Constantine Episode 1 Recap, Plus a Season Preview

Meet John Constantine: exorcist, demonologist, and “master of the dark arts,” according to his business cards. (He swears he is “getting new ones made.”) He commits himself to a mental hospital and undergoes ECT in order to forget the horrible circumstances that brought him here. John’s mother died giving birth to him, and his alcoholic, abusive father never forgave him for it, even nicknaming him “Killer.” As a teenager, John read and researched everything he could on the occult, determined to bring his mother back to life. He learned how to summon and resurrect a lot of things, but not his mother – not yet at least. So now he does exorcisms and the like. Most recently, he has been haunted by Astra, a young girl who was being chased by a demon. John resurrected a larger, fiercer demon, figuring it would eat Astra’s demon. Instead, it dragged Astra to hell, and condemned John to damnation.

While at the hospital, John exorcises a demon from a patient, who was painting a message on the wall: liv die. This is not a misspelling, and John knows exactly what it means. He checks himself out and heads to Georgia, where he looks up Liv Aberdine. He comes at her like a strung-out crazy person, insisting that demons are after her, he is her only chance to survive, etc. John also knew her father, Jasper, who Liv had been told died before she was born. In fact, Jasper only died a year prior, something that her mother confirmed for her. John gave Liv an amulet that belonged to her father, and when she held it, she could see the ghost of her nana, stroking her mother’s hair – then with black goo coming out of her eyes and mouth. Liv has her father’s gift for being able to see spirit worlds, and she can see them, too, so long as she has his necklace.

Along the way we meet a few other characters: Chas, John’s “oldest” friend (he seems to be immortal); Ritchie, a PhD in metaphysics who is also a superb hacker; and Manny, an angel who wants to recruit John to help him fight demons, saying it isn’t too late to save his soul. I don’t really trust Manny, but I think that might be because of the strange, demon-y eyes he has.

The demon currently chasing Liv is Furcifer, who draws his power from electricity. John and Liv lure him up to an office roof, where they have a devil trap of John’s own design painted. The demon arrives in the body of a security guard. He is lured into the trap, and changes into demon John, supposedly giving John a look at his inescapable future. He makes Astra appear, telling John that if he lets him go, the demon will release Astra. John seems ready to do it, but using her amulet, Liv sees that it is not really Astra. John changes tactics and recites a banishment spell. He fires a flare into the sky, Ritchie’s signal to take down the entire city’s power grid. With Fercifer sapped of power, he is banished to hell in a giant tornado of fire.

Earlier in the episode, we learn about Jasper’s skill of scrying, which has passed down to Liv. A drop of blood on one of her father’s hand-drawn maps will end up in a position where something bad is going to happen. Sure enough, on the way home from the demon battle on top of the building, Ritchie drives by the location she scried, and sees a young man has been killed. This freaks her out and sends her running off to stay with relatives in California. Before she goes she leaves a map dotted with her blood. John had Ritchie drive way out of their way in order to show her what she is getting in to. John wanted to give her a choice.

I reserve judgements about new TV series until I have seen at least three episodes, and I always give a show six episodes to grab me. I see a lot of potential in “Constantine.” There were some great scares that will surely give my husband nightmares, and Matt Ryan, who plays John Constantine, is enjoyable and plays the role with a charming roguishness. The pilot episode, like most pilots, is jammed to overflowing with information, enough to make me feel cross-eyed by the episode’s end. A hint at John’s troubled past is all we needed in the first episode. We didn’t need to be introduced to Astra right off. I feel like the story would have been better served if we slowed down, learned a little more about this battle that John is facing; that is a more pressing issue. Maybe they did cover it. All I know is that this episode exhausted me.

It does make a good companion piece to “Grimm,” though (and the season premiere was pretty damned good).

In addition, you can check out a preview for the rest of the season of “Constantine” as well as a clip from the second episode of the series in the players below. Titled “The Darkness Beneath,” the episode is officially described as follows:

“Deep in the mountains of Western Pennsylvania, John is a small mining community’s only defense against an ancient Welsh spirit. In the course of protecting these isolated innocents, John finds a vital new ally in a mysterious young woman named Zed.”

“Constantine” airs Fridays at 10 on NBC.