Constantine: 110 “Quid Pro Quo” Review
Reviewed By Louis Rabinowitz.
Throughout the nine episodes of Constantine we’ve seen so far, Chas has been a faithful sidekick to Constantine; sticking by his side no matter how many people dismiss John as an amoral, cocky liability – but so far, there’s not really been much meat added to those bones. All we’ve been told about Chas as of yet is that he has an estranged family and the nifty ability to come back from the dead…
Thankfully, as Constantine reaches the home straight of its first and likely last season, this week’s episode, Quid Pro Quo, aimed the focus squarely on Chas, giving us some much needed backstory on Constantine’s loyal companion. Via a set of flashbacks, we learned how Chas got his survival skills – crushed in a burning building among 47 other people, Chas was given the 47 lives of the others in the bar thanks to an ancient protection spell John drunkenly cast. It’s a surprisingly satisfying and original explanation – Chas appeared to be immortal before this episode, so the decision to give the character a set number of deaths is a smart one, lending the character a genuine sense of vulnerability (even if 47 deaths is still an awful lot).
We also met Chas’ family, who weren’t on particularly great terms due to Chas’ gallivanting around with Constantine – and while the character of Chas’ wife wasn’t a particularly compelling character, the opportunity to actually see Chas’ family rather than just be told about it gave the character some background and motivations that he had sorely been lacking beforehand. Thanks to the meatier material this episode, Charles Halford gave a strong performance as a more determined Chas than we’ve seen before – and thanks to Matt Ryan’s reliably charismatic acting, the relationship between John and Chas also became a little more nuanced this week (with Chas being the one to save the day with a handy grenade in a great moment that flips the ‘tragic sacrifice’ cliché on its head). Constantine has done some middling work with characters, but it’s encouraging to see a previously bland, peripheral character become a little more fleshed out.
Constantine hasn’t had too many human antagonists, with the villainous duties falling to the ‘demons of the week’ most episodes – but this week saw a refreshing change from the formula with a villain ripped from the pages of the Hellblazer comics, Felix Faust. Faust is a fairly major bad guy in the comics, so it was perhaps a little frustrating to see the character sparingly used (and seemingly killed off) – but Mark Margolis’ (who you may know as the bell-ringing Tio Salamanca from Breaking Bad) mage was a fun, sinister villain for the most part, even if the character could have done with a little more screen-time. The Hellblazer characters have generally been a strong bunch – and Faust is yet another entertaining comics character transplanted well onto the screen.
Quid Pro Quo was a strong episode, but not without its flaws – and notably, the shoehorning in of a short demon hunting segment felt fairly unnecessary. While Constantine’s bread and butter might be its demonic foes, the human foes are arguably more interesting than faceless growling demons – and ten episodes in, it’s disappointing that while the show is branching out from its set formula in some ways, it’s sticking doggedly to the formula in others. Likewise, it’s an episode that feels perhaps a little too standalone – after the arc plot-heavy two-parter last time, the only nods to the ongoing story arc are a few passing references to the rising darkness.
Given that there are just three episodes left, Constantine should be pushing the arc plot forward, rather than falling back on the mystical hints we’ve been hearing since the pilot. However, surprisingly, another ongoing thread is highlighted here, with Zed shedding some light on her father’s fanatical cult, named here as the Resurrection Crusade. The swift escape from the cult last week was one of the most irritating parts of the episode, so the hints that the Crusade may have more importance later on go some way to making up for the seemingly pointless escapade with Zed in The Saint of Last Resorts.
Quid Pro Quo finishes on an unexpected nugget of backstory for John, with Zed revealing she had seen Constantine’s mother in the spirit world and been told that John’s death wasn’t her fault. Constantine has done its fair share of hinting about John’s tortured past, but this was a wholly unexpected (for a non comics reader, at least) note to end on that sheds some light on how John became the (not entirely heroic) man he is today. Three episodes left, then – and in next week’s episode, Constantine delves into alternate dimensions as a dimension-hopping killer threatens a university in A Whole World Out There.
A strong episode that blends a great villain with some essential character work, Quid Pro Quo is one of Constantine’s best efforts yet, even if it doesn’t entirely gel together.
Scene of the Episode: Tick, Tick, Boom – Chas dies yet again, taking magician Felix Faust with him in a fiery explosion.