Warning: Spoiler Alert
This week we begin with customs issue. A sickly looking man named Gary Lester is trying to sneak in a very odd-looking bottle. He implores the airline security guy to not touch it. That security guy rips back Gary’s sleeve to reveal four strange holes in his arm. Then picks of the bottle convulses and drops it. It breaks immediately and an impossible amount of locusts (or some such larger insect) keep coming out. They fly around and eventually into the security guard’s mouth.
John and Zed sit in a park. Zed is mesmerized by the euphoric ‘high’ like sensation (she claims she’s never dabbled in) that comes from her psychic abilities reaction to the events in the park. She then see coins falling. Then Manny freezes time. Manny says little and gives up little. However, he does reference a previous time when a Constantine companion did not end well.
Back at the house, John intends to continue Zed’s training when he notices a break in. The intruder is Gary. He tells a story about his intention for atonement for ‘New Castle’. He found a man in Sudan who was clearly possessed. He was compelled to exorcise this demon. And he did. That was what was in the strange bottle at airport customs.
It seems pretty clear that this demon is using each new host for sustenance, then departs. The security guard gorged himself by grabbing handfuls of other people’s food. It was grabbing the fries directly out of the deep fryer that seemed to do him in. Now it was an unsuspecting woman just trying to wash her hands in the rest room. Now she’s doing the same, but in a grocery store. Any further description of her experience is a little too gross to share.
John leaves Gary with Zed. She tries to get Gary to open up. He begins to tell the story of Astra, the girl John lost to a demonic possession and feels responsible for. It’s a story they’ve hinted at numerous times. Then Gary hunches over and Zed touches his hand. Not smart. Now Zed is thrust into a spirit walk that allows her to feel what it was like for Gary to become the junkie he has become. I think we consider that she’s dabbled now.
Side note. I am not vain or arrogant enough to believe that the lovely people at NBC are monitoring our work here at NJATVS. I’d be flattered, but not holding my breath. However, it’s curious that this show took a dramatic 180 on the imagery and the look, the texture of the show between episode two and three. Two was the spirit of the dead miners episode and three was Papa Midnite. Our first recap of this show was not a recap at all. It was a sharing of ideas. Concepts that felt underdone, overdone, out-of-place or missing. The imagery being the strongest theme of that piece. In the second episode we commended them for making a course correction and improving. Episode three was a make or break episode. And it was everything I hoped it’d be. And now it is starting to feel like the people working on Constantine have hit their stride, visually. Four weeks ago I was concerned for the long-term success of this show. Now, I genuinely look forward to it. This meat factory scene is a great example. Imagery matters. I’m glad they were able to figure that out sooner rather than later.
The meat factory scene is graphic to say the least. However, to sell this story in its entirety, it needs to be graphic. The makeup, the blood, is all essential to creating the realistic and not cartoonish texture required for this story. But its the mannerisms, the behavior of the possessed that really adds a sell-able quality to this show. John does get the ‘entity’ to vacate the host, however his sign of Solomon etched glass bottle did not work. If memory serves, this is the first time we’ve seen John Constantine do a proper exorcism since the pilot. Spells are one thing, but an exorcism is supposed to require more skill. The demon in swarms of beetles form is trapped in a meat locker. For now.
John takes a second swing after getting some pictures from Zed. Inspired by Gary’s subconscious. He meets up with a man named Nomann who is played by Charles Parnell. You might remember Charles Parnell from our coverage of The Last Ship where he played CMC Jeter. His plan is to take a significant hallucinogen so John can see things through Nomann’s eyes. The visuals employed in this scene alone is a firm affirmation that they show runners understand what this show needs to look like. Granted, not all of it needs to look like John Constantine invaded Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but the lighting and texture is spot on.
During the drug induced travel, Nomann takes us through the genesis. How the demon moved. And how it ended up trapped in the meat suit that Gary eventually exorcised. The body that held the demon was essentially a living breathing demonic trap. An African Shaman cut sigils into the flesh of that man. The demon was attracted then trapped. Gary released it.
Gary escapes Zed’s supervision by touching her again. Experiencing his pain, addiction, and remorse almost renders her catatonic. The demon has also escaped the meat factory. John finds Gary getting pummeled by some local heroin dealers under a bridge. The next scene has both John and Gary sitting at a bar. Therein, we get one little piece of the New Castle story. The season, if not series long arc seems to revolve around New Castle and Astra. Consider the Usual Suspects angle. It feels like we will spend at least the first season putting together the puzzle from all of the perspectives of everyone involved.
John needs the knife Nomann spoke of. Now that he’s convinced Gary that he will have a role in taking down this demon, he convinces to Gary to steal the knife from a museum. As John flings the velvet rope post at the building, Manny arrives freezing the post in mid-flight. Insert Manny’s cryptic message of the episode.
Manny: You sure you really want to go through with this?
John: It’s just a bit of glass, it’s easy to replace.
Manny: That’s not what I’m talking about. And you know it.
(John’s demeanor gradually changes from snarky to resolute)
John: I can do this.
The theft works. Including a lovely dancing spell that has the security guard of the museum compelled to dance as long as the music plays. The music in this instance is the alarm. They follow the news reports to a theater. There they get on the stage of the theater and John explains the minor little detail of a human sacrifice. No container can hold it. Only a human vessel. It takes a while but Gary gets it. Surprisingly Gary is alright with this. There’s a slight bit of hostility in the first few seconds, but after that the glory in redemption is almost welcomed by Gary.
Gary: No better way to go out. A mage, like John Constantine.
The real irony is found with John. This was not a plan to sacrifice an old friend because that friend grew into a waste of space. This was done in order give his friend a chance at redemption. And if we consider the whole ‘self sacrifice’ aspect, maybe even salvation for Gary. John is not borderline emotional. He is emotional. This one seems to be equal parts self-hatred for what he’s about to do to his friend and pride in the choice of his friend.
When they return home, Zed meets them outside. She is very disapproving of John’s move. She see it as manipulation on his part. She cannot see the benevolence displayed by a junkie and betrayer attempting to remove his pain and guilt in one benevolent act. John reminds her that she was warned about people dying around him. If she can’t accept that then she should go.
They take Gary into a secure room. The next minute and change is watching Gary convulse in an unrelenting agony while John sits next to him holding his hand and looking straight ahead. Then without the freezing of time we see Manny arrive and stand across from John. There is reverence behind his eyes. The same angel that has questioned John’s worthiness from the start, seems to understand the ‘sacrifice’ required. It’s a very un-Manny moment that makes him more sympathetic.
Make no mistake about it. Tonight’s episode is remarkably pleasing. Moreover, episode four marks a significant step forward. The Devil’s Vinyl (last week’s episode) was critical. This episode takes the success of episode three and builds on it in ways even I didn’t see. We finally got some insight into New Castle and Astra. We now know that John wasn’t alone. We see the humanity in John making him more sympathetic. The direction of the show is starting to take shape, but only a little. Brilliantly, they are giving us just enough to feel like we have an idea of what’s going on. The direction may change, but at least they’ve let us in. Now if they could just tell us what Chas is, I’d feel comfortable with what I do and do not know.