CONSTANTINE Recap: “The Darkness Beneath”

     October 31, 2014


If you chose to spend your Halloween evening with NBC’s Constantinewell then you my friend made a wise decision indeed!  This hour was chock full of smoke, fire, and explosions, along with zombie miners, vengeful gypsies, and prophetic painters.  The spooky series has shown glimmers of its potential, and it’s clear that the players are enjoying their roles in this supernatural world.  Sure, some questionable storytelling choices and episode editing remain, but I’m surprised by just how much I’m enjoying Constantine so far.

Want to see where the series is headed?  Be sure to check out this recent interview with David S. Goyer and Daniel Cerone.  Then, hit the jump for our Constantine recap.

Constantine-The-Darkness-Beneath-matt-ryanConstantine makes a jump from the hustle and bustle of Atlanta to the dirt and depression of a Western Pennsylvania coal-mining town (thanks to a wet drop of blood on their map).  The show’s premiere demon had some pretty awesome electrical powers, but we get a sneak peek at the abilities of this episode’s creature of the week when a miner is flash-fried in his own shower.

While John heads to a Pittsburgh suburb, Chas stays behind because of some past trouble in the area with a succubus and a train derailment.  A fair excuse.  Chas’ absence gives John the chance to meet up with the sketch artist, who draws only Constantine, and who was introduced at the last episode’s end.  She lifts his license from his pocket just before he disappears in broad daylight in order to chat up with the locals in a pub.  He uses his British accent to make a convincing case as a former miner in Liverpool, and discovers that the miners have delved too deep (like greedy dwarves) and “knocked on the door to Hell.”  Being on a first name basis with the denizens of that unholy realm, John pays them a visit by sneaking into the mine, but a cave-in strongly suggests that he’s not welcome.

Apparently he makes it out okay during the commercial break, as we next see him bringing a frozen TV dinner to the dead man’s wake (which is a classy move, to be sure).  Ever the sneaky sleuth, he snoops around the bathroom scene of the crime and snags some goop from the showerhead.  The wife, who’s rather obviously covered with coal dust and soot, catches him but doesn’t seem too concerned with his interest in her abusive husband’s death.  She starts to share a story with John about how her husband duped her into marriage, and then hits on him.  When he turns down her advances, the crowd turns ugly and a fight breaks out … which John quickly loses (I mean, it’s a close-knit group of coal miners, so …).  He makes an even bigger scene by telling the crowd and the mining boss that an unnatural event has taken place in the mine, and whatever it is has risen to the surface.

Constantine-The-Darkness-Beneath-angelica-celayaBack at John’s hotel room, Zed (Angelica Celaya), the sketch artist, is waiting for him.  She has some sort of ability to see into his mind and his past simply through touch alone.  While this disturbs John a bit, he seems more intrigued than anything else.  He puts her in a trance-like state, and then drops a bit of the coal goo in her hand, whereupon she sees the death of the miner along with his last vision of a tall cross.  Ever the trickster, John manages to sneak out of the hotel and heads to an abandoned church.  Strange heavy breathing and demonic sounds are coming from behind the covered pews … yeah, it’s just a couple of teenagers having sex, so nothing unusual there.  After they vacate, John performs some rites of his own, using an incantation and some holy water to give him the ability to see the demon’s form.

Zed’s following in John’s footsteps by slumming at the pub, where the locals are drinking away their sorrows, like that of a deceased son, lost to the mine.  The mine is at the heart of the town’s troubles, but also the source of their only revenue, and the show plays the real-world struggles of a failing mining town quite well, considering the supernatural elements at work here.  Zed finds John where she least expects him: asleep on her couch.  He warns her about the dangerous world she’s about to step into, but she isn’t going anywhere, so they form a tenuous partnership.  Right on cue, a siren sounds signaling a mine collapse, one that was preceded by the strange knocking sound.  John warns them that these strange events will keep happening and people will keep dying unless they shut down the mine.  Before they get a chance to do just that, the truck he’s in fills with black, muddy water, and clawed hands drag John and another miner down into it, drowning one (obviously not our title hero).

John drops some mythological knowledge on Zed (and the audience).  He believes they’re what he calls Coblynau, also known as Knockers.  Their best guess is that the former priest who lost his son to the mine is now conjuring these lesser demons in order to punish the other miners.  John uses Zed to see through the man’s eyes, and she spots a campground by a river.  They track the man down, but John’s Latin incantations have no effect on him except to act as an icebreaker.  He seems to think that the big boss may be behind it, but an underground attack on the boss’s life by a zombie miner puts a dent in that particular theory.

Constantine-The-Darkness-Beneath-matt-ryan-angelica-celayaJohn and Zed arrive in the nick of time, and while Zed paints a symbol on the mine wall, John invites the demon to the mine and reminds it that it’s supposed to be a protective spirit of the Earth.  While Zed is tasked with hauling out the fallen men, John rigs explosions to seal up the mine.  Along with the former priest, who’s there to get literal closure on the mine, they blow the entrance up.  John’s not done, however, as he has to shut down the conjurer of the coblynau.  Cue the grieving Romani widow who has been summoning the earthen demons, and does so again in order to have them attack Constantine.  In a dark twist, John summons the spirit of her dead abusive husband to drag her down into the earth with him, thus banishing the other coblynau as well.

Not sure how I feel about this plot turn since the man was obviously abusive when he was alive, and she summoned these spirits in part to protect herself.  This manner of reconciliation feels a bit off the mark.  Otherwise, the rest of the episode was quite entertaining, and Matt Ryan continues to make himself at home in Constantine’s shoes.  I’m enjoying this darker turn so far and I hope that the stories continue to get stronger as it marches on, slowly weaving in the overarching story of the battle for John’s soul.  And for fans of the Hellblazer comics, Papa Midnite is ready to make his television debut on next week’s episode!

Rating: B

Odds & Ends:

  • Constantine: “You heard it too, didn’t you? The knocking?” Creepy.
  • Constantine: “There’s a white dove lost in a snowstorm. You need to find it.”
  • Zed’s artwork is absolutely amazing. I wonder who actually did it … (Feel free to send me some, Mysterious Stranger.)
  • Constantine: “Bristles up to ward off evil.”
  • Constantine: “There’s nothing blacker than gypsy magic.”
  • If you wanted Zed and John to hook up already, it looks like you’ll have to wait a bit longer.
  • Constantine: “There are those who pray for you, and there are those who prey on you. And no matter how careful you are, sometimes you can’t tell the difference.”