Warning: Spoiler Alert
If you’ve ever seen the 2005 film “Constantine,” starring Keanu Reeves, about a man who could see demons and other assorted creatures not visible to most mortals, you’d be best to throw any expectations aside. The upcoming NBC series “Constantine” bears very little resemblance to the cult-movie including the title character. The network’s focusing on the connection instead, between the series and the DC comic “Hellblazer.” (a comic I’ve never read.) Welsh actor Matt Ryan plays John Constantine, who carries business cards describing him as an exorcist and master of the dark arts. We first meet John while receiving electro-shock therapy, at the “Ravenscar Psychiatric Facility for The Mentally Deranged,” which he checked himself into voluntarily.
Jason Jones’ will recap the season premiere episode when it airs in late October, so I don’t want to give away too much in this series preview. However, there are certain pieces of knowledge you should know heading into this series, chief among them that this John Constantine, was not born bearing special abilities. He also never got to know his mother, who died giving birth to him, a fact that his father resented and told his son on a daily basis. He even had a special nickname for his child, whom he addressed as “Killer,” throughout his childhood. Constantine, mourning his mother became obsessed with the occult, hoping to contact his mother. Although he learned spells and bits of sorcery, he’s failed to connect with his mother.
John, checked himself into Ravenscar, after an exorcism he tried to perform went bad and he couldn’t deal with the emotional consequences. Hence the shock-therapy, which he uses desperately trying to erase the memories to no avail. Constantine wants the world to go away, but he fears death as he damned his own soul to Hell in the botched exorcism. Which is why he’s at Ravenscar, to forget and get away from society as well, but John soon finds reason to resume his old life.
Following a trail of cockroaches in the hospital, he follows them to a young female patient possessed by a demon and writing in blood on the walls of her room with the bugs swarming all over her work. Constantine’s able to expel the demon from the woman, then sees the demon left him a message, “LIV DI.” He realizes a promise he made to an old friend’s being called in now and he checks himself out of the hospital and heads to Atlanta. There lives the daughter of his friend Jasper Winters, who actually was a “Seer,” able to see the demons and other creatures that hid from most humans, while holding an amulet. Winters died the year before with his daughter Liv Aberdeen (Lucy Griffiths) never meeting him, being told by her mother he died before she was born.
Once Liv possesses the amulet, she’s able to see exactly what her father could, scaring and exciting her. Constantine tells her that she’s being hunted by demons and the rest of the pilot’s based on getting the demon, before the demon got Liv.
I’ve never seen Matt Ryan previously, although he’s got a lengthy resume, but I liked his performance in the pilot. There’s a bit of a con-man in his makeup and though he tries pretending he’s got everything under control, his eyes give him away. Lucy Griffiths does a good job as Liv, starting out the episode an unfulfilled college-graduate, working as rental car agent. By the end of the pilot, she’s attempting to recruit Constantine, to travel the country with her, trying to rid the world of demons.
John’s “oldest mate” Chas Chandler, (Charles Halford) comes across as a man of action and few words, with extraordinary healing abilities. Tilda Swinton’s sexually ambiguous Angel Gabriel’s, not in the TV series. Instead we meet an Angel who calls himself Manny (Harold Perrineau) a Black man with gold eyes, who tells Constantine that he’s watching over him and could save his soul. Perrineau, who played castaway Michael on “Lost,” gets reunited with Jeremy Davies, who played scientist Daniel Faraday on the series. Davies plays Richie Simpson, another expert on the occult who was with John at the exorcism that went awry and has to get convinced to work with Constantine again.
This is the season for comic-book based series, as fellow DC stars will appear in “Gotham” and CW will premiere the “Flash,” in October. NBC will pair their new series with veteran series Grimm on Friday nights. The network hopes to get better results than they did last season with freshman series “Dracula,” that had trouble getting out of the gate.
Constantine Premiers Friday October 24, at 10:00pm on NBC.