NBC’s Constantine gets stronger by the week, even as the rising darkness makes things just that much harder for the title antihero. By all rights, tonight’s episode, “A Feast of Friends”, shouldn’t have worked quite as well as it did: the goofiness of dancing hypnotized security guards, the horror of possessions by third-world hunger demons, and a heightened portrayal of addiction and, ultimately, redeeming self-sacrifice all seem too disparate to work together. Somehow, tonight’s hour came together by combining plenty of gross-outs with an engrossing story of a beleaguered friendship between two old mates. While you might want to skip out on the late-night snack while watching this episode, this installment of Constantine should leave audiences hungry for more.
Hit the jump for our Constantine recap.
A nervous-looking man by the name of Gary Lester (Jonjo O’Neill) passes through Customs in Atlanta … by way of Khartoum. He gets snagged when an antique bottle catches the officers’ attention. Lester warns them not to touch it or open it, which the Customs officer probably should have heeded since a massive swarm of bugs flies out of the bottle and finds a new home within the officer’s mouth.
Meanwhile, Zed and Constantine are hanging out in a park, the former working on her efforts seeing visions. It’s not long before Manny puts a stop to their relaxation in order to chat with Constantine again, but he’s more cryptic than ever before disappearing just as quickly as he arrived. Constantine and Zed arrive back at their magical headquarters to work on her training, and find Lester (and the insect plague) have broken in. Lester needs Constantine’s help, but since the two last saw each other in Newcastle with the debacle that ended in Astra’s death, John’s not all that eager. He hears Lester out anyway.
He tells a story about going on a bender and then finding a poor man covered in protective markings which indicated that someone had trapped a demon in him (as you do). Lester used the then-empty bottle (along with an incantation) to draw the demon out and trap it in the vessel. It worked just fine until the customs officer opened it up, a customs officer who is then seen ravaging the airport’s food court on the craziest feasting binge you’ve ever seen. Once the bugs inside him have consumed every type of fast food imaginable (including a handful of scalding fries from the deep fryer), the bugs swarm away and leave a husk of the man behind. (Crazy scene!) They find a new host in an innocent woman, who continues the feast in a grocery store, eating raw meat, veggies, flour, and more before assaulting a cop and biting a big chunk out of his cheek.
Meanwhile, John fills Zed in on his past with Gary, a man with access to wealth who wasted his own life by using drugs, and using others around him. Their reunion is interrupted by a news broadcast reporting on the strange “viral” outbreak in Atlanta, to which Constantine instantly deduces as a hunger demon. While John heads out to deal with it, Gary tells Zed (and the viewers) about Newcastle. Sounds like John was the only one who had any real power and the rest were just along for the ride. When they came across Astra, a girl with a powerful case of possession, John had a plan; too bad it went to shit. Zed gets flashes of Gary’s memory (and her first powerful experience with drugs), which are strong enough to knock her to the ground.
When John gets to the crime scene, the young boy and his mother who saw everything tell him that they saw the swarm of bugs leave the afflicted woman, and enter the meat delivery guy. John pays the company a visit and finds more workers ravaged by the insects (and appropriately adjusts the “Number of Days Since Last Accident” to zero). One worker is left alive, but very much possessed, and creepily attacks John by crawling backwards toward him. He manages to catch some of the bugs in his enchanted bottle, but they prove too strong and break it, nearly consuming him in the process. He locks them in a meat freezer and makes a hasty retreat.
The hunger demon is stronger than Constantine expected, perhaps because of this “rising darkness” that lurks behind the scenes of the season’s plot arc. Zed’s still reeling from her contact with Gary, experiencing the withdrawal symptoms from his drug addiction, but also manages to give Constantine a lead. He heads to Nommo’s African Cuisine to talk to the shop’s proprietor about the Sudanese demon. Nommo and John plan to trip on psychedelics in order to share a vision and find the demon.
In said vision, Nommo plucks out Constantine’s eye, and replaces his own with it. He shares with Constantine the history of the evil hunger demon, and the village shaman’s decision to imprison the spirit in a young man. The shaman cut the young man’s tongue out to avoid a curse, then carved protective runes in his face, before calling the demon into the man’s body. The plan was for the demon to consume the body and itself, but the boy escaped, and the rest is history. At least John knows he has to get his hands on the ritual knife used in the ceremony. What he doesn’t know just yet is that Gary has imprinted his drug addiction memories onto Zed in order to make his escape back into the world to go after the hunger demon.
After saving Gary from a beating by local thugs (thanks to his attempt to score more drugs), Gary confesses to Constantine over a drink. He was high on the day Astra was killed, and he hid while the worst of it went down. John blames himself for getting the others involved, and forgives Gary for his actions. They patch things up over a break-in at the local museum where Gary liberates the kusa knife while Constantine hypnotizes a guard into dancing through the exhibits.
At the Fox Theater, John and Gary locate the demon, and Constantine reveals that the only thing that can contain it is a human body. Gary realizes John’s plan to give his old friend a chance to redeem himself, at the cost of days of agony and, eventually, his life. Both men are committed to the ceremony, which takes place right in the middle of the massive stage in the empty theater. As Constantine chants his incantation, the bugs swarm out of their host and into Gary. John carves the protective runes into his face with the kusa as Gary struggles to keep control.
Back at the hideout, Zed’s not too pleased with John’s decision to trap the demon in Gary, and she doesn’t buy that it was Gary’s choice. John reminds her that he has warned her on more than one occasion that people who stay by his side end up dead, and she relents. Once inside and restrained, John sits with Gary as the demon eats him from the inside out; Manny watches with a rare bit of sympathy for both John and the possessed man, perhaps shepherding his way out of this mortally tethered world.
Constantine has quickly developed an entertaining balance of humor, horror, and heart that makes it one of the more unique hours on network television. That signature style was certainly on display in tonight’s episode, which could have played it safe by finding an “everybody wins” conclusion for its characters, but chose instead to elevate the message by that heart-wrenching final scene. Matt Ryan is making the title character more his own each week, a transformation he talked about during an exclusive interview with our own Christina Radish. I can’t wait to see where Ryan and the showrunners take the character from here, so hopefully NBC gives them enough time to do so.
Oddities & Ends:
- Zed: “Do you want to tell me about Newcastle?” Constantine: “It’s a town in the north of England. Horrible weather, even worse football team.”
- Constantine (to the dancing pig and cow): “You wouldn’t be laughin’ if you knew what was in store for you.”
- Constantine: “I’m off to see a man about a dog … or rather a shaman about a bloody demon.”
- Constantine: “If we’re trippin’ balls … how do we know to take the nectar?” A valid question.
- Constantine: “Let me give you a tip about Gary: Between thought and action comes addiction. Always.”
- Constantine: “You know what I always say, Gaz? Everyone has the capacity to change.” Gary: “You never say that.” Constantine: “Exactly.”
- Shout out to Atlanta’s Fox Theater, Fernbank Museum, and local newscaster Karyn Greer!
- Constantine: “People around me die. If you can’t handle it, then go.”