Warning: Spoiler Alert
I normally don’t begin this cynical, but tonight’s episode will impact greatly the long-term success of Constantine as a television series. If you saw last week’s tease, you know that we are anticipating the introduction of Papa Midnite. I don’t want to oversell it, but this is critical. Papa Midnite is the type of character people will tune in for, if he’s done right. Djimon Hounsou is big shoes to fill. If this is done wrong, not getting picked up for a second season could be a best case scenario. With that said, the show has made strides. Last week’s episode on some level renewed my faith in the show. So, here’s to hoping that trend continues.
Well, here’s a disgusting way to open. Not a negative, just pointing out a real-time reaction. Joelle Carter (who plays Ava Crowder on the hit show Justified) hesitantly walks through a door adorned with dead mice. Then sees a collection hanging large animals still dripping blood. A far cry from the cattle scene in Rocky. As she continues, more carcasses are strewn about some still twitching. She eventually reaches a wall. She exhales and expels a cloud of breath, usually an indication of a demonic presence. Then we see the sigil spray painted on the wall. She removes a brick from the wall and pulls out a large book that reads “Holy Bible” and a record within the book.
In a recording studio, she turns the record over to a man with an accent. She stresses that she’s only interested in the ‘spectral analysis’ and not to listen to what the record plays. He cannot help himself. At first the audio sounds just like the blues. Then the audio changes and the headphones freeze over. By the way, the headphones plug into a 1/4″ jack on the mixing board. It should be easy to find. Unplug it genius. He eventually rips off the headphones. His ears are burned off or something. He grabs a screwdriver and jams it in his right ear.
So far so good. They are really stepping up the texture of the show (one of my biggest issues thus far). Chas welcomes Zed (I’m being extremely sarcastic) and they enter the house. Where John is chanting something awful and covered in blood. He’s practicing a new spell. Zed comments that the house looks bigger on the inside. Chas responds with, “that’s because it is”. We have a Tardis situation.
Zed: That doesn’t make any sense…
Chas: If you’re looking for sense, you’re stepping down the wrong rabbit hole.
Side note: I hate to be a stickler for this, but they need to at the very least give us some sort of hint as to what Chas is. You can’t watch him die, then 90 seconds later have him walk in the room as if nothing happened and never explain it. If it’s a slow build story line, that is perfectly alright. But they need to give us something, and relatively soon.
John reluctantly agrees to take Zed with him to Chicago to investigate one of his many Stigmata events indicated by the map. This one is in Chicago and deals with the Producer who stabbed himself in the ear. Once inside the morgue, John uses the Hand of Glory (looks like a rotting hand whose fingertips act as candles. Then one could communicate with the dead as long as the candles are lit). Eventually, the man in question wakes abruptly. As do all of the other cadavers in the morgue. The trick didn’t render the desired results. Gibberish to John for all he knows.
The woman from the opening scene takes the record, wrapped and covered and slides it into a spot on her large record bookcase alongside many other records. Moments later her young daughter noticed something odd. The bookcase was beginning to freeze over.
Zed introduces John to Google and we find them paying a visit to the owner of the once Moonrise Recording Studio. In short order he begins to spill the beans on why that particular record should never be listened to. As it turns out the Blues singer on the record had sold his soul to the devil. Then as he was recording, the voice of evil was recorded onto the acetate. The walls began to bleed and the black substance engulfed the singer and exploded him. Then our Studio manager picks up the record and could clearly hear voices telling him to do horrible things.
The story continues and Zed comforts and thanks the man for helping. Then he in that moment, believes it’s his time to go because he can see an angel. It’s Manny. Time freezes and only Manny and John can move about. It ends there but in the truck ride back, Zed inquires about the name the old man said that John recognized. Yet another musician who sold his soul for success. John gives a very lovely explanation for why soul’s are so valuable to the devil. Then we find the little girl (Joelle Carter’s daughter in this episode) pull out the record in question and talk to it.
As it turns out, Joelle Carter’s character sold her soul to a soul broker to save her husband who was dying of cancer. She was offered a counter deal. If she could deliver the acetate, she could trade that for her soul again. The drop is supposed to happen tonight. John goes in her place and finds a soul broker lackey. Then while he interrogated the soul broker, there is a sinister laugh in the distance. Prepare to fanboy/fangirl out.
It’s Papa Midnite. And he has an accent. He is the one behind the pursuit of the acetate. One thing seems abundantly clear right now. Forget any notion of this Papa Midnite being anywhere near that of the movie. This Papa Midnite is clearly not neutral. One of Midnite’s goons knocks out John. Then John is awakened while strapped to a metal surface. Midnite injects him with an anti-coagulant. Probably to bleed him out slowly. The idea is to treat John like a human hour-glass.
Side note. This Papa Midnite is deliciously ruthless. It seems as if the approach was that they could not replicate Djimon Hounsou, so let’s not even try. Go in a completely different direction (again leaning heavily toward the Hellblazer side of things) and hope it is intriguing enough. For me, I love it. They had to do Papa Midnite correctly. I just wasn’t completely sure what ‘correctly’ necessarily meant. This may just be what I was looking for.
While Midnite’s goons are out securing the acetate, Manny appears as a homeless man. It would be nice if he’d just cut John loose. But that would be very un-Manny like. He claims they have the situation under control. Which would leave John expendable. Zed shows up in the nick of time to get rid of the homeless man (no longer as Manny).
With John on the mend, they still need to find the acetate. Hopefully before Manny’s guys do but definitely before Midnite. Instead of heading the warning of the severity of contact with this recording, Midnite’s goons got more than curious. Compelled even. And they took it and played it at a club. Where one must infer a massacre ensued.
Chas shows up at the behest of Zed. Early in the show John asked Chas to look into Zed’s past as he is not entirely clear of her motivation to help or harm. Zed finds a bus boy who was miraculously unscathed. As it turns out, despite John’s horrible skills of deduction, that the bus boy is deaf. As John gives his tale of woe for what is to come next, Zed starts tugging on Chas’ arm. She sees a giant white tiger as clear as day behind the bus boy in the ambulance. Yet no one else sees it. Chas in turn sees a leaflet promoting a local college radio station. Next stop, the college radio station.
Chas hands John an mp3 player with headphones. John turns it on and asks Johnny to give him ‘some juice’. The song playing is Anarchy in the UK by the Sex Pistols. It plays while John runs determinedly into the building. Chas tries to break into the exterior structure that presumably holds the station’s transformer. When that doesn’t work, he drives a car into it. Luckily, taking the station off the air temporarily.
Just then, Papa Midnite walks in the studio donned in his normal eclectic attire accessorized nicely with purple earplugs. Midnite blasts the house speakers with a nice old shotgun that he takes time to give the back story of. Then the goons open the door to the control room, guns pointed at Midnite repeating ‘it must be played’. While the door is open and the three men standing are in a Quentin Tarantino like standoff, John starts an incantation. The incantation was to dispose of the recording in the only effective way possible. To send it back to hell. Which was exactly what Manny was concerned John would be incapable of doing. Seemed rather effortless actually. The result of which from inside the room looks anything but effortless.
John, Chas and Zed return to rock star’s home with the soul broker in tow. John can convince the soul broker to give back what his wife paid. Her soul. However, the catch is that if payment is returned so must the service. She gets to live, but his cancer will return. Naturally, she won’t allow this. He was diagnosed 20 years ago, so they play the ‘advances in modern medicine’ bit. Fun little detail. For a soul broker to break the contract, he literally has to eat the contract. What’s funnier still is that the soul broker is played by that familiar character actor who I first saw in a peanut butter commercial as an Aaron Burr enthusiast who is about to win a radio contest but can’t be understood because…wait for it…his mouth is full of peanut butter.
As we see the wind down (a term I literally just made up) we see Zed, dressed for bed. She removes a cross from around her neck looking very suspicious. If she’s Gabriel possessing the human form, I’m going to be at least slightly upset. Then following that we see Papa Midnite construct a Voodoo Doll that roughly resembles John Constantine.
. . .
Behind the scenes here at NJATVS I have been increasingly critical of this show. I had extremely high hopes for this show. While I enjoy a great many details, I had become concerned that pulling almost exclusively from the Hellblazer series would be a mistake on some level. I was almost incendiary towards the lack of imagination given toward the visual aspect of the show. I am happy to report, that while there is still room to grow, tonight’s episode went a long way to establishing itself as a series to stay with.
I hope that NBC gives it time to develop. Networks love to try this comic, super hero, science fiction shows, but rarely give them the opportunity to develop. The worst thing for shows like this are ratings. Ratings are misleading. I have experienced and embraced three of the top 50 shows of all time (in my opinion) for the first time long after they had concluded their run. We as modern television viewers rarely watch anything live. And in no way are the ratings an accurate measuring stick for what is good and what is not.
Constantine started out slow and has begun to build. We have built up enough ‘speed’ on the details that I’m confident this show (if it continues on its current path) will not only be worth the full season, but should get picked up. They stuck it in a terrible time slot, but the show is worth watching. I didn’t feel that way three weeks ago. I am looking forward to the next episode. Even though NBC did not air a teaser at the end of this episode.