Constantine: 109 “The Saint of Last Resorts Part 2” Review
Reviewed By Louis Rabinowitz.
Constantine splashed onto TV screens last October amidst a flurry of other comic book shows – and though the initial questionable quality soon ticked up, the ratings were low enough for the first (and likely final) season to be truncated to thirteen episodes. Because of this, there are just five episodes left before Constantine floats up to the big TV graveyard in the sky (where it may or may not be plucked down by a streaming site) – but before Constantine begins its final bow, there’s some urgent business to be getting on with…
We left John and Zed in December in dire situations – John bleeding to death in a tunnel with an invunche out for his blood, and Zed kidnapped by a creepy cult run by her father. Both are dealt with swiftly – and not entirely satisfyingly, in Part 2’s opening minutes. We do, at least, get a good look at the invunche before it slinks off after John calls in a demon to possess himself; and it’s some admirably creepy design, resembling a fleshy version of Alien’s xenomorphs. It’s the better executed of the two resolutions, greasing the plot wheels for an episode that turns out to be a very different beast than part one suggested, but it’s a real shame that a monster with such potential was used purely for set-up and little else.
However, Zed’s escape from her kidnappers is simply a little frustrating – given the chance to explore Zed’s mysterious past in more detail, Constantine went for the ‘safe’ route of leaving that plot thread dangling for now. It’s an almighty cop-out – and with just four episodes left, it’s fairly unlikely that Zed’s father will be touched on again before Constantine concludes. Thankfully, Zed does have a chance to shine here, confronting Anne Marie in a strong scene and sneaking into a prison through some fairly unconventional means, so the choice to have Zed join the team early on in the episode did yield some strong moments for the character. However, Zed’s quick escape does highlight an underlying issue in The Saint of Last Resorts: Part 2 – a lack of cohesiveness with its predecessor.
Part one was a fairly standalone story with a slightly tacked-on cliffhanger – indeed, it had a conclusion of its own with Lamashtu before the cliffhanger – but the plot points it did set up for the conclusion have very little bearing on part two. The invunche’s only purpose is to kick start John’s possession and the only bearing Zed’s ordeal last week had is a short scene at the top of the episode and a cursory conversation with Anne Marie later – with part two instead functioning as an exorcism episode. What part two serves up is good enough, but taken as a whole; The Saint of Last Resorts two-parter is an odd slice of television, burning through foes (Lamashtu, the invunche, the Trickster and John’s demon) and plot points (the stolen babies, Zed’s past, the exorcism) at a rapid speed. A key example of this slightly rushed feel is Vincente the Trickster, Brujeria member and major Biblical figure (the snake in the Garden of Eden). Vincente’s slightly odd power set is established, he tracks down John, and is then dispatched by Anne Marie – as the one of the very few Brujeria members we’ve seen, the Trickster had a lot of potential to be a formidable foe, yet the character only gets a few scenes before Constantine movies onto the next threat. The two parts work very well as their own episodes, but there’s a case to be made that splitting it into two standalone episodes wouldn’t take very much rewriting at all.
Despite my grumbles with the episode, Part 2 offers plenty to enjoy. The central plot point of John’s possession is executed very well – Matt Ryan giving his best performance of the series, with a mix of pure demonic rage and unusual vulnerability and fear. Ryan has been a strong Constantine since episode one, but it’s notable to see how the Welsh actor has grown into the character across the nine episodes so far. The other characters got a few strong moments each too – Anne Marie remains a strong, interesting character with a well-defined relationship with Constantine (and just like Constantine, shows a little more vulnerability, especially in the exorcism scene) and Chas managed to make more of an impact than usual, even if the character remains fairly bland. Harold Perrineau’s Manny was one of the surprise successes of Constantine’s 2014 run, and the character remained as interesting as ever here – moving from fury at John’s possession to sympathy at John’s fear of dying without the writing feeling particularly artificial or convenient.
The central exorcism scene was strong, too – genuinely tense in places as John goaded each of his companions (a fairly clichéd idea, but done well enough here) about their failures, with some strong direction and terrific acting from Matt Ryan to sell the exorcism. It also provided a satisfying end to Anne Marie’s character, finally acknowledging that she had to forgive herself for ‘creating’ Constantine rather than simply forgiving him. While it’s a real shame that the character, one of Constantine’s strongest creations yet, won’t have a chance to return, it’s good to see the show tie up the character’s arc in a way that linked into the final set-piece. Just four episodes left then – will the Brujeria be taken down? Has John’s possession taken its toll? Will Chas get any development at all? Next week’s episode, Quid pro Quo, ticks at least one of those boxes, as we finally meet Chas’ daughter and explore just how the flatcap-wearing sidekick got his nifty resurrection powers…
There’s plenty to like, and plenty to dislike about The Saint of Last Resorts: Part 2 – but overall it’s a reasonably entertaining opener to Constantine’s final run of episodes. Let’s hope that it can achieve its full potential before the finale…
Scene of the Episode: The Exorcist – John’s demon pet is finally banished in a violent exorcism that probably caused some significant property damage.