Monday, November 24, 2014

[Constantine] "Danse Vaudou" Review



The previous episode A Feast of Friends based on a Jamie Delano two-part story from the Hellblazer comic book itself  remains the strongest installment of the show so far. Things have definitely picked up for Constantine afterwards, especially with this episode which had a decent case-of-the-week, managing to introduce a new character from DC comics while making the most of the roles its chief characters played throughout the story.  It's not exactly a great follow-up to what A Feast of Friends represented but it was personally a nice break for me, even if what I got is another formulaic plot. Besides, I had a great time with everyone's performance (Matt Ryan IS John Constantine. I'm sorry but Keannu Reeves' film version is a knock-off I only tolerated back in the day because I never thought I was ever going to get a better one). To keep things short and sweet as possible, this will be another bullet-point review post. I think character-driven episodes like A Feast of Friends will be longer since they usually warrant in-depth discussions while fun plot-centered episodes such as Danse Vaudou will get bullets to condense the highlights and my observations in a very accessible format.

But before we head onto the bullets--HOLY SHIT DID JOHN JUST SMOKE? Doth my eyes deceive me? Look at that shit!


John Constantine: Poster boy for "smokin' hot"

I mentioned before that the writers had no plans to show Johnny actually smoke on-screen due to NBC regulations but this episode solidified my hope further that we will be getting Dangerous Habits story arc adapted soon, if not next season. There is, after all, the Rising Darkness plot that must be the major focus for this season right now. Personally, I don't care yet and I hope the writers can fix that up soon. I sincerely believe Zed has something to do with but I will not bore you with comic book canon especially when I'm not even sure if the writers will adapt the entirety of Zed's character story in the show although it was nice that they clued in the viewers that Zed is running away from something and there's a pretty good reason why she changed her name (again, I know why, and I'm just letting this thread unravel by itself so for now I'm not going to talk about it, not when I'm being purposefully vague. I don't want to be that asshole).

So, bullet points, let's go!
  • I thought that this week's plot was entertaining because as oppose to tracking down and expelling one monster/spirit, we're now dealing with three, and their haunting is connected with voodoo magic. Two of these ghosts are killing people but only one is doing it on purpose. The last one is unintentionally sucking the life out of a loved one. I enjoyed how the story unfolded because with multiple ghosts at work, every character has something to contribute to the resolution of the plot. The episode was a good, old-fashioned supernatural investigative work while the rest featured revealing interactions between John and Papa Midnite, and Jim Corrigan and Zed.
  • As far as resolutions go, Danse Vaudou did not shy away from making it personal. We later find out that while Papa Midnite communicated with these ghosts through voodoo magic, it was ultimately the people who grieve them  and couldn't let go who brought them back to the mortal plane. "Guilt" is a resonant theme in Hellblazer's earlier issues because this is John Constantine's greatest burden--he could never forgive himself for what happened to Astra in Newcastle. The secondary characters of this week's case share that same burden, unwilling and afraid to absolve themselves from the demise of their loved ones. After all, a ghost haunting could easily be a metaphor and symbolic representation of the things from our pasts that weigh us down and this episode did a good job showing us the potent power of unresolved issues can have over our lives. From these secondary characters to John and Midnite themselves (and with Zed to a certain extent), everyone is haunted.
  • Interesting factoid: the ghost woman in the surgical mask who murders people using scissors (after asking them if she's "pretty") is actually based from a popularized Japanese urban legend called a "Kuchisake-onna". I remember watching a film adaptation about it called Carved. The show acknowledged the source material by having the character as a former fashion model of mixed race (she has a Japanese name) before she became a ghost.
  • Chas Chandler cooks for John, FINALLY drives that badass yellow cab, gets stabbed and comes back to life, and then holds up pretty well by his second encounter with the scissors-wielding insecure ghost. For fuck's sake, keep him around for the next episodes. I also hope his resurrection ability will be addressed and explained soon. 
  • The best aspect of this episode stems from the fact that EVERYONE IS DOING SOMETHING. While Chas is busy with the scissor-ghost, Zed and Jim Corrigan pick up a teenage hitchhiker ghost and try to put some sense into him to prevent him from further harming people via vehicular accident. On the other end of the spectrum, we have John and Papa Midnite combining their mystical specialties, bickering about each other's techniques, and begrudgingly getting along long enough to put the spirits back to rest. These scenes were well-balanced and filled with revealing character moments, particularly with Jim and Zed, and John and Midnite.
  • ON ZED AND JIM: Both characters know a thing or two about each other that no one else does. Zed saw a portion of Jim's childhood memory and a premonition regarding his eventual death. Meanwhile, Jim knows Zed's background; that she's basically a runaway who changed her name because she's escaping something (it's a pretty good one too, non-comic book viewers). I thought that their small conversation concerning faith and the paranormal is a telling piece of who they are supposed to be and become in the future (Jim Corrigan is the future Spectre, a DC comics character who is the closest thing to a god in DCU; while Zed is...I will say is almost in close association as with what happens with Jim. Uh-oh, we're nearing spoiler territory so let's move on).
  • ON JOHN AND MIDNITE: So far, I think their relationship is the most compelling part of the show. They're both heavily prejudiced against each other and have definitely expressed it here in this episode. Midnite sees John as disrespectful, practicing magic for his own gain, and ignoring fundamental rules of wielding such powers. John sees Midnite's practice as vitally flawed because he uses it for profit which to John is just a gross misrepresentation of the trade (which he upholds should not be used for finance and currency). Both are hypocrites who can never see eye to eye because their own faults are highlighted by the other. It's a great dynamic and I definitely look forward for the next opportunities for a begrudging yet mutually beneficial partnership or another clash.


 
RECOMMENDED: 8/10
 
* With enough excitement, spook, and meaningful character interactions, Danse Vaudou was a decent episode with yet another promising step forward to hopefully more character-based conflicts as we follow the natural progression of the main plot.

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