Plot: John Constantine (Matt Ryan) heads to a rural Pennsylvania mining town where spirits are killing taking out miners. While in town he runs into Zed (Angelica Celaya) who has been having vision of Constantine.
There’s no way this episode should have been this good.
Most fledgling shows, no matter how good the pilot, tend to stumble through its second episode. For all intents and purposes, there’s no reason “The Darkness Beneath” should’ve worked at all. The series just wrote last week’s heroine (and the originally intended lead) Liv Aberdine (Lucy Griffiths) off the show and are now introducing Celaya’s Zed as her replacement. Such a sudden shift in the series should have been a jarring change. It should have derailed the episode. Instead, strong writing and an instantaneous chemistry between the actors helped the show avoid a second episode slump.
The scribes behind the episode did a great job of cutting to chase. There was no meandering about Zed’s backstory in this episode, we get just the right amount of information on her and then we’re off to the races. Keeping Zed mysterious leaves plenty of material for future episodes.
Zed’s willingness to dive into the fray with Constantine is extremely refreshing. Last week, Liv’s constant apprehension and disbelief was so expected. We’ve seen this in countless shows and films before, and her character was one of the weak parts of the premiere. Having Zed eager to help Constantine but unsure of what is exactly happening allows for Constantine to be more of a mentor to Zed rather than a salesman and tour guide. He doesn’t have to prove himself to her nor does he have to keep reminding her of the evil in the world to get her to participate in the good fight. Instead, Constantine now has a powerful and willing ally.
The chemistry between Ryan and Celaya is electric. The writers make Zed a character that’s not afraid to go toe-to-toe with Constantine, to challenge him and to save him from danger. Celaya has a strong presence and really holds nothing back in her performance. It’s great to see a female “side kick” (for lack of a better term), be a strong, headstrong character instead of some sort of damsel in distress.
Ryan just kills throughout the episode. He seems so at home in the series, as if he were born to play John Constantine. He was has this infectious swagger and you can’t help but love this grizzled and flawed character. Ryan has the ability to carry every scene he’s in, particularly ones that are a bit undercooked. “The Darkness Beneath” wasn’t a perfect episode and there were a number of scenes that could’ve been fleshed out better (the motives of the big bad and the mining company could’ve been fleshed out better), but Ryan was able to overshadow any deficiencies any scene had. His wit, charm and ability to flip the switch between snarky anti-hero to full-fledged demon slayer keeps you glued to every second he’s onscreen. And thankfully for the series, he’s rarely off-screen.
“The Darkness Beneath” should’ve been dead on arrival, but it turned out to be a really fun episode that leaves you wanting more. What’s the deal with Zed? What’s the great darkness coming? Will Constantine ever shave? Only two episodes in, Constantine already feels like a seasoned series that’s completely comfortable in its own skin. That’s super-encouraging for fans of the show as it seems like things can only get better from here — who else is excited for Papa Midnight next week?
Rating: 8.5 out of 10