Constantine: A Feast of Friends
November 14, 2014 10:33 PM - Season 1, Episode 4 - Subscribe

An old friend from John's past, Gary Lester, shows up, bringing his addictions and a dark force with him. John must clean up the problem, while Zed tries to learn more about John through Gary.

This episode is a remake of very first storyline in the Hellblazer series (Issue 1), and it establishes the character and tone of the series and of Constantine as a character. It also provides us with a clear point of comparison between the print version Constantine and the TV version. In the original storyline, Lester aka "Gaz", brings the bottle containing Mnemoth back to the UK, looking for Constantine. Constantine was out of town, so in his drugged panic, Gaz mails the bottle to one of Constantine's friends in the US. The bottle is broken at the post office in NY and begins its rampage.

When Constantine finds a drugged Gaz in his apartment, injecting crushed up bugs. He investigates Gaz's story and drags him to the States to clean up the mess. Mnemoth grows stronger and stronger, seeking out individuals with addictions and hungers of all kinds, and consumes them. As John figures out the scope of the problem, he contacts Papa Midnight (who we met earlier in episode 2) for assistance. He has Papa Midnight lock up Gaz in his dungeon to "help Gaz clean up."

In the end, once Constantine has learned of how the demon was originally trapped in the Sudan, he methodically prepares for Gaz' sacrifice. He succeeds in trapping Mnemoth and destroying it along with Gaz. This is not a story of sacrifice and redemption. John bleakly, ruthlessly betrays Gaz and feeds him and his addictions to the demon in order to destroy it.
posted by (17 comments total)
I was pretty excited in the opening scene, seeing that we were going to cover the Mnemoth story. Even after the previous episodes I guess I was still too hopeful. I am not sure who this Constantine is supposed to be (Dean Winchester??) but the cock-sure imp in this show definitely is no relation to the real John Constantine.

posted by at 10:43 PM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

But there was a zero gravity trap! Who knew the Men of Letters had something like that in their super sekrit base!

Yeah, this was going to be my last episode of this show. And then GAZ! Okay, cleaned up sort of Gaz. But Gaz! And Mnemoth! Midway through I was like shitty dull version of Zed and The Angel That Appears For No Reason And Says Nothing of Value be damned, if they stick the ending I may hang out for another episode.

But no.

Nope. Fuck it. I'm out.
posted by eyeballkid at 11:17 PM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is not a story of sacrifice and redemption. John bleakly, ruthlessly betrays Gaz and feeds him and his addictions to the demon in order to destroy it.

Thanks for explaining the difference between the show and the comic, I read Hellblazer off and on but I never read the first issue, so I didn't realize this episode was taken from the comic. I thought it was an improvement over the previous episodes for the most part, but then it got hokey at the end. During that part I was thinking that if it had actually been Hellblazer, John would have tricked Gaz all the way and sacrificed him against his will. Huh.

But of course there was no way NBC would ever let it happen that way. Phooey.

They should have given us a final scene of the two guys who beat up Gaz tripping their balls off on the super psychedelic John gave them.
posted by homunculus at 12:57 AM on November 15, 2014

Some of the changes, I don't understand why they made them. Other changes, I think I know all too well why they made them, and I don't like them.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:58 AM on November 15, 2014

I liked this episode, as it displayed what a bastard John can be and made no apologies for it. The show's propensity for distracting and showy cgi paid finally paid off here, as the effects seemed to fit in without overpowering everything else. Zed continues to come along nicely character wise. But still don't know what purpose Manny the angel serves, other than to add to the CGI budget and not in a good way.

The constant comparisons to the comic book are interesting, but ultimately fruitless. The show isn't going to be close remake of those stories, for whatever reasons. Either watch it or don't, but you're clearly just making yourself unhappy by comparing it to the comic book, so...yeah.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:42 AM on November 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think this was a pretty good episode on its own terms, anti-gravity traps and the like aside. There is no question in my mind I'd have enjoyed it well enough had I not read the comic. What baffles me -- and you can chirrup "NBC!" if you want, but I don't think that can explain it -- is that the changes only serve to remove the shock from the original ending. That shock is what would get people buzzing about the show. Like, leaving art out of this, from a purely commercial standpoint, you really want there to be a buzz about your show.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:35 AM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

you can chirrup "NBC!" if you want


I think there are certain kinds of buzz that just aren't acceptable to the network mindset. From their perspective following the original story would have made John an outright villain, and they'd be afraid that the buzz about the show would be that people really dislike the main character. I think that's wrong: the comic readers would have loved it and most people who haven't read them but have stuck with the show this long would have understood it, but I suspect that's how they see it.

For me making John less cold-blooded wasn't a big deal in itself here; it was Gaz's contrived redemption that screwed it up (even though they must have written it that way in order to allow John to be less of a bastard.) I was enjoying this one more than any previous episode (I've learned to ignore TATAFNRASNOV) up until the show runners unleashed the Cliche Demon.
posted by homunculus at 11:19 AM on November 15, 2014

interesting, but ultimately fruitless.

Story of my life.
posted by homunculus at 11:19 AM on November 15, 2014

I couldn't get past the fact that no one looked in the freezer that whole entire time.
posted by fshgrl at 1:39 PM on November 15, 2014

I think part of the problem is that the actress playing Zed just doesn't have much range. I'm not sold on her being psychic or whatever it is (that the plot needs her to be.) Matt Ryan could be talking to a wooden plank half the time. She's making the same face most of the time.

The other problem is that Constantine has to, by nature of the Demon of the Week format, make expository statements with every other line. Coupled with the ridiculous amount of destruction and carnage left behind that seems never to be addressed, it all just teeters into silliness.

And that zero gravity trap was just plain silly. Not a single scene with that angel was needed or moved the plot along.
posted by Catblack at 2:08 PM on November 15, 2014

Disagree, Zed is a huge step up from Live. Plus, the range she showed in terms of being excited by using her powers to disgust and dismay that John was selling out Gaz was well done. Oddly enough, the zero gravity trap didn't bother me, though it was silly. The whole fortress of magical things/rooms/base is a huge crutch, but it's there, so I'm just going with it.

Wish they'd develop Chas more though.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:10 PM on November 15, 2014

I don’t know if it’s because of my fondness for the comic or in spite of it, but I found this episode to be the most scary and interesting one so far.

Despite the fact that I knew from the books how events were likely to play out from the first line of dialogue: “Gary Lester,” I liked it. No, I really did. Although there are differences, the story was far closer to the comic than anything we’ve seen so far (and I’d include the movie in that assessment as well). The show has regularly been less horrific and less dark than the comic, leaving out the very worst bits of anything directly pulled from the books, but I’d say that this episode was still pretty dark and horrific. Eyeball exchange and tongue removal? Squick.

This is not a story of sacrifice and redemption. John bleakly, ruthlessly betrays Gaz and feeds him and his addictions to the demon in order to destroy it.
I don’t see much difference between this and the events of the episode, unless you believe that Constantine would have just let Gaz wander off had he not been a willing sacrifice. Gaz is weak, betrayed and played either way. It doesn’t even depend on whether you think John was telling the truth to Manny, Zed, Gaz in the bar, or Gaz on the Fox Theater altar. Constantine’s still a shit: he knows that he’s a shit, he wishes he weren’t so shitty, but he's resigned, committed, and without faith or hope (for good reasons). A lot of his friends are also kinda shitty—but some aren’t, and they suffer and die just by knowing him whether shitty or not.

I don’t have a problem with Manny the Exposition Fairy, either. He sometimes has a little Jiminy Cricket or Winchester brother in him, as he provides John with opportunities for moments of reflection concerning his actions and motives in a way that neither Zed nor Chas ever can—no human, let alone friend, can serve that role. Maybe he’s even a little Swamp Thing (but let’s keep fingers crossed Swampy himself shows up one day). As to being an angel, Manny (Emmanuel?) fits adequately into the personality type I expect from DC/Vertigo seraphim (and the similar angelic traits we see in Supernatural)—ineffable, capricious, powerful, supercilious, and irritating. Plus Harold Perrineau has always looked good in angel wings.
posted by obloquy at 8:23 PM on November 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I like Perrineau, last time I was regularly watching a show with him, he was always in a bulletproof vest
Better Off Ted
Kitchen Confidential
The Unusuals
Almost Human

Well, maybe my curse will save you.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:48 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Crap. I read this thread to see if I should keep watching or stop bothering. There seem to be votes for both. (sigh)

Have they improved the cinematography at all? Or is it still shot like CSI: Demons?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:26 AM on November 16, 2014

The show isn't great so far, but it shows promise. I like Matt Ryan in the role and this is the kind of show I want to like, so I'll probably stick with it for a bit.

I've never read the comics, so I guess I don't have that baggage. The sacrifice of Lester seemed pretty messed up thing for the lead in an NBC show to do.
posted by brundlefly at 9:23 PM on November 16, 2014

The sacrifice of Lester seemed pretty messed up thing for the lead in an NBC show to do.
I agree! I had a friend here while I was doing a rewatch last night while writing my recap, and he thought it was pretty harsh. I told him that "the comic book people" keep saying the show's not nearly grimdark enough, which he found quite surprising (and he's also read at least the two issues of the comic the story was based on).
Say what you will about the TV ending being soft, but at least in the book Gaz finally gets his fix after Mnemoth is trapped inside him. And I had forgotten, but Constantine's melodramatic kiss on the forehead of his doomed friend is canon.
posted by obloquy at 11:31 AM on November 17, 2014

I wouldn't say that I think the show's not grimdark enough, just that the changes to Constantine to make him more likeable have resulted in a far less special character and have made the world much less plausible and seem to have lower stakes.

When we saw some real danger to the rock star's family it was predicated entirely on simple stupidity - let's put the possessed record here in the living room, guarded by the careful expedient of pushing it back a little farther and shifting the stack. John's magic twiddles feel like Batman's utility belt. It just feels light in consequence to anyone who might have a speaking credit.
posted by phearlez at 1:42 PM on November 17, 2014

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