09 “The Saint of Last Resorts: Part Two” (Constantine season 1) [SPOILERS]

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It feels like absolutely ages since Constantine finished before Christmas, and another age since the new year before it started. Quite why, I’m not sure, but who cares now, because it’s back!

I had hoped that by the time it returned to screens, it might have been saved from renewal purgatory and been renewed for a — deserved, in my opinion — second season. Sadly that doesn’t seem to have happened, and there are only three episodes left of this season, so to coin a peculiarly British phrase, we’re into squeaky bum time.

But never mind that for now. I have a new episode to review.

After being shot by Anne-Marie, and left for the invoche to eat, a desperate John summons a demon into his body to heal his wounds and save him from being eaten. His plan — as much as he has one — is to perform an excorcism on himself before the demon moves in so much as to be putting up wallpaper. If he can. Meanwhile, Zed breaks free of her captors and goes back on the run to help John in Mexico.

Okay, so the resolution of the cliffhanger was good, believable, and ramping up the stakes. The exorcist taking a demon into himself is a nice touch, and this is the first up-close look we get at demonic possession. Mostly it consists of John drooling, his eyes turning red, and his words being particularly hard to understand.

The action rumbles quickly through the whole episode, with John racing to fix his demon problem. When the demon first appears it butchers a whole load of gang members, and sends him to prison. There, it butchers a whole load of gang members, and John ends up running the prison.

What’s that phrase about it being better to reign in hell than kneel in heaven?

As the demon seems to be winning, we see a sadder, lonelier side of John. The cocky attitude disappears as he stares down not just his death, but eternal damnation. It gives the character a little of the life that has come a little slowly in previous episodes. It also gives a bit more background to Annie and to Zed.

Zed’s storyline is the one that feels the most botched. After being captured by her father’s men in the last episode, she escapes in a matter of moments. Which killed the tension a little. But then she is there for the action of the rest of the episode, and there is an undertone of tension added to her now that the threat she is running from is made more tangible.

Anne-Marie is, unusually for a side character, given a great deal of exposition here. Her guilt at leaving John to die, and her greater guilt nodded at last episode at having introduced John to magic in the first place.

What “The Saint of Last Resorts: Part Two” manages to do is create a real question of John’s survival. Of course he will survive, but it’s the how which creates the intrigue. On top of the consistently good acting which has marked this series, this is why it deserves to be renewed. Not because it’s the best or most original series, but because it entertains and is so well acted. The moment at the end, where after the return of John’s brash and cocky attitude, it fades from his face when his friends leave the room, replaced by a serious and contemplative look. There’s the magic.

If they want to make the rising darkness feel like something weighty and important, a genuine threat, then this is how to do it. Not through CGI — which was pretty bad this episode, as a rule — but through the consequences on those whose lives we’re meant to invest in. Buffy did this particularly well. The end of the world is such an overused trope that it is essentially meaningless. But if we are talking about the end of a group of characters’ world, that can be another matter. If we as an audience have a genuine connection to, and investment in, these people.

I’m honestly starting to doubt that Constantine will be renewed. This might well be all we get of the series, so it’s episodes like this that I want to enjoy whilst I can. This was fun, fast and steeped in a greater sense of mystery. And I’m still enjoying the hell out of the ride.

  • “Black pants”. Anne-Marie, a Brit, gives John, another Brit, “black pants”. I mean, really? It’s not that hard guys!
  • The Trickster was a weird addition. He didn’t really add much, and then seemed to die. Presumably he’ll be back, given the chance?
  • There is a serious Bane effect going on with possessed John’s voice.
  • Nobody ever does an exorcism in a well-lit space, do they?

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