Now, before my friends and other Constantine fans start gloating about this, I am going to say: I did not find Constantine to be a great show, or even a particularly good one. I found it to be a mildly good show.
Now, before my friends and other Constantine fans lynch me, please, hear me out! 😉
First and foremost, I hate tragedies. I dare you to argue that the tale of John Constantine is not riddled with tragedies, and rather horrific tragedies at that. So, yes, if I am honest, I have to admit that part of why I didn’t like the show very much is simply because of my own personal taste. It just didn’t click with me, ya know? We all have those things that our friends love but which just don’t appeal to us for whatever reason.
That in mind, I do at least try to remain fair and objective in my reviews.
I make no claim of a 100% success rate, but I do try. 😉
So, Constantine follows the adventures of its titular hero. John Constantine: Exorcist, Demonologist, and Master (or Dabbler) of the Dark Arts. He has an impressive breadth of knowledge concerning everything hellish – as in, coming directly from Hell – and he has a wide array of tricks and spells he uses to combat the demons creeping their way out of the inferno to crawl around on Earth. As these demons tend to leave very large piles of bodies and other assorted human miseries in their wake, Constantine is keen to send them packing back to Hell with bits and pieces of information cherry-picked from a hundred different cultures throughout history. Basically, he’s a mystical jack of all trades, master of none.
That is actually one point I have against this show, as a storyteller. If there is one thing we generally try to avoid, it’s deus ex machina. And it happens a lot in this show. Ironically, considering Constantine’s relationship with the Almighty, pretty much all of his adventures display “God in the Machine.” Whatever threat, whatever danger, whatever foe he is facing, whatever task he has undertaken, he always seems to have exactly what he needs to get the job done, just randomly pulled out of his bag of tricks… “like magic.” (Sorry, the phrase was just begging to be used!) It actually makes it a bit difficult to get excited about the danger when you know the solution will just be conjured up out of nowhere.
And speaking of his association with God, they are apparently not on speaking terms. He is constantly angry and frustrated at an apparent lack of action on Heaven’s part, yet he never asks them for help, always turning to darker powers to get the job done instead. One would think he would have sworn off of that, as it’s already backfired on him once, and so terribly that an innocent life was lost and he and his crew were left traumatized by the ordeal. I can think of exactly one time he bothered to ask for help, and it instantly arrived, yet he doesn’t seem to learn from this experience.
Here’s the kicker: the one angel we do see regularly is a traitor. In fact, he is the puppet master behind the evil Constantine is constantly fighting. It’s no surprise for anyone who’s seen the movie (besides which, the angel possesses people just like demons do), as these angels seem to think the only way humanity will choose God is when Hell is nipping at their heels, but it does cast all the rules they have to follow in a certain light. Specifically, God restrains his angels from raining judgment down on the mortals, all in the name of maintaining their freedom to choose, which the angels are envious of, despite how they, too, can obviously choose to do evil. This angel is simply working more indirectly, through the powers of Hell.
Which brings me to something I sort of like about Constantine. For me, this is a glimpse at a culture which has very different religious views than my own. It’s interesting to see all the folklore they use, much of which I am familiar with, to craft this tale. When you get down to it, it’s the story of a damned soul trying to do the work of Heaven while being unwelcome into it, which brings him into contact with a variety of darker powers. Which is one of many things which are so at odds with my own faith that I can’t help but think, in the same way one might when dissecting a dead animal or a machine, “How fascinating!”
However, while the world seems intriguing, I was constantly disappointed by what they did with the characters. Or, rather, what they did not do with them. For one example, the first episode introduced us to an interesting woman, a young psychic who could have easily served as a representation of the audience as she learned about this occult world. But they wrote her out by the episode’s end, and rather flimsily at that. If they’d kept her, I am certain the show would have been more fun for me. But, alas, they did not.
That pretty much sums up my biggest point against this show: they set up a lot of things that do not happen. The finale, in particular, was barely related to the overarching conflict. Instead of building things up and giving us a satisfying payoff, it just left the promises made throughout the season unfulfilled.
Would I watch a second season if it was produced? Possible. Probable, even. But I wouldn’t be “excited” for it, ya know?
All in all, Constantine just felt lackluster at best and tragic at worst. Interesting, but not riveting.
Rating: 7 stars out of 10.