Constantine – the Complete Series Review

  • Series: Constantine
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 13
  • Discs: 3
  • Cast: Matt Ryan, Angelica Celaya, Charles Halford, Harold Perrieneau
  • Network:  NBC (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • Blu-Ray Format: Color, Widescreen
  • Based on characters from DC and Vertigo Comics

I first saw the character of John Constantine in a guest shot on the CW’s Arrow. I enjoyed the character and Matt Ryan’s portrayal of the character. I knew the actor and character had been on his own short-lived series, a series a few friends had raved about. And I knew the character came originally from the Hellblazer comic book. But I had missed the original series – horror isn’t my thing – and my brain had somehow mixed-up “Hellblazer” with some horror movies from the 1980s.

Constantine, the Series, does have some horror elements. It also has elements of supernatural stories – at times bringing to mind series like Shadow Chasers, The X-files, and Supernatural. However, what makes this show work is the characters – especially John Constantine – exorcist, spellcaster, magic user, and con man. John Constantine is an anti-hero, but you can’t help wanting him to win. And not simply to win by defeating a demon, malevolent spirit, or ghost – but for once to not lose everyone around him. In the pilot, he meets the daughter of an old and deceased friend. When, at the end of the episode she tries to join him in his fight – John waves her off with – “everyone around me dies.” Over the course of thirteen episodes – we see how true that is. Because no matter how talented John is as a spellcaster and magic user – he’s also a bit cursed. John’s magic comes at a high price.

But again, Matt Ryan makes this show work. He is utterly convincing when uttering spells in arcane languages which may or may not be real. He’s, surprisingly, not an angry character – if anything he’s perpetually sad – struggling on in an endless fight against evil – and often losing friends in the process. John’s a pragmatist – if the only way to stop a hunger demon is to convince a friend – the one who caused it’s accidental release – to become it’s host, then that’s what John will do, even when he knows it will cause his friend his life. Constantine isn’t afraid to make sacrifices. And those sacrifices haunt him.

Other characters in the show include Zed – a psychic haunted by images of Constantine, that she can’t help but draw, who joins him in his fight. Chas, an old friend, who seemingly cannot die, In “Quid Pro Quo” we find out why and that his inability to die isn’t quite infinite. (Let’s just say that “protection spells” can have unintended consequences.) And Manny – an Angel who seems attached to John. The final episode even calls into doubt just who Manny is really working for. John also has a network of friends and associates whom we see occasionally.

Because this show comes from DC Comics – we have the inevitable “Easter Eggs”. Constantine has inherited “the Mill House” from Jasper. The house is filled with antiquities and magical artifacts. It’s bigger inside than out. The rooms move and change. It’s basically “the House of Mystery” from Justice League Dark without the ability to travel in space. And the House of Mystery is rather similar to the TARDIS but without the ability to travel in time under normal circumstances. In one episode, the helmet of Dr. Fate (Lord of Order) can be spotted among the artifacts. The Spectre (Det. John Corrigan) is present in two episodes: “Danse Vaudou” and “Waiting for the Man”. Papa Midnite is present in three episodes: “The Devil’s Vinyl”, “Danse Vaudou”, and the final story, “Waiting for the Man”. There may be more. I suspect Richie and Gary Lester weren’t invented for the television series.

Constantine ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger. And it’s an emotional one – because we suddenly learn something about Manny – a revelation that makes one question everything he’s done, his motivations, the whispering he’s done in John and Zed’s ears, respectively, etc. In other words, I almost wanted to re-watch the series from the beginning and try to determine just what Manny was doing. And I must admit, I love a series that can do that. You are told at the beginning, “Manny is an Angel”, which leads to assumptions about his character. We learned things in “Blessed are the Damned” that reinforce this point. In any case, I’d love to see the CW bring back this show. It would easily fit in with their line-up of DC superhero shows, slotting in as the “supernatural/horror” show. Or to build a show around Justice League Dark. John Constantine was the leader of Justice League Dark. Bringing the show back as Constantine would allow the answering of unanswered questions: What is The Rising Dark? Just who is Manny working for? Why is John so cursed, and being cursed, what led him to fight evil? Whereas Justice League Dark is a team book – it would allow the CW to bring in as many characters as DC would allow – and to rotate them in and out as they do in the book. Currently, there are plans for DC Animated to do a Justice League Dark movie – and Matt Ryan has already been announced as voicing John Constantine. Not only am I anxious to see that, but perhaps it will lay the foundation for a return of the character in some way.

As it stands, Constantine is an excellent though short series. Some of the grosser scenes are in the early episodes, then it lightens up for the most part. This is a character-driven supernatural drama, built on the DC Comics tradition of magic users and spellcasters. It’s a show I can recommend. I have the Blu-Ray version but it’s also available on DVD – directly from Warner Archive and also from retailers like Amazon. Do check it out!

Ripper Street Season 4 Review

  • Title:  Ripper Street
  • Season: 4
  • Episodes: 7
  • Discs: 2
  • Cast: Matthew MacFadyen, Jerome Flynn, Adam Rothenberg, MyAnna Buring, Charlene McKenna
  • Network:  BBC (Co-Produced by BBC, BBC Worldwide, Amazon Prime, BBC America)
  • DVD Format:  Widescreen, Color, DVD, R1, NTSC

Season 4 of Ripper Street opens with Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. It’s been three years since the end of the previous season. See Season Three of Ripper Street review. Edmund Reid had left Whitechapel at the end of the previous season to raise his newly re-discovered daughter, Mathilda in a seaside town. Mathilda is now a young woman, brilliant and curious about the world, especially Whitechapel. Reid’s determined to protect her and keep her away from the old neighborhood – but he’s drawn back in. Deborah Goren visits Reid and asks him to return to Whitechapel to help her clear the name of Isaac Bloom, found guilty of a terrible murder and due to hang. Susan Hart (aka Caitlin Swift, Jackson’s wife) is also due to hang. She was allowed to give birth to her son in prison, and to nurse him, but as he’s now weaned, she can no longer escape her sentence.

Reid returns to Whitechapel, and although he finds some irregularities in the case against Bloom, he is unable to prevent the man’s death. It appears Susan is also hanged, but Jackson has rigged equipment for her which saves her life. He hides her with an old shipping captain at the Whitechapel docks. Jackson agrees that their son will be cared for and raised by Rose and Bennet Drake.

Each episode of Ripper Street is self-contained, however, they also weave together, brilliantly, to lead to the conclusion of the season. A conclusion that leaves all the main characters in awful straights, and ends with a “To Be Continued” title card. It has already been announced that Season 5 will be the last season, however, I still cannot wait to see it. This has been a brilliant show – with excellent writing and acting, and stories that do not shy away from the horrors of Victorian life. Season 4 for example, includes a story about a Workhouse. And the season opens with Susan raising her child in prison. But it’s the characters and the conflicts between them that draw you in – although I must admit, I like seeing Drake, Reid, and Jackson working together rather than at odds. I highly, highly recommend Ripper Street – it really is a brilliant show.