Constantine – Blessed are the Damned Review
"So Much Wasted Potential"
With “Blessed are the Damned” Constantine
weaves an engaging narrative that seems to be heading towards an interesting and dark direction before rerouting to an all too familiar and expected resolution. John and Zed make their way to investigate a shady snake preacher dude in the south who has started performing all kinds of crazy miracles (re-growing amputated limbs makes for a crazy fun standout) and uncover the troubling origin of this mysterious and miraculous activity.
This story had a lot of potential that was ultimately wasted in order to resolve the episode in a convenient and neat package. Not only does the religious story come packed with intriguing conflict and thematic material to enjoy, but so does the compelling and unexpected “fallen angel” subplot introduced a third of the way into the hour. False prophets and/or fraudulent preachers are a cliché by now (as is the fallen angel story, as are most of the themes and storylines explored in this show) but that doesn’t mean that it cannot be handled in a fun or interesting way. The writers seemed afraid to hit too hard on the corrupt leader, showing him exploit his gift for the wrong reasons but not being shrewd enough to really take advantage of his followers, which would have made him a more threatening and malicious person.
He never came off as a true antagonist or dangerous figure, as if the writers were too tentative with the characterization and were tiptoeing around the possibly polemic issue. Therefore, his confrontations with John didn’t feel tense or risky; I didn’t buy him as a formidable figure against John, which rid the hour of some weight and drama. He was a weak figure who was easily manipulated, but at times the show wanted us to believe he was more dangerous than what he truly was. They shoehorned in an underwritten backstory about him killing someone that would, on the surface, serve to shade him in a darker light, but was really used to facilitate a hasty and ineffectual redemption arc.
The real villain of the episode was Imogen and she did come off as menacing and a potentially powerful and imposing opponent, however instead of exploring this intriguing idea they, once again, got rid of an interesting opponent with a swift and easy solution. Because the writers pulled off the revelation of Imogen’s true nature in such a successful way (I did not see that coming) and because they introduced this twist so late in the hour, I thought this would be an evil character that would somehow escape the group’s grasp. And I kind of wanted her to. She would have become an engaging recurring villain, one that could stand up against and battle with Manny as well as wreak all kinds of cool havoc on John and the rest of his team. Or at least set up a future episode in which the gang would encounter and defeat her later on. She was the first of the ‘monsters of the week’ to be really interesting and complex and whom I would have liked to see more of. So to have her so easily and quickly disposed of was very disappointing, not only because she was this
close to causing serious harm to Zed (who is increasingly annoying episode after episode) and was stopped, but also because she was a truly fun antagonist and it would have been compelling to learn more about the mythology of angels within this universe through her character; contrasting her evil sensibilities against Manny’s mostly benevolent presence.
And sure, her death wasn’t in total vain, Manny did actively interfere and used his powers to help John for the first time, something the series has established he isn’t allowed to do. This marks a turning point for the character and sets up a possible storyline for Manny in the future. Is he going to get in trouble with his angel overseers? Will his wings get clipped or something? Manny’s actions could pay off in an interesting way in the future but he has been such a non-character that I could care less. This Imogen chick made a bigger impression in her couple of scenes than Manny has in the entire season.
Therein lies the biggest fault of Constantine
, with such a rich source material and opportunity to explore entertaining, disturbing and engrossing stories the writers always end up exerting a minimal amount of effort producing a mediocre product, leaving behind a well of untapped potential. With little to no character development, it is becoming increasingly difficult to form any kind of attachment to the show’s characters and want to follow them in a succession of bland supernatural stories. With a recognizable setting and an unexpected but effective plot twist “Blessed are the Damned” could have been a high-stakes hour with an effectively grim and dark outcome that so greatly fits the premise of the show.
- The twist also made the rest of the episode make more sense because I was really puzzling over why the townspeople went absolutely berserk when Zed stole that feather. The reason why that one dude was going crazy was sloppily explained in one of those painfully written, exposition laden scenes and did not make much sense but it is easy to just go with it and not think too much, but once everybody went cuckoo for cocoa puffs, it didn’t make sense. I guess since the angel was “fallen” and essentially working fro evil, the people’s reactions were just manifestations of that dark magic. Or something?
- Again, the show gets the setting and imagery right on, those revivals and backwoods religious gatherings always have an undertone of foreboding and an unsettling air around them which is ripe for a horror/supernatural show to exploit. As is the imagery of a baptism like the one shown.
- On the one hand the writers seemed to shy away from making too much of a scathing portrayal/critique of exploitative preachers or that particular aspect of religion or kind of belief (making their use of this semi-timely rattlesnake preacher subplot kind of cheap), but they did seem to revel a little too much in making fun of the small town southerners who flocked to the church to witness such miracles.
- I did appreciate possessed amputee’s gorilla waddle, though.
- The show is doing much better in the visual effect department, the glowing feather, the angel wings, and the black, evil heart were all very effectively portrayed.
- So these dudes are after Zed because of reasons. Whatever.