of the Vicente (Walter Daehn) character. Lots of fanfare surrounded him when he was identified as the snake in the garden of Eden who tempted Eve so I was expecting some kind of fight between him and a demon possessed John Constantine but he was dealt with in mere seconds. It was such an anticlimax and the episode would actually have been the same without his inclusion. It does give a little more development to the scale of The Rising Darkness but it wasn’t really necessary to do that here. It might have been forgivable if it had been a way to show how powerful the demon Pazuzu is but almost nothing came of this diversion.
I really liked the scene where the possessed John called out some truths about the other characters in a way that unnerved them but the effectiveness was lessened by the fact that a very similar scene happened in the first episode. It felt a little repetitious here which lessened the impact of the scene.
Constantine comes back from a long break with a strong outing. John’s possession filling up most of the episode was a good choice and was done really well. Matt Ryan conveys the possession perfectly and projects the internal conflict with a sinister edge.
The other characters were used well in a support capacity. Each of them has their own reasons for wanting to help John and the episode kept them at the forefront. In particular the unresolved issues Ann Marie has with her own guilt that she projects onto him play an important part in solving John’s possession problem.
John and Manny’s relationship is really well handled here. There’s an implication that Manny is more willing to help than John assumes. I look forward to seeing how this relationship progresses as there’s lots of implied complexity in there.
The cliffhangers were all resolved in a really clumsy way suggesting that they were put in place with no thought of their resolution. It seems likely that the producers wanted several cliffhangers to hook viewers into coming back after the break which sacrificed the dramatic possibilities of their resolution. It was such a waste of the hideously underused Invunche.
Similarly the addition of the snake that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden was completely underused. It was a really pointless addition that sadly didn’t go anywhere. It had the potential to be a really cool villain but unfortunately didn’t really work.
This show has definitely found more of an identity in the more recent episodes. It does feel like it’s building to something interesting and I just hope it’s not cancelled before it gets the chance.