Constantine: 112 “Angels and Ministers of Grace” Review
Reviewed By Louis Rabinowitz.
A near constant figure throughout Constantine so far, (even when some of John’s friends have taken curious weeks off) along with John himself, has been his not-particularly-faithful angel ‘friend’, Manny. Manny has been something of an enigmatic figure so far, spewing slightly helpful and extremely cryptic guidance before popping away back to Heaven (and usually annoying John in the process) – but that slightly slippery nature means that we’ve never seen a great deal of the angel, with the character only making brief (if pretty frequent) appearances interspersed throughout the episodes.
After last week’s look at Ritchie and episode ten’s look at Chas, Constantine’s penultimate episode, Angels and Ministers of Grace, saw Manny take the spotlight for a spin in a mortal body. Episode twelve worked rather nicely as a fun showcase for Harold Perrineau, as the angel struggled with some fairly awkward situations and emotions. Though he was dispatched back his angelic body by episode’s end, seeing Manny out of his depth as opposed to firmly in control was an enjoyable inversion of the usual dynamic between Constantine and the angel, and allowed for some well-executed comedic scenes – on top of, as has become something of a custom for Constantine this year, a heroic moment as Manny whisked the villain off to Heaven, once again taking the ‘save the day’ job from Constantine himself.
Zed took a week off last week, but Angels and Ministers also saw a fairly substantial plot development for the character, as it was revealed that her visions were due to a nasty brain tumour. It’s a fairly surprising turn of events with very little build-up, and the overall execution of the idea is sketchy at best (which we’ll get to later), but it was good to see Zed back in the spotlight after a couple of weeks on the sidelines. Zed’s overall character arc involving the Resurrection Crusade sadly won’t come to fruition thanks to the shortened episode count, but the development here for the character as Zed decided not to have surgery on her tumour was welcome. However, though it may have been a heartwarming moment, the indication that Constantine will ditch the fairly alarming revelation of a main character having such a condition is a fairly frustrating one. There’s some rich potential for Zed’s tumour to be an ongoing problem for the character, so to handwave any angst away shows an irritating element of laziness on Constantine’s part.
The villain of the week was Dr Galen, an ex-military doctor with some shards of shrapnel embedded near his heart… and a shard of an artifact called a Black Diamond, which turned the milquetoast doctor into a reasonably ugly killer bent on punishing people for throwing away second chances. After some heavy signposting that the killer was the aggressive patient in for skin grafts, the twist that it was Zed’s doctor was a welcome swerve – but the character doesn’t quite get enough development and screen-time to register (even if the doctor’s murders lead to another helping of extremely gory horror). Galen was hardly the greatest villain Constantine has served up, but still ranked as a serviceable enough foe with a few welcome shreds of empathy.
Angels and Ministers of Grace delivered plenty of entertainment of the kind Constantine usually delivers, but frustratingly, it never really rose above being merely enjoyable. A lot of the episode’s content had already been well mined elsewhere (John blaming himself for treating his friends badly, Chas functioning as a human guinea pig), and once again the episode abstained from advancing the ongoing plot arc forward at all. It’s a perfectly entertaining standalone adventure that would have worked nicely as a mid-series adventure (as it would have if a full season had been ordered), but as the penultimate episode it falls somewhat flat, with no particularly groundbreaking developments with the Brujeria to mark it out as the second-to-last episode of the season. It’s difficult to say how much control the writers had over this, but with the season (and possibly series) finale next week, the mysteries of the Brujeria remain at essentially the same point as they did back in episode nine.
It’s been a frequent complaint of mine in the last few weeks, but Constantine simply refuses week after week to budge from the standalone formula and deliver a more serialized tale (the only real deviation being The Saint of Last Resorts two-parter). With just one more episode left, the task of tying up the Brujeria plot arc in a remotely satisfying way seems insurmountable for Constantine, and that’s partially down to the overly standalone (if consistently entertaining) nature of the final few episodes of the season. Recent rumours have indicated that Constantine may live on with cult network SyFy rebranded as Hellblazer – and considering the vast potential of the show, that would be a very welcome move indeed. Next week, it’s the finale, as Papa Midnite and Jim Corrigan return for revelations aplenty in Waiting for the Man…
Satisfying enough as a standalone story, Angels and Ministers of Grace was a solid if unremarkable episode, marred by the lack of ongoing plot elements and a muddled execution of Zed’s story.
Scene of the Episode: Stairway to Heaven – Back in his familiar immortal form, Manny whisks Dr Galen away to Heaven