- 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!