Constantine Season 1 Episode 2 Review– ‘The Darkness Beneath’

Martin Carr reviews the second episode of Constantine…

Pull up a chair and I’ll let you in on the best kept secret NBC have got…….

 

Constantine already has a certain style and swagger in his step as we move into week two. Channelled through Matt Ryan in what is fast becoming a defining role for the jobbing actor, Constantine oozes confidence while more established shows still struggle for identity. This private eye murder mystery is served up with lashings of acerbic Liverpudlian wit and trailing cigarette smoke. If anything that FCC fag butt baiting says more about this programme and its modus operandi than anything else.

In a less than obvious way there is more than implied nicotine consumption on show here. Split second glimpses always done over the shoulder, combine with fleeting images of this reviled object perpetually positioned just out of shot. Not only does this most anti-social of habits cement the isolationist demeanour central to Constantine’s persona, but creatively it helps retain a sense of rebellion in the face of network restrictions. By adopting this approach David Goyer and Daniel Cerone have done something essential to maintaining their legitimacy by keeping Constantine fallible. Armed only with a handful of incantations and lady luck in more ways than one, he is able to level the playing field like a street conjurer staring down an angry mob. Anyone familiar with ‘Hellblazer’ are more than aware of how tame things are right now and what is coming. Fans also know that lighter fluid, flaming palms and a propensity for sarcasm, represent nothing more than diversionary parlour tricks against the coming darkness.

Hence why an imminent meeting hinted at during the final minutes of episode one needed handling with care; after all there is comic book history between these two which stretches back thirty years. Interestingly what surfaces within the mechanics of this coming together is a chance of redemption. Driven by suffering and consigned to hell, Constantine uses isolation and guilt as weapons against the unwary. What was needed and supplied in spades was a physical and psychological match for him, combined with a pair of legs to go the distance.

For something comparative I have to move out of comic books and into film, specifically the first meeting between James Bond and Vesper Lynd. What we had there was a meeting of minds. Common ground begrudgingly acknowledged. Constantine does something similar making Zed, played by Angelica Celaya, into more of an opposite number than any form of sidekick or love interest. There is obviously an attraction there but also an inherent distrust which sits at the core of the partnership. Unfortunately other story elements suffer as a result, becoming so much background noise alongside the dynamic which tenuously links them together.

 

Others have been backhanded in their praise of Constantine. Last week apparently went by without a whimper. This week then has been hailed as the second shot at a pilot, which says more about those reviewing than anything directly detrimental elsewhere. What continues to intrigue and interest me is the central performance, which is measured, decidedly lacking in mainstream sensibilities and unconventional by traditional comparisons. With the addition of a secondary dynamic Constantine is shaping up to be something NBC can be proud of; namely a comic book adaptation worth its salt.