“The darkness is coming. Heralded by someone close to you. By someone who will betray you.”
Those were the words of Papa Midnite back in the second episode of Constantine – words that set up what promised to be a big finale at the end of a dark first season. Here we are, 11 episodes later, and NBC’s TV series successfully delivers: this is a corker of a final episode that shows Constantine’s confidence and potential to get even better.
Waiting for the Man takes its title straight from Hellblazer’s opening volume – yet another story adapted from the page and a reminder of just how faithful the series intends to be. The Man in question? A guy who’s kidnapping girls to turn them into his brides, who then prey on other innocent, unsuspecting women, recruiting them to join the family at the altar. In the books, it’s John’s niece who gets abducted by the diabolical bigamist. Here, it’s just your average young woman, but the stakes are instead raised by the emergence of a bounty on our exorcist’s head: one that Papa Midnite wastes no time in collecting.
“I always took you as a voodoo priest with a flair for the dramatic,” the aloof Matt Ryan said to the sinister Michael James Shaw earlier in the season. “I do what I have to,” came the reply.
That amoral determination is even stronger here, with Midnite creating his own undead soldier to track down John, as well as grabbing a shotgun himself. We find out about all this thanks to a corpse briefly possessed by Gary, our old friend from back in Episode 4.
Meanwhile, who should be investigating The Man other than Jim Corrigan? Emmettt J Scanlan’s mumbly cop is a handy fellow detective, but it’s his interactions with Zed that gives the episode some spice: every time they meet, she gets spooky visions of him, dead, as The Spectre.
Girls being kidnapped. Reanimated friends. Premonitions of another DC character. A race to kill John by an old enemy. To say Episode 13 is crowded is an understatement. What could be a jumble of ideas, though, is turned into a gripping conclusion to an almost perfectly-judged season: a statement of intent that proves Constantine’s ability to grapple with the graphic novels and turn them into something loyal, yet with their own identity. It’s no surprise that Cameron Welsh is the one behind the script – he last gave us Gary’s previous outing, which was a near word-for-word translation of Hellblazer to the screen, and marked the series’ first excellent episode.
Harold Perrineau once again steals the show, as Manny becomes even more central to the Rising Darkness arc, appearing not just to John but to others too. If he was once a passive observer, that was surely a bluff from the show’s creators David S. Goyer and Daniel Cerone: after last week’s antics in a human body, he’s now graduated to a spiritual complexity that gives him as much shade as dazzling white.
Angélica Celaya, meanwhile, proves just as powerful in John’s universe: she not only single-handedly foreshadows The Spectre’s arrival, but also raises the romantic tension lurking beneath the surface of our supernatural sleuthing. A hint of amorous action with Jim behind John’s back sparks signs of jealousy – giving the brilliant Matt Ryan another side of his character to play with. What started out as a sanitised version of Hellblazer, with no smoking and lots of parlour tricks has become a programme with regular cigarette intervals, high-stakes black magic and genuinely affecting depth.
It speaks volumes for the series’ agile balancing of tone that it manages to include both the line “What the hell was that?” “A zombie warrior!” and a sympathetic love triangle without missing a beat. While a lot of that come from Ryan’s own performance, director David Boyd, who has previous on The Walking Dead, is an equally adept force behind the camera. He dials up the suspense, both sentimental and visceral, presenting this emotional betrayal in parallel to Papa Midnite’s own indifference for John’s well-being. As Constantine strolls away the miserable rain, rather than wrap things up neatly and call it quits, Boyd builds to a soaring final shot, which leaves the show swooping higher; a tantalising glimpse of a shocking villain and a promise of darker thrills to come.
But will they ever? Accomplished, funny, moving and gripping, Waiting for The Man is proof that Constantine should be renewed for a second season – whether that’s by NBC for its flagship channel or even on SyFy. Because if these first (and hopefully not last) 13 episodes have shown us anything, it’s that Constantine is the TV series Hellblazer fans have been waiting for. And it’s not finished yet.
Constantine is being released in the UK straight to Amazon Prime Instant Video – with a new episode available every Saturday, within 24 hours of US broadcast. Amazon Prime Instant Video costs £5.99 a month, or, if you want free next-day delivery from Amazon, £79 a year for Amazon Prime – with a 30-day free trial.