Constantine has aired on network television and for better or for worse the fans were given David S. Goyer’s interpretation of the “Master of the Dark Arts” made famous in the Hellblazer comic series. Even before the show aired fans were on edge regarding how John Constantine would be represented since many were upset he wouldn’t be allowed to smoke in the series. They also were worried about content since the comic itself isn’t one that shys away from violence, sex, harsh language, and the ugliness of what Constantine has to do. But many complaints came down to him not smoking.
When we meet Constantine (Matt Ryan) he’s not in a good way and suffering from plenty of guilt and self hatred. Failing to save the soul of a child will do that to you though. He has checked himself into the Ravenscar Psychiatric Facility for the Mentally Deranged and consented to all types of harsh treatment in hopes of dealing with his failure. Things quickly shift to the supernatural as we see him in action and then off to save Liv (Lucy Griffiths) from a demon who is trying to kill her.
Things do move pretty fast in this episode as it starts to establish the mystical world that Constantine inhabits. The speed of everything does make some of the mystical elements not as moody or scary as they could have been. However what made this much more enjoyable than the Gotham premier is that you didn’t feel overwhelmed with the cast introductions here. There wasn’t the need to get to know and keep track of a mob of characters which made it much easier to just enjoy the small group we get here. Well, at least most of them. Out of everyone we met this episode there were three key people that didn’t sell me on their roles. First there was Astra who plays a huge part in the event that is torturing Constantine but she just didn’t carry the emotional weight to make me feel for the character. Then there’s Liv who lost my interest pretty quickly during this episode. Her connection to Constantine did make things a bit more interesting however it didn’t do much to improve her overall presence. Finally we have the electricity thriving demon that is after Liv. The entity isn’t too impressive nor does it seem as if she’s in any real danger even at the end of the episode when it battles Constantine.
Matt Ryan’s portrayal of Constantine is pretty spot on even though this may be a watered version of the character. The essential emotional motivation is there and even the essence of the character is carried over fairly well. The snark is always present but not in a way that is distracting or just annoying to the story. He’s a flawed character whose soul is damned and Ryan pulls it all off throughout the episode.
Much like in Arrow, Flash, and Gotham, Constantine is filled with several Easter eggs for the keen eye of those fans of the comic series. From the helmet of Doctor Fate to the little robots scattered across Ritchie Simpson’s desk. There’s plenty more scattered throughout the show and that’s actually part of the fun when watching it.
So, we’ve got a Constantine that doesn’t smoke, yet he’s shown carrying and fidgeting with a lighter during much of the show. His trench coat isn’t as long either and he’s not cursing heavily. However, Matt Ryan is nailing this role and it’s a solid episode that sets up this world of demons, angels, and other supernatural entities. Sure it’s not going to please everyone and hardcore fans of the character might find it hard to watch but it does do several things well so it’s worth sticking around to see if it’s on the right track.