Another week, another round of “Constantine” as we enter the home stretch on the last few episodes of this season. While episode nine’s return after the midseason break was a little disappointing to me personally as it jettisoned a lot of promising subplots to focus on a main plot that didn’t really do all that much, last week’s episode was leagues better. It used an interesting main story featuring Felix Faust as the framing that allowed the show to explore Chas’ character.
This week, I’m afraid to say, doesn’t live up to the hype of last week’s episode. Let’s dig in and find out why. Be warned, there may be some spoilers after this point.
1. PSA To All Teenagers Out There: Stop Messing With Occult Books
Seriously, it never ends well.
The one compliment I can definitely give this episode is that it brings back the great cold opens from the beginning of this season. Dealing with a group of four teenagers using a journal to transcend reality who then find themselves in a mysterious house and are spooked back to reality by a man they find there, it definitely builds intrigue and mystery with a heaping of creepiness to boot. It actually brought me into the episode a lot mostly because I thought they were referencing “House Of Mystery” which would have been awesome, but sadly isn’t true. Still, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the cold open is one of the better aspects of this episode.
2. Jacob Who?
Normally, I tend to google pretty much any name mentioned in a comic book TV show that I don’t immediately recognise just in case it’s a reference to something I haven’t read. That journal I was just talking about? Turns out it belonged to Jacob Shaw, who is the man the kids found in the house and ostensibly the villain of this episode. I have no idea who the hell Jacob Shaw is. Unless I’m missing something, it seems like he’s an invention for the show, which would actually be cool as he isn’t the worst idea the show has had… except we’re three episodes from the finale.
This is a complaint I’m not just pinning on Shaw, who is a rather weaksauce villain who has maybe a couple good moments in the episode, but at the episode as a whole: it’s complete filler. The only important aspect of the episode is in how it brings back Ritchie Simpson from the pilot (which I’ll get to in a sec), but in terms of the overall story, it goes nowhere. Hell, the first and last shots of the episode have John in the exact same position doing the exact same thing. This is the kind of episode that show have been near the end of the first half of this season, not this half. Especially not after last week’s episode.
3. Heh. Singularity. That’s Funny.
As I said, the only real noticeable aspect of this episode is the return of Ritchie Simpson as played by Jeremy Davis, who has not been seen since the pilot. The sad thing is that Davis is still great in the role and this episode not only opens him up to some banter between Ritchie and Constantine, but shows how broken the character has been since Newcastle and how reluctant he is to get roped into Constantine’s world again. The problem is that this is all framed by a really simple, almost Columbo-esque murder mystery in which the killer is literally named in the opening scene and it’s not until halfway through the episode that Ritchie and John even realise it.
This episode makes me really wish that this episode had been slotted just after “A Feast Of Friends” as it mainly deals with Constantine reuniting with Ritchie in order to absolve himself over the guilt of Gary Lester’s death. Remember how I said the episode opened and closed with John doing the same thing? Yeah, it was John staring at Gary in that mirror in the mill house that showed the past. This episode would have been so much more effective if it had been the episode after “A Feast Of Friends”, not seven episodes after.Continued below
4. What Is This, Goosebumps?
This is the other reason I was very disappointed in this episode: the story and directing was simply not up to par. Especially after the last two episodes showcased the series’ ability to use the main story as a way of delving into the humanity of the characters involved, this episode felt very different. My initial thought was that it was like John Constantine had walked onto a set of a Goosebumps episode and while the episode is a lot more grisly than any of those were, the level of storytelling and the story’s handling of the horror elements was pretty much on par with that show. The whole affair felt lazy and cliché with a bunch of kids messing around with the occult and then being hunted down and killed for it. After the first death happened, it was just so easy to guess everything that was going to happen after that. The episode never once tried to do anything different or surprising and this late in the game for the season, that’s simply unacceptable.
5. The Mysterious Case Of The Disappearing Supporting Cast
It’s an odd feeling to wonder if a show bit off more than it could chew in terms of supporting cast when it seriously only has a main cast of four characters. This is another episode where Zed and Chas are suspiciously absent, which wouldn’t be surprising at this point if it weren’t for the fact that they seemed to be swapped out only for Harold Perrineau’s Manny to show up and be cryptic. Actually, he doesn’t really do a whole lot except show up in the opening scene to remind Constantine that he has an episode to be in and then show up twice more to not help in any way. I know he’s an angel, but come on.
It’s a hard sell on a show when seemingly every episode brings in a new element to frustrate me. I want to like this show. It’s not even that bad of a show. But when it can barely handle it’s own cast, I have to wonder if “Hellblazer” just doesn’t work on TV. At least, not in this format.