Saturday, 15 November 2014

CONSTANTINE, 1.4 – 'A Feast of Friends' • hunger blames

Saturday, 15 November 2014


I enjoyed this hour of CONSTANTINE; perhaps because it was adapting a storyline from issue #1 of Hellblazer. The opening teaser reminded me of a Fringe setup, with an anxious-looking Irishman flying into a U.S airport from Sudan and being questioned over an ornate bottle containing a swarm of bugs that flew down the throat of an unfortunate customs official. It actually suits the show being a magical, supernatural variant of Fringe—although the writers are still struggling with the characters that surround Constantine (Matt Ryan).

Zed (Angélica Celaya) was marginalised for much of this episode's middle, between occasionally having visions that are of sporadic relevance. She's intended to be the moral and emotional compass of Constantine's hard-bitten character, but she's not very well integrated with the adventures right now. I'm beginning to wish the show ditched the idea of giving Constantine a regular companion, and just made him a lone wolf wanderer. The show works better when it's focused on whatever Matt Ryan's doing; although it's understandably tricky to find a role for Zed when the show already has to cater for his best-friend Chas (oddly absent this week), angel Manny (Harold Perrineau), and whoever the week's main guest-star happens to be.

Regardless, "Feast of Friends" was the best episode of the four to have aired. I appreciate how the show is finding ways to harken back to the eponymous hero's British roots and back-story—here with an old pal called Gary Lester (Jonjo O'Neil) who kickstarted the story, after containing a hunger demon while visiting Sudan. Gary was also one of Constantine's closest allies, and a key figure during the Newcastle incident that led to little Astra being dragged to hell—a key bit of back-story that hasn't been mentioned since the pilot. Unfortunately, Gary was marooned in the middle of the episode alongside Zed, before sacrificing his body in order to imprison the errant hunger demon within himself.

I also liked this episode's analogies to Third World famine crises and First World contagion scares. A lot of that was a natural byproduct of adapting a comic-book storyline on the show, but I hope the writers write their own original stories with the same eye on real-world issues and political hot potatoes. I was reminded of the recent Ebola outbreak during this story, and always appreciate it when fantastical stories have a clear inspiration in current events and modern-day concerns.

Overall, while there's still room for improvement and you can see Constantine's still a new show trying to figure out its strengths and weaknesses, "A Feat of Friends" did a lot of things very well. It's also one of the handsomest shows around right now, with big production values and some excellent effects work and stunts. If nothing else, I'm enjoying the show's glossiness and style. I just wish it would get a bit grimier, because it's all very sterile right now. Constantine's overcoat appears to go to the dry cleaners between scenes. I want more of a lived-in feel.

written by Cameron Welsh • directed by John F. Showalter • 14 November 2014 • NBC