Constantine Season 1 Ep 1 (TV Show Review)

And… that’s it. All the new and recurring shows that DC Entertainment was going to be putting out this Fall are finally here. We started off with Gotham, continued on with The Flash and Arrow, and now we have Constantine. My previous experiences with John Constantine extend only to the 2005 movie with Keanu Reeves and the recent New 52 comics, specifically Constantine and Justice League Dark. As such I’m not a long-time Constantine fan since I’ve never read Hellblazer, but I do like the character, and seeing him get adapted for live-action television is a great feeling after the failure of the previous adaptation.

Debuting Friday night on NBC, Constantine‘s first episode did a lot of apparent heavy build-up of the character and his supporting cast, but it failed to make a lasting impression on me. The premiere feels like a bunch of random scenes strung together without any real payoff. Yes, the show has some really cool moments and nods to various other comics characters, but it simply not as strong as DC’s other recent shows, all of which have been much more memorable from the get go. It simply feels like a stock horror/demons show rather than something uniquely DC.

Constantine Logo 0001

The story of “Non Est Asylum” is by David S. Goyer, who has worked on quite a few comic book properties in the past (primarily movies) and Daniel Cerone, who has a smaller but no less impressive resume. With Constantine being Daniels’ first comic book gig, the heavy-lifting was ultimately going to be on David, and I don’t think that this was such a good thing. He has worked on Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy as well as last year’s Man of Steel, and while his output has been quite decent, it isn’t all that charming exactly. I loved Man of Steel, but that was also because of more than just story or character reasons. Wth Constantine, I’m thinking that the writing team has some serious kinks to work out since the premiere sets a rather poor direction for the rest of the series, though the tone and vibe are certainly there in spades.

The premiere starts off with John in a mental asylum somewhere in Northern England, and we are dropped into the middle of a story without any kind of setup. With The Flash, we know what was going to happen thanks to what happened on Arrow last year. Even with Gotham, we knew generally how it would all start off since it is basically a show about Gotham before Batman ever came on the scene, with events kicked off by the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents. With Constantine it was much more nebulous, even though we had a general idea that the show would take some of its cue from Hellblazer. But it doesn’t work because, first and foremost, the script is incredibly weak. And then, the characters are weak, barring Constantine himself. And then, the acting is weak, barring lead actor Matt Ryan who is filling in Keanu Reeves’ rather small shoes.

I’ m probably one of the few people who actually liked the Keanu movie. It wasn’t without its faults, certainly, but it was also pretty good in a number of places. The Constantine premiere is much the same except that there are many more faults with it.

To start off with, we don’t really see why John checks himself into a mental asylum and why he is trying to forget that demons and dark things really do exist in the world until the final few minutes of the episode. There are some references of course, but they don’t really work because the episode moves really, really fast. We go from location to location, character to character, event to event at breakneck speed and the writers don’t really pause the story and let it breathe, to let the audience get familiar with the characters and who they are before putting them in jeopardy.

And the biggest culprit here is Lucy Griffiths’ Liv Aberdeen, who is perhaps one of the most bland characters and actors I’ve seen in television to date. Her dialogue delivery is deadpan, lacking any emotion, and the larger story about Liv is rather cliched and boring as well. Daughter to one of Constantine’s dead friends, her life is in danger for some inexplicable reason that the episode doesn’t get into, and we are asked to take in a lot on pure faith. Which doesn’t work. Put opposite Matt Ryan who is almost a great casting for John Constantine, Griffiths just doesn’t have the same kind of an impact.

Then there’s the angel Emmanuel, or Manny for short, who is kind of this weird modernistic version of the tight-lipped all-knowing wizard character from fantasy. And what’s the fun in that? None, I can tell you. Harold Perrineau turns in a good performance, but is limited by a lackluster script that doesn’t really give him any time to shine.

Constantine Cast 00001

Yes, a lot of the problems of this premiere are those that pilot episodes usually face. Even Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD had a much better pilot than Constantine, and that’s saying something since the debut season of the show last year was lackluster and boring for almost the entire first half.

There are a ton of kinks that Constantine needs to iron out as it continues on with its debut season and one of the many is that it needs some better control over the special effects. They are good in places, really good, but they are also rather bland in others, such as in the final moments of the episode, where they look too obviously shoe-horned in, or the daemon-possessed bodies that give Constantine some trouble throughout the episode.

Unlike its cousin shows on other networks, Constantine looks to have a very troubled first season, and my hope is that the show improves from here on out. The final moments of the premiere introduce some of the ways in which that can be possible, especially with the sneak peak at a new character coming up, one Zed Martin played by Angelica Celaya, and I’m somewhat excited about that.

I have my fingers crossed.

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Posted on October 26, 2014, in Constantine, Review Central, TV Show Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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