Constantine: 111 “A Whole World Out There” Review
Reviewed By Louis Rabinowitz.
The events of Newcastle, where John and a crew of friends accidentally damned a little girl to hell, have only been fleetingly seen on screen, but the impacts have reverberated throughout Constantine in almost every episode. We’ve met Gary Lester, a broken man who died a hero’s death, Anne Marie, a nun repenting for her mistake of setting John on his path… and tucked away early on in the pilot, we met Ritchie, a pill-popping hacker. Ritchie was only briefly seen however – so we never learned quite how Newcastle affected him…
This week’s installment, A Whole World Out There, checked back in on Ritchie while serving up some of Constantine’s scariest scenes yet. The central conceit of an alternate dimension created by a madman was a neat one, with the recurring image of the killer appearing in mirrors often genuinely scary. Mirrors are a staple of the horror genre, but Constantine managed to use the well-tested trope in some innovative and interesting ways – such as a sequence where a student danced past several mirrors with the killer appearing closer and closer in each one, and a jump scare as the killer appeared smirking on a student’s phone. This kind of straight up horror is something that Constantine does very well, and the scares in A Whole World Out There are very well executed indeed.
The mirrors weren’t the only staple of classic horror that popped up this episode – the alternate dimension took the form of a creepy, abandoned haunted house where a madman could be waiting around any corner. The sequences in the house weren’t entirely original (a whistling kettle, the killer standing just behind a character), but they were another example of Constantine’s strength at using tried and tested tropes to great effect, even if it rarely provides a wholly unique spin on them (similar in many ways to The Flash’s strong take on superhero tropes). It was also good (if you can call it that) to see Constantine serve up some slightly more gory horror, with the scene where blood spurting cuts form on a college student a particularly bloody highlight.
John’s latest traumatized pal, Ritchie, also made a strong impression. We’ve seen a shattered victim in the form of Gary Lester and stoically broken characters in John himself and Anne Marie, but Ritchie’s characterization takes something of a middle ground – Ritchie is terrified of the rising darkness, but the character is still lively enough to spar with John and call him out. Jeremy Davies lends the character enough pathos and sympathy to root for him – and like Chas last week, he gets his own villain-defeating hero moment as he takes control of Shaw’s dimension (while the plot mechanics of this are sketchy, it’s a well executed moment nonetheless). Constantine has done well with the Newcastle characters we’ve met, and Ritchie is no exception.
The villain, however, wasn’t quite as successful. Constantine delivered a strong villain last week in Felix Faust – but Jacob Shaw failed to make as much of an impression. William Mapother does well with what he’s given, but there’s very little depth to the character besides looking evil and murdering a few college kids slasher-movie style. The idea that Shaw could manipulate his dimension wasn’t very well explored, leaving the character as little more than a glorified axe murderer. Ritchie’s sudden ability to be able to manipulate the dimension also felt like an overly convenient way to solve the problem of Shaw – explained fairly poorly, the strong execution of Ritchie’s defeat of Shaw couldn’t disguise the creaky and contrived plot mechanics. With a strong setup, it’s a pity that Constantine had to resort to a deus ex machina ending.
A flaw I mentioned last week also recurs here – and it’s once again the general lack of arc plot movement (‘the rising darkness’ is touched on again, but as vaguely as usual). With Chas and Zed sitting this episode out (strangely, it’s rare for Constantine to actually include its full regular cast in an episode), A Whole World Out There did little to add to the ongoing mysteries of the Brujeria and the Resurrection Crusade – and sadly, it looks as if Constantine might finish with an awful lot unresolved.
It’s hard to entirely blame the writers given that the arc plot was initially intended to unfold over 22 episodes rather than the truncated 13, but with two episodes to go it looks very unlikely that the season finale will conclude the arc plots in a satisfying, unrushed fashion. Hopefully the next episode will dip a little more into serialized storytelling, as it would be a shame to leave a genuinely intriguing mystery unfinished (if this is to be Constantine’s last two episodes).
A Whole World Out There does a good job at exploring self-pity and how to confront it – particularly in the scene where John confronted Ritchie about his plan to stay behind in the new, appallingly CGI’d dimension. Constantine rarely delivers thematic depth, but the themes are well explored this episode via John and Ritchie. The episode concludes with Ritchie finally gaining the strength to deliver his own lectures (rather than, in an amusing moment, earlier use recordings of his old ones) and confront his self-pity while John continues to drink and smoke his sorrows away. It’s a bleak life, being John Constantine…
A Whole World Out There delivers some strong horror and another interesting guest character – but a weak villain and an overly convenient plot resolution stop the episode from reaching greatness. Two episodes left, then – next week, it’s the penultimate episode, as John and Manny team up to solve an attack in Angels and Ministers of Grace.
Scene of the Episode: The Man in the Mirror – A university student comes under attack in a dance studio in an inventive little sequence.