The character of John Constantine is rooted in music as much as he is in magic or being a con artist. Before he was master of the dark arts, he was the frontman for Liverpool punk outfit Mucous Membrane. (Which gets a much needed shout out in this episode.) Even before he was fully fledged and named character, he was a guy in the background of Swamp Thing #25, who artist Stephen Bissette wanted to look like Sting. But enough of the origin story stuff. “The Devil’s Vinyl” is the strongest episode of Constantine to date as David Goyer and Mark Verheiden construct a plot filled with the trickery, double crosses, soul bartering, and exorcisms that were the Hellblazer comic’s stock and trade, especially during Garth Ennis’ run. The threat level is also upped thorough developing the show’s mythology by including voodoo priest and crime kingpin Papa Midnite (played with presence and a spot-on accent by Michael James Shaw) and hinting at a character that will make Hellblazer fans shake in their boots. With this threat escalation, Goyer and Verheiden start to dig beneath the surface of John Constantine (Matt Ryan), Zed (Angelica Celaya), and Chas (Charles Halford) while giving them active and pivotal roles in the plot.
The opening shot of Constantine is quite rich. It’s a medium shot, straight ahead of the Ravenscar Secure Facility. This is the mental asylum that John Constantine (Matt Ryan) turns himself in to when he inadvertently damns the soul of his friend’s daughter, Astra, to Hell in the Hellblazer comic. Immediately, there is a nod to the source material as well as establishing that our protagonist isn’t right in the head or the ethical department, but there’s a tiny chance he could change. “Non Est Asylum” is all about how John Constantine isn’t at home in Heaven or Hell, but somewhere in between (Even though he is currently damned). He, his best friend and driver Chas (a laconic Charles Halford), and friend’s daughter Liv (Lucy Griffiths) are constantly on the move trying to take on the demon Furcifer, who controls electricity and lightning, and wants to damn Liv because her father angered him a while back. Along with this mobile exorcism plot, writers David Goyer and Daniel Cerone build the world of Constantine, where demonic activity and magic are everywhere. They also dig into Constantine’s sordid back-story. Unfortunately, most of this backstory is spilled out through exposition at the most random times, and it seems like the character of Liv only exists to be told stories about his past. However, she won’t be appearing after this episode, and Constantine more than makes up for it with a charismatic performance by Matt Ryan, who has the bearing of the working class mage, and delivers the snarky dialogue that Constantine is famous for in the comics.