Constantine Review: “A Feast of Friends” (with bonus reviews)

Gary and John

– Spoiler Review –

While I’ve been watching since its premiere, I’ve not gotten around to writing any reviews for Constantine, instead focusing on a few other shows. One of them hasn’t been as good as Constantine (cough Gotham cough) so I’ve decided to prioritize reviews for this one instead. Below contains my full review of “A Feast of Friends,” an episode which secures Constantine‘s status as a great new show, plus mini-reviews (Kessel Run reviews, as I like to call them) of the first three episodes.

Quickly, here’s the Kessel Run reviews (So called because Han Solo actually shaved length off his run, not time, so in that spirit I’ll be cutting down the length of these reviews into mini ones):

Ep. 1: “Non Est Asylum”

Non Est AsylumThe premiere set up a world that felt both familiar to those who experienced John Constantine through the 2005 Keanu Reeves film, but felt more like home for those who read the comics. While it was a fun ride, it was marred by too much expositional dialogue, though necessary for it’s unique setting, and the character of Liv. Thankfully the creators realized she wasn’t fitting for the show and wrote her out of the series, which is a tad obvious and done a little clunky in the episode. While this pilot has demons, they’re nothing Constantine can’t face or overcome as the series progresses. Matt Ryan owns this role.

Ep. 2: “The Darkness Below”

Zed

Because of writing Liv out, this second episode felt like a second pilot but didn’t suffer as much from exposition-filled dialogue. The demon of the week wasn’t all that interesting, but the introduction of Zed most certainly was; Already she’s a much stronger character than Liv, with a skill just as unique, but a little more accepting of and easier to belong in the world that John Constantine inhabits. Special effects have been fantastic so far.

Ep. 3: “The Devil’s Vinyl”

Papa MidniteSelling your soul to the devil isn’t anything new, but the reasons behind it in this episode were a little less selfish than most (therefore, more interesting than most). Over all, a much more solid episode mostly because it didn’t have to serve as another pilot, while the introduction of Papa Midnite as a big player in the series opens up many intriguing avenues. Zed continues to prove her worth and it’s hard to imagine any of these events happening with Liv still helping Constantine.

Now for Ep. 4: “A Feast of Friends”

Righteous AngerMatt Ryan has unequivocally proved his casting was the perfect choice for the neither black nor white John Constantine. He gets to play the full range in “Feast,” from the witty devil-may-care attitude, rightful vengeance, pained memories, and ultimately, utter guilty. The last bit was one of the most interesting aspects of the evening, when Constantine traps a demon in his friends body to kill it off: did he trick his friend or did he lay it out subtly enough that Gary should’ve seen it? It’s easy to answer that question both ways, which is usually unusual for the main character of a TV show. Having Constantine remain a character you can be invested in while going down darker territory by making him an anti-hero (much like Walter White in the often spell-binding Breaking Bad) is a tough road to travel, but so far the show has done a fine job with it. And while I may be in the camp that Constantine both tricked Gary, but also gave him his chance to get out, it’s certainly up to the viewer how they’ll look at the situation which unfolded when trapping the hunger demon for good.

The hunger demon was a scary, palpable threat, much like the voice of the first fallen (the devil) from last week, as the image of beetles swarming in and out of people’s mouths was done well and a disgusting thought. However, I didn’t get the impression that it truly was the strongest demon Constantine had ever faced, despite him talking it up that way. Look, he avoids it using a fallen hunk of meat, traps it in a meat locker, and has enough time to trip balls, steal an artifact, and have a (final) drink with his bloke before facing it again. I’d have thought he’d be rushing a little bit more to stop the hunger demon if it truly was such a tough entity.

Manny and JohnGary’s involvement in the Newcastle incident we always hear about really helped sell why Constantine might be so mad at the addicted drug user, but still consider him a friend. Their past was easy to pick up on thanks to their interactions being candid and viable. And Zed’s meddling between the two was a great set up for viewers to assume Gary could be redeemed from the slippery slope he’d fallen down. Gary does seem to make amends for his sins, and makes a valiant attempt to curb himself from his addiction, but it just wasn’t enough. Constantine knew it, the viewers knew it, Gary knew it. That being said, I wasn’t really ready for Constantine to sacrifice Gary, but Manny’s question, “Are you sure you want to go through with this?” was my first big hint things weren’t going to end well. But the final scene they share together, Gary writhing in pain, Constantine staying with him through it, and Manny joining in on sharing the burden was very powerful; And even if you think Constantine was evil for what he did, at least this showed how he has to live with the consequences of his actions.

Here are a few other things:

  • While an informative vision quest, was it completely necessary for Constantine to “trip balls” (hilariously delivered by Matt Ryan) to get the information from the shaman?
  • I’ll take one zero gravity trap, please.
  • This episode was based on the first two issues of Hellblazer.
  • Surprised with all the Ebola hubbub going around that they were still able to do this episode.
  • Loved the changing of the workplace accident sign, as I’ve worked at a few places with those.
  • The whole eyeball exchange scene gave me the shivers.
  • As per Matt Ryan’s interview on Late Night with Seth Myers, it turns out he’s best friends with the actor who plays Gary in real life. Adds a little something extra to the ending here, now doesn’t it?

 

Till the End

“A Feast of Friends” was one of the first episode that didn’t feel anything like a pilot, really owning up to its world/source material and embracing it. Constantine isn’t going to be the hero everyone expects, but rather the hero who’ll get the job done no matter the costs. It’s a stark reality, but wholly intriguing, and helps set the show apart from other comic adaptations on TV. But now how far are they willing to go? The question should be a fun one to answer as the series moves onward, finally unfurling its wings and jumping off the edge.

+ Sacrifice of Gary

+ Free of acting like a pilot episode

+ Setting itself apart from the pack

 Lack of urgency

Ryan is Mynock Manor’s Head Butler. You can follow him on Twitter @BrushYourTeeth. You can follow the website @MynockManor.

SEE ALSO:
S1, Ep. 13: “Waiting for the Man
S1, Ep. 12: “Angels and Ministers of Grace
S1, Ep. 11: “A Whole World Out There
S1, Ep. 10: “Quid Pro Quo
S1, Ep. 9: “The Saint of Last Resorts” Part 2
S1, Ep. 8: “The Saint of Last Resorts” Part 1
S1, Ep. 7: “Blessed are the Damned
S1, Ep. 6: “The Rage of Caliban
S1, Ep. 5: “Danse Vadou