WARNING! THIS REVIEW IS MOSTLY SPOILER FREE HOWEVER ALL FUTURE COVERAGE WILL BE SPOILER-HEAVY!
The last of the new DC series to premiere this fall hit Friday, joining the ranks of Gotham and The Flash, both of which are already three or more episodes in, and both of which are already established as watchable, fun and entertaining shows. So it looks like Constantine is going to be another addition that factor, even if it isn’t a perfect start. I liked it better than Gotham’s first episode, but it’s got some way to go before it can match the quality of The Flash’s pilot.
First off, Matt Ryan looks the part. I’m sure fans of John Constantine will remember the Keanu Reeves movie from 2005, and it was pretty much evident that he was nowhere near the perfect choice for the man who inspired the trenchcoat of Supernatural’s Castiel. He wasn’t blonde, he wasn’t even British. And whilst he could smoke, the film itself was largely a mess, even featuring an appearance from a younger Shia LaBeouf (who can most recently be found in David Ayer’s Fury). It’s safe to say then, that Constantine is already a lot better than the film version, and whilst it may not be equal to its source material, Hellblazer, it’s plenty of fun and has the potential to join the likes of Supernatural, The Originals and Sleepy Hollow as the best urban fantasy series currently on television.
There are plenty of problems that Constantine has to overcome before it can reach those heights though, but at least the cutting of actress Lucy Griffiths (by far the weakest element of the pilot) at the end of episode one has showed signs of improvement. It’s clear that you can’t properly judge this show until at least episode two, with the new addition of Angélica Celaya being cast as Zed. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how the two characters interact, and as a result the second episode of the series can’t come quickly enough.
Non Est Asylum is designed, like most pilots, as a world-developing episode, taking time to explain the laws of this new reality. It looks as though we’ll be following the Newcastle arc from the comics, and fans will appreciate the fact that the show seems to be borrowing from the comics in terms of story arcs (and there’s plenty of other references, for example, Dr. Fate’s helmet even makes an appearance). It looks at Constantine after he’s responsible for sending a 9 year old girl to hell, hoping to erase the pain by being locked in a mental hospital. However, his stay doesn’t last long, when a Demon starts writing a warning on the wall, about the death of Liv (Griffith’s character). So that naturally gets John into play again, and it isn’t long before we meet Chas (Charles Halford) who serves as one of Constantine’s few friends who’s actually lasted this long. There’s also an Angel named Manny (Harold Perrineau) and Ritche Simpson, who fans of Hellblazer will recognition (Jeremy Davis).
There’s nothing exactly scary about this pilot however. It feels more action orientated (which is no surprise when you consider Director Neil Marshall (Game of Thrones’ Blackwater and Watchers on the Wall) which is a shame given the potential for horror in Constantine. It should scare you, and although this pilot doesn’t quite manage that feat, there’s plenty of stuff there that can. Hopefully the next few episodes can be the equivalent of Supernatural’s early episodes, the ones featuring the likes of the Bloody Mary legend, which were the scariest that the show has ever been, but that said, I wouldn’t be completely against the idea of more action orientated storylines either.
Constantine then, despite a few issues namely the lack of scares and poor acting from Griffith’s part, is a solid start. I enjoyed it more than I did the pilots of Arrow, Gotham and Agents of SHIELD but then that could be a bit of a bias given that Constantine is my favourite comics character. It’ll be interesting to see where this show goes from here and I for one, can’t wait to see what happens next. Hopefully, things can only go up.