Well, as some of you may have seen, this column just got a ticking clock in terms of longevity. As reported earlier in the week, NBC have officially stopped production on Constantine‘s first season meaning the initial 13 episode order will be all we get of season one. This doesn’t rule out a season two, mind you, so if you’re enjoying the show (and I’m rather loathe to admit that I am at this point), then I’d suggest you make sure to tune in each week and maybe even tweet your support or however you cool kids save TV shows nowadays.
Now, onto more present matters. After a couple of episodes that were rather arc-heavy, focusing on either the Newcastle Incident (‘A Feast Of Friends’) or this whole Rising Darkness thing they have going on (‘Danse Vaudou’), the show took a breather this week for a nice self-contained story of possession, creepy kids and Scrubs voiceovers. More on that later.
So, without further ado, let’s dive right into our five thoughts on Constantine‘s ‘Rage Of Caliban’.
1. The Omen-Oween-Orcist
So, this episode was pretty okay. Gonna get that one out of the way first. I liked it well enough for basically a self-contained episode with very little ties to the overall arc of the season (I hate to use the word filler, but…) and it had some nice moments. Wasn’t the best so far, wasn’t the worst. But one thing that really struck me was how often this episode would remind me of something that, honestly, I’d probably rather be watching. This episode’s main gist, without spoiling too much, focuses on a possessed kid and the race against time to save their parents before the kid murders them. However, at each turn, I found myself seeing the seams where it seemed to cobbled together from other horror films.
The premise itself is very reminiscent of pretty much ever possession film made since the release of Paranormal Activity as well as owing a lot to The Exorcist, especially in terms of Constantine’s role in the latter half of the episode. The acting on the part of Max Charles (who played young Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel) owes so much to The Omen, it’s unbelievable. And then the third act of the episode turned into Halloween because… why not? At every turn the episode morphed into an homage to another horror movie that it never really felt like it had an identity of it’s own.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it, just that it was something that bugged me throughout,
2. Speaking Of Lack Of Identity
You might remember my complaints with ‘The Devil’s Vinyl’ and it’s weird, out of place nods (at least, I’m hoping that’s what they were) to Doctor Who. Well, another instance of something similar keeps cropping up in Constantine and I’m not sure how I feel about it: the Scrubs/Grey’s Anatomy ending montage and voice over. This episode was probably its most pronounced, at least for me to really notice it, but it’s still something that feels off to me. I keep waiting for this show to really settle into its own skin and I really thought ‘A Feast Of Friends’ was that moment, but each episode they keep pulling another trick that seems lifted from the grab bag of TV clichés. Maybe this is why they halted production…
3. Hey, Where The Hell Did Zed Go?
I don’t understand how the supporting cast works in this show. Sometimes both Chas and Zed show up in the episode, but not for very long and the focus is on Constantine himself. Sometimes all three are the focus. Sometimes only Zed shows up and the show just hand waves Chas’ disappearance. Then, like in this episode, only Chas shows up and Zed’s absence isn’t quite explained. Meanwhile, Harold Perrineau’s Manny walks in and out of episodes at will as his want to do as an angel and I don’t think we’ve seen Jermey Davies’ Ritchie since the first episode. Look, I get that it’s Constantine’s show, but having a consistent supporting cast allows him to not only develop as a character as we see him interact with them, but we get characters other than Constantine we can be invested in without spending most of the the episode going “I wish that character were here.”Continued below
For a show I enjoy, Constantine keeps bugging the hell out of me with really odd choices.
4. John Constantine, Womaniser
This is, I guess, the weekly point where I talk about how much I still like Matt Ryan’s portrayal of John Constantine and how there are many more layers to his acting than exists in the actual writing. But there was a moment in this episode that really got to me. Daniel Cerrone, the executive producer of the show and writer of this episode, has said in the past that there are “no immediate plans” to explore the idea of Constantine’s bisexuality as it existed in “Hellblazer”. As a bisexual person myself, that annoyed me, sure, as being continually told you don’t exist or you only exist as the butt of a joke by the TV you watch (which is pretty much all TV) kind of sucks, but I thought whatever. It’s just a TV show. And then in this episode we’re introduced to John Constantine as he wakes up in a strange woman’s bed, having slept with her, barely remembering he name and then having to climb out the window half naked as her boyfriend has just shown up.
Funny that, isn’t it, how there are no immediate plans to show John as bisexual, but there are plenty of immediate plans to show him sleeping with random women?
5. Something Positive For Once
Okay, so I’ve been rather down on the show so far this episode, but can you blame me? While the show isn’t bad (at least not offensively so), it keeps making odd and awkward and annoying decisions at every creative turn to become incredibly frustrating to me. But this episode did one thing absolutely right. It brought back Neil Marshall, director of the show’s first episode. He also directed a favourite film of mine, The Descent, and his skills as a director really shine through in this episode more than the pilot. Here, instead of having to cram so much into the episode in order to please enough to people to get a season ordered, Marshal could have some fun in creating, essentially, a mini horror film. There are some effectively scary and creepy moments dotted throughout this episode as well as some cheap jumpscares, but overall, bringing Marshall back to direct this episode really brought up the quality of the episode and brought some flair back to the show. A wise choice if this ever did make one.