Constantine ‘The Saint of Last Resorts Part 2’ recap and review

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As I’ve mentioned in my previous mid-season finale review, Constantine has had some difficulty finding its footing in an entertainment landscape populated by shows like Arrow, The Flash, Gotham and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. People love superheroes but find it difficult to reconcile a property’s four color origins in favor of the actual content. What’s more, the Hellblazer comics aren’t as widely known as something like Spider-Man or The Hulk, his adventures run toward the mature and literary, and the show’s writers have had their ups and down while trying to get to the bottom of what make John Constantine and his world so special. Fortunately, with the mid-season opener to “The Saint of Last Resorts,” the writers have finally nailed it.

When we last left John, he was slumped in a sewer, bleeding out with a demon inching ever closer. After being shot and left for dead by his old flame, Anne Marie, John doesn’t have many options left, so he does the only thing available to him that includes not dying, and that’s calling a demon into his body. After reciting an incantation in accordance with the talisman he used to frighten off Lamashtu in the previous episode. The awful plan works and John, now a cozy condo for the demon Pazuzu, frightens off the sewer demon who was going to rip him to shreds. Manny appears shortly after, admonishing John for his demon pact. Furious, he leaves John in the tunnel for forsaking God. “It’s not that I can’t help you John. I won’t.”

After hearing from Anne Marie that she left John for demon chow, Chas goes into the sewer to rescue his friend only to find him none the worse for wear, other than a nasty twitch. John informs Chas that he called Pazuzu into his body since the first course of action for the demon would be to heal its host. Chas, obviously disturbed by what he’s hearing, asks John what he intends to do about his current predicament. Since they may only have a couple of days before the Pazuzu eats John from the inside out, John will have to perform a “self exorcism.” Unfortunately, before the two can make any headway, the demon inside John accosts Chas and runs off into the night.

Meanwhile Zed wakes up in van being taken away to her “father.” She tricks the driver into checking on her before injecting him with the sedative, beating him senseless and taking his van. “Your father, he’ll never stop,” says the driver. “I’d rather die before I ever go back there.” As much as I’m not completely sold on Zed’s backstory at this point, it was wonderful to see the character kick some ass again and to know that her past will catch up with her. Hopefully this story develops in a more organic way in the second half of this season. I love her character and I really want her story to develop in more interesting ways.

After waking up covered in blood, surrounded by the bodes and…parts of dead gang members, John is whisked away to jail for murder. Realizing that jail in Mexico is perhaps not the best place, if a demon is nesting in your body, John talks to a representative from the British consulate who informs him that the investigation of the murder of five Mexican nationals would take weeks. Understandably, John is upset and is hauled out of the room screaming at the man who was supposedly there to help him. This scene is the turning point for the episode and the series. We have the perfect setup. John is besieged by forces from within and from without. He’s trapped in a singular location, forced to deal with his situation while his friends scramble to help him.

This is the kind of hard luck Constantine story that fans have been waiting for. We want to see the plot set to boil over while John and his cohorts are forced to make clever, idiotic and dangerous decisions to save each other and/or the world.

Speaking of friends…Chas and Zed have a pretty great scene together. Chas tells Zed that he plans to help John, and if he can’t do that, he’ll have to kill him. Zed claims that she’s going to kick Anne Marie’s ass for shooting John in the first place. This scene not only gives us delicious complications for future character relationships, we also finally get to see Chas and Zed take center stage and develop a bit more but as separate characters and as scene partners. Charles Halford has breathed warmth into Chas’ small scenes for the past several episodes, but this episode in particular has allowed him to shine. Angélica Celaya, as always is tough but tender in the role of Zed, and seeing her dynamic with Chas and Anne Marie was an absolute joy to watch.

While in the prison yard, nursing his demon scar, John meets up with a man named Julio. Johns wants to know how the prison works and offers to pay this guy to show him the ropes. While following Julio, Manny shows up again to tell John that he didn’t think he’d be this stupid, to which John replies in the first of many character defining lines in this episode “I’m John Constantine. I do stupid in spades.” John tells many that if everything goes wrong, and he can’t get the demon out, the angels will just have to find new “operative on the ground.” Then, in a moment of real honesty, John tells Manny that he’s not ready to die, that he’s not afraid of hell and has earned what he has coming to him, but that he has more work to do. Manny: “For the sake of the mortal realm, I hope you find what you need.” Manny disappears, replaced by Julio, who tells John that he can get him whatever he needs. John asks if the prison has a chapel.

After Chas and Zed find Anne Marie, they explain to her that John is possessed. Once again we see the rift between Anne Marie and John grow ever wider. She is unrepentant for her actions in the sewer. Anne Marie exclaims that she serves a higher power and John Constantine serves none. Zed drops the bomb that John has been talking to an angel, indicating that Heaven sees value in the selfish magician, much to Anne Marie’s surprise. Claire van der Boom (one of the best names I’ve ever heard) plays Anne Marie with the perfect mix of steely grit and tender regret. It’s clear that she adores John, but is weighted down by the sins of her former lover. This is a difficult situation to portray on screen, but van der Boom does wonders with it. Her scenes with Matt Ryan, in particular, are among the best of the series so far.

We also cut back to the British Consulate where the representative meets with a dark and scary man. It turns out that the representative was meant to keep John in jail while the man and his demonic cronies made way for “the rising darkness.” In a great little capper, the dark man begins staring at the representative who asks, “I’m sorry but…why do you keep looking at me like that?” To which the dark man answers, “Not looking. Measuring,” before devouring the man in his own office.

While John is in the makeshift chapel looking for items to help him exercise the demon, we learn that Julio has sold him out. After John murdered members of a Mexican gang, their brethren sought revenge and now they plan on killing Constantine in the chapel. In their violence, however, they apparently set the demon loose and end up getting killed in the process. After the demonic murder spree, John wakes up in the jail yard surrounded by terrified prisoners. John demands to see Julio, and the crowd parts, revealing the young man who sold John out. Julio explains that it was the only way to stay alive, “They run this place.” John turns to the scared crowd frustrated and screams the best line in the entire episode. “Now I run this place! Now sod off.” The prisoners scatter. John realizes that the demon is trying to keep him in prison so that he can’t stop the rising darkness, just as Anne Marie appears in special form, asking him what his plan is. This scene is one of the crown jewels of the episode. We get a real sense of desperation from Constantine, as well as the fact that, even amongst dangerous men, he is is more so.

Chas and Zed show up to rescue John from the prison. Chas asks Zed to smuggle in a tape recorder of John reciting an exorcism ritual, as well as a Tibetan spear. If the demon can’t be exorcised by ritual incantation, the spear to the heart will do the trick. Zed uses her sex appeal to get past the guards, having grown up near a prison like this one she know just how to look and what to say to the guards to get in. Chas, on the other hand, uses slightly different method, assaulting a guard before being dragged inside, smiling with his mouth bloody was a wonderful comedic moment. Chas and Zed are joined by Anne Marie, who wishes to help her former lover exercise the demon inside him. It is here we get a great exchange from Anne Marie and Zed.

Zed: “Should I be scared? For John, I mean.”

Anne Marie: “He’s in a bad way. But John believes he has every situation under control, and he makes you believe. That’s his magic, and his curse. Zed, if we make it through this, you should leave him and never look back. I wish someone had given me that advice.”

Just as John and company prepare the exorcism, the dark man shows up wearing the British consulate reps skin, hoping to foil the whole ordeal and make way for his demonic buddies. In short order, the demon is killed, but the exorcism is postponed until they can get John to the Mill House. Julio brings the crew enough heroin to kill an elephant and they start to cook up the dose in order to tamp the demon down by shooting John up. This next scene is pure “Hellblazer” and Matt Ryan delivers his best Constantine performance to date. John’s smile in the face of apocalyptic adversity is what makes the character work and Ryan nails it completely.

Anne Marie: Are you sure you can do this?

John: If there’s anything I’ve learned in the last 48 hours is that this demon needs me alive.

Anne Mare: And if you’re wrong?

John: Well then I’ll go out riding the world’s greatest high, with my first love at my side. There are worse ways to meet your maker, eh.

Julio shoots John up, the demon rears its ugly face before John goes down completely. As they attempt to leave to prison dressed as coroners, Chas realizes that they just can’t leave the way they came in. The guardswill recognize them. Anne Marie creates a distraction, projecting herself topless just outside the prison walls claiming that she’s been robbed. It works, and the crew drives off just after topless Anne Marie disappears.

Back at the Mill House, John says that he needs someone with true spiritual conviction to perform the ritual, therefore, it must be Anne Marie who does it. Reluctantly, she accepts, despite the fact that she’s a novice. “Bloody John Constantine. The center of attention again.” What follows is the most harrowing scene in any of the episodes so far. The demon inside John rears up refusing to give the man up, spouting hateful things to Chas, Zed and finally Anne Marie. This scene is obviously a reference to The Exorcist. As John floats, writhing above the bed, Pazuzu exposes each of their secret fears, leading to Anne Marie’s crisis of faith. Zed tells Anne Marie that she must forgive herself for introducing John to magic, for helping to make the man he’s become. With new resolve, Anne Marie commands the ritual, exercising the demon from John after finally forgiving herself. This scene is dark, harrowing and perfect. My description here does not do it justice. Just watch it.

Demon exorcised, John and Anne Marie have a final tender moment. John apologizes for what he’s put her through, and Anne Marie very astutely states that “John Constantine doesn’t do sorry.” This perfect sums up and puts a bow on their tormented past. There is still romance dangling, but their current problem is solved and both John and Anne Marie know that there’s a love that can never be. It was bittersweet and perfectly suited the characters and episode.

This is the kind of Constantine episode fans of the character expect to see week after week, and was the best episode of the series so far. “The Saint of Last Resorts Part 2” had some genuinely excellent horror show moments, combined with real human emotion. We finally realize that John Constantine is a deadly man to know, and that he won’t be dragged to Hell easily. But when he does, he’ll do it with a grin on and his face and a lit cigarette sticking out of his gob. There were several beautiful scenes between John and Anne Marie, as well as the chance to see Chas take charge a bit more, as well as deeper character moments from Zed. This was also the first time I’ve ever believed “The rising darkness” as a cogent plot point. This episode, beyond all others, proved that this show has legs. If the Constantine showrunners can maintain this level of character and storytelling, Constantine should have a bright future even as his world descends into darkness.

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