Monday, November 10, 2014

[Constantine] "The Devil's Vinyl" Review

I almost didn't want to write a review for this week's episode. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it. Just like the last one about coal miners and a Romani housewife-witch, I liked this one too and it's even an improvement in comparison. The reason why I don't feel like writing a review is because I'm trying to catch up with posting new ones for New 52 Batman comics books for my other blog, and I feel that this one is getting in my way somehow to accomplish just that this week. But then again, I thought that this wasn't going to be a lengthy review in the first place because there is not a lot to discuss here so I can deliver my insights as succinctly as I could and then get back to more important things. Like Batman. Sorry, Constantine.

As I've said, The Devil's Vinyl was probably a better episode than the last two combined and that's mainly because there is more plot here than The Darkness Beneath--perhaps even too much. Still, once the credits rolled, it stuck its landing well enough. Sure, Constantine is still trying to figure out itself as a serialized paranormal show and I confess that there are a few instances while watching this episode that I keep trying to turn off the Supernatural fan in me so I can focus. That said, there are plenty of things that made this episode work and only a few that held it back and I'm going to summarize them below:

  • This episode has brought us a lot of trivia concerning rituals and magic gizmos: the charmed playing card where the holder can make it appear whatever it wants it to be; the ammonia-soaked left hand of a hanged man with fingertips you can use as a candle to evoke the dead but the price is a few days of your life; and a soul broker who can null the contract by literally digesting the parchment where the deal was signed. The entire episode itself is devoted to an urban legend concerning a vinyl that recorded a demonic voice which wants to be played no matter what so whoever is unfortunate enough to possess it will have no power to resist once he or she hears said fatal recording. It's an entertaining enough plot for a forty-two minute format.
  • We got the first-ever mention of the FIRST OF THE FALLEN and another appearance of the angel Manny just to remind viewers that there is a bigger picture unfolding (a possible main arc?). Obviously, the First of the Fallen is Lucifer. The reason why we use such a title as oppose to just plain ol' Lucifer is because in the Vertigo comics, Neil Gaiman is already using a character named Lucifer Morningstar for The Sandman series so for a different character, but still basically with the same function (minus the existential angst of Gaiman's Morningstar), Hellblazer created its own version of the devil and is deemed First of the Fallen which is pretty rad.
  • Papa Midnite also makes his first appearance and I gotta say he's exactly the baddie this show needs to give Johnny something more tangible and human to challenge him aside from the ghouls and demons he hunts. The viewers quickly understand the dynamics between them and Midnite does look like he'll be a threatening, impeding force to be reckoned with and we might get more action-oriented confrontations between him and Constantine in the next episodes. I'm very hopeful about this development.
  • Tons of plot stuff happened. We got a first arc with Jasmine Fell and her pursuit of the vinyl record in exchange to buy her soul back; the second arc with Papa Midnite wanting the powerful artifact for himself and abandoning John to fend for himself or die; the third arc of Midnite's own goons being under a demonic trance as they started cruising places like a club and a radio station to initiate a murderous rampage via vinyl recording which is both absurd and horrific. It worked because such elements allowed the episode some fast-paced action which should keep your average viewer glued to the screen to see the events unfold and get resolved.
  • My personal favorite scene has to be John Constantine with a earful of Sex Pistols as he runs like a champ inside the radio station to stop the recording from being played on air. Also, his first appearance in the episode where he was naked, covered in blood from head to foot, as he learns a new incantation. Actually, Matt Ryan is still the best thing to happen for this show. That's probably why I keep watching even if the writing and overall tonality for Constantine are still problematic for me. I continue to hope the show gets better. Matt Ryan does look the part and there are aspects to him that do feel very John Constantine but I need more.
  • Chas was underused for the last episode so it's nice for him to have more of a presence here even if he does arrive later on as everything in the plot is about to get resolved. He better get that iconic taxi cab fixed soon because he needs to be driving Johnny around that thing. Supernatural has an Impala. And I got to stop making SPN references in my reviews, dammit. But it's hard because that's usually my go-to show for anything mainstream spooky and horror. I do long for the day that Constantine defines itself as  a different show than SPN because, so far, it has yet to do that. But never give up, viewers. It's only been three episodes. Nowhere to go but up!
  • We need to talk about Zed. When they dropped Liv Aberline as a major character, the writers said it's because they don't want a mentor-student dynamics between their two leads but that's EXACTLY what's happening here. I'm not amused. Though Zed does contribute a significant amount of action and decision for this episode, I just don't like her presence. It's...bland. There was a spark to her in the last episode where she's vaguely coquettish with an off-putting charm that surprises me and John whenever she says or does things--but there was something about her in this episode that annoyed me. As far as I'm concerned she's hardly changed since the second episode so perhaps I'm just getting sick of her already. I'm biased because I know her character from the comics and where she's heading so that's probably why I feel like she's overstaying. But hey, the writers may have other plans for her and I may just need to get over myself and just suck it up and watch more of her next time. By then my feelings may change again and I might start enjoying her.
  • But for the love of god, give me more Chas Chandler! I want his relationship with John to have a more definitive focus than John and Zed's. The physical chemistry of the latter is beginning to suffocate me by now, if I'm going to be perfectly honest. I'm an awful person for asking this but can they please shag already? They're going to. They have to. It serves the plot (oh, yes it does); that is if this show plans to still follow the comics. If it doesn't, whatever. My overall ratings will continue to coast on the same scale then, like for this one.

* The episode is a noticeable improvement from the last one. It's  filled with amusing and suspenseful moments to balance out its overcrowded plot elements. A new and exciting character makes his debut appearance and Matt Ryan continues to deliver a solid performance for the titular role in spite of the problems areas of the general writing for the show itself.

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