Mar 26, 2020
Constantine RECAP: Too Many Demons, Not Enough Cigarettes (S1:E1)
Open on unnecessarily dramatic shock therapy treatment, probably intended to remind us of all those horror movies set in the early 1900s. “My name is John Constantine, and I’m an exorcist.” I didn’t think anyone’s opening voiceover could contain more manpain than Oliver Queen’s, but I guess I was wrong.
We’re informed John has voluntarily checked himself into Ravenscar Asylum somewhere in Northern England. Ravenscar is actually a real town, but the name still scores a perfect 10 for trying too hard to sound badass. Apparently John is convinced he’s destined for Hell after a failed exorcism ended up with a little girl’s death and eternal damnation. We get this exposition in the form of a therapy session, which seems ridiculous because 1) there’s already voiceover and 2) surely this isn’t the first time he’s regaled his therapist with the details of recent events. Or maybe it is, seeing how well therapy is working for him. He’s been committed for three months—and considering how obsessed he is with the fact that knowing he’s already sentenced to Hell when he dies means he can do whatever he wants without any consequences, voluntarily limiting himself to a loony bin seems exceedingly pointless.
I hope you’ve already noticed how many clichés we’ve checked off. Shock therapy trope, check. Individual therapy trope, check. There’s also the group therapy trope and girl rocking with her head in her hands in the hallway trope, check and check. This asylum’s basically the most cliché mental hospital I’ve ever seen. Then we move on to horror movie tropes, and we’ll be pointing those out for oh, the next ten minutes of your life.
Cockroaches (trope) lead John to a mysteriously large abandoned room (trope) where a girl with long greasy hair (trope) is painting words on a wall (trope), surrounded by more cockroaches. John hopes she’s just doing weird art and isn’t a demon-possessed corpse, but from the previews I’m going to say this show is about him fighting demons and we’ve got to start somewhere.
So there she is, eyes whited out (trope) and extremely upset about John speaking Latin in her general direction (trope). She flies around in the air for a while and screams (trope) while John finishes the incantation, using lots of synonyms for “God” (trope). Windows and paint explode (trope), and the cockroaches go away… somewhere. “LIV DIE” is written on the wall where they had been. Apparently that means something to John, because he immediately checks himself out of the hospital and heads to Atlanta of all places.
Next we see a man and a woman eating Chinese food at their place of employment, and one teaching the other that you always put “in bed” at the end of your fortune cookie. Really? Is there anyone in America who doesn’t actually know how hilarious that shit is? (Oh, btw, flirting before scary shit is also a trope.) Finally the scene has a point and we realize that Liv is this woman’s name. “LIV DIE,” I see what you did there. She leaves work and gets into her car, and her backup system says something is in the way although the camera clearly shows nothing (trope). She stupidly gets out of her car (trope). Then the car revs and threatens to run her over (trope), somehow all the electricity in the parking lot goes out (trope), a huge pit opens in the middle of the parking lot (trope), and a mysterious man arrives in the nick of time to save her (also a trope. You know what? I’m just going to send you to tvtropes.com and let you figure out the rest on your own). She predictably doesn’t believe him and wanders off. John’s pretty flippant about letting her go considering he came all the way here from England just to save her life.
After she leaves, John climbs down into the pit and is confronted by an angel named Manny, but all I can see is that annoying guy from Lost. He gives John a hard time about damning a little girl to Hell because Heaven is all about guilt trips, and then gives him a vague warning about “something coming.” Helpful.
Liv has called a friend to pick her up who apparently works five minutes away and also lives in the same apartment building. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in Atlanta traffic, but it seems pretty stupid they’re not already carpooling because seriously fuck you, Atlanta.
Back home, Liv changes into some really weirdly revealing pajamas that no single woman would subject herself to, and we see a man with a knife coming down the hall. Turns out, he’s John’s “oldest friend” and was there to draw protective symbols on her door. Nevermind helping out anyone else in the building or her friend who ends up dead. Oh, and her friend’s name is Talia, which… seems like a careless choice because the Al Ghuls have already been featured on Arrow. Talia’s body is possessed by a demon that kills the driver of the Medical Examiner’s van when he decides it’s a good idea to get into the back of a vehicle with a writhing corpse.
John catches up with Liv outside of her work the next day and explains the protective symbol situation. Meanwhile his friend, Chas, performs a super dramatically slow exit from the car, says hi, and immediately gets back in. Did the rest of this scene get cut or is do we just want to show off how good Chas looks in slow-mo? At least Chas isn’t played by Shia LaBeouf like he was in that how-is-this-not-direct-to-DVD Keanu Reeves movie.
After quickly explaining that her father actually died last year rather than before Liv was born as she’s always believed, John gives her a pendant that used to be her dad’s and also informs her that she might be able to see dead people.
Then John saves her from being hit by the Medical Examiner’s van, which comes plowing through the storefront. It seems the demon controlling Talia can track her, but apparently not very well considering she wasn’t even inside the building at the time. Her friend’s dead for real now though.
Liv goes to see her mom about this dad-not-being-dead-her-entire-life business and is told possibly another lie about how Jasper was ‘some boy’ and didn’t want to know the child he had fathered. We don’t really figure out what actually happened because Liv touches the pendant and suddenly sees the ghost of her grandmother stroking her mother’s hair. She’s excited, not freaked out for whatever reason, and then realizes there’s black goo coming from all of her nanna’s face holes.
She speeds away in her car, leaving her mother alone with Tareater-Nanna, and almost hits John, who is waiting for her in the middle of the road because that’s what badass mysterious savior dudes do. He makes her hold the pendant, and she sees the souls of the dead all around her. She also sees a train coming toward them on the tracks we didn’t know were there, and John holds her in place so she can’t escape. She doesn’t try to get away very hard, but she looks really scared and screams a little. It’s okay though, it was a ghost train (…trope) and John was just being a dick.
Ghost train, not Tareater-Nanna, apparently convinces her to trust John because she gets in the old timey cab that pulls up from… somewhere. Chas is driving, and soon all the electronics go haywire and the car gets T-boned by a tractor trailer.
John’s knocked out, and we finally get a vision of Astra, the little girl he condemned to hell. She’s painfully cute, and I suddenly want to punch John for letting the demon to take her because seriously why is she so adorable. He wakes up to find he’s been ejected from the car, but Chas and Liv are still trapped inside, unable to get out… somehow. It looks like her foot is stuck, but then Chas gets out easily and also lifts her out easily so… I’m not totally sure why all the screaming through open windows. A live wire starts moving toward them on its own, and John successfully wards it off for a few seconds… But then it ends up through Chas’ chest. So passes the most interesting character on the show.
Then there’s some talk about demons and walking to a creepy old house. Apparently it was her father’s, and it’s full of weird magicky things that you probably shouldn’t touch, including *gasp* Doctor Fate’s helmet! Exciting!!
Apparently Jasper taught himself cartography, which, why, considering SATELLITES EXIST TO DO IT FOR YOU. Anyway, he also practiced scrying, which shows you where bad supernatural things are going to happen. Jasper was a trouble-seeker, apparently. Oh, btw, Liv masters it in about two minutes, yet for some reason Jasper needed to make his own maps and live in isolation because magic is hard.
John heads to Ivy University, which is basically DC’s version of MIT, and again encounters Manny. The angel implies that John might not be damned to hell because of what he did to Astra, but it could just be a ploy to get him to continue helping Liv and advancing Manny’s agenda, whatever that might be. John visits Ritchie Simpson, a professor of metaphysics. Seems legit. Ritchie was apparently present at Astra’s death and is now using prescription drugs to cope with the experience. John blackmails him into helping Liv and it’s…actually kind of endearing. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about that.
When John gets back to Jasper’s old house, Liv surprisingly hasn’t wandered off or destroyed anything! Good, that’s one trope this show didn’t need—points for her. He brings her some clothes, and she’s all OMG HOW DID A MASTER OF THE DARK ARTS GET INTO MY APARTMENT BECAUSE THAT’S SO MUCH MORE SURPRISING THAN WARDING OFF A LIVE ELECTRICAL WIRE. And a second later OMG WHY IS A DEAD GUY BEHIND ME. Chas is alive somehow? “Oldest friend”…I get it now.
It’s night now, so clearly it’s time to fight the demon, whose name we have learned is Furcifer. Liv and John head downtown, the only place a respectable exorcist fights demons, and pay off a guard, saying they want to have sex on the roof of the building. John paints some symbols on the roof.
Liv immediately goes to the middle of the circle to be the bait in the trap, yet somehow has no concerns about sitting on wet paint. They chit chat a little and we get the Ultimate Fridging—John’s mother died before he was even born. Yay, women can only be victims or dead on this show.
The guard is actually Furcifer, and he comes up to the roof, immediately stepping into the circle-trap because apparently demons are really stupid. He changes his appearance into John’s own face, because we didn’t just see that last week on Arrow. It seems manpain-y superheroes are actually more afraid of themselves than anything else. God, that’s so deep. In an effort to convince John to let him go, Furcifer tells John he’ll free Astra.
John’s about to take the deal when Liv sees through the farce thanks to Jasper’s amulet. OMG! SHE DID SOMETHING! YAAAYYYYYY! MAYBE I HAD THIS SHOW ALL WRONG! There’s more incantations, and the demon explodes. John falls dramatically to his knees, because wow saying those words loudly was really draining.
Ritchie drives Liv home and along the way passes an intersection full of police cars and an ambulance… which just happens to be the same intersection she saw earlier while learning to scry. She hops out of the car and runs right up to a dead body because apparently police lines and crime scene integrity don’t exist in this version of Atlanta.
We cut to John and Chas in a bar, and we learn that Liv has suddenly left for California because that’s what happens when your leading actress quits a show unexpectedly. Manny shows up and points out that John had Ritchie show her that crime scene to scare her away. Glad the reason we picked is the woman being afraid. He then says more cryptic shit about “something coming,” and it’s clear John has a new mission—try to get out of going to Hell.
A woman appears at the end, drawing a million pictures of Constantine, which to be perfectly honest just reminded me of Fifty First Dates because yeah, I’m into that kind of thing. She seems to be Zed, who will be brought in to replace Liv. Let’s just hope she’s better written.