Nearly a decade after Keanu Reeves brought John Constantine to movie theaters, the exorcist, demonologist and master of the dark arts returned, this time on the small screen, to once again battle a force threatening to destroy the world as we humans know it. Matt Ryan's version of the character is a lot closer to the comics than Reeves's—at least in accent and hair color—and the over-before-its-time Constantine embraces its lead character’s bad attitude and supernatural roots, which makes it stand on its own as a unique and interesting series well worthy of a binge.
John Constantine is a haunted man—sometimes literally. He's haunted by his past and the part he played in accidentally sending a young girl to hell while trying to perform an exorcism. After a brief stint in a mental institution, Constantine goes on a mission across America to defeat the "rising darkness"...and if he saves a few souls and sends a few demons back to hell along the way, all the better, mate.
On the outside, Constantine’s mission might seem self-serving, but his willingness to put his life on the line again and again to pay penance proves that he is on the side of the light, even when said light is looking a bit dim. As his ex-girlfriend Anne Marie says in one episode, "It's not that you don't care, it's that you can't care and do what you do." Constantine's cocky con-man persona's just that—a persona. Inside, he's definitely the kind of man you want on your team.
The show features interesting folklore and religious themes that range from elements of Christianity to voodoo to plain old black magic. While fictional, the tales are fascinating, and the tools and spells Constantine uses speak to a whole universe of ideas that are far beyond the realm of the norm. The monster of the week is often brutal and vicious—this isn't a show for the faint of heart or those afraid of jump scares—but Constantine pretty much always saves the day (even if often there’s a price to pay).
Constantine is helped in no small part by the show's secondary characters. While Rachel Weisz-lookalike Lucy Griffiths plays the show's leading lady in the pilot, Angélica Celaya's Zed Martin, who takes over in the second episode, is a character drawn from the comics and is a fascinating counterpoint to Constantine. Although she's plagued with occasionally gruesome psychic visions, she's always "glass is half full" while Constantine acts like his is always empty. (This is a sad state for someone who loves a drink as much as he does.) I love Zed’s innocence and curiosity, and her mysterious family backstory adds a lot of intrigue to an already intriguing woman. How she can be so positive while having grown up in the situation she did is a level of strength and confidence that we should all aspire to achieve.
The invincible (because reasons) Chas is a delightful straight man/sidekick who I wish we saw more of, and Manny, the guardian angel who's more frustrating than benevolent, is a good foil for Constantine. Gotta keep John's ego in check, after all.
Constantine also has one of the best safehouses/secret lairs of any show I've seen. Jasper's Mill House is a conundrum, larger on the inside than it seems from the outside (timey wimey!) and filled with many, many secrets (and Easter eggs!). It's a brilliant piece of set design and prop work, and I wish I could take a tour of it. From a practical perspective, the time spent creating this set—one that they don't spend all that much time in for such an elaborate place—is the kind of "extra" that makes a show feel truly real.
Binging Constantine also helped me realize why it made sense for Constantine to be "friends" with Lucifer Morningstar (as revealed in the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover event). Constantine and Lucifer are separate shows, natch, but they cover similar themes and have similar feels. The characters of Constantine and Lucifer aren't all that different from each other, either. Both are men who are struggling to overcome their demons, both literal and figurative, and prove to themselves that they're not actually bad people. But this isn't a post about Lucifer, so please excuse my tangent. (Although that show's totally worth a binge, too!)
Constantine only runs for thirteen episodes, but it's a solid season from start to finish. (And, for those of you left wanting more, Constantine’s final episode isn't the end of the road for John. He’s a series regular on DC's Legends of Tomorrow starting in season 4.) Constantine is the kind of show you can easily get lost in, and it's fun to puzzle out what might happen later in the season while you're watching the earlier episodes—particularly what's going on with Zed. I love her crazy story! And Constantine, although he's a somewhat grey character, is easy to root for and his charm will win you over before the first episode's credits roll. Or, rather, before DC Universe automatically starts the next episode, because you're not going to want to stop at just one.
Mandy Curtis writes about comics, specifically DC’s Young Adult line, and TV for DCComics.com. You can find her on Twitter at @mandyannecurtis.