CONSTANTINE Recap: “The Devil’s Vinyl”

     November 7, 2014

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Gather ’round and crank up the old Victrola as we recap tonight’s episode of NBC’s Constantine, now on freshly pressed acetate!  The continuing adventures of the show’s titular warlock remain entertaining and otherworldly, as the plot of tonight’s hour revolves (sometimes quite literally) around a record that contains the voice of the devil himself.  No one has yet told Constantine that you can’t do that on network television, so I look forward to seeing just how crazy it gets in the weeks to come.

Hit the jump for our Constantine recap.

constantine-the-devils-vinyl-matt-ryanAnother night, another city for John Constantine.  This week’s episode, “The Devil’s Vinyl”, takes him to Chicago.  There, in a creepy abandoned building decorated with eviscerated animals, a sweet old vinyl record lies protected in a shroud-wrapped Bible bricked up in a wall.  Probably harmless, right? Or maybe it contains some sort of unholy frost magic that causes people who hear it to go crazy and kill themselves.

Before John and Chas even get to Chicago, Zed drops in on them by following her visions. This might be Constantine’s craziest scene yet, as he’s covered in blood and speaking in Latin/tongues.  Meanwhile, Chas gives Zed a tour of the mysterious and endlessly vast magical hideout.  She’s quickly folded back into the team as John explains the stigmata-filled map of the US and a curious case involving the death of a music producer friend of his in Chicago.  Zed’s visions suggest a cold end in a field of jasmine.

Now in Chicago, Constantine breaks out a cool bit of mythology by way of coffin nails that act like compass needles.  Quickly trumping that trick, he pulls out a dead man’s hand and lights its fingertips; the Hand of Glory allows him to talk to his dead friend for as long as the flames remain lit.  Unfortunately, it wakes all of the dead in the morgue as well, though John gets a few bits of info out of him (at least enough for Zed to put Google to good use).  Let’s hope they make it in time, since tonight’s special guest (Joelle Carter) is about to be frozen out by the troublesome record.

John and Zed pay a visit to old and infirm record producer Marcus Mooney who tells them the legend of a blues singer who sold his soul to the devil.  When the devil came a’ callin’ to take the singer back with him, the acetate recorded his fell voice.  Mooney is about to dies and claims to see an angel, so cue Manny as the old man passes away.  John takes this opportunity to explain just why Old Scratch is in a mind to barter for souls, because every one he takes is a point against God and the purity of His creation.  Hey, it’s as good a reason as any.

Their quest next takes them to one of John’s former musician friends, Ian Fell, who John believes has sold his soul.  It turns out that his wife Jasmine was the one who made the deal with the devil and did so in order to save Ian’s life since he was dying from cancer.  At this point, someone should probably check on their daughter since she’s currently conversing with an inanimate acetate pressing… Jasmine tells John about a soul broker named Anton, who offered to trade the soul back for the acetate. (How many times can you say acetate in an episode? Or a recap for that matter…)  Before leaving, John slips one of the compass nails in her pocket.

constantine-the-devils-vinyl-michael-james-shawJohn busts Anton, but learns that Papa Midnite (Michael James Shaw) is behind the deal.  The voodoo priest is currently learning some new tricks from televangelists, which is enough of a distraction that Constantine doesn’t see his goons sneaking up on him to knock him out.  Midnite ties him up with copper wire, doses him with heparin (an anti-coagulant), and slices his arm to bleed him slowly, but not before explaining to Constantine that the acetate is a get-out-of-jail-free card.  Though Midnite leaves John to a slow death, he puts his salvation (a bottle of Vitamin K) on a table well out of arms reach.  As insult to injury, rats crawl over John’s body and a real jerk of a homeless guy (ie Manny the Worst Angel) shows up to torment him.

Back at Fell’s mansion, Midnite’s thugs rob them of the acetate.  Luckily, Zed realizes that John wasn’t planting a coffin nail in order to track Jasmine Fell, but so that they could find him in case of trouble.  Smart move!  Zed shows up just in time to save John from the murderous vagrant and tells him of the robbery.  They arrive back in town where a bloody massacre has taken place in a club where Midnite’s thugs played the record.  Chas shows up with fresh supplies and the news that a run on Zed’s prints reveal she’s no sort of law enforcement.  As Chas says, she’s “useful” as she speaks to a deaf busboy who saw the whole ordeal unfold (but was obviously safe from the acetate’s powers).  Zed may be useful, but Celaya’s delivery is a little stilted now and then.  Thankfully, Ryan’s charisma and arrogance as Constantine more than makes up for any glitches in the dialogue.

John fires up Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols on his own MP3 player in order to protect him from the acetate’s effects, which works out well for a time until one of the raving lunatics at the local college radio station snags the headphones out of his ears.  In a strange twist, Papa Midnite arrives with a charmed Winchester rifle to put an end to the anarchy.  In a double twist, Constantine sends the record back to Hell before Midnite can get to it, but also preventing John himself from using it as a bargaining chip.  I’m hoping that these two continue to be at odds for some time to come.

John and Chas tie things up with a neat little bow as they literally force Anton the soul broker to eat his contract, rendering it void.  All well and good, until we see Zed contemplating a silver cross, and the more ominous reveal of Papa Midnite using Constantine’s blood to make a voodoo doll of the warlock … which he rests in a bowl of flames.

I’m not sure how you guys feel about Constantine at this point, especially for those of you who are fans of the Hellblazer comics, but I’m enjoying it.  It’s just crazy enough to keep things interesting, and the bits of magical flair that are peppered throughout the episodes give the plot some extra flavor.  The pacing is still a bit off and the overall plot doesn’t yet feel strongly connected from episode to episode, but it’s still early goings.  As long as they never mention the word “acetate” again, I’ll happily continue to tune in.

constantine-the-devils-vinyl - matt ryanRating: B

Odds & Ends:

  • You muted your television whenever they played the record, I hope. Right?
  • Constantine (on Zed): “She’s easy on the eyes, but she showed up last week out of nowhere. She may be legit, or she may have other … unseemly motives.”
  • Constantine: “Back in the Jurassic days, I fronted a punk band called Mucus Membrane. I wasn’t always an upstanding warlock.”
  • Mooney: “It turns out, the acetate he was working on recorded something when he died … the voice of the Deceiver.”
  • Constantine: “You’re gonna have to respect my boundaries. I don’t do zip ties without a safe word.”

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