Constantine, Season 1, Episode 8: “The Saint of Last Resorts”
Written by Carly Wray
Directed by T.J. Scott
Airs Fridays at 10 pm ET on NBC
“The Saint of Last Resorts” breaks the mold of a lot of previous Constantine episodes, which partially set up the character of John Constantine (Matt Ryan) as some kind of cynical, occult superhero instead of the hell-bound bastard and con-man from the Hellblazer comics. Instead of having Constantine initiate the case of the week with Zed’s (Angelica Celaya) scrying, this time he gets a call from his magic tutor, old flame, and member of the Newcastle crew Anne-Marie (Claire van der Boom), who has seen a baby snatched by a supernatural force. Because this is personal, John leaves Zed on her own at the House of Mystery, giving her first solo plotline to show how she has grown as a character, along with revealing a new threat other than the vague Rising Darkness. Director T.J. Scott uses the convent, landscapes, and graveyards of Mexico City to give “The Saint of Last Resorts” a real sense of atmosphere and writer Carly Wray mines world mythology and the Hellblazer to craft a primal horror plot as well as cementing once and for all that Constantine is vulnerable, charming, and occasionally funny, but not a hero.
Instead of wasting the character of Anne-Marie on background exposition, she plays an active role in the plot of “The Saint of Last Resorts”, including facilitating Constantine and Chas’ (Charles Halford) ability to do actual investigations in Mexico City. (A translation spell would have come in handy.) She is also one of the first characters to challenge Constantine’s reasons behind doing and saying things, including leaving the mental institution and fighting the forces of darkness back in the pilot. Van der Boom plays Anne Marie with a sharpness that belies the nun’s habit she is hiding beneath. Anne Marie’s guilt over Newcastle has turned her towards redemption via faith and religion, especially since her finest magic student was a boy with daddy issues named John Constantine. Her bickering with Constantine and Chas’ stolid attempts to intercede between them add spice to some of the more by-the-numbers procedural and jump scare scenes in “The Saint of of Last Resorts” and fill out a one-dimensional guest cast.
Even though her screen time is much less than Constantine, Chas, Anne-Marie, and the parents of kidnapped babies in Mexico City, Zed plays an active role in a solo subplot involving her past. Wray subverts the women in refrigerators cliche by having Zed manipulate Eddie, the shady life-drawing model from last week, and gain the upper hand against him. After this, there is a very Hellblazer plot twist that makes Zed a much more interesting character going forward.
Like any good midseason finale, Wray and the writers connect many of the dots for the Rising Darkness and end the episode on a note that will make viewers want to tune in when the show returns in 2015. Wray doesn’t reveal all of Constantine and Zed’s backstory, leaving the mystery for future episodes while connecting their background to the ongoing plot-line. Scott also uses the tunnels, corridors, and open spaces of the convent where Anne Marie currently lives to ground “The Saint of Last Resorts” in a dark spirituality that sets it apart from the backcountry USA used by most of the show. The demons featured in the episode are genuinely creepy, especially when Scott slowly pans to show them touch and snatch the babies. They also have a connection to the Rising Darkness, along with Jewish and Latin American folklore and mythology, showing that Constantine has the potential to feature a variety of demons from myriad traditions. “The Saint of Last Resorts” is a suitably dark midseason finale for Constantine that balances big reveals, character arcs, and even manages to use its settings to add some flavor to the proceedings.