Tuesday, December 16, 2014

[Constantine] "The Saint of the Last Resorts" Review

I'm going to level with all of you: I'm slowly slipping into my 'holiday hermit' mode by now (considering I'm only going to be at my workplace until Thursday this week as well) so when I saw that there was a new Constantine episode last Friday, I actually rolled my eyes in all lukewarm dismissiveness and didn't get to watch it until earlier on the car ride to work. That was two hours ago and now I'm finally typing a coherent review for it. Like I said, I was not in the mood to watch some Constantine due to my default lethargy for the yuletide season, so this episode as a midseason finale totally went past me at first the entire time I was watching it. After finding out that it was a midseason finale, I felt even better with what was offered since the climactic plot threads that were explored definitely hold a weight of promise for next year's roster.

I read a news article somewhere that Constantine's ratings just went up, most probably due to the threat of cancellation and the fans who want to keep it on air (good for y'all).  Now it's still possible that we might either get more episodes order for the first season (NBC only approved 13 to be released so far), or we get a second season instead of more episodes for the first one. Either way, it's a win-win. Personally I would rather have 22 episodes for a full season one just to see if this show deserves a second life. The truth of the matter is that I like Constantine as a show based on a comic book series but I'm not sure I love it. There are parts that I can enjoy and I'm down for and there are some things that sometimes peeve me off every now and then. I think it's fair to say that the good outweighs the bad, much like with Gotham, another DC comics-based show that I've been reviewing alongside this. For the most part, I think Constantine hits the right notes every time the writers craft their own spin on things, but they also tend to miss out on delivering a more resonant piece once they did lift off a storyline straight from the source material (I'm talking about A Feast of Friends which still remains as the season's best). 

That said, the midseason finale The Saint of Last Resorts leaves a lot to be desired in the best way possible. We pick up some more of the Rising Darkness major arc after the previous episode's revelation regarding fallen angels being able to cross the threshold that divides earth and hell. This time around we get the sister of Eve/goddess of hell Lamashtu who has been working with a  powerful warlock coven from Chile called the Brujería by abducting babies from a specific lineage for a dark purpose yet to be revealed. She's in cahoots with them because said coven has found a way to unite earth and hell together which meant demons like her can expand territorial lines. These are all connected then to the Rising Darkness. In a lesser extent, another contender in the sidelines makes way; this episode marks the first mention of the Resurrection Crusade (well, they were just named 'the crusade' but it's close), a religious zealot cult tied to Zed's past. Zed's real name has also been revealed at last (Mary). This is all comic-book stuff and I'm interested to see how this show's take on R.C and Zed as Mary will play out next year because this was a storyline that I was never a fan of in the first place. Angelica Celaya's Zed, however, was likable enough but I've always perceived her character as a plot device and it looks like that aspect of her character is getting its due. I sure hope it's a hit rather than a miss for Constantine.

The episode was a two-fold exploration which worked superbly since John was able to work on a case while Zed stays behind, allowing both characters to be the central figures of their own respective pieces. Zed's abduction was inevitable so I wasn't surprised when it happened. It really was just a matter of when. As for John whose past will always have a long reach clawing for his throat anytime it can, he once again meets a former mate from the Newscastle clusterfuck who is understandably antagonistic towards him at first until the complex elements of their past relationship was later unravelled quite poignantly. Now, Anne-Marie in the comics was nothing special; she was this timid and obese psychic who pined for John while he was dating/shagging some other bird (Judith) so she joins him in Newscastle as a groupie who never gets noticed unless John needs her for a spell or something. I was then pleased that they revised her character in the show in a more dignified manner while still able to keep the nun part intact. So, for this episode, Anne-Marie is characterized as the older woman who seems to be John's first love, and the one who got him addicted in the occult scene. She was also his surrogate-mother in a lot of ways and she later revealed in the episode that her entering the convent was a penance not just for Astra's damnation in Newcastle but for initiating John into the dangerous lifestyle. She blamed herself for corrupting him and the lives he put in harm's way because of it. I really enjoyed their scenes and interactions together because they were rife with meaning and purpose for the viewers' benefit and for the overall plot.

Matt Ryan and guest co-star Claire van der Boom for the Anne-Marie role have a great set-up together, able to highlight their characters' history with each other and eventual fall-out believably enough so that very last scene with Anne-Marie shooting him to draw out the Invunche with his blood while she runs off with the baby had some gravity to it.

As a midseason finale, The Saint of Last Resorts had been grand. It ended with cliffhangers for both John and Zed's fates which are yet to be sealed, at least until the second part is aired next year. It definitely left me excited and optimistic for what the show will focus on which hopefully would be less on the formulaic case-of-the-week and more on the grittier paranormal drama aspects that made Hellblazer such a beloved series in the first place.

* Yet another episode infused with compelling character conflict and dramatic confrontations that also serve to emphasize a grander scheme taking place which will test our titular hero in the future. This was the promising first part of a two-parter story which will continue once the show comes back.

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