Constantine: The Darkness Beneath
November 5, 2014 3:04 AM - Season 1, Episode 2 - Subscribe

Deep in the mountains of Western Pennsylvania, John is the small mining community of Heddwich's only defense against an ancient Welsh spirit. In the course of protecting these isolated innocents, John finds a vital new ally in a mysterious young woman named Zed.

Liv's out; Zed's in. Chas stays holed up at Jasper's Cottage of the Occult as he is not allowed in Pennsylvania. A hellish new title sequence is debuted, and Constantine brings a frozen chicken TV dinner to a potluck wake for a miner immolated by showerhead.
posted by obloquy (30 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I am not familiar with the comic book character but this show seems very very much like Supernatural to me. I would believe it if somebody told me it was a spinoff. That's not a criticism, per se, because I like Supernatural, but so far it is not breaking any sort of new ground.
posted by something something at 8:38 AM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I was thinking the same thing while watching it: this episode felt like a mediocre Supernatural spinoff. In a way this episode was a second pilot and pilots are usually not very good, but they're going to need to do a lot better to distinguish it.
posted by homunculus at 9:39 AM on November 5, 2014


Only the presence of horror/supernatural fx differentiates the look of this show in any way from some random crap procedural on CBS. I'm fairly disappointed with the look.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:10 AM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I think some of the rage out there about this show is that it is very similar to Supernatural, but missing the elements of the comic character that would differentiate it from that show.

I mean, both stories are basically about itinerant supernatural troubleshooters, with a loose network of friends/acquaintances/fellow dabblers & troubleshooters/people who just keep an eye on weird shit who lead the main characters from case to case.

But the Hellblazer/Constantine books are far more grim, and John Constantine doesn't have a hunky brother to trade quips with. He's lonely. His allies are temporary (and often have their own agenda - his alliances tend to be untrustworthy and based in expedience rather than ideology or actual friendship), his romantic relationships are fleeting and end badly. He doesn't even really have a Bobby Singer as a mentor and father figure and to provide a temporary place of refuge and research.

Chas is just a regular dude - no supernatural recovery powers, and he's often reluctant to get involved in Constantine's exploits.

So for this show to have Constantine already positioned in a Secret Base Full Of Magic Stuff, with a magical taxi-driving sidekick and a "will-they-or-won't-they" love interest - it sure does seem like they're missing the unique aspects of the character that could have made it a really interesting show.

On top of that, they're clearly far more focused on the season-long Big Story than in what happens in each episode; which is just clumsy, because Constantine is absolutely a character where you could naturally have a slow realization that something big is in the works as he moves from case to case and begins to see connections between them that only he will understand, because he's traveling all over the place.
posted by soundguy99 at 11:32 AM on November 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


This show is going to have to get much, much better very, very quickly if it's going to survive.
posted by Catblack at 11:46 AM on November 5, 2014


I might be the only person on the internet who is actually enjoying this show, but it's mostly because my expectations were so terribly low going into it. Like, I don't think it's going to be Hellblazer, but a whole lot of Hellblazer wouldn't work as a TV show regardless - during the Delano era, John spends probably a whole trade paperback just hanging out on the moors with a bunch of anarchist hippies, living out of a van and bitching about Thatcher. As a TV show, I think there's still a lot of potential here, and in some ways they are planting the seeds of some of the more interesting aspects of Constantine's character.

As an example, in this one, he uses Zed's abilities to help him out without any particular regard for her own well-being, potentially putting her in danger and definitely causing her some pain and distress. This inherent selfishness is one of his more interesting personality traits, and something you'd be surprised to see a main character do on Supernatural.

So I'm still optimistic (though realistically I can tell that it's probably going to wind up being a pretty dumb show).

Aside from all that, though, that whole "there's no blacker magic than gypsy magic" thing was kind of racist bullshit.
posted by whir at 12:13 PM on November 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


1. This show feels like Supernatural because a) Supernatural cribbed massively from Hellblazer and b) all the stuff that would distinguish it from Supernatural has been scrubbed away to make it palatable for the lowest common denominator.

2. Fuck John Antiziganstine, making one of the most prominent left-wing comics characters a fucking racist is just gross.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:33 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


Aside from all that, though, that whole "there's no blacker magic than gypsy magic" thing was kind of racist bullshit.

Yes! My jaw dropped! I guess it's the MeFite in me but I was shocked that made it all the way onto television without one person along the way pointing out how offensive it was.
posted by something something at 12:37 PM on November 5, 2014 [10 favorites]


I did enjoy that Constantine is smoking now, at least sort of. In the beginning we see a burning cigarette in an ash tray that Chas puts out. Later, Constantine is seen exhaling smoke, although no cigarette is actually on screen. Then towards the end, he walks in with a cigarette in his mouth, though it isn't lit and he puts it away.
posted by cerbous at 12:59 PM on November 5, 2014


this episode felt like a mediocre Supernatural spinoff.

This. And a spin-off of the current sit-com like Supernatural to boot, not the early darker more atmospheric seasons which at least would be cool to watch.
posted by fshgrl at 3:19 PM on November 5, 2014


Yeah, this was really not good.
posted by codacorolla at 6:37 PM on November 5, 2014


Fuck John Antiziganstine

Yeah, I cringed at "gypsy magic is the blackest magic there is". Who the fuck is writing this shit?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:14 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think some of the rage out there about this show is that it is very similar to Supernatural, but missing the elements of the comic character

And the element of not having totally ridiculously OTT dialogue and characters.
posted by fshgrl at 12:09 AM on November 6, 2014


John Constantine doesn't have a hunky brother to trade quips with. He's lonely.

Wouldn't mind the addition of a hunky brother, tbh. I think the show would be more interesting if there were really any even semi-complicated relationships to explore. Constantine hanging out with some woman he just met, in a town where neither of them have ever been, just isn't cutting it in the "emotional stakes" department. Lonely is OK but alone isn't going to work for a show, it's just not dynamic enough.
posted by rue72 at 4:45 AM on November 6, 2014


I thought Gavia Baker-Whitelaw over at Hello Tailor summed it up pretty well:

"Last week I mentioned that one of Constantine's biggest problems will be differentiating itself from similar genre shows. Well, that issue is already making itself known. This episode was even more like Supernatural than last week: Constantine saves a small town from undead spirits, and the unimaginative monster-of-the-week storyline was marred by sexist and racist subtext. At least Supernatural is capable of genuine menace and horror, and its dud episodes are elevated by the compelling relationships between its lead characters. Unfortunately, it looks like Constantine is only emulating Supernatural's bad points."
posted by oh yeah! at 5:46 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Shepherd and I literally recoiled when that piece of dialogue was uttered. It was very much a "WTF" moment.
posted by Kitteh at 7:38 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think the show would be more interesting if there were really any even semi-complicated relationships to explore

True, although as homunculus points out above, this is basically a second pilot, so I guess it's understandable that they're spending this episode setting up the potential relationships rather than diving right in. Although there have certainly been, well, better-written shows (Supernatural being one, IIRC) that have managed to do both the introduction and the complications in the same episode.

Constantine hanging out with some woman he just met, in a town where neither of them have ever been, just isn't cutting it in the "emotional stakes" department.

You're right, it isn't. And it also feels like the writers are, like, telling us we should be invested in the relationship between Constantine and Zed, without really showing us why we should be. If you see what I mean.

Lonely is OK but alone isn't going to work for a show, it's just not dynamic enough.

In the "Ideal Constantine Show That Exists In My Head", (and I dunno if you'd call me a fan of the comics, but I've read a bunch of the paperback collections), it wouldn't be "monster-of-the-week", it would be "monster of the 2, 3, or 4 weeks" - where there's enough time in a mini-story-arc for Constantine to establish and develop more complicated relationships with the people he meets as he shows up somewhere to deal with demonic shenanigans, people and relationships he is then forced to abandon as he moves on to the next incident.

So that way you keep the core "loneliness" aspect of the character from the books while still creating some emotional investment for the viewers, not least because some of the people he encounters will show up again as part of a season-long storyline.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:22 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Constantine hanging out with some woman he just met,

Who, naturally, broke into his hotel so she could lounge seductively in a low cut top on his bed. Ugh.
posted by fshgrl at 11:23 AM on November 6, 2014


I actually thought the pilot was better and this was a noticeable step down. I think they re-tooled in the wrong direction.

No one's mentioned the deeply embarrassing creeping along like a cartoon villain bit when he first goes to the mine.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:28 AM on November 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


Zed actually had a purpose in the comics; she was central to the story she was introduced in. Here I have less faith in her being anything other than a sidekick.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:24 PM on November 6, 2014


it wouldn't be "monster-of-the-week", it would be "monster of the 2, 3, or 4 weeks" - where there's enough time in a mini-story-arc for Constantine to establish and develop more complicated relationships with the people he meets

That season structure would make perfect sense (more than doing 22 stand-alones for sure!), I think, since 3-episode mini arcs throughout the season have been the norm for genre shows and dramas for years now. Maybe they actually will go that route?

Something that SPN was amazing at in the early years was always making the episode's B-plot a solid emotional/relationship story. There's nobody for Constantine to even have a real B-plot like that with right now, though. He and Zed don't know each other from Adam, I as a viewer don't even know who Zed is, and Constantine can't be having a "save dead girl from demon" SL every week to give things more emotional oomph.

The stuff I *like* about Supernatural is completely missing in this show. I mean, I didn't watch SPN because they put salt in shotguns or consulted a journal, you know? I'm like probably everybody -- I wanted to see interesting urban legends, I liked the atmosphere, the Winchester family was interesting, and no complaints that the leads are *cough* not bad looking. I actually think Constantine is OK on that last thing, but none of the rest.

In terms of the SPN pilot particularly, since we've essentially just seen a couple Constantine pilots I guess: SPN put both monster-hunting/mytharc *and* personal/family storylines into play in its pilot so as to establish veins to mine for *both* the A- and B-plots to come, and it started and ended with a huge change in the characters' lives so there was a clear reason why the pilot was taking place *right then* (at this major turning point) in particular.

I actually thought the pilot was better and this was a noticeable step down. I think they re-tooled in the wrong direction.

I agree, but I'm hoping that their willingness to at least try to retool the show once means that they'll be willing to try to do so again. This episode felt very haphazard and like it was just thrown together in a panic, but what exactly that means in terms of what to expect of future episodes, I can't really guess. That's the main reason I'm planning to stick it out for at least another episode or two -- I feel like I've just seen two failed pilots rather than the first episode of the series that they're *actually* going to try and air week to week.

Zed actually had a purpose in the comics; she was central to the story she was introduced in. Here I have less faith in her being anything other than a sidekick.

They barely bothered to introduce her and her only SL seemed to be that everyone was confused why she was there anyway (or at least Constantine apparently was, since he flat out asked her), so I don't think the show is married to keeping the character at all yet. A sidekick, though?! Why would they give Constantine a sidekick anyway? So strange. If they're worried that Constantine can't carry the show on his own then it's good they're trying to fix that, but hanging a lantern on the problem by introducing a character just to prop him up (look! Constantine's interesting! this random other person has been drawing him for some reason so obviously he must be interesting! tune in next week to see more uhhhhh of this random other person insisting that Constantine is interesting by sitting on her apartment floor drawing him doing mundane things like standing outside her building?) is just going to exacerbate the issue, imo.
posted by rue72 at 7:50 PM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


No one's mentioned the deeply embarrassing creeping along like a cartoon villain bit when he first goes to the mine.

I blocked it out. As I watched it my only thought was "John would never creep like this."

It's definitely interesting to see the way tv is going to struggle with the nature of John Constantine and portraying him in chunks of real time. As I recall from being a regular reader of the print comic for the first 80 or so issues, his being a minor practitioner was something that benefited greatly from the panel structure. Things could be happening between the boxes; if John needed to sneak by a guard he could pull off some minor glamour and it didn't have to see like some major magic shit. Partly because there was a lot more minor stuff happening all the time - something they can't do on tv w/o issues of budget and suspension of disbelief. Partly because it could happen off-page and not get us used to the idea that John could just magic up any solution anytime.

I don't think you can do that for a tv audience. If your character is the only person doing magic he seems like a superman. In the comics I always felt like John was just barely hanging on, using tiny tricks plus wits to put stuff over on way bigger guns. He wasn't getting by through grand and flashy stuff like flaming hands in front of what looks like street toughs, he was actually setting fire to his hands - and suffering the resulting damage - to trick a demon into thinking he was someone he wasn't.
posted by phearlez at 9:15 AM on November 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


No one's mentioned the deeply embarrassing creeping along like a cartoon villain bit when he first goes to the mine.

I blocked it out. As I watched it my only thought was "John would never creep like this."


Agreed. Shepherd said that John would go into the mine, attitude blazing, and not give a shit about the watchman.
posted by Kitteh at 9:22 AM on November 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think he'd deploy some little foible of a trick to make the watchman not care, or think he was someone else, or maybe he'd bring over a bottle and con the fellow into getting drunk and get by him that way. Which I think is the issue with doing this on tv. The social engineering is boring to watch, the ubiquitous magic is harder to pull off on tv, I think. Though I feel like Constantine isn't even trying.

Buffy addressed the fact that there was a constant amount of whackness going on in Sunnydale just enough to allow you to let it go. They made vampires dust rather than leave corpses and provided various excused and acknowledgments without making it the focus. Constantine didn't even provide lip service to the fact that there was a deadite on the hood of a car that drove into an occupied retail shop. John neither shugged it off to say he didn't care if the world got wind of things or that he'd leave it for the angels to cover up, nor did he do something to disguise things.

The thing about him scrying up some lotto numbers hinted about his trickery and skills but it was about as effective as the pilot's bit about his being a dabbler, not a master of the black arts.
posted by phearlez at 10:02 AM on November 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


The other thing is, so far John's approaching problems the way that, you know, Sam and Dean would. In the comics he'd be approaching each situation as a scam or series of scams to run, but instead he's playing hunter.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:31 PM on November 7, 2014


It would be SO MUCH more fun if Constantine were running scams upon scams. Not just Morally Justified and Magical! scams, but for fun and profit in general. I haven't read the comic, so don't know what kinds of things he was into in those stories, but clever characters are just more fun to watch.

Actually, though, one of my favorite little details in the early days of Supernatural was that the show explained that the Winchesters have all this money for motels and beer and gas and stuff because they run credit card scams all the time. What always perplexes and interests me is how they get medical care, because they're in the hospital a lot. But I appreciated the (light and pretty silly, but the better for it) explanation for the endless income stream anyway.

I guess that Constantine (the show) tried to hit a similar note with all the wallet stealing between Constantine and Zeb but...meh. I don't know, it seemed too irrelevant to either the characters or the plot (or criminality in general? lol) to really have any impact I guess.

The social engineering is boring to watch, the ubiquitous magic is harder to pull off on tv, I think.

I think the social engineering could actually be pretty fun! I mean, what else are we watching? Exposition w/r/t meaningless procedural stuff? I'd rather watch Constantine get drunk with someone and figure out how and when to screw them over (or not, maybe! depending on how he feels I guess!) than I would watch him talk to some woman in her bathroom about how racist he is against Romani people. I'd also rather watch him having to go into the drug store for cortisone cream and struggle to use the self-check-out after burning the hell out of his hands than I would watch him defeat demons by effortlessly throwing fireballs at them. Oddly, when people talk about things from the original comic, I feel like the show is kind of sucking the humanity out of the story. I guess it's trying to go too big? Even though it really doesn't seem to be going that big anyway?
posted by rue72 at 8:04 PM on November 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


What always perplexes and interests me is how they get medical care,

They scam that too, they have fake medical cards, they show it a bunch in the early seasons.

I gotta say, the social engineering, constant lying, hustling pool, crappy food and weird motels was my favourite part of Supernatural and at times the X-Files too. Keeping your characters grounded in the real world is important when your story is at heart totally ludicrous.
posted by fshgrl at 8:44 PM on November 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well, that was hard to get through. Also, what is up with the dialogue? Everyone's talking like an exaggerated parody of whatever character they're supposed to be. Have the writers ever listened to people talk at all, or do they know the concept of dialogue only in the abstract?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:24 AM on November 8, 2014


As for a hunky brother, he kind of had one, a twin, it's just that he strangled him with the umbilical cord in the womb. Because that's the kind of thing John Constantine does to his friends and family.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:30 AM on November 8, 2014


Finally started watching this show tonight. Just finished the second episode and immediately came here to find out where we're all sending our Strongly Worded Letters to protest the "gypsy" slur?
posted by Jacqueline at 9:16 PM on November 14, 2014


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