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Well, that was a disappointing episode of Constantine.
Even within the generally mediocre parameters the show finds itself in, this was a weak hour. Especially since it is the second part of a flawed but predominantly engaging and evocative story. There was a lot of anticipation built up to this hour (not only in the narrative but also because of the winter hiatus) and “The Saint of Last Resorts: Part 2” does not deliver.
The episode picks up where its predecessor left us, with John left behind and shot by Anne Marie and about to face one of those creepy ivunche monster guys. Despite the lack of tension in the previous episode’s cliffhanger (as if John would really die), I was excited by the possibility of learning more about these powerful creatures, and exploring a story aimed towards their defeat. Instead, the series goes in a completely direction which nullifies the danger and interest built up in the first half of this narrative and presents another conflict that is much too contrived. John gets himself out of this pickle by inviting a demon to possess him and therefore cure him of his injuries and allow him to escape. Sure, it is a crafty and slick solution to his predicament, but we then had to deal with his possession for the rest of the hour. Not so much fun.
It’s just that, demonic possession stories are often used to explore character, the best ones offer interesting character revelations or show some kind of growth/development in the characters’ relationships in addition to all the cool, freaky exorcism fun. They work best when we, the audience, have a good sense of the people at the center of the story and when they have formed interesting and compelling bonds and dynamics with one another. We need something to invest in other than the outcome of the possession (which we know will end just fine.) If anything has been lacking in Constantine, it is character development, it remains one of the weakest aspects of the series. While we have a pretty good idea of who John is, much of it has come from lame exposition and not from actually seeing him in action and he is the most fully formed character in the show. The series has not laid down the necessary groundwork for a story like this to really succeed in a way that transcends its superficial aspects. With the low stakes and lack of emotional investment we are left with a standard exorcism story that doesn’t stand out enough as an entertaining endeavor to warrant its place on the show. I mean, the weirdest thing about it and the only detail that really sets it apart from the myriad of mediocre exorcism stories seen on film and television is that it is set in a shady Mexican prison. That’s just not enough.
Plus, the show has done a vastly superior demonic possession story already. Remember “A Feast of Friends”? That was a very good hour that showed the series can actually deliver a narrative with some serious stakes and communicate something new and important about John through the story and his actions – not through silly exposition – while also giving us eerie and scary situations. “The Saint of Last Resorts: Part 2” is a sad shadow of that episode.
Also, after setting the action in effectively evocative places (eerie convent, creepy religious gatherings, town during Halloween), the Mexican prison (where guards only serve the one entrance point and prisoners are free to roam countless rooms and none of them understand English but scatter when John tells them to “sod off”, etc.) is a huge let down and not as visually engaging as the previous settings.
“The Saint of Last Resorts: Part 2” is a lackluster episode with a wannabe suspenseful story devoid of tension, mystery or excitement. Matt Ryan does his best at selling the state John finds himself in and does so admirably. His performance, though still somewhat affected, is the best part of the hour but isn’t enough to overcome the outright boring story.
What did you think?