Constantine 1×03 Review: The Devil’s Vinyl
This show hasn’t quite hit the stride I’ve been hoping for just yet and we’re already three episodes in. I forgave the second episode for feeling like a repeat of the pilot due to the switch out of the lead female character, but this episode should have moved beyond that and blown the audience away. While Constantine pre-dates Supernatural, the mythos behind this episode had already been covered on the popular CW show, which is in its tenth season. It was a unique take on the legend but it was still something fans of this genre of TV are already familiar with. This show is also still suffering from the “telling, not showing” issue that have made many viewers feel this comes off as far too scripted. It’s not all bad, though, as I was very excited to see Zed integrate herself into the main story a bit more solidly. Matt Ryan continues to be amazing, too, and might be the charm that keeps viewers tuned in despite the show’s narrative problems.
This week’s episode centered around the legend of Robert Johnson. The popular myth is that he sold his soul to Satan for success. This was used in the Supernatural episode “Crossroad Blues” and has been mentioned or depicted in many other forms of media as well including O Brother, Where Art Thou? As far as I can tell, a common myth was used to use up another point on their map provided by Liv in the pilot episode and perhaps give the characters even more time to gel together before returning to the main plot. It’s also very possible that the showrunners were unaware that this popular legend has been used so much, especially by another show in the same genre that has a pretty large crossover fanbase, and that’s why they went ahead with the episode. I’m hoping that when we move forward, we can get some more unique stories that won’t give tentative fans ammo to state that Constantine is copying their favorite show. I don’t believe that it is, but people have been murmuring that accusation since the pilot leaked mid-summer and episodes like this don’t really help defend against it.
If the episode was meant to focus more on character interaction rather than plot, it did make progress. When they initially left Chas behind at their home base, I was worried it would turn into another episode with Zed and Constantine flirting and building up massive amounts of sexual tension. Instead, they were separated partway through the episode and Zed called Chas in to help them complete the case. I am enjoying Chas and Zed’s dynamic immensely. Chas seems to have a great deal of respect for her and her skills, as well as taking a rather sardonic pleasure in the way that she is able to get under Constantine’s skin. Being able to annoy Constantine in such a way might not have been something that Liv could have done, so their decision to awkwardly switch out such a central character so early on is making more and more sense. I’m hoping that we continue to see the group dynamic develop and that Chas isn’t constantly left at home every episode. It feels like such a waste of a potentially interesting character.
As stated earlier, since they’re still setting up this new world for the viewers, the show is suffering from the telling, not showing problem that a lot of science fiction and fantasy programs tend to encounter. The most notable example of such in this episode was the enchanted card that Constantine used to trick people. It worked sort of like the psychic paper from Doctor Who, which also needed a brief explanation when it was first introduced. It seemed pretty straightforward to me, but I have a lot of experience in these types of genres so his detailed explanation of how the card work seemed forced. Perhaps for people who aren’t as interested in these genres, the card would have been confusing and needed an explanation. Unlike the psychic paper on Doctor Who, though, this episode actually showed what it was revealing to people instead of just being a blank piece of paper. It seemed obvious, but again, I’ve grown used to these types of things because of my love of the genre, so I might not be the best judge.
Speaking of Doctor Who parallels, I laughed when Zed commented that the inside of their headquarters was much bigger on the inside than it looked on the outside. I’m not sure if it was intentional, but it’s yet another familiar reference for anyone who spends a lot of time enjoying these types of programs. I hope nobody claims that Constantine is copying Doctor Who now. We’ll see.
This episode wasn’t terrible, but I still don’t feel like the show has gripped me quite yet. I was pretty excited for the show when I first saw the trailer, but with each passing episode I’m getting more and more worried that the show will get cancelled before it has a chance to shine. It needs to do something quickly. The ratings aren’t so hot and the looming controversy about the lack of mention of Constantine’s bisexuality has driven a lot of potential viewers off. Perhaps next week will be the episode that makes this show a hit. Maybe it’ll contain the storyline that makes this show a must watch instead of something people are putting off to marathon at a later date. Maybe it’ll be the one that finally acknowledges his sexuality and brings back the viewers that jumped ship when the controversy became bigger than the show itself. I hope so, because I’m growing increasingly pessimistic about this show’s chances of survival.
Author: Angel Wilson
Stephanie “Angel” Wilson is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and has essays published in Fandom Frontlines.
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