Constantine, Season 1, Episode 7 : “Blessed Are the Damned”
Written by Sneho Koorse
Directed by Nick Gomez
Airs Fridays at 10 pm ET on NBC
So far, the world of Constantine has mostly been filled with frightening demons, cursed objects, and people working under their thrall. “Blessed Are the Damned” looks at the lighter side of the equation, but this episode might be the scariest one yet. Zachary (Patrick Carroll), the pastor of a struggling church, gets healing powers when he is lethally bitten by a rattlesnake while trying one of his father’s old snake-handling routines. This leads to him becoming a popular cult figure. What seems to be yet another exposé about religious fundamentalism becomes an in-depth look at faith, doubt, and free-will, with many trademark John Constantine wisecracks, written by Sneho Koorse and delivered with aplomb by Matt Ryan, in the funniest episode of Constantine so far. After taking last week off, Zed (Angelica Celaya) comes to the forefront, as traces of her belief in a “helping hand” are revealed and rewarded when she meets the angel Imogen (Megan West). Also, Manny (Harold Perrineau) gets something to do other than annoy Constantine and remind viewers of “the Rising Darkness”, and gets a defining character moment towards the end of “Blessed Are the Damned”.
The great thing about “Blessed Are the Damned”, along with many of Constantine‘s early episodes, is the shades of grey cast between the impending battle between good and evil. The introduction of an angel and healing magic to the proceedings, followed by the natural world decaying and people going insane, blurs this line even more. Even in the face of all this power, Constantine is still his cynical self. However, Koorse ends up drawing an interesting parallel between Zachary and Constantine as men who are both haunted by specters of their past involving a death that they caused. She makes Zachary a sympathetic figure, someone who wants to do good but ends up being consumed by a power that he has no business having. The theme of humans being manipulated by the divine or fate is a timeless one, from the days of the Epic of Gilgamesh or The Iliad, but Koorse goes beyond this theme and portrays Manny and Imogen in a human manner, like a touching scene where Manny asks Imogen about how pain feels. Perrineau shows some emotional range in these scenes, and West is spot-on casting for an otherworldly, ethereal being. The combination of Nick Gomez’s directing, Bear McCreary’s music, and the subtle CGI on her wings herald Imogen’s arrival as a real turning point for the episode in the show, as she is shot in dazzling light before being carried by Constantine into a nondescript barn.
Imogen’s appearance jumpstarts the episode, which features a creaky first act, including Zed getting asked out by a life-drawing model at her art lessons and a slightly too long scene of one of Zachary’s sermon. Sneho Koorse does plant a variety of different Chekhov’s guns in these scenes, which gives the episode a sturdy plot structure and room for several twists. One of them hinges on Zed becoming increasingly like Constantine, as she uses trickery and manipulation to solve problems. This, along with “being the mysterious one of the duo”, forms a dark counter-balance to the revelation of her struggling faith in God and sense of wonder around the angels in “Blessed are the Damned”. Even though Zed has been through difficult (yet unrevealed) times in her life, she still has a little optimism and hope. The intertwining of hope and despair, as well as faith and doubt, gives “Blessed Are the Damned” a larger scope than some of the earlier “supernatural investigation” episodes. It also shows that Constantine isn’t afraid to wrestle with difficult questions, even if there are a few misfires along the way, like Constantine throwing slow-mo punches, or saying “Please” to try and summon an angel.