“I WORK BEST ALONE.”
Note: The following review goes into detail about the episode. SPOILER ALERT!
Constantine feels like it sounded great on paper, but doesn’t quite hit the mark in execution. The show feels like it wants to break out into Doctor Who style adventures, with John Constantine drifting around the world solving supernatural mysteries. Unfortunately, it’s cramped into the format of a more traditional procedural. “The Darkness Beneath” is able to address some of the issues the premiere had, but ultimately, the half-baked story and rushed character introductions keep the show from reaching its full potential.
After receiving the map of demon activities in the pilot, “The Darkness Beneath” saw Constantine heading to Pennsylvania to investigate the mysterious deaths of coal miners in the town. He soon runs into Zed, played by Angelica Celaya, a gifted artist who also has visions of the supernatural. She’s been drawing pictures of Constantine for days and wants to know why. But the only way for her to find out is to follow Constantine as he investigates the happenings in town as more and more miners are killed. Zed was a welcome presence on the show, with Angelica Celaya lending the Hellblazer character a feisty spirit and eagerness to keep up with the dabbler of the dark arts. Not to mention this version of the character is Hispanic, adding a good dose of diversity to the cast. However, Zed’s arrival into the story is done very sloppily, with her conveniently bumping into Constantine in the middle of rural Pennsylvania. The pairing feels kind of forced that way, with the show trying to find a plot reason for them to be together other than “we need another supporting character.” (Perhaps the force Zed feels drawing them together is called NBC?)
The main plot itself offered some interesting tidbits, involving a folk tale about the spirits of dead miners who knock to warn their comrades of impending collapses. Aside from the nice use of mythology, the mystery plays out like a paint-by-numbers procedural, with Constantine meeting several people at the start, them getting picked off one-by-one, etc. While Constantine tries to frame all that happens as part of a larger story, none of the other threads from the premiere are carried over here, with the map being an afterthought, Chas being written out immediately, and Manny being entirely absent. Not that they’re going to be missed, but stripped of all the things the pilot tried to set up, “The Darkness Beneath” feels almost like an episode of a different show. The lore laid down in the pilot is meaningless, essentially.
The ending was particularly generic, as Constantine warns there’s a “darkness rising” and claims it’s “infecting people” around the nation. While it’s nice to know the writers have a season-long arc in mind, this seems like a rather bland way to drive the story forward, especially considering it’s nothing more than lip service at this point. It is encouraging, however, that the show isn’t confined to Atlanta as the pilot showed. This should hopefully mean some variety in the locations the show visits in its demonic romp across the US.
“The Darkness Beneath” continued many of the issues currently plaguing Constantine, but things weren’t a total waste. Matt Ryan is still terrific as Constantine, and new “companion” Zed is far better than Liv was. Any show can tell stories about demons, vampires, and angry spirits, but there’s 30 years of source material to draw from here. There’s no shortage of supernatural procedurals out there, and what separates Constantine from those shows is its comic roots, something the show really needs to leverage more if it wants to survive. There’s loads of great, character-driven stories to be mined from Hellblazer, which is something Constantine ought to learn in the season ahead.
What’s everyone’s opinion of Zed? Is this episode and improvement over the pilot? Begin your discussion rituals in the section below.
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