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TV Series Review

They say that the devil you know is better than the devil you don't.

Small consolation for John Constantine, who seems to know most of them.

It's not like he hangs out with demons socially. As an "exorcist, demonologist and grand master in the occult" (according to his business card), he runs into them with some regularity and, typically, tries to send them back from whence they came. And on the rare occasions when he tries to strike a more mutually beneficial deal, well, there's always, quite literally, hell to pay.

NBC's Constantine is based on the DC Comics character of the same name and (unlike the 2005 movie  Constantine starring Keanu Reeves) seems to pay reasonably close attention to the source material. John's British, for one thing, and just brimming with cynicism and biting asides. Granted, NBC's antihero doesn't chain-smoke like he does in the comics. But he does interact with lots of blank-eyed, demon-possessed bodies and bloody corpses. Because while smoking cigarettes is a definite no-no on television these days, gore is practically a green-light requisite.

Constantine's spiritual battleground is a tangible one: Angels and demons are quite real here. And the show seems to want to make distinctions between good (angels) and evil (demons). It even tells us that the angels are looking out for us. And Constantine has his own guardian angel of sorts, a winged observer named Manny.

'Course, John sees these angels through a darker lens. He's a snarky antihero whose attitudes and deeds are, according to Manny, "questionable at best and without conscience." Sure, he's working for the good guys—but his motives are at least partly selfish. (He needs to save his own soul after an exorcism went awry, damning an innocent girl to hell.) He's a supernatural drifter, a spiritual gunslinger. And he's no fan of Manny or his ilk.

Still, cynical though he may be, he'll admit that the angels are infinitely preferable to the other guys.

This deeply spiritual show is, remember, based on a dark and secular comic book. The world we're given conforms very loosely to a Christian ethos, but it's also profoundly confused by theology and obsessed with the occult. Constantine is a self-defined "master of the dark arts," and his use of them for an ostensibly good end doesn't make them any less dark. His tricks of the trade include all manner of occult signs and seals, pulled from forbidden tomes (both Christian and pagan) and gussied up for modern-day use (and inclusion in a network television show). Blood is used in rituals, and "magical" Latin phrases are said. Manny plies Constantine for information and expects him to "help" heaven in their fight.

The world at large may see all this as fanciful window dressing. Christians, ironically, see it more as John Constantine himself does: stuff not to be trifled with.


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Episode Reviews

Constantine: 10-24-2014



Readability Age Range



Matt Ryan as John Constantine; Charles Halford as Chas; Harold Perrineau as Manny; Angélica Celaya as Zed Martin; Michael James Shaw as Papa Midnite; Emmett J. Scanlan as Jim Corrigan; David A. Gregory as Eddie; Lucy Griffiths as Liv Aberdine; Jeremy Davies as Ritchie Simpson






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Paul Asay

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