Constantine continues its strong run with Quid Pro Quo, an episode that ticks off yet another box on the to-do list for an excellent TV series.
We’ve written at length before about Matt Ryan’s perfect performance, the show’s understanding of Hellblazer’s mythology and the scripts’ balance of the comics’ darkness and humour. The only thing Constantine has been lacking is a supporting ensemble. That has improved in recent outings, with Anne Marie and Zed each getting ample screen time in The Saint of Last Resort and Blessed Are the Damned. But what about Chas (Charles Halford)?
This week’s episode belongs to him – and about time too.
Things start in the usual manner, a quick outbreak of evil in the pre-credits sequence that sees people across the city go into weird comas, including one young victim. This isn’t just any ordinary girl, though: this is Chas’ daughter.
It’s a brilliant move that gives our seemingly invincible man his first genuine weak spot. It’s telling that we only find out about his daughter during a routine visit to his estranged wife’s home for his quality daddy time; we’re not just getting a cheap emotional contrivance, we’re getting his whole back-story too.
The script jumps back and forth in time as the investigations continue. Chas’ wife scolds him for getting John involved, dropping an inevitable mention of Newcastle, but the flashbacks offer something more interesting than the familiar seance-gone-wrong: we find out how Chas got his healing powers. It’s a surprisingly nuanced reveal, one that takes the Quid Pro Quo episode title quite literally, as John’s sidekick is revealed to be shouldering a heavy burden.
Halford emerges as a gruffly sympathetic performer, who rises to the challenge as Chas shows he’s willing to go quids-in once again. He’s got strong competition in the acting stakes, though, as Mark Margolis joins the cast as an old occult rival, the wonderfully-named Felix Faust. The notion of bartering with souls takes centre stage, as Margolis lords it over Constantine with a sickening glower. It’s fun to see him order about our rebel, but even more fun to see John, for once, genuinely out of control.
“You create magic by accident,” sneers Faust, returning to the series’ ongoing theme of placing importance upon conviction. It’s a principle that John treats with predictable abandon; the most crucial spell of the week is produced in a drunken blur, a harmless joke between mates down the pub. But that casual disregard also impacts upon Constantine’s companions, a fact that gives them more depth than mere cheerleaders or plot devices.
“Pull something out of your ass like you always do!” demands Chas, whose concern for his child brings a new urgency to events. He’s not the only one dealing with relatives, though, as John learns about Zed’s own troubles. “You’ve never flinched in the face of the undead. Why are you so scared by a man from this world?” he asks of the Resurrection Crusade. “Because he’s my father,” comes the reply. A mention of John’s own mother – and Ryan’s stunned expression at the namedrop – shows just how important family is to these characters, something that John and the show are beginning to appreciate. You can tell how engaging the whole ensemble has become from the climax, which takes what could have been an empty gimmick 10 episodes ago and gives it a real heart. Magic’s all well and good but sometimes, you need your dad to save the day. That realisation makes this the most rounded episode of Constantine to date. With three episodes to go, it’s looking more and more like a complete TV show.
Constantine is currently available to buy and download on Google Play.