Based on characters from the Hellblazer comic series; the show follows John Constantine (Matt Ryan), an exorcist and occult detective trying to protect humanity from supernatural forces while dealing with his own dark past. Warning there may be spoilers ahead.
I’ll admit I’ve never read the Hellblazer comics or seen the 2005 film version starring Keanu Reeves so I’m very new to the Constantine universe. In fact I watched the pilot with only the knowledge I gained from the promo. So writing a review of the show is somewhat difficult as I can’t discuss how true to the comics it is or if Matt Ryan’s portrayal is an accurate representation of the titular character. But perhaps that’s fairer in a way as I can only judge the show on the quality of the episode and how enjoyable it was.
The pilot really delivered in terms of entertainment jumping into action right away with Constantine having to exorcise a demon in the mental asylum he is residing at. The episode maintains the level of excitement throughout, showing us violent deaths, surprise resurrections, dark magic and a rather badass angel. Never a dull moment, I don’t think anyone can call this show boring. However, sometimes when a show has such a high action level the characterization can suffer. Luckily this didn’t occur in Constantine and the writers managed to find a good balance between the two. While it’s true we didn’t learn much about the supporting characters, Constantine’s character was developed nicely giving us clues to his past and building up a good connection to the audience.
The character of Constantine is an interesting one; he really does define the term antihero. He’s bitter, cynical and definitely has some deep issues. But we also see this softer side of him; namely his perseverance in helping people and his guilt over the ones he couldn’t save. And let’s face it who doesn’t like an antihero? His sarcastic attitude also makes him very likeable and despite sometimes coming across a bit of a jerk, you really do feel yourself rooting for him. Matt Ryan does a great job in the part, really getting the balance between cocky and comical just right. It’s also really brilliant to see another Welsh actor doing so well in America. I must admit I’m slightly biased, myself also being Welsh. Despite that though I think it’s clear to anyone he is a very talented actor who seems very capable in a leading role.
The two most intriguing characters came in the form of Chas (Charles Halford) and Manny (Harold Perrineau). Chas starts off as this kind of sidekick to Constantine, he’s pleasant enough but not deeply interesting. Despite that, when he was killed in the middle of the episode I found myself feeling sad. Shockingly he reappears later on in the episode very much alive. Not much of an explanation is given but it had me itching to find out more about his back story. Lost actor Harold Perrineau plays the angel Manny. I’ll confess I’ve been a fan of Perrineau for a long time; he consistently gives strong performances in whatever he’s in, showing off an impressive range. His portrayal of Manny is no different, and he’s definitely the scene stealer of the show. He had so much presence and you really felt the power of the character every time he was on screen which is rather apt considering he is an angel. There’s a very narrow gap between them but Perrineau just beats out Matt Ryan for the standout performer of the episode.
Liv (Lucy Griffiths), the girl that Constantine is tasked to save, is an interesting character to discuss. She was originally meant to be a series regular but was written out in the pilot and replaced with a character from the comics, Zed Martin (Angelica Celaya) who we see at the end of the episode.
Liv probably was the weakest link of the pilot but I feel that was only because her character had not had time to develop properly. It would have been interesting to see her journey alongside Constantine but I trust the writers know what they’re doing and by the looks of it Zed is a very exciting addition to the line-up.
As well as the getting the characters right the show managed to maintain a great balance between the darkness and the comedy. The show was a lot grittier than I expected it to be which I loved. I think the darkness of the show will keep it more in touch with the Hellblazer series; it definitely had a comic book feel about it at times. However this dark subject matter can sometimes make an audience switch off. When you’re dealing with demons and angels, heaven and hell, and innocent and damned souls it can be a bit tough going. You need a certain level of comedy to combat that and Constantine executes it superbly. Constantine’s character is a brilliant source of humour, delivering some hilarious one liners in the pilot. His relationships with others also make for amusing viewing. I hope they can keep this up in future episodes as it worked so well in the pilot.
Constantine is one of those shows you just can’t wait to see next episode of. Not because of any cliff hangers, but because it’s genuinely entertaining and captivating. The plot is exciting and the writing intelligent. The characters are likeable and intriguing, and the actors playing them all give good performances. I don’t know how fans of the comic book series will react but I thought that the pilot was of very high quality. Let’s hope it can maintain that!
Below is our interviews with the cast of NBC Constantine; including Matt Ryan who portrays John Constantine, Harold Perrineau and Charles Halford at San Diego Comic Con 2014.
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