Bad news: Constantine has received its letter of termination after just one season. Actually, production is halted at the series’ 13th episode. So, we only get half a season of the show that is based on the popular DC comic Hellblazer.
This is a real pity as the series is not afraid to take risks in how it tells its stories and explores the characters. Whether it’s delving deep into dark practices or painting the hero as a horrifically flawed man, the series boldly takes these, and more, by the horns to places that very few shows dare to go.
If there was one misstep the series took, it was in adopting the “demon of the week” format. While the cases are interesting – one week it’s dead miners returning, the next it’s a vinyl record with the devil’s voice on it – the execution feels very procedural.
Luckily, actor Matt Ryan makes it work.
You know the series is off to a great start the moment you see Ryan on screen.
In the 2005 film Constantine, Keanu Reeves played the title role. Some folks are still upset about this choice; no doubt, they were ecstatic over the selection of Ryan, who rocks the-white-shirt-skinny-tie-brown-trenchcoat look.
The fact that the actor is having a lot of fun playing the cocky warlock comes across clearly and this, in turn, helps the audience to accept the anti-hero for all that he is – a tortured soul surrounded by shadows, driven by pain and guilt, and someone who masks his emotions with bravado.
So, regardless of whether Constantine is spouting Latin while covered in blood, or delivering a one-liner at the most inappropriate moment, Ryan easily sells the working-class man with a rough exterior who genuinely wants to help people.
It needs to be said, however, that Ryan’s co-star Angelica Celaya’s acting is somewhat forced. Good thing that Charles Halford balances things out as far as the supporting cast is concerned.
The series revolves around John Constantine – exorcist, demonologist and master of the dark arts. At least that’s what his calling card says. In the pilot, haunted by a failed exorcism in Newcastle (an incident brought up throughout the series), he admits he’s been thinking of changing the last part to “petty dabbler” as he doesn’t want to “put on airs”.
Wit is only one of Constantine’s many weapons against the dark forces he fights. The other is a vast knowledge of the occult, spells and all things about the dark arts. He also has a house full of interesting knick-knacks that he uses for each case. Helping him is an intuitive psychic named Zed (Celaya), an old friend named Chas (Halford) who keeps coming back from the dead, and an angel named Manny (Harold Perrineau) who appears at crucial moments but doesn’t really lift a finger to help Constantine.
In the first three episodes, we see just how good Constantine is at banishing whatever evil pops up. Sure, he does this with pizzazz, but his approach is to always run to danger head first. Luckily for him, he knows what to do … almost always.
If there is a theme that is apparent in these initial episodes, it is that there is a “rising darkness”. More intriguing is the often-referenced incident in Newcastle. In the pilot, we meet one of his friends, a professor with computer skills and knowledge of rituals. In the fourth episode, we meet one more of his old friends and yet another in the eighth … all still reeling from Newcastle.
It is when the series shows Constantine catching up with someone from his past that its storytelling is superb. The audience does not only get a piece of his history but a deeper insight of the man he is now.
Episode Four, A Feast Of Friends, is about a hunger demon (and it’s also a gross episode not only because of the bugs but the demon’s greed) but the episode is ultimately about sacrifice and friendship. This particular one-hour drama does not have a happy ending – far from it – proving that, above all, Constantine stays true to its characters at whatever the cost, just like its hero.
It’s just too bad that the ultimate cost had to be its cancellation.
Constantine airs every Sunday at 7.20pm on Fox HD (Astro Ch 724).