Sooner or later, no matter how good it has been, every show delivers a clunker. Through its first ten episodes, ‘Constantine’ has drifted between acceptable, good, and damn good. This week’s helping was a forgettable episode to the highest order.
It’s an unwritten rule that horror elements in a story contain at least a modicum of clichés. One of the biggest — a group of friends using an unknown ritual to call forth something they don’t understand—is the starter for this episode. The college friends do the ritual and find themselves transported somewhere dark, scary, and inhabited by a certifiable crackpot. They come back shaken to the core, trying their best to forget what just happened. They’re about to discover the uselessness of forgetting.Old friends reunite…
Drowning himself in liquor and cigarettes, Constantine is using his time staring into the mirror of ‘past regrets’ when Manny pops in for a visit. The angel kick starts the master of dark arts into checking out the scrying map. “There’s an old friend you can still help, John,” the seraphim tells him, “and you’re all he’s got.” Constantine takes the advice and heads to the Ivy University where his former friend Ritchie teaches. We find out quick enough that 1) the students involved in the ritual were Ritchie’s and 2) the crazed man they ran into during the ritual may have followed them back. Carter, one of the four friends, is the first victim, suffocated by the madman in this spirit world, an action that causes his death in the real world.
Before getting the news on one of his students, Ritchie gets the news on Gary’s death and the unknown darkness setting its sights on Ritchie. Constantine discovers that his friend has halted his data mining activities (used to pinpoint clues towards the Rising Darkness). They end up at the scene of Carter’s death and Ritchie mentions Adam, his teaching assistant. At Carter’s memorial, Lily and Miranda talk about what they saw but the latter refuses to admit the truth. She ends up leaving moments before Constantine and Ritchie show up, set on asking Lily a few questions. The talk leads Constantine to the cemetery where the ritual took place. Manny shows up, dropping hints on bringing Ritchie back into the fold; they need every resource they can get in the battle against the Rising Darkness.
As Constantine gathers more information on the ritual, Miranda is stalked by the maniacal stranger, pulled back into his world. The two former friends discuss the Egyptian ritual, one for out of body travel, when Ritchie realizes his private journal of Jacob Shaw. Said journal recorded the success with his Egyptian Dream Temple technique. The prevailing theory is Shaw’s consciousness traveled to another dimension to escape his fate (that of killing his protégé). Lily and Adam are both freaked, unable to contact Miranda. Adam surmises that her consciousness has traveled back to the other world (what we now know is Shaw’s world) and recreates the ritual to search for his friend while Lily checks out the dance studio. Both find Miranda, though not in the states they would have imagined.Manny suggests Constantine recruit Ritchie for the coming fight
Constantine gets a bit more information on Shaw’s research from Ritchie. The professor was using it to further along theories of the singularity—the idea the humanity and technology’s emergence would allow the conscious mind shelter inside a computer network. Adam’s ritual has given Shaw entrance to this world and he can pull anyone through, not just those who have visited his world. Constantine and Ritchie return to the cemetery in time to watch as Adam’s comatose body is carved up before their eyes, a victim of Shaw’s thirst for blood. Miranda, too, has succumbed to the dimensional killer.
Three down, one more to go.
John and Ritchie commiserate about these events with the latter truly understanding the guilt Constantine holds for the New Castle affair. They go to see Lily (she found Miranda’s body) and tell her of Adam’s fate. While the three victims are still at Shaw’s mercy, Constantine takes Ritchie and Lily to the Millhouse for protection. Due to the magics of the house, Shaw’s ability to get at his victims via reflective surfaces will be nullified…unless, of course, Lily looks into the surface of her cell phone and is snatched away by Shaw. Yes, that happens.
Racing against time, Constantine and Ritchie enact the ritual and travel to Shaw’s realm. They come face to face with the deranged Shaw, who tries to assert his will against the two men. But Ritchie understands the will and his ability to control this reality. He overpowers Shaw, recreating the world in his image (thanks to Constantine’s belief in him) and banishes Shaw. The battle won, they usher Lily back into the real world and, for a few tense moments, it appears as if Ritchie will stay in this new spirit realm, away from the death and madness of the real world. “At least, in this world, I can forget about the Darkness closing in on us…I don’t want to be afraid anymore.”
Constantine jumps back into his body and, for several tense minutes, awaits Ritchie’s return. Though he had every reason to stay back, Ritchie could not bring himself to run away. The next class, Ritchie puts away the tape recorder and speaks to his class…
“In order to[achieve Enlightenment], certain truths must be accepted. First and foremost, suffering is unavoidable. Secondly, you must understand suffering is caused by craving. Humankind desires relief in ways that ultimately do not satisfy the soul. The third and final truth is that inner peace is possible but humankind suffering won’t end until we learn how to stop our desire.”
- Save for Chas and Papa Midnite (where is he by the way?) it seems as if Ritchie Simpson is the only Constantine associate to enter into the show and come out on the other end relatively in one piece. Ritchie may become another soldier against the Rising Darkness, thus his fate may already be sealed but, for now, he’s still amongst the living and willing to step up to John Constantine’s side.
- Though Ritchie’s decision—as it were—was the most important aspect of this episode, it was the only thing I could call memorable. The otherworldly dimension of the consciousness, though a good idea, lacked in execution. It does, however, show there are other worlds than this out there and some will have things much more dangerous and bloodthirsty than Jacob Shaw.