Constantine: “Rage of Caliban”

Constantine - Season 1

A shame to be starting this on a down note, as it’s been in the news that NBC will be stopping production on Constantine after the initial 13-episode run. I’m sure that John Constantine himself would have a few words to say about this decision and one of them begins with a “w” and rhymes with “bankers.” However, this does not mean that the show is definitely cancelled.

Constantine‘s ratings have been climbing, even beating out Supernatural and Arrow recently, and the show’s cast and writers seem to be optimistic of a renewal. Even in a worst case scenario of cancellation, more and more shows are getting a second life through other channels. Amazon Prime, who screens Constantine over here in the UK, picked up popular crime drama Ripper Street to create a third season after the BBC dropped it, for example. So the future might still be bright after all, but it’s always worth giving the show a boost on social media to let the powers that be know that there is affection out there for our dearly dysfunctional detective of the occult.

Getting to the review, however, I just want to say, this is Halloween, this is Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, Halloween!

Well alright, we’re a bit closer to “Jingle Bell Rock” now if my calendar is right, but ‘tis still the season of ghosts and ghouls for this week’s episode as we open on a house going through something of a disturbance. Inside a man and wife are brutally murdered by an unseen force as their daughter looks on. The child is near catatonic, but when a disagreement between cops upsets her and a nearby mug explodes, it means that she may not be an innocent onlooker in all this.

Meanwhile, John and Chas (Zed is apparently at an art class) look into the murder. Determining that the spirit of a child possessing other children and murdering parents telekinetically is behind this, they have to find where it all started and where its next victims will be.

A young boy named Henry is scared of monsters in his room, and is reassured by his parents. When they leave it turns out there really is something in the room, complete with creaking open closet door (“Awww crud,” I thought, “It’s the Babadook!”) and mysterious figure. He screams for his parents again, but when they arrive, Henry is suddenly a lot calmer, but clearly not quite right in textbook creepy child fashion. When he tracks down the family John has to convince the parents that Henry isn’t Henry right now and get the invading spirit out of the boy. It doesn’t help that John is a little reluctant to perform an exorcism on a child again after the disastrous results last time of an innocent child being sent to Hell.

This one was pretty straightforward with some very nice creepy moments fitting for a Halloween-centred episode with Neil Marshall in the director’s chair again. The scenes of possessed Henry have a very The Omen meets Insidious vibe, and the young actor Max Charles plays it well. Also very nice are the scenes between John and angel Manny, the angel trying to steer John into the good fight and John just generally resenting any divine influence. How John knows that the angel hasn’t been watching over him in his darker moments is discussed and I just really liked the acting between Mat Ryan and Harold Perrineau in that moment.

Less effective is the episode’s finale. John gets the spirit out of the kid and everything is generally fine. There is obviously the link to the botched exorcism of John’s past and a little twist that it isn’t necessarily a dead spirit possessing people, but I was just expecting something a bit more. It’s also a shame that Zed was just absent from the episode, especially after the revelation last episode that someone would betray John and I thought it would be followed up on with some suspicion towards her.

It’s not the best that the show has had so far by any means, but there’s nothing particularly bad about it. More stable than excelling, but that’s pretty typical for a first season of a show and all the more reason why Constantine should be allowed to continue and get a chance to develop the high points that I’ve come to enjoy.

B

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