Constantine Season 1, Episode 9: “The Saint of Last Resorts Part 2”
Written by Mark Verheiden
Directed by Romeo Tirone
Airs Fridays at 8 pm ET on NBC
Beginning directly after the gut-wrenching ending of the midseason finale, ” The Saint of Last Resorts Part 2″ takes one of the series’ biggest risks yet, by having John Constantine (Matt Ryan) literally bond with a demon to save his life after his old lover Anne-Marie (Claire van der Bloom) shot him because she wasn’t willing to have him sacrifice another innocent to save his skin. Constantine‘s new status quo is riveting as, possessed by the Assyrian hunger demon Pazuzu, John slaughters members of a pretty scary Mexican gang and gets thrown in prison, where Chas (Charles Halford) and Zed (Angelica Celaya) must enter and exorcise the demon, or kill him if all else fails. There is also the “Rising Darkness”, but over the course of the season, this have become laughable, even if a big name is thrown in this episode. This inconsistency also extends to the characters of Manny (Harold Perrineau) and Anne-Marie, as writer Mark Verheiden possibly uses the former as an example of Heaven’s impotence in the coming struggle (Constantine‘s theology and cosmology is becoming sketchier by the episode) and the latter where the plot dictates. There is also a slight dip in the special effects after the heights of the fallen angel a few episodes back.
Even if the Constantine team ends up writing themselves into a corner as the thrust of the show goes from a potentially epic battle between Heaven and Hell, with a hellbound magician fighting for the side of the angels, to The Exorcist on a TV budget, there are several positives in “The Saint of Last Resorts Part 2”. For example, Chas and Zed get lots of things to do in this episode, especially the former, and both get some needed character growth. Up to this point, Chas has been Constantine’s laconic, unkillable chauffeur, but this week, he shows the lengths he would go to to help Constantine out. Chas shows initiative and real courage, which is undermined by the fact that the man he cares about is a manipulative bastard, with the slightest bit of remorse and a lot of charisma (Constantine’s natural persuasive/con-man skills come in handy in prison). Zed’s Resurrection Crusade subplot from last episode sadly gets aborted, but her escape from her captors shows the independent streak in her character, which is immediately counteracted when she goes off to save Constantine with Chas. Her role in the plot is erratic, but Anne-Marie shares a couple of scenes with Zed, which show the addictive, but often negative, effect Constantine can have on the people he grows close to.
After middling to above average work throughout the season, Constantine‘s special effects decline in “The Saint of Last Resorts 2”. In some cases and shows (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, early Doctor Who), the metaphor can overcome the cheesiness of a monster’s design, but that isn’t the case in this episode. This is a shame, because director Romeo Tirone uses a series of quick close-up and medium shots to show the effects of Pazuzu on Constantine and create incredible tension in these scenes, starting with a gorgeous high-angle shot of him surrounded by the dismembered bodies of the gangsters he has slaughtered while possessed. However, the supposedly “bigger threat” of the series ends up being laughable, thanks to the shoddy CGI graphics. It doesn’t help that Perrineau starts yelling all his lines as well.
“The Saint of Last Resorts Part 2” continues to show that Constantine is a show which isn’t afraid to follow its impeccably cast lead, as Ryan continues to nail Constantine’s mixture of world-weary and angry snark, to some dark places, but then pulls back before going “full Hellblazer”. This, combined with ups and down with characterization, tone, and effects, makes this another flawed episode in a show which is starting to creak a little bit, and needs more than Ryan’s acting chops and an occasional flash of brilliance in score or cinematography to grow as a show.