04 “A Feast of Friends” (Constantine season 1) [SPOILERS]

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The name of this week’s episode set off alarm bells in my head as soon as I read it. For anyone who hasn’t read the comics, the first storyline features a hunger demon on a rampage…

Given how closely the series has cleaved to the feel and character design of the comics, I have been keeping an eye out for developments like this. Introducing Zed as the female lead was a big red flag that they intended to head down the same — or similar — narrative path as the source material.

So what would “A Feast of Friends” be a reference to, then?

Indeed, as I suspected, “A Feast of Friends” opens with Gary Lester going through customs with a kooky looking African tribal jar. When it gets broken by a customs agent, a host of bugs emerge and rush into the hapless agent, making him ravenously eat himself to death. Lester, of course, rushes to his old mate John Constantine, to help contain the demon he’s unleashed.

Okay, so last week I said that the series was bound to come around soon and start revealing more about the exorcism gone wrong which put John in the asylum at the start of the series. Here we get a small glimpse. Gary Lester was there, in Newcastle, when it all went down. So his reappearance isn’t the most welcome sight, particularly with a world of trouble in his wake.

To begin with, I wasn’t thrilled with Gary Lester. He didn’t start off looking like a down-and-out drug addict. But actually the slide down into despair is effectively managed, turning into a pathetic figure in time for the eventual redemption.

After three episodes of witty, funny John, here is where we start to see the darkness at the core of the character. He is into this darkness rising thing remarkably fast, but it’s the darkness in his past which plagues him here. We saw the glimpse of Astra in the pilot, and it is clearly something which bothers him deeply. So when, here, he has to damn someone again, on order this time to stop the demon, it resonates deeply.

Yes, in order to destroy the demon, John has to imprison it in his friend. It is a well-executed moment when Gary realises that this was John’s plan all along, and there is a genuine piece of emotion when he accepts his fate. But it’s still brutal, John carving inscriptions into Gary’s face, and then watching helplessly as he writhes in agony.

For Zed, it’s pretty eye-opening. This, then, is the dividing line between her and Liv, from the pilot. Liv ran away when faced with the dark world Constantine inhabits. When John offers Zed the chance to do the same, as they are carrying Gary back to the cabin, her response is to coldly ask what room John wants him in.

One criticism I do have; the shaman John consults clearly should have been Papa Midnite. But after the two crossed paths and set up Midnite as a villain figure, that clearly doesn’t work any more. Why not use this episode as your introductory vessel? Eh, whatever. It didn’t keep me from enjoying the episode.

I did like that the demon was kept faceless. Manifesting through the insects, all we see of it is its affect on those it possesses. Person after person consuming ravenously, and still wasting away, is a much better than some CGI-heavy monster. The moment when the customs agent plunges his hand into the boiling oil for a handful of chips, rocked the stomach.

The darker John is a development, and a positive one I think. Hopefully it won’t override his cheeky character as already built up, but it adds a facet of history. Newcastle, and what happened there, is on the table, and I expect it to be further eked out as we creep towards the series finale. There’s no hurry, and at the moment what is being sketched out in character, world and plot is more than engaging enough to keep me tuning in.

Closing thoughts:

  • The phrase “tripping balls” should feature in more TV shows, I feel.
  • The security guard at the museum, hypnotised by John into dancing to the “music”, of the alarm, was brilliant.
  • What is Manny the Angel contributing to all of this, exactly? I like that he was there with John at Gary’s bedside at the end, but his other appearances didn’t seem to add anything.
  • All of the mention of Newcastle has me wondering a little at the setting. It’s in America, presumably, because it’s an American show. But it has to come to Blighty at some point, right? To Liverpool, for certain.


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