“What’s going on out there is pervasive,” Manny warns John in Episode 12 of Constantine. “Invunche, brujeria, the serpent himself… We’re off the map now.”
It’s a rallying call for the show’s growing ambition; a sign that the series is building to something. The Rising Darkness. Newcastle. Something. But whatever it is, there’s still a sense that the climax is some way off – despite there being only one episode left of the show. If that’s what happens when a US TV series isn’t renewed beyond its initial 13-episode run, though, at least this semi-standalone episode feels more complete than the last one.
That’s largely thanks to Manny. After becoming increasingly involved in each chapter’s events, Episode 12 sees the angel actually bring John a case – something Matt Ryan’s hero taunts him for, as you’d expect. The case in question? A woman who gets a forced overdose of… something, which is much more demonic than your friendly neighbour drugs.
Zed, we soon find out, isn’t feeling up to the task. “I don’t think I”m ready,” she says, tired after her psychic adventure two episodes ago. “Nobody’s ready for what we do,” replies John, sincerely. “But this is the labyrinth we chose to walk. Innit.”
It’s that typically tongue-in-cheek balance of grave consequences (death, life, souls, hell) and cocky swagger that gives Hellblazer its bad-ass edge; one that Matt Ryan only gets better at walking along. It’s also the secret to the series’ ability to engage emotionally, using humour to avoid heavy-handed sentiment, but – after delivering solid back-stories for both Zed and Chas – making sure that the characters are more than mere cut-outs.
This week, though, it’s all about our winged messenger. Manny has always needed to be more of an active sidekick than a passive onlooker – something that John explicitly addresses here by trapping him inside a human body: a doctor at the hospital where the victim is being treated. Harold Perrineau seizes the spotlight, at once angry at John, frustrated by his lack of heavenly powers while stuck in a mortal shell, and excited by the attentions of a female colleague.
Sam Hill shoots his transformative experience for maximum comic effect, cutting between Parrineau’s shocked expressions and the bewildered face of the doctor he’s inhabiting. That contrast of interior and exterior becomes a semi-theme for the episode – written by Danse Vaudou’s Christine Boylan – from Zed’s own brain scans to the nastiness running the unsuspecting female’s veins. John once again proves himself willing to sacrifice the innards of others to find out answers, particularly if it’s to save a friend, while the introduction of black crystal (The Heart of Darkness) acts as a gateway to both impressive visuals effects and potential future story lines involving Eclipso and the Spectre. Like the seemingly non-existent climax of the Season 1 finale, though, this enjoyable outing leaves you wondering whether we’ll ever get to see more of the DC world through Constantine’s lens. It might be a little on-the-map, but Angels and Ministers of Grace is another example of NBC’s accomplished take on the wider Hellblazer universe. It’s frustrating, therefore, to see that potential with no immediate pay-off, but that’s the labyrinth we chose to walk. Innit.
Constantine is currently available to buy and download on Google Play.