GAH! It’s so frustrating to watch Constantine! One minute it seems like everything is settling in to a nice and neat little groove, and then something happens relating to timing, direction, or editing and it’s right back to square one. I WANT Constantine to succeed. It’s my dream to see an episode that’s just so good, and resonates so much, that NBC has no choice but to renew it for a second season. I WANT to see more Matt Ryan, I WANT to see more Occult mysteries, and more importantly, I WANT to watch the Constantine show that Hellblazer fans deserve!
Want in one hand and…well, you know the rest.
Ironically, Constantine seems to be the thing that the show has a handle on. Matt Ryan is a vision in every episode as the wisecracking, tough and scruff, supernatural detective that everyone hates to love and loves to hate. This episode gives us a bit more of a personal take on the character that ends up mattering more than usual toward the end. There’s also a conclusion that’s so dark and so demented that you can’t help but scream “Hellblazer!” like you’re playing Yahtzee with the Devil. Charles Halford heaps on the home cooked charm once again as the gentle giant with a daisy pushing problem, Chas. In fact it’s only the fairest arm of John’s trio of ghostbusters that seems to be taking a vacation; and as a result, I hate to say it, things go a hell of a lot smoother as far as the pacing is concerned. John ends up not having to explain as much, and the show even takes a clever poke at itself by failing at one point to answer the oh so popular “What does that do?” question, that might as well be the title of every episode.
Speaking of pacing, Rage of Caliban does a decent job of showing the audience some steel, but doesn’t go too far or too fast. Until the end. Then there’s an obvious hurry to wrap things up. The conclusion ended up being my favorite part of the entire episode due to Constantine’s very characteristic lack of empathy, which a breathless and furious Matt Ryan just kills. Sadly, there aren’t enough moments that put Constantine in the same room as the monster of the week, so not enough of those oh so clever Doctor Who moments (you know how the Doctor always ends up talking to the villain and proving how much smarter he is? Yeah, those are great). The direction ends up being all over the place, by focusing too much on the parents and then, yanking the rug out and the last minute and changing the dynamic completely. It leaves a disorienting effect behind toward the end that puts a bad taste in the mouth. The final words and the ultimate conclusion is pretty surprising, and has a fun and incredibly brutal finish that I personally found incredibly satisfying thanks to Ryan’s gloat-heavy narration.
Rage of Caliban is a good episode, one of the better ones for the series. It’s not game changing, and it doesn’t pick up any meaningful traction for the future of the series. It lays out a convincing case to fear “The Rising Darkness”, but not enough to really turn the suspense and anticipation up to eleven. Matt Ryan and Charles Halford give strong performances that show they have a grasp on their characters, but none of the other characters really push the limit in terms of memory (though the character of Claire comes pretty close, only to be made totally pointless by the end of the episode). This episode also serves as further evidence that the character of Zed needs some revision, as far the narrative flow is concerned (or at least stop explaining every single little thing to her in every episode). I mean I realize that she’s there so we can play the home game, and know what’s going on, but some mystery is needed for the purpose of suspense. Also, John still seems a little overpowered when it comes to his abilities (his bag is starting to seem a little like Mary Poppins’). There are still problems with editing, and the direction of the humor made a lot of the jokes fall completely flat, and the reliance on jump scares to build suspense is not working for the show; but a great ending and another strong performance from Matt Ryan gives us a solid enough entry in the series to enjoy Constantine’s latest case, warts and all. Plus, who gets tired of seeing John get punched? I know I don’t.