‘It’s just the way of it, son. We all sell our souls sooner or later.’ – Hellblazer #79 by Garth Ennis
Before we move forward, I just want to be clear that I feel quite comfortable referring to this as a serviceable John Constantine television show. I’ve read every issue of Hellblazer and yet somehow, I’ve managed not to become one of those people who scrutinizes the fact that ‘John isn’t smoking in every scene’ or that ‘he’s not nearly as heartless as he is in the comics.’ Sorry, mate. My excitement about seeing an almost entirely proper version of one of my favorite comic book characters, supersedes my Ultra Sensitive Nerd Scrutiny. Do I feel like Hellblazer would have been more suited for a HBO or AMC? Absolutely. The sleaze and douchebaggary, common to Constantine’s comic book counterpart, would be far better served on a television network that didn’t have to skate such a morally sensitive line. (If John ends up in a prison and it doesn’t turn into brutal madness, I’ll be very disappointed) But, those are just the cards we were dealt. Because when it comes down to it, I would much rather watch a watered down version of Constantine on television, than have no Constantine at all. I’ve long ago accepted that I will rarely ever get a 100% accurate version of my favorite comic book characters. (I need to re-watch BLADE some time soon.) Prepare your pitch forks and torches, cause I don’t give a shite. (Oh, I can feel your geek blood boiling. Yes. I eat your nerd rage for breakfast and it’s delicious. nomnomnom)
Disclaimer #2: I was one of those people who sneakily watched this pilot many months ago through questionable methods. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but, when a major network’s super sensitive comic book adaptation ‘accidentally’ leaks onto the internet, I can’t help but taste the trickery. I feel like NBC found a way to get free focus testing directly from the very same demographic they were desperately hoping to impress with their comic book television show. I regret nothing!
If you’re not familiar with the comic book version of John Constantine, there’s not much more to know beyond what the pilot episode alludes to. Constantine is a manipulative, heartless, dirty piece of shit who ends up doing the right thing, only because it accidentally aligns with his desire to screw over every last piece of shit that has slithered out of Hell. While a majority of John’s actions are selfish or without real meaning, he’ll occasionally surprise you with a seemingly not-so-selfish gesture of good will. The only thing missing from this show is the thin coating of slime and piss that coats everything in John’s life. Having the episode begin with John voluntarily checking himself into an asylum is perfect. Only Constantine would check himself into an asylum to try and make himself crazy. He knows what the world is, yet, he would willingly let people try and convince him otherwise. This only empathizes his selfish and egotistical nature. The world is dripping into shit and John is taking a vacation with insane people. John’s actions seem to be heavily motivated by the accidental damnation of a little girl’s soul in an exorcism that John’s cockiness helped botch. The only thing missing from this motivation is why this one screw up, in a lifetime of screw ups, is the one that finally break John’s conscience. Luckily, John snaps out of it, right in time to watch the world gracefully slip towards Armageddon,
Having had watched the previous released version of CONSTANTINE, the one major difference between the two versions is the removal of Liv’s character as John’s sidekick at the end of the episode. The original version had Liv meeting John at the bar and convincing him that there’s a whole country out there in need of their help. This version had Chas showing John the map of United States and informing John of Liv’s off screen departure from the series. Then an additional scene was added of a new mysterious character drawing sketches of John at the very end. I can only imagine the feedback that NBC received that made them completely replace John’s partner in crime? Another difference was the demonic Constantine doppelganger that they faced on the rooftop. Perhaps hinting at a future story line? Originally, they faced the possessed security guard the entire time. Interesting…
The best part of this pilot is clearly Matt Ryan’s portrayal of Constantine. He not only looks like he walked right out of a Hellblazer comic, but he has the mannerisms and tone of Constantine down. Jeremy Davies (LOST) makes an appearance as one of Constantine’s former disgruntled allies. This guy really loves playing the role of the ‘broken scientist.’ Harold Perrineau takes on the role of Constantine’s guardian angel who is attempting to manipulate John into working for the side of the angels. (I’m extremely happy he put his stock in this show over Z NATION. That show is a gosh darn mess.) There’s a lot of potential with this show. If DC decides to dump all of their mystical characters into this one show, it could end up being every fan’s wet dream. GIVE ME ZATANNA and SWAMP THING! This method would align with DC’s recent tactic towards their shows. Dump as many related characters as they can into each show. FLASH, ARROW and GOTHAM all seem to house every B and C list character from that respective universe. It’s clear that CONSTANTINE needs a little bit more fine tuning to make it the show we all want it to be, but, holy shit… it’s sooo close!
Final Score: 8 out of 10