07 “Blessed are the Damned” (Constantine season 1) [SPOILERS]


constantine title

I’m not quite sure, following my intro to the review of the last episode of Constantine, of whether to celebrate that it hasn’t been cancelled yet, or get annoyed that it hasn’t yet been renewed for a second season.

Grateful, perhaps, that the series exists in any form at all. Perhaps.

It might seem a little dated in ways, but actually they’ve struck a fairly good note. The episodic format feels like it’s leading into something greater somewhere down the line. Which brings me back to whether it will get the chance to take us that far…

This week, John and Zed head to a small church in the Bible belt, where a preacher who was bitten by a rattlesnake and came back from the dead has developed the curious ability to heal the sick. This being Constantine, of course, there are bad consequences of said healings, and the mystical goings on are heavily bound up with angels and the rising darkness.

I think this might have been my favourite Constantine episode yet. Principally because it actually felt like John was in the middle of a celestial battle between heaven and hell. Manny the angel has been a source of frustration for John since the start, but also for me as a viewer. He’s been playing the wise old wizard role, giving irritatingly vague hints and information to further the plot and the audience’s understanding of it.

Here, though, I liked the reveal that in part that’s because he knows sh*t all. The whole free will thing is still there, but when Manny is flummoxed at the appearance of second angel Imogen, it does answer a few questions about why he us always so vague.

The faith healer has, somehow, grabbed hold of one of Imogen’s feathers, giving him his healing powers and stranding her like a beached whale in the mortal plain. And, like a beached whale, she’ll die if she doesn’t quickly get it back.

Zed’s rapt awe of angels as a concept plays a big part here, her admonishment of John’s general lack of respect. For fans of the comics, this comes back to the character’s background, but there’s also an interesting point that she takes this as proof of the truth of God, the devil, heaven and hell.

The resolution of the plot is pretty well laid out too. The revelation that the preacher had killed someone, so was on his way to hell and not heaven when he died and snagged the feather, leading on to the further revelation that Imogen is one of the fallen. That was pretty clear when she was tempting Manny to envy of humanity’s place in creation, but the visual effect of her restored wings turning black was cool.

And Manny actually does distinguish himself as being worth something, appearing to vanish at the critical moment as Imogen holds Zed hostage until John releases her, before appearing in her body to rip out the fallen angel’s heart. Which is suitably gruesome.

The themes here are interesting. Firstly, there are consequences to everything, and though the preacher is trying to use his healing powers to redeem himself, he is seduced by the fame it brings him, even as those who he healed are turned to feral “ghouls”.

And there is, for the first time, a glimpse of the jealousy of the fallen angels for humanity, and the suggestion that they need to “break through”. Hellblazer is a series built on Christian ideas and concepts, and in that respect it finally seems like it is getting into the meat.

Zed’s story also gets a bit of a nudge forward, as the final scenes reveal the hunky life model she is interested in is working with a shadowy crucifix-wearing figure. This, coupled with the barrier between hell and earth growing thinner, is what I’m talking about. The episodes weave together into a larger story.

So renew the damn thing!

Closing thoughts:

  • Zed does life drawing classes. Huh.
  • Compartmentalised angels sound like a dreadful idea. Manny doesn’t even recognise that Imogen is one of the bad guys. Partly that’s because he’s patently a moron, but the system doesn’t help.
  • How anyone looked at that skeevy faith healer and trusted him, even with the miracles, is the real mystery of the episode.
  • I presume John reported him to the police for that murder, once the angel business was sorted.
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