Your Constant(ine) Companion: Part 4
Ep 4 — A Feast of Friends
Not been here before? Welcome, but you should probably start with Part 1.
Greetings demon hunters, warlocks and witches. We’re back again with yet another episode in the continuing saga of Constantine. I promised you things would pick up this episode, so let’s find out if I was right…
The art of the tease
A guy who looks exactly like a junkie coming down stumbles through airport security claiming he’s here to see a friend (guess who that is). Customs don’t buy it for a second and pull the guy in for interrogation.
He’s coming back from Sudan with an antique bottle that he begs the lairy customs guy not to open. Of course, he picks it up and weird shit immediately starts to go down. The customs guy looks shocked, drops the bottle and it smashes, revealing a swarm of beetles that fly down the customs guy’s throat while the junkie pegs it.
It’s actually the most effective teaser so far. Bodes well.
What’s that coming over the hill?
It’s a hunger demon, which initially sounds like a crap Buffy villain, but they pull it off. It’s not the only shade of Buffy in this episode, but more on that later…
The demon possesses people, has them stuff their face until they die, then moves on to its next host — pretty standard, but it’s the execution that makes this monster work. While possessed, victims go all Evil Dead and the show manages some of its best effects yet. One incarnation is simply a contortionist crab-walking upside-down, which is incredibly effective with nary an effect in sight. Lovely.
The real meat of the episode, however, comes not from the demon, but in how it is vanquished. See, the only way to kill it is to trap it in its host, so it dies along with the innocent person it possessed. You see where this is going?
After the credits, we open on Constantine and Zed in a park, where John says Zed can feel the power of nature and enhance her powers. Zed portentously says it’s like a drug, which she isn’t into as she gets enough trippy shit from her visions. John says she needs to let go to tap into her powers, which leads to her having a vision of pennies falling from heaven, an omen of celestial beings arriving because Manny’s there to have a shot at Lucy Griffiths by telling John not to invest in Zed unless she’s going to stick around. Charming.
He tells John not everyone has the stomach to do what he does, or to watch him do it. Fooooreshadowiiiiing…
Zed and John head back to the Cave, where the magical security system has caught our junkie breaking in and pinned him to the ceiling.
Constantine’s tale of woe
See, it turns out that the junkie is an old friend of Constantine’s named Gary Leicester. Gary was there when John got the little girl killed and has been traumatised by it ever since.
John’s backstory is identical to Giles from Buffy, which I guess is only fair as Giles was based pretty heavily on the Constantine comics. John was a dark-magic bigshot with a crew, who was arrogant enough to think he could save Astra. Gary was part of that crew, despite being a junkie loser, because he had money and a car to drive them around.
The night of the exorcism, he was high as a kite, freaked out and ran all the way to Sudan, where he bumped into a homeless man who was strung out of his mind. Gary realised the guy was possessed and someone had trapped the demon inside. Trying to redeem himself for Astra, Gary exorcised the demon into the bottle and tried to bring it to John to get it destroyed, which we know went well…
Worst… detective… ever…
So John tells Gary to stay in the Cave where he can’t muck anything else up, with Zed making sure he stays put, and heads out after the demon. It doesn’t take long as the demon is leaving a trail a mile wide that the authorities believe is a disease outbreak.
John even manages to interview a witness, persuade them to talk and use their spurious memories to find the demon at a meat-packing factory. Way to go, Constantine!!!
He even pulls a nice little gag of scratching off the number for the factory’s “days since last accident” sign when he finds all the employees dead. Alas, he drops the ball when the demon breaks right out of the bottle trap he creates for it.
So, John heads off to yet another old friend, a shaman who takes him on a vision quest with some magic LSD that requires an antidote or it leaves you high permanently. We find out some backstory to the demon, but it’s all a pretty much irrelevant attempt to tie it into the real political situation in Sudan. What’s much more interesting is the vision scenes where we see John taking out his eye and swapping it with the shaman’s. Very nice.
Just use a pin, love!
Meanwhile, Gary chats to Zed about what a loser he is and how much he wants to make up for it. Zed tries to comfort him and her powers pick up on his addiction, somehow absorbing all of his come-down into herself. She gets all the symptoms of withdrawal while he runs off with a clean slate. It’s a nice move to make her powers a weakness rather than failing to make them a strength as we’ve seen so far.
Dick move, John
Get ready, because we’re about to go full dick… so to speak…
John catches up with Zed and alledges she must have shagged Gary to pick up his addiction, which is a move back to him being a misogynistic arsehole instead of just a regular arsehole. Had enough of that in episode two, thanks…
He finds Gary getting beaten up by some drug dealers he’s trying to score from and he trades Gary for the magic LSD, which will leave the dealers and their clients as vegetables, but hey… them’s the breaks, I guess…
Still, he has a heart-t0-heart over a beer and tells Gary that he can help trap the demon. They need to steal a magic knife that can be used to cut binding patterns into a possessed person and hold the demon there until it dies.
Gary breaks into the museum where the knife is kept while John deals with security. He does this by making the guard dance ballet. This is the kind of competent, badass sorcery we’d like to see rather than Constantine being a bumbling idiot.
In the meantime, Manny shows up and asks if this is really a good idea, which is when we start wondering if they’re actually going to do what we think they’re going to do…
…yes. Yes, they are...
Gary and John track the demon to a theatre where John reveals his plan is to let the demon possess Gary, trap it inside and watch Gary die horribly. Gary, as it turns out, is thrilled by the idea of dying for a purpose, and we end watching Gary suffer horribly over several days.
Oh, Constantine, you magnificent bastard. I thoroughly approve this dick move. This is the show we want to see.
As is happening pretty regularly, Zed is the weak point of this episode. She judges John for his actions and sympathises with Gary, even when he attacks her and puts her in withdrawal. This comes across as weak compared to John’s admirable dickishness, but worse, it doesn’t sound like the actions of the con artist thief Zed is supposed to be.
In fact, you get the feeling that this story was written for Liv and Zed has simply been inserted into it. How exactly can a character not be working if you end up moulding her replacement into the same, exact character?
On the other hand, Manny’s potshot about investing in a sidekick who doesn’t stick around makes me wonder if maybe leaving was more Lucy Griffiths’ decision than the showrunners, which gives me a sudden sympathy for them. Still, why go with a completely-different character? Recast and reshoot, surely?
Chas gets fragged
Worse, there’s no Chas. He’s a fun character with a mystery background, but they’re repeatedly leaving him out of the plot for silly reasons. Oh, David Goyer, how you have fallen…
Despite the continued annoyances of Zed and the lack of Chas, this is a truly epic episode, which is far closer to what the show could have been if they hadn’t tripped themselves up by changing the format at the last moment.
Has the show found its feet or will it continue to stumble without Liv? We’ll find out next episode…