Martin Carr reviews the seventh episode of Constantine…
At the heart of this episode lies a theological debate centred on conflicting opinions; those of subjective faith and established dogma. For once the Hellblazer paradigm has been jettisoned in favour of an original piece of writing with a fresh approach.
That it revels in an intentional blurring of character motivations early on, as well as presenting a title layered with linguistic contradiction before the opening credits says much for the ideas on display. It brings into question the line between good and evil as being ultimately subjective. By embedding the healing hand of God within a preacher there is a theological transgression taking place here. As a human embodiment of God’s word preachers represent a conduit or channel through which we are able to express joy and seek absolution.
In the opening minutes there is a drawing which depicts a holy trinity with God at the centre. What Constantine does beyond the central conceit and Deep South location this week, is call into question the validity of this trio as absolute in biblical terms. Nowhere is this transgression more noticeable than in the inclusion of Enochian chants, as pointed out by Constantine who recognises sounds but fails to decipher meaning.
Enochian or ‘Angelical’ was a term coined by John Dee, mathematician, occultist and astronomer back in the sixteenth century. It was supposedly the language of angels dating back to the Garden of Eden. That Constantine is able to recognise but not understand this language, combined with his and Manny’s working relationship tends to raise more questions than it answers.
Standing as he does at the crossroads between eternal salvation and hell fire, Constantine is in a uniquely blasphemous position. If you take the holy trinity but replace the father with heaven, the son with hell and the holy ghost with humanity, then Constantine would be central to the embodiment of all three. It is merely a theory and unique flight of fictional thought based upon existing facts. My only intent upon taking up this line of questioning was to point out any underlying subtext beyond the entertaining elements. Whether these are issues of morality, religion, faith or something else they are only meant to illustrate an opinion, rather than promote rancour in others.
Earlier this week I was lucky enough to have a conversation with Charles Halford from the show. He had a theory about the construction and adaptation of Constantine from page to screen which has some validity in this context. He said that each character within their universe from Chas through to Zed, Manny, Gary Lester, Jim Corrigan and beyond exhibited different elements of John’s persona. His point being that condensing thirty years of back story into a single performance irrespective of the actor is an impossible task. My theory merely takes that premise, runs with it and adds another debateable layer to the mix.
What NBC have here remains for me an exciting and thought provoking property. Each week despite the inherent formula there are ideas at work beneath the surface. As the weeks pass I expect increasingly uncomfortable questions to be asked and answers to present themselves. Comparisons to Supernatural have been made by others and they have a point. Where Constantine can differentiate itself is in terms of redefinition. By which I mean moving those boundaries, removing that net and serving up a slice of healthy debate on the Friday night schedule.