Jeremy Davies

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Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Here at NJATVS, we were pleasantly surprised with both the enjoyment of and the response from The History Channel’s mini-series event, Sons of Liberty. While there were some significant stretching of the factual truth, the series was extremely entertaining. In order to maximize viewership and to make a series about historical events appealing for all demographics, some exaggerations were acceptable. Sam Adams as the rebellious one overshadowing John Adams was one of those stretches found acceptable considering what they were trying to do. The role of General George Washington was almost riveting when you consider the man we all believe him to factually be. The show was a resounding success in my eyes. The question was, will this be lightning in a bottle? Or will the History Channel continue producing works like this in an effort to build their audience. Texas Rising I think answers that question.

I have no intention of belittling any previous series’ that The History Channel has put out in a similar fashion. The elephant in the room being “The Hatfields and McCoys”. No one can take anything away from that contribution. The story of the country’s longest feud that might make the Montagues and Capulets seem tame by almost any standard was another big success, registering north of 10 million viewers. By no means something to shake a stick at. But the Hatfields and McCoys was the type of series one has come to expect from the predictable History Channel. Good. Accurate. And for the newer audience of the DVR era, lacking something to draw them in. By any measure, Costner, Paxton, and Berenger should have been enough, but this television landscape is ever-changing. And it is clear that The History Channel (unlike many networks still playing by the old rules) has embraced such a concept.  And let us not forget Vikings.  Vikings (which I am waiting to conclude so I can binge watch) seemed to come riding in on Game of Thrones’ coat tails.  One could argue that Vikings is a staunch departure from the predictable History Channel.  A show that has a significant fandom and whose historical accuracy matters very little in the scheme of its success.

In the sense of full disclosure, I must admit that I am not even caught up on Texas Rising. However, with the beauty of DVRs and On Demand, that really is not an issue. The issue at hand is, where does Texas Rising fit? For my experience, I absolutely place it above the Hatfields and McCoys while at the same time have it significantly below Sons of Liberty. For now. And here’s the basic truth. It does not fall on the actors, directors, or even showrunners of the respective series’. The American Revolution is just sexier than the events that followed the fall of the Alamo or a deep rural family feud that seems to have lasted as long as the country itself. It just is. The big ‘however’ is that somehow, The History Channel is capitalizing on some of the nuances and successes of Sons of Liberty and found a way to fit that square peg into a different but still square hole.

Texas Rising has an impressive cast. Now that sentiment has to be taken in context. Remember, this is still a mini-series event aired on a cable network probably best known for its biographical or documentary style accuracy. Until I hit my mid-late 20’s I don’t think I watched 10 seconds of History Channel programming on purpose. And I think, that is my point. This is not your father’s History Channel. Texas Rising’s cast goes 20 deep of big names down to names you might not know but whose faces you would. Names like Bill Paxton, Rob Morrow, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Thomas Jane, Crispin Glover, Jeremy Davies, and some former heavy hitters like Kris Kristofferson, Brendan Fraser and Ray Liotta. Now the cast of The West Wing or The Avengers it is not, but considering what this is in a literal sense, it is very impressive.

The bigger ‘win’ here may be that The History Channel is finding engaging ways to tell stories that up until now (with the exception of true history buffs) were skipped over. As the product of public and private American education, I have a rudimentary understanding of the facts and dates concerning Sam Houston, Santa Ana and what followed the battle at the Alamo. But it was never a subject in our history’s timeline that I ever found all that compelling. But as with Sons of Liberty, The History Channel is finding ways to make it interested without deviating too far from the actual truth.

The big question on my mind naturally, is where does it end? The answer, I hope is that it doesn’t. One has to assume that these are significant undertakings to produce. The limited run, ‘mini-series event’ nature, the cost, and the cast does not permit such productions to come along every month. This works to the advantage of a long-term sustained run. The Revolutionary War, The Alamo, hopefully are just the beginning. This country is rich with a wealthy of history, most of which are recalled by its citizens as a series of names and dates. All of which. ALL OF WHICH, could find a place on The History Channel. It’s not just about the story, it’s about how the story is conveyed. Side note. To be fair, each time The History Channel has taken some ‘liberties’ with the truth, they have intentionally directed us to a website pointing out the difference between the show and the truth.

I think it is critically important that The History Channel gain viewers, gain support and continue to make these series’ that shine a contemporary light on stories most of us have long since passed with little to no interest in revisiting. Blacklist, Daredevil, Game of Thrones they are not. However, they do deserve our attention. At least to gauge our interest. Real stories sometimes make the best stories. These are real characters derived from real men and women. These stories can be so much more than “Turn your textbooks to page 173 and read the chapter on General Patton”. While I’m on that point, as long as the teachers teaching our children are versed in the difference between fact and artistic license, these could become a great learning tool as well.

Is Texas Rising as good as Sons of Liberty? That is still yet to be seen. Whether it is or not is really beside the point. Two and a half hours into the series and I can assure you with absolute certainty that these are good, high quality, stories of our past presented in a cinematic fashion that makes them more than names and dates. And for that reason alone, you should give them a chance. Check your local listings and on demand services. You just might find out that you are a History Channel person (as it pertains to these mini-series events) after all.

Courtesy of The History Channel

Courtesy of The History Channel

Courtesy of NBC

Courtesy of NBC

We here at judge all major decisions on one primary criteria. Does it measure up to our expectation of quality? It seems simple enough. If it’s a show that we’ve decided to preview, promote, and cover episode to episode, you can rest assured the particular show in question maintains a certain level of quality. For the record, there have been shows that we have been over-the-moon excited for and ultimately decided that it’s time to walk away. Why? Because those shows failed to meet our quality expectation. NBC’s Constantine, is absolutely NOT one of those.

NBC’s choice to produce Constantine, and more importantly, this vision of Constantine was brave. NBC should be celebrated for that by the way. Like so many comic book adaptations pre-Marvel Cinematic Universe, were ‘adequate’. They were entertaining, but they were also made with the understanding that they had to be workable for most audiences, not just the comic book underworld. Spawn, Daredevil (2003), etc as comic book adapted movies were nice, but compared to today’s expectations would have fallen flat on their face. The comic book television landscape was even worse.

The point is that today’s audience does not need their show dumbed down or made palatable for all time zones. Constantine has done that. Constantine is born from the same genesis as Marvel’s MCU and recent successes as Netflix’s Daredevil. Do yourself a favor. Google Netflix Daredevil and read just some of the feedback. You’d think it was the highest rated show of the calendar year. The showrunners at NBC working on Constantine kept one very important detail constant. Tell the story from an adapted version of the comic books, Hellblazer. The 2003 Keanu Reeves feature was the product of Hollywood changing all of the incredible details in order to make a production that appeals to as many people and demographics as possible.

Appealing to mass demographics is good. High ratings are good. They help sell ad revenue. When I was in the radio industry, one thing was always made clear. All of it is window dressing if the end product doesn’t bring in ad revenue. Ad revenue was literally what kept the lights on. Not to sound too idealistic, but NBC can make its money from their heavy hitters. I began this article by citing quality. Now anyone who knows anything about TV knows there is a direct and inverse relationship between numbers and quality more often than not. NBC is still going to make a killing from shows like Law and Order and Celebrity Apprentice. Every now and then the two powers of ‘quality’ and ‘are they watching’ converge perfectly. The Blacklist is a great example of that. The Blacklist is an incredible show and people are watching it. In the case of Constantine, it was playing against stacked odds from the beginning.

Courtesy of Vertigo/DC Comics

Courtesy of Vertigo/DC Comics

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Placing a comic book adaptation show that the vast majority of viewers are not familiar with late on a Friday night was borderline criminal. Comic book adaptations draw, period. Maybe this is a ‘strike while the iron’s hot’ situation, but it is true and really not up for debate. Next to no one watches television on a Friday night, and they definitely don’t do it live. Putting them on Friday nights, then graciously moving them up in the time slot but keeping them on Friday nights, put Constantine behind the eight ball and NBC knows that. This is 30 Rock vs Studio 60 all over again. Anyone with an objective eye could look at the first few episodes of Studio 60 and the first few episodes of 30 Rock and know without question, Studio 60 was the better show. Without a good time slot and promotion, better shows are going to continue to fall.

Promotion is another factor that had Constantine playing catch up. Before NBC rolled out The Blacklist, every American knew this show was going to be big. All because of promotion. There were promos and trailer for The Blacklist everywhere. On sports broadcasts, on shows that had no relation or connection at all. Spader was out there. The Blacklist was going to be successful because it had the full weight and support of the network. Constantine was never given that opportunity. You cannot produce a show based on a comic book very few people have any real familiarity with and just let people stumble upon it and hope it takes off. It doesn’t work that way.

The last detail I’ll get into before talking specifics about the show, is audience. Not everyone is going to “Get It”. If the aim is to maximize viewership by making something that will appeal to everyone in the same way, make nothing but what some call “Lowest Common Denominator” television. Keep cranking out Law and Order, Chicago Fire, Parks and Recreation. There is a large and growing audience that wants no part of L.C.D. programming. To some of us, procedural is a four letter word. And in this “DVR Era” we, the viewer, can afford to be more choosy of what we watch and we get to dictate when we watch it. Now I have no idea if the ratings system has accounted for the current television era where the DVR has completely changed the way we watch television. Side note to television networks. I watch and obscene amount of television. Yet, I have not watched a non-sporting event (or game broadcast) live in almost 7 years. I sincerely hope you are taking that into account. Especially when you put a great show on Friday nights.

At the end of the day, you have the audience that will watch Bones, Big Bang Theory, CSI: Whatever, Survivor, Glee, etc and you are going to have the audience that has no interest in predictable, safe television. Serialized, big story arcs, sympathetic characters facing unbelievable trials is just more compelling to some than others. That my friends, is the difference. Ratings can no longer be a race to first. These networks need to start evaluating success and failure by two different groups at the same time. Take a look around the television landscape. It is getting very competitive. We really are experiencing a television and cinematic renaissance. You just have to navigate through the mountains of garbage to find it. If networks like NBC are going to continue to grade shows like Constantine under the same criteria as The Voice or Bad Judge, then another elite show is going to fall by the wayside. It’s not the same type of television and they cannot continue to paint all of these shows with the same brush.

Constantine is great. End of discussion. For anyone who has not yet seen it, take my word for it, Constantine is one of the better shows of the calendar year, regardless of network or time slot. That said, it did not start out that way. A large component in that again goes back to promotion by NBC, or lack thereof. If NBC had titled the show “Hellblazer” or ran far more promotion illustrating that this show was not going to be the story released in 2003 starring Keanu Reeves, then expectation and therefore results might have been different. They made very few attempts to convey that. So, most people went in with a certain expectation, which was not met.

The pilot episode on its own merits is alright and had the show continued on that trajectory, I would not be writing this piece now. By my expectations, the pilot episode was bad. Bad as in significantly underwhelming. So much so (again just my opinion) that I actually called up a colleague at the website to inform him I would not be posting a recap, but a ‘here’s what’s wrong with it’ piece. Thankfully, the consensus was to do just that, but leave room just in case they right the ship. The second episode is 100% better. By the time we are introduced to Papa Midnite, we’re off to the races and the show is exactly what it was supposed to be. Dark, intriguing, compelling, ever-changing, straddling the line between angels and demons lore and the plot plausibility. This is the problem.

The pilot episode feels like it had NBC’s Standards and Practices grubby little hands all over it. The pilot was bright and warm by comparison to the later episodes. When doing a comic book adaptation, visual texture is key. There is a reason The Dark Knight and Arrow were so wildly successful. You cannot produce a show like Constantine with that bright, bubbly sort of way. Thankfully the showrunners for Constantine were able to come back to their base and it begins with texture. Visual interpretation. Again, never more clear than the first introduction to Papa Midnite. By episode four, Constantine was must see TV. However, not many were watching it because the show stumbled out of the gate. If they were to run the show we came to build a strong affection for and aired it on Monday, Tuesday, or Thursday in primetime the results would have absolutely been different.

Courtesy of NBC

Courtesy of NBC

Constantine may be a show or story about angels, demons, magic and one man in the middle of all of it, but it is very much character driven. Characters are the vehicle to success. Every single significant character is sympathetic and compelling. From there, all they have to do is tell the story. The story from the perspective of the comic book adaptation, not a major networks softer, lighter version of that story.

As it stands now, Constantine ended on a MASSIVE cliffhanger. Probably the biggest season finale reveal I’ve seen in a few years. I remember it clearly. Watching as the clock ticked down, I was certain I knew what would happen next and how the episode and season would conclude. When people say, “I had to pick my jaw up off the floor” it’s always blanketed in hyperbole. Now my jaw may not have been on the floor, but I easily could have caught a family of insects with how wide and long my mouth was open at the final moments of the season finale.

There are still very important details yet to be dealt with. Big, incredible, trajectory altering details. To drop this show now, simply put, would be irresponsible. Look, I understand that NBC is still a business that has to deem a certain show profitable. I don’t think anyone is naive to that concept, but there are three hugely important concepts that I fear NBC is not even considering. 1. They put Constantine in a position to fail before it even began-not the show’s fault, 2. The audience they are trying to reach is not the Law and Order crowd, and 3. Sometimes a show is just flat-out better than others that create more revenue. You could not pay me to watch Celebrity Apprentice or The Slap. Sometimes the better, higher quality show should just win the day. On the merits of quality. Not because it makes more money, but because it is just a better product.

Here’s the kicker. It is my opinion that Constantine has not developed a consistent form of high ratings…YET. Move the show to a more appealing time slot and let people figure it out. One of my favorite quotes in all of television history (ironically from a show cancelled way too soon) is:

“I believe the people who watch television shows are not dumber that the people who make television shows. I believe that quality is not an anathema to profit.” -Jordan McDeere (Studio 60 Live On The Sunset Strip)

American television viewers are not dumb. They have the wherewithal to handle and in fact embrace a wide range of concepts and delivery methods. Despite popular belief, this country is not filled with Honey Boo Boo and Kardashian enthusiasts. We the viewers long for shows that push the envelope. That breach concepts and topics we haven’t embraced before. We want to empathize and build affection for characters. We want to feel like we have ‘experienced’ something from our TV watching time. We are in a different era of modern television. It’s about time NBC and other major networks got on board with this idea. Constantine does not need to be their bread-winner. It only needs to continue being what it is. One of the top 10 best shows on television. I don’t care what the ratings indicate. Give it a better time slot and let the showrunners, cast and crew do their jobs. The numbers will come. You just have to get out-of-the-way and let it happen.

If you’re a fan of Constantine, help spread the word. It is my understanding that showrunner, Mr. Daniel Cerone is set to pitch season 2 to NBC at the end of this month (April) beginning of next (May). And it seems NBC is willing to listen to fan outcry. So let’s do just that. We live in a new world. Utilize it. Access your Twitter account, your Facebook account, email NBC directly. Do whatever you must to explicitly and without any confusion articulate to NBC that they CANNOT let this one go. They cannot walk away from this show. And that it is not in their best interests to let Constantine die. The best shows available still only make up less than 10% of what’s out there. We cannot lose this one. Whether your efforts are here with us at NJATVS, social media or directly on NBC’s lap, take the time to support this effort. Use the established #saveconstantine or the more direct #renewconstantine and show those in charge that this show has a following, it’s larger than they think, and we will continue to support this series.

If you have not yet seen Constantine season 1, or feel you somehow missed out and need to give it another shot, NBC starting today Friday April 24th, will make the entirety of season 1 available to stream on their website for a limited time. Go to (or the NBC app) and discover it for the first time or revisit it again. I don’t know if streaming numbers for this limited run is a test balloon or not. What I do know is that it’s worth watching, even if all that does is send NBC a message.

I can count on one hand the number of current shows that I would bang my fist against the table for. Constantine is one of them. The show did not get a fair shake and was judge by unbalanced criteria. Do your part to help the people who put this show together. Save Constantine. Make sure NBC knows they NEED to Renew Constantine.

#saveconstantine #renewconstantine

#saveconstantine #renewconstantine

Courtesy of NBC

Courtesy of NBC

A dark entity in what appears to be human form savagely tosses around an adult woman, ultimately jamming two syringes in her chest.

John follows a string (in the Mill House) that leads to a door. On the other side of the door is a pleasant view as if it were outside. Very similar to the Star Trek Holo-deck. Inside, Zed is meditating. Her facial expression says she’s hiding from something. Could be the effects of the last big vision. John gives her the ‘ol suck it up, we’ve got work to do standard.

Manny appears as John sarcastically suggests they all take a holiday. Sarcasm not being a nuanced part of language that Manny cares to indulge in. Manny tells John about a woman who is about to be admitted to a specific hospital and her ‘situation’ is worth paying attention to. John gets smart with Manny and heads towards the scri-map. Then Manny bursts the map into flames. The entire landscape is too big for the scri-map now. When Manny leaves Chas’ meat suit, Chas asks, “how did I get over here?”

At the hospital, John stabs Chas in the thigh with a screwdriver to create a distraction. Within arm’s reach of this woman Manny spoke of, they notice blackness in her veins. Never a good sign. Zed touches her hand which sends her into a full on vision. In the vision the woman in question lunges at her awake and in the distance we see a silhouette that resembles Manny. She snaps out of the vision. A few moments later, Zed falls into a full on seizure.

While John waits for Chas to get out of his hospital gown and into some pants, a very large and intimidating man walks into the ER. He is rude and angry, but clearly a regular. Can’t really place his importance yet, but there’s something there.

John and Chas make their way down to the morgue. The victim lies motionless on a metal table. John starts an incantation. When the spell is complete, the woman appears to be black as paint. Her inner darkness is all-consuming. Normally some humanity will shine bright enough to be noticed. Here, nothing.

A doctor enters Zed’s room. He’s there to deliver an update. Her cat scans came back. She has a small mass on her temporal lobe. First impressions are that it’s a tumor. A diagnosis that John rejects on spec. Zed is concerned. As is John, but he refuses to show it.

A janitor that was sipping from a flask in the morgue is now on the main floor. He makes his way to the supply closet and walks past the fluorescent bulbs he needs to fix a light. Instead he reaches for a large brown bottle and proceeds to drink. Inside the supply closet, another dark form ravages the janitor.

A doctor walks out to the rooftop John is smoking on. He asks to borrow a cigarette. When he hands one over, the doctor is no longer the doctor. Manny flicks the unlit cigarette over the edge. Before Manny can get a word out, John physically attacks him yelling, “FIX IT”. John’s emoting over the prospect of potentially losing Zed in almost any capacity. John told her to push through, ignore the pain. Of course believing that the pain didn’t come from some mortal illness. Manny gets back in his face but in a constructive way. Or so he thought. Manny suggests that John only focus on what he can control. John agrees. Then drops a vile of what looks like red gas (a vile of air from Hades) , then stomps on it. This knocks out Manny cold. John then says a few things (we assume in Enochian) while carving what looks like a bird’s-eye view of the Starship Enterprise into his chest. When Manny wakes up, he is in human form. Whether he like it or not.

For all of our Supernatural viewers, this should play out like an early Castiel situation. For those uninitiated, Castiel is an angel to take control of a willing body. The discovery phase of an angel experiencing life through the lens of a human is much different and takes some getting used to. It’s also generally very entertaining to watch play out.

John follows the flickering light to the supply closet almost pulling Manny along. Inside they find the janitor mauled to death. The smell as opposed to the visual is too much for Manny. The sensations afforded humans is often too much for angels on their first go around. Manny is no different, who pops vomit in the corner. Inside the man’s carcass, John finds a ‘heart of darkness’. The man’s organ is visible but looks out-of-place. Blacks, purples and blues. Manny tells a story that John knew as a myth, Manny knew as actual events that he was present for. A great battle to take down a sorcerer. In the end the evil was contained in a black diamond of evil. The stone’s pieces were intentionally broken so no one man could wield its power. The great flood (yes, Noah, the arc the whole bit) spread the pieces of the black diamond all over the earth.

John goes back to the Mill House where Chas has been looking into Jasper’s research on this very issue. Chas has shown real concern for Zed since early in this episode. He asks John about her and John wants very badly to just ignore his questions. Eventually Chas physically turns John around and demands to know what John knows. As it turns out, John by way of Jasper has a box that contains one of the fragments from the Black Diamond of Evil.

Manny is at a nurse’s station trying to print out files on our to Jane and John Doe’s. The nurse is very pleased to help. Very pleased. So much so that she suggests getting Manny the actual active files, more updated. Manny is ill-equipped to handle or even understand why this nurse is touching him and staring deeply when the situation does not call for it. They walk down the hall and suddenly she throws him into another supply closet, forcefully having her way with him. I’d go into greater detail (as a laugh literally out loud at my television) but for recap purposes, we like to keep it family friendly.

At the Mill House, John’s big plan is to remove the black diamond shard and get Chas to hold it. This will show John just what it does. It will probably kill Chas, but we now know why that’s perfectly acceptable. The only question mark comes between what it does and Chas dying. At first nothing happens. Then the evil surges through Chas’ body. He can’t or won’t let go of the stone. He is endowed with great power. Enough that he throws John across the room. A cattle prod to the abdomen stops him though.

John: You see that there (gestures to Manny), what you’re feeling? That’s embarrassment. Its socialized and it’s not worth it.
Manny: I feel…guilty. The man’s body had all of these feelings and I used a woman to extinguish them.
John: So you made two poor sod’s feel pleasure? A momentary relief from the tragedy of everyday living.
… …
John: All those chemicals, swirling around. Your heart aches, your head hurts, make it hard to concentrate doesn’t it?
Manny: Yeah, I don’t know how you get anything done.

Once they get back on track, Manny goes over the two respective files. Both have addictions. Both had second chances that they squandered. Manny actually gets angry at the notion of throwing away a second chance. Then possibly, the killer feels the same way. Maybe that’s how he chooses victims. Morris, the large man with burnt skin that gives the nurses flack, could be next. Then John suggests that he look into Morris while Manny checks on Zed. Manny then asks, “She’s ill, if you can’t speak to her now, then when can you?”

Manny walks into Zed’s room where her actual doctor is not really getting anywhere putting her at ease. When he leaves, she looks a Manny and asks, “who are you?” Not in a curious way, but in a ‘I can tell you’re not a doctor’ sort of way. Manny explains that John has trapped him in this body and he just wanted to check up on her. She’s disappointed that John didn’t come. But then she charges into question about her ‘gift’. Concerned that they may be evil and not a gift from God. With Manny trapped in the human form, he is disconnected from his angelic powers. But he is able to reassure her based on what she’s said. “It seems to me, you have all the answers you need”.

John does not find Morris, who is out attempting to smoke a cigarette, the thing that ultimately killed his wife and daughter by his own reckless behavior. The lights flicker and the dark man runs towards him. We actually get a decent shot at the killer’s face. Very strange.

During an attempt to get John to open up about his feelings for Zed (and we are not assuming they are of the romantic variety) they have an epiphany. Zed’s doctor is the killer. He served and almost died in Baghdad. The name of the Black Diamond of Evil loosely translates to “Baghdad”. Now the doctor comes into Zed’s room to confront her about rescinding her consent for the tumor removal procedure.

At just the right moment, John and Manny enter the room. At first glance, it almost seems as if the doctor doesn’t know that he is the killer. John removes the black diamond shard and extends it (in the protective case of course) towards the doctor. He feels the effects immediately. He slashes Manny’s arm and throws John before running away. They give chase. Zed gets the vision again. An angelic silhouette and a radiant white light. She tells John it is a divine holy light. They both look at Manny who is momentarily confused.

John: Manny.
Manny: What?
John: You need to open your shirt.
(John rips his shirt open)
John: I’m reversing the spell I cast on you, mate.
Manny: Are you telling me…
John: I could have released you at any time.
(Manny growls at John)

The moment Manny is released the killer (whatever it is) finds them. It knocks John to the floor and John begins begging for Manny’s assistance. Manny appears in all of his angelic majesty. The creature responds and walks slowly toward Manny and his light. Manny assures him that his work here is done and its time to go home. Manny wraps his wings around them creating a ball. Eventually, the light brightens and they disappear leaving only John’s box with a black diamond shard and out of the thin air the doctor’s shard falls to the floor. Then the shards (broken from impact with the floor) levitate and fuse with John’s piece.

John walks into what looks like a church were Zed is praying. John tells her a story that he hasn’t told anyone else. Every morning, John wakes up and spends the first five minutes of his day meditating to the idea that everyone he cares about is dead. Then when that is not how the day ends realistically, it’s a good day.

Then Manny appears. John tells Zed that Manny has arrived, but she didn’t need him to tell her. She can see and hear him as clear as John. His presence answers her question about where her visions come from.

Courtesy of NBC

Courtesy of NBC

Courtesy of NBC

Courtesy of NBC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

College aged kids conducting a séance, not going to end well. This particular ritual transports each member of this group to a different location. One of which is met by someone not of their group, begging to be hidden while a middle-aged man who is only visible in mirrors stalks one of the ladies involved. A blond lady screams and it snaps everyone out of the trans.

Constantine drinks alone in the mill house. Directly across from him is an enchanted mirror that shows a familiar face, not his own reflection. The person in the mirror is that of Gary Lester. One of those from Newcastle who never got back completely and a person John convinced to sacrifice himself for the greater good.

John (to Gary): Here’s to you old son. Never a dull moment, huh? If I was you, I wouldn’t have much to say to me either.

Ritchie Simpson (Jeremy Davies-best known for his role of Dickie Bennett on Justified) is a former friend and a significant member of the Newcastle crew. Ritchie is a college professor, and a pretty bad one, at a local college. Some students draw back the blinds when his presentation suffer technical difficulties. Setting up nicely, John’s opportunity to ask a question he doesn’t need the answer to. Based on Ritchie’s answer to John’s question, he is displeased with John’s presence.

Carter, one of the kids from the séance, gazes to his right revealing the man in the mirrors from the night before. Carter instantly finds himself somewhere darker and indoors compared to his stroll through campus. In this dark place, the mystery man throws a plastic bag over his head and suffocates Carter. Next shot is of Carter dead lying on a campus walkway. Cause of death? He stopped breathing.

John’s presence near Ritchie is a direct violation of a deal they made earlier. John is able to use the death of Gary to paint the picture that something is “circling” Ritchie and John will not sit by and wait for it to attack. Adam, another kid from the séance, calls Ritchie interrupting the Ritchie/John conversation. They are wheeling out Carter. Adam needs to get out of office hours, assumption is he’s a T.A. A request that Ritchie immediately grants. Adam’s girlfriend opens a locker-like door and in the reflection of the mirror sees that same man again and screams.

John and Ritchie make an appearance at the candle light vigil for Carter. John has some questions for Adam’s girlfriend and Ritchie plays along. The girlfriend gives up the location, but not much else. Ritchie just wants John to get what he needs and leave. John turns and looks at Ritchie before insinuating that the girlfriend and Ritchie are both hiding something.

Manny makes his most angelic and impressive entrance to date, wings stretching tv’s edge to tv’s edge. We get a little background on who Ritchie used to be. He used to be John’s first lieutenant. The right hand man. More colleague and less follower. Newcastle changed all of that. Ritchie fell particularly hard. Manny suggests that John recruit Ritchie to help in further endeavors. Then leaves abruptly while John is in mid sentence.

John (back to Manny): I’m not exactly a guiding light…(wistful sound effect)…aww bollocks.

Inside a building on the cemetery grounds, John sees something of interest. He immediately charges into an incantation. This incantation reveals a series of symbols and those symbols seem to spell out something intriguing to John.

The blonde girl from the séance, makes the largest mistake to this point. Consider the only thing critical at this point. The man in the mirrors only appears in mirrors. One person has already died and other claims they saw the man in a mirror. So why on earth is ‘blondie’ attempting to get her ballet workout in? If you’re not picking up what I’m putting down, every dance studio maybe on the planet utilizes one wall as a massive mirror. Left to right, floor to ceiling. Also, they never turn the lights on, just an observation.

John explains what he found at the cemetery while Ritchie tries to find a journal that has gone missing. The journal belonged to a man named Jacob Shaw, who believed he could travel to alternative realms. Man in the Mirrors? The story of this Jacob Shaw seems like just the thing that might catch the attention of one Teaching Assistant. John believes Adam will try this again.

He and Ritchie head out to look for Adam, who is in fact considering attempting to travel again. Earlier, Ritchie mentioned that he “shut his whole program down”, we didn’t get much clarity on what that means, but John knew. Separately, the project Adam was working on would utilize Shaw’s research to create a practical application where a person’s consciousness could be harnessed and placed onto a hard drive. Or as John puts it, “a bomb shelter for your brain.” Then Ritchie reveals that he knows more than he previously led on to, pertaining to the big picture issue.

Ritchie: The Darkness is almost here, John. If we don’t find Adam and close that portal now, who knows how many more are going to fall through. And I just…can’t have that on my hands, John.

Adam completes the incantation and is transported right in front of Miranda (ballet girl). Adam lights a match and Miranda immediately blows it out. The camera pull back to reveal a large piece of rebar has pierced her abdomen. John and Ritchie arrive to the cemetery to find Adam in mid trans. On the other side, the man in the mirrors finds them both and begins to slash Adam’s arms with a kitchen knife. Not terribly alarming until John and Ritchie see a slash at his throat. The following morning in the aftermath, Ritchie begins to blame himself. A concept John would rather not hear. Ritchie turns to face John and tells him that he knows John’s secret. How John can pretend not to feel. The good news is, there is still on life they might be able to save. Concluding that both Miranda and Adam have both died.

They arrive at Lily’s dorm (the sole remaining person and Adam’s girlfriend). She desperately needs to contact Adam. John and Ritchie have the unpleasant job of informing her that there is a very final reason why she can’t get a hold of Adam. There is a silver lining for now, that eluded me earlier. The bodies have been declared dead in our reality. And why not? Blood everywhere and the bodies are unresponsive. However, in Shaw’s reality, the consciousness or what have you is still very much alive. Even when faced with the proposition to run in order to be chased, shades of the movie “Surviving the Game”.

John brings Lily and Ritchie back to the mill house. Ritchie is intrigued, almost fascinated by the house and its contents. Lily is shaken but grateful. The house protects her from being subject to any of Shaw’s mirror tricks. That is until she decides to make a call on her smart phone, whose screen is almost completely a mirror. And just like that, Lily is now a part of Shaw’s game.

With Lily in a catatonic state, the only thing left to do is for these two former colleagues to intentionally cross over into Shaw’s world. Ritchie naturally freaks out. After settling a bit, his first concern is potential harm to their bodies in the mill house while their consciousness is elsewhere. Then Manny appears, quietly. John looks up and says, “I think we’ll be alright here”. Moments later the two men assume the position across from each other separated by four candles. Like riding a bike, Ritchie gets loose, like he’s done this hundreds of times before.

Both men arrive safe, Ritchie’s heart rate is elevated but that’s to be expected. They head down one hallway and find a dead-end. That’s when Ritchie claims he can ‘overwrite’ Shaw’s world. And by simply concentrating, uses his mind to draw and create a real functional door where there wasn’t one before. Sounds great, but Shaw saw and heard it. So much for the element of surprise. The two men uncover that random stranger with no hands who frantically asks everyone to hide him. This time, his hands are intact. The lack of fear from our crusaders, causes this random to completely change his tone and retreat, just in time to reveal Shaw.

Shaw is polite but informs them that everything still comes down to “his world, his rules”. Then slashes Ritchie’s wrists with his mind and throws thick nails through John’s hands leaving him ‘crucified’ on the wall. Then John says something that tips us off slightly about Ritchie’s previous strengths and perhaps why his fall was harder than the others.

John: These wounds are received in his reality not yours. You have the greater mind here. You can beat this guy. In this place you…you decide. Ritchie, look at me. I believe in you, old son. Now bloody do it.
(Ritchie looks up at John)
John: DO IT!

Ritchie gradually gets up and moves to the window. Spreads the curtain and looks outside. It’s dark and desolate. And clearly something stands out to Ritchie.

Ritchie: Some God you turned out to be Shaw. You forgot the sun.
Shaw: No.
(Instantly the sun rises illuminating everything and rapidly creating growth and life)
Shaw: NO!
Ritchie: Oh yes. All this time you spent here, you could have been building worlds. You could have been redefining life and how we live it. The day you gave into your weakness Shaw, that was the day you became obsolete.
Ritchie: Not anymore.

The nails retract from John’s hands and Ritchie implodes Shaw. Ritchie is weak now and tells John they have to get out, now. They run out of the house and through the meadow of now rolling wild flowers. They did however, forget Lily. The other ‘souls’ of the fallen friends escort her to the door. John explains the world is falling apart. The other won’t walk past the doorway. They are there to stay and they know it. Lily, as expected, loses her mind as John attempts to carry her away. The house implodes.

Lily wakes up back at the mill house. John and Ritchie are still in Shaw’s world. As John said not five minutes earlier, “In this place, you decide…” Ritchie is romanticizing staying. Using what he knows to create a good, prosperous world contrary to Shaw’s game of death. John sees right through the b.s. and tells Ritchie that he can stay if he wants, but it won’t be because he wants to build something, it’s because he wants to run from something. Newcastle and the Rising Darkness are two good reasons to run, but reality is reality.

John snaps back into himself at the mill house. Ritchie is still catatonic. His still state begins to grow and grow very slowly as if he were trying to return. He slumps over slightly and we hear to audible sound of relief from John.

Ritchie stands at the podium of his class, sets aside his tape recorder and opts to actually speak to the class. He references back to the previous lesson and proclaims that suffering is unavoidable. Then the rest of that section of his lecture works as a voice over for the images of John alone in the mill house drinking heavily.

Photo Courtesy Of NBC

Photo Courtesy Of NBC

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.