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Papa Midnite makes a prompt return to Constantine in the latest installment and this time he teams up with John in order to take down possibly the wackiest trifecta of ghosts ever put together (a listless, depressing hitchhiker, a tragically mutilated former model and a cancer patient) that are haunting separate areas of New Orleans. In addition to Papa Midnite’s return and the three not so friendly ghosts, this week’s loaded story features an array of subplots and cast of characters, and introduces the character of Jim Corrigan, a New Orleans cop who will undoubtedly be reappearing some time in the future. There is a lot of set up regarding this character that doesn’t materialize entirely in this hour so I wouldn’t be surprised if he recurs.
Ostensibly, there is a lot going on in this episode and even though each week I start out paying close attention to the supernatural story/mystery, determined to keep up with it and follow its every step, inevitably I get to a point where it becomes too much. Not that it gets impenetrably complex or too bizarre, but the narrative always reaches a point where the plot mechanics take over and it becomes an unnecessarily convoluted and muddled mess. And for all the plot maneuverings and noise, the stories never really amount to much of anything. Ultimately there is not a lot to grab onto. However, unlike episodes in the past, it isn’t entirely bothersome this week because out of that muddled, insubstantial mess arises a fairly cogent (if not standard) story that sets the stage for some fun characters and even engaging character interactions. Unlike some previous episodes, I am able to check out of the story, let go of trying to make sense of it all and just enjoy the show for the pulpy entertainment that it is.
The ghost subplots each provide compelling material that justifies their place in the hour. The insane campiness of “Masaki”, suicidal fashion model turned homicidal killer ghost, is ridiculous fun. As is the hokey CGI work we get when that mask finally comes off. That, paired with the crazed yet uneasy way the actress repeatedly utters lines like “Am I pretty?” made this entire subplot worthwhile. But not all of the supernatural elements become fodder for unintentional comedy. The cold open is quite scary and surprising as well as the sequence in which we see Philip for the first time. Not only is his unaffected demeanor eerie but also the fact that the man that picks him up is a total creep makes the situation that much more unsettling. The horror components may not always work accordingly, but they always do seem to provide some kind of interest.
And the last of the three ghosts is the lest explored one, but whose story ushers in Papa Midnite’s involvement in the episode after which, the narrative focuses more on him and his dynamic with John. This is a much more successful use of the character than his last appearance just a couple of episodes back. Not only did he have a clearer, more believable motivation/goal, but also his interactions with John are more engaging to watch. We were already informed that these two share a history, and even though the writers remain fairly vague about it, enough is communicated or implied to inform how their relationship works. Their reluctant partnership provides some compelling banter and intriguing supernatural nonsense.
For all the pain and heartache that so many of the supporting characters go through in this episode, there is very little, if any, emotional resonance felt in the episode. The writers don’t really do much to make us care for any of these characters other than give them really generic backstories (aside from the bizarre modeling feud, a messed up kid and a man with cancer aren’t that affecting). I don’t think this was their main priority, however, instead deciding to focus more on John and Zed’s stories, which are fine but not terribly impactful. Though last week’s episode served a very clear purpose in showing us the consequences of associating with John and giving us a greater insight into who he is, “Danse Vaudou” doesn’t have that unifying drive supporting it. It meanders, weaving in and out of its various characters, building up a story that, while ties up together neatly, resolves itself in a decidedly anticlimactic way.
What did you think?