Review: Constantine: “Non Est Asylum”
Constantine had the best premiere of all the new and old comic book shows this season. The main character easily carries the show, the plot is very engaging and the overall premise looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun. Maybe it helps that I’ve never seen an episode of Supernatural, or any of the TV shows that owe their origins to the original Hellblazer comic, but I really enjoyed ‘Non Est Asylum’ and will definitely be tuning in to more Constantine. Of course, maybe it also counts against me that I’ve never read a Hellblazer or Constantine comic, and actually enjoyed the 2005 Keanu Reeves movie, but that should just be water under the bridge at this point, right? Pretty please?
TV Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
This new show on NBC has some real spooky legs. There’s a certain wicked energy at play here that I like. This pilot episode is half-horror movie, half-supernatural adventure, with a hero who fits into both. That sounds like a solid premise for a TV show to me. Throw in a dash of superhero – even if lead character John Constantine doesn’t exactly fit that definition – and you’ve got the makings of a pretty good show. If Supernatural can last for 10 seasons, surely Constantine can find a way to show them how it’s done. Granted, it doesn’t have a Sam and Dean, but who needs pretty boys when you’ve got a hardass like John Constantine? He’s just about the No. 1 thing this pilot got right!
Join me after the jump for the full review!
Like I said a moment ago, I don’t have any history with the character John Constantine other than the movie and just a general comic book knowledge, so I come at this show with no expectations or demands on the character. I just want a good TV show, and the first episode of Constantine delivered! The character arrives fully formed, with all of his wit, bitterness and knowledge at the ready to entertain us. Actor Matt Ryan doesn’t just get the look of the British exorcist right, he has the character down pat. It helps that Constantine doesn’t feel an overwhelming burden to hold our hand in this premiere, and it doesn’t have any preconceived future, like Gotham. Constantine is its own show, and Constantine the character knows exactly who he is and what he needs to do. I like a show with confidence in itself and its characters.
Speaking of characters, I felt everyone else did a solid job as well, for the most part. Harold Perrineau makes a good introduction as Manny the angel, and I especially liked the special effects on his wings. He looks like he’ll make for an interesting guy to get to know. Charles Halford as the sidekick, Chas, was a little too gruff for my tastes, but then the only Chas I know is Shia LaBeouf, so I might not have any idea what that role is supposed to be like.
The only other character worth mentioning is Lucy Griffith’s Liv Aberdine, the audience surrogate and former female lead. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but after the pilot was finished, the creative minds behind Constantine decided to drop Griffith entirely, leading to a tacked-on epilogue to the first episode to explain her disappearance for next episode. It was a little silly, especially in how they claimed she had friends in California she’d go visit, and that Constantine issued some kind of protection spell offscreen to make sure she was safe, but what can you do? The entire point of pilots is to try out the show and see what works and what doesn’t. According to interviews I’ve read, the showrunners decided that Liv was always going to be too wide-eyed and reactive to the world of the supernatural, and they want a female lead who can hold her own alongside Constantine. That sounds like a solid decision to me. I liked Griffith in the pilot. She worked well to help the audience get up to speed.
Maybe she’ll get to do a guest cameo later on in the show. That would be neat. She’s definitely in the sandbox now, they can play with that character whenever they’d like.
The plot for the first episode was a solid choice. We played around with some demons, saw some freaky special effects, and employed a wide and fascinating cast. There were some really spooky moments, like when that lone medical examiner had to peer into the back of his van, only to find a demon-possessed corpse waiting for him, and some great action bits, like when said van then crashed into Liv’s car rental agency. The final showdown on the roof was cool – though I hope Constantine has more tricks up his sleeve than just curling his fingers at the bad guys and speaking in tongues. That’ll get old fast. I realize that’s how spells are cast, but I dunno…he can’t do that every episode, is what I’m saying.
I checked online and found out that the backstory involving the innocent Astra is actually taken straight from the comics. It’s different in the movie, so I was a little confused, but feeling guilty over having condemned a 9-year-old girl to Hell is definitely powerful motivation. Though I was also confused as to whether or not Constantine himself is damned. Did he lose his soul to Hell too? Or was it just the little girl? I wasn’t sure.
Either way, the plot makes for great character development for Constantine himself, and great story potential for Constantine the show.
Constantine is off to a great start. I like the main character, I like the cast, and I love the premise. I think it’ll be the perfect fit for network TV. I only hope NBC won’t be too afraid to push the boundaries a bit going forward. Let’s put some real scares into the audience, really up the freaky factor. I think that will make Constantine stand-out.
More comic book cameos like the helm of Fate will help too!
What did you think of the Constantine premiere? Does it stand a chance? How does it stand up against the other pilots and premieres this season? Let me know in the comments!