Constantine: “The Devil’s Vinyl” Review
Constantine Season 1 Episode 3
“GIMME SOME JUICE, JOHNNY.”
Note: The following review goes into detail about the episode. SPOILER ALERT!
So, is this show basically Doctor Who now? Zed acting like Constantine’s companion, Constantine using his own “psychic paper” and Chas describing his house as “bigger on the inside” seem to suggest yes. Not that the direction isn’t welcome (it was even suggested in last week’s review), but it is interesting to see the show seemingly shift its format and tone each episode. I hope this is all a sign of the writers trying to nail a weekly rhythm rather than simply throwing elements at the walls and seeing what sticks.
Constantine traveled to Chicago this week (which is a certain writer’s hometown — represent!) in order to investigate a mysterious vinyl record that’s being fought over by demons and leaving a trail of bodies along the way. This story thankfully didn’t follow the horror mystery formula of “The Darkness Beneath,” instead opting to start with one woman’s discovery of the vinyl and showing its appearance reverberate across the underworld. Said to be a recording of the Devil himself, the record holds immense power in hell and becomes a prize for every demon in the area, including guest star Michael James Shaw’s Papa Midnite, a voodoo priest from the comics who also doubles as a demonic crime boss. Shaw brings a New Orleans drawl and easy confidence to the character, making Papa Midnite more memorable than previous baddies and thankfully leaving the door open for future appearances.
While the overall plot was better, “The Devil’s Vinyl” was dragged down by many of the flaws Constantine has had since the beginning: There are just too many characters that we know too little about. Despite being billed as Constantine’s “best mate,” Chas has yet to receive any kind of development beyond being friends with the guy. He seems to show up only when the script demands a third character, and acts as a sort of human plot device to do what the script requires with little explanation. Manny, the angel introduced in the pilot, has a similar issue, appearing in two scenes this episode yet doing nothing other than reminding the viewers he exists. Zed fares better, with her powers getting more interesting and her dynamic with Constantine more enjoyable. While the show seems to have settled on “Constantine is teaching her to use magic” as the reason the two are together, the Doctor Who vibe the show is giving off really helps the pairing feel more natural.
“The Devil’s Vinyl” was the best episode of Constantine yet, but considering the previous episodes, that’s not saying much. Little by little, things seem to be improving, with Papa Midnite arriving as a memorable antagonist. The show’s imitation of fellow supernatural show Doctor Who is a welcome way to streamline things; however, the show still isn’t perfect, with characters relegated to plot devices (Chas) or cameos (Manny). Constantine has yet to hit its potential, but if it keeps turning in episodes like “The Devil’s Vinyl,” it might be well on its way.
What did everyone think of Papa Midnite’s debut? Do you think Chas and Manny were shortchanged? Draw your comment runes in the section below.
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