Constantine: A Child At Play

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Courtesy of NBC

This week we received massively disappointing news that NBC has halted production on Constantine after the 13th episode. What that means is exactly that. They have ‘halted’, with no real indication one way or the other if the show will continue, the show will get cancelled (a horrible idea), or the show will get picked up for a season 2. I would be remiss if I acted like there isn’t at least a reason for concern. Television networks need to understand that when you stick a show with a Friday Night time slot you are putting it in a position to fail. Against all odds. Despite the putrid start. Despite the suicidal time slot. Constantine is gain momentum and viewers. For all of the comic traditionalists or even fans of the movie, this show is quickly forcing itself into the conversation. Is it The Blacklist or Justified? No. However, there is no way on earth that this show should not get picked up for season 2. With that, we brush our selves off and get into “Rage of Caliban”.

Tonight we start off with a middle-aged man levitating inches away from the ceiling of a home. He has clearly been tortured and is begging for mercy. He asks to be let down. The spirit complies. The camera reveals the spirit in question is with a small female child. Seven-ten years old if I had to guess.

At the scene of the crime, John begins to investigate. He is startled exactly the same way I was startled when Manny appeared. They exchange their typical pleasantries. The important part of this scene is the explanation for why Manny is shall I say resistant. When God gave humans free will, the counter balance was that angels could no longer directly affect the decisions of humans. Thus, why Manny never answers any of Constantine’s questions. Manny goes a step further by saying, “would it help if I told you, you were getting warmer?”

Manny clearly knows more than he’s letting on. We all know there is a Darkness rising. But now, thanks to Manny, we know that it is “ancient beyond measure”. That’s an intriguing breadcrumb to hold onto for later.

If you didn’t gather from the opening scene or the promo aired last week, the child in the home has been possessed.

Side note: The possession of the next kid in the story was entirely too long. May seem like nothing but that was 3-5 minutes I’ll never get back.

Constantine meets a woman in a bar. A slightly older woman who is dressed in a manner that begs the question, “just how badly do you want John’s attention?” Apparently, this young girl who killed her parents by way of demonic possession is one of a now long line of similar killings. While John tries to discover the commonality of these kids, the woman provides a lead. One of the first has survived. He would be about 40 and in a mental hospital. It would appear that along with some extreme child abuse he suffered as a kid, this guy has become a vegetable.

Our second kid (the current possession) got up in the middle of the night, unscrewed all the light bulbs in the house and laid them out like mouse traps in a Tom and Jerry sketch. Waited for his Dad to get in position, then sparks flew from the chandelier startling dad enough to jump and land on multiple light bulbs. Shattering them and imbedding shards in his foot. Then the kid simply left. You should know something’s up when your kid goes from shell-shocked at everything to cool as the other side of the pillow overnight. Just saying.

This kid Henry, is meticulous. In almost any story like this involving possession, we are conditioned to see it as a quick thing. Normal->Possessed->Killed->Left. Henry is testing his limits. He has had an opportunity to kill both parents and thus far has refrained to do so. John and Chas track the energy to the appropriate house. The next day, Henry gets shoved by a bully. The bully winds up in the hospital and John saw the whole thing. At home, Henry’s mother is grilling him. He is not pleased.

John attempts to go face to face with the problem. Masquerading as a new school counselor, he enters the home. Plays his part then thrusts a mandrake root in the kid’s face. The kid’s reaction should be all you need to know something’s wrong. In the end the father acts like a disillusioned parent. Then knocks John out. Thus resulting in John dealing with a bloody nose in a holding cell.

The people at NBC need to wake up and realize what they’ve got here. In this jail scene, Manny appears while John believes he’s talking to a drunk who doesn’t hear him anyway. John wants no part of Manny’s presence. John wants the answers, immediate gratification. Something Manny cannot provide. However, Manny can provide guidance. Small course corrections. Take some of the heavy lifting out of it. Then John says something that normally might go left ignored.

John: I made it through my life without any help from you.
Manny: Are you sure about that? How do you know I wasn’t by your side when your father burned you with his cigarette? Or stayed you from suicide when your sister left you with him?
John: That’s enough of that you.
Manny: You didn’t have it easy John. If you want to save a child, just remember what it was like to be one.

Henry’s mother shows up at the jail. She bails him out and they have a conversation. She believes that something is most certainly not right and is willing to do anything to get her son back. The problem that is more clearly demonstrated in the visuals of this scene is that “kids present complications”. As Constantine attempts to convey the idea that this will not be easy, we see his thoughts. Giving a real possibility that this is what happened to Astra.

The last thing John says before the scene transition is, “you said you were a doctor, right?” While Henry draws a horrible picture with poor technique (holding the pencils with his fist, or like he’s dragging a knife) of a person being killed with an ax, his mother comes by to inject him with ‘vitamins’. Something she claims she does all the time. While I’ve paused the show, I can’t stop my brain from repeating, “wait for it…wait for it…). Henry asks then demands that she stop. And for long enough for her to notice his eyes turn and stay black, but just for a moment. There was that whole demonic echo effect added to his voice that should have also been a dead giveaway. Based on her reaction, yeah, she saw (and/or heard) it.

The plan is to perform the exorcism at the residence of the first victim. The catatonic ‘bloke’ from the mental hospital’s residence. I have a theory. Bear with me as I doubt this is dead on. The first victim was a tortured soul in his own home. He is currently catatonic. This demon possesses a child until they are no longer a child and kills the host. Constantine wants to perform a complicated exorcism on the current host in the home of the first victim. Is it even remotely possible that the first victim is not catatonic? He is without his soul. And maybe, just maybe, he isn’t a victim at all. This could present a slight problem. Remember, we are amidst the Darkness Rising. Weird things are bound to start happening. What if they expel the demon spirit and it somehow finds its way back to the original host? Just a thought.

There is way too much jumpy, startling, type of moments in this episode.

The Séance didn’t work. My theory is starting to sound more firm. Chas even suggested that maybe the first victim wasn’t a victim at all. If he just killed his parents and was a bad seed, the spirit would have no attachment to this house. John is trying everything to avoid an exorcism. Clearly the memory of what happened to Astra is clouding his confidence. Claire, the mother, has all but said to do it, damn the odds. And…he’s awake.

Ok, some stuff is pushing the limits of realism. And I have no hesitation in believing that this was NBC’s doing and not that of the show runners. This feels like one of those ‘edits’ that the creator, writer, etc are forced to accept because the network has all the power. A possessed child, a spirit on a 30 year killing spree, and an exorcism that all take place on Halloween night? Come on NBC. Not necessary and if anything it detracts from the desired effect.

Inside the house the father is immediately angered by John’s presence. This time no sugar-coating it. John says what he’s there to do right in the kid’s face. The spirit hates conflict. Conflict is the trigger. While Dad is yelling at Mom, Henry throws a wooden chair with his mind and knocks Dad out. John deflects the child with a cool mirror trick. Then the kid puts on his Halloween mask and runs out of the house. Making him impossible to find quickly. On his way out Chas tries to delay him. Then the kid pancakes him with two parked cars. John follows Henry into a haunted house attraction. This once phenomenal episode for its insight and subtle dropping of bread crumbs is quickly getting cheeky.

John finds Henry in a back room. Let’s call it the ‘skull room’. He attempts to appeal to the spirits once humanity. Not exactly effective. Course corrections, remember? John walks away from empathy and moves into the classic ‘Thrilla in Manilla’ style rope-a-dope. He begins to berate the spirit as if he was the spirit’s abusive father. “Pity Party” and “You’ll get no sympathy from me”. The spirit expels enough energy trying to chop John down with an ax, that he concedes the advantage. John now has him in a relative headlock.

The trick to restoring the realism (within the realm of fantasy) is to get back to the lore. Earlier in the episode, John rejected an idea because they did not know the identity of the spirit or the duration of its carnage. Now John knows exactly who the spirit is and where it belongs. As well as the duration issue. So now taking advantage of John’s new advantage, he begins to exorcise the demon. The key phrase being, “…I bind you to your rightful place”. Looks like I wasn’t too far off with my earlier theory.

John, as predicted, expelled the spirit back to its original host. Who conveniently, resides in a maximum security mental hospital. The voice-over close includes the admission that John Constantine doesn’t have the answers. He only knows that there is a “Darkness Rising”.

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