Plot: An acetate record containing the voice of the First of the Fallen (Satan) resurfaces after being lost for years in a Chicago. Constantine (Matt Ryan) and Zed (Angélica Celaya) head to the Windy City to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands and attempt to save the soul of the woman who unearthed it. Meanwhile, a Hellblazer comic staple, Papa Midnite (Michael James Shaw) might have something to say about it.
The great thing about Constantine isn’t Matt Ryan’s wanky sarcasm or the infectious chemistry between he and Angélica Celaya or even the fun, freak of the weak model the show is following.
It’s the shades of gray that make this show so damn intriguing to watch.
Think about it, Constantine could easily be the following – jaded and sarcastic man and his pals fight demons trying to take over the world. If the show was nothing more than this, it’d still be a decent but enjoyable show to check out on Friday nights.
However, as evidenced in the series’ third episode ‘Devil’s Vinyl,’ the intentions of all these characters aren’t purely good or purely evil either. At times, John Constantine comes off as a man who’s bent on ridding the world of evil, but we also know he’s a man condemned to hell. And by giving us a more complicated hero, the audience now has to stay on their toes, questioning all of his motives.
In “Devil’s Vinyl” we believe Constantine’s motives are pure. He wants to avenge the death of a friend who was killed by listening to the possessed acetate as well as freeing the wife of a heavy metal guitarist who sold her soul to rid him of his disease (she had found the acetate to use a bargaining chip to get her soul back). His spot is later blown up by the angel Manny (Harold Perrineau) who calls out Constantine for wanting the acetate as a “get out of hell free card.” As an audience we’re so used to our heroes being altruistic, so it takes you completely off guard when Constantine emphatically agrees with Manny. It’s not a comfortable position to be in for the audience, but good shows challenge us and make us think.
We also see these shades of gray later in the episode when Papa Midnite, who had just left Constantine bleeding out, ends up saving a number of innocent people who were possessed by the Devil’s voice (including Constantine). Sure, he was out to get his acetate back but there was no reason he needed to blow out the speakers thus freeing all those people. What does he care about these random people? Or Constantine even? So, a character that easily could’ve been the season’s purely evil “big bad” actually may have some redeemable qualities.
“Devil’s Vinyl” is a fun and exciting episode that has a lot bubbling below the surface. The relationship between Constantine and Zed is still evolving and it’s a dynamic chemistry to watch unfold. The action and the supernatural frights are still here, but the focus on the characters and what makes them tick really is what is separating Constantine from the sea of supernatural thrillers out there.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Bill Bodkin is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. He can be read weekly on Trailer Tuesday and Singles Party, weekly reviews on Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Hannibal, Law & Order: SVU and regular contributions throughout the week with reviews and interviews. His goal is to write 500 stories this year. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English and currently works in the world of political polling. He’s the reason there’s so much wrestling on the site and is beyond excited to be a Dad this coming December. Follow him on Twitter: @PopBreakDotCom