TV Korner: Constantine 1.02- “The Darkness Beneath”

By patricksmith - November 2, 2014

Constantine2 Zed and ConstantineConstantine’s second episode introduces the character of Zed to TV audiences.

“Grew up in Liverpool, mate. Breathed in more coal dust than fresh air, as a lad.”

This week’s Constantine is still filed under the good, not great, column; but it’s still *quite* good. There are a couple of cringe-worthy acting moments and mouthfuls of dialogue that are absolute nightmares for the actors to get out cleanly (this is especially obvious in an unnatural scene between Chas and John in Jasper’s cabin). The conflict is solid though, and has a real American salt-of-the-earth feel to it, which takes a break from the big biblical-level problems which are most likely going to be the majority of the series. It has a uniquely foreign perspective from John, but it’s still a problem that he relates to and has knowledge on. This is also the first time we see John smoking (albeit from behind). The best moments are Constantine by himself of course, as he snoops and sneaks and gets his hands on everything, with a much more haphazard and directionless approach to detective-work than television audiences may be used to seeing. But make no mistake, it is 100% detective-work; and it’s conveyed as such. This episode is also the first to utilize the concept of Constantine vs the world, which is a common theme in the comic as he more often than not finds himself outnumbered. It’s important to capturing the true essence of the character, and one that I’m thankful to see represented in this medium as well. After the initial ten minutes, and the the introductory act, things get a bit more complicated.

Angélica Celaya makes her debut as Zed, and represents a much more effective sidekick than Lucy Griffiths’ Liv Aberdine in both chemistry and utility. She’s much more world weary and damaged than Liv, and therefore makes a more natural companion to John. Unfortunately, her character’s dynamic with Matt Ryan’s Constantine2 MotivateConstantine is put in to an overtly sensual light that’s incredibly distracting from the story, making these long, staring, sexual tension moments altogether groan inducing. What makes matters worse is how often it seems to happen. The attraction is being hammered in to the viewers’ heads, making it seem that much more forced. Beyond that, their character interactions are satisfactory. They don’t immediately seem to have the phenomenal chemistry that the characters on Arrow and the Flash do, but it’s conveyed well enough to be effective in the setting. Zed’s ability is expanded upon, and is really interesting to watch in action, and her drawings of John are actually famous covers from Hellblazer comics. Unlike Gotham though, these references and Easter eggs are kept right where they belong (in the background). John’s spellcasting is much more reserved in this episode, but doesn’t have the same impact. We haven’t seem him perform enough magic yet to get a real sense of the scope of his abilities, but this episode does present a possible problem with his spells being different each week, without really explaining how they work, making it impossible for people to play the home game.

Constantine2 Zed's speech

“You see John…I’ve been waiting for you…and you found me. I don’t know what I’ve been waiting for, and you don’t know what you found. The question is, are we going to help each other out or not?”

It’s not a very well written mystery. The ending is easy to discern thanks to some awkwardly delivered dialogue with poorly hidden clues that happen throughout the episode from the more prominent supporting players. Everyone reveals too many specific pieces of information about themselves without any real provocation or cue, and any secrets or twists related to those lines make them seem that much more obvious. Ryan and Celaya still play the whole episode with completely straight faces, conveying performances that are above the plot and dialogue (though Celaya really needs to tone down her breathlessness and dramatis). The villain does a good job of playing the part and their defeat is wholly satisfying, but their motivation doesn’t make that much sense, nor does it become explained in any satisfactory way. In fact, the minor mystery is so-so, but the surge in evil activity that they talked about in the first episode does garner a mention in this episode too, which sets up an umbrella plot device to explain future episodes, making the avenues for future conflicts incredibly open. Zed could prove to be a worthwhile addition to the series, but that’s a debate that’s going to have to wait until her relationship with John is more defined.  Content aside, the major problem with pacing still isn’t being addressed, and without it the episode doesn’t flow as an organic narrative, so it’s no wonder people are having trouble getting drawn in to the plot.  There are plenty of elements of horror, but the suspense feels fabricated.  Constantine’s second episode has come and gone, and still we have yet to see solid evidence of something special.  The potential is there, but it’s still up to the writers, directors, and producers to figure out just what the hell Constantine is before it’s too late.

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