Constantine 1.4 – A Feast of Friends

LesterWell in there is one TV show that knows how to confuse the bejesus out of me, it’s “Constantine”.  Just as I was beginning to get into the swing of the slightly sanitised world of TV Constantine, out comes “A Feast of Friends” which is based, in no small part, on Jamie Delano’s story from the first issue of “Hellblazer”.

Effectively, now, we’ve had three pilot episodes.  The one with Liv, the one introducing Zed and this. Okay, so they’re not *really* pilots, but we’re treading a lot of the same ground here,  re: Newcastle/Astra, etc..  Can we just get on with it?

There was a marked difference in tone this week, too.  Whereas in previous weeks, the threats have been little more than X-files-y monsters of the week, this time we had some full on horror and fucked up weirdness.  I think the sudden switch was confusing, although not unwelcome. ANother cause of confusion is the twisted morality of the tv companies that won’t allow full on cigarette smoking scenes or acknowledgement and/or confirmation of John’s bisexuality, but is fine with hallucinogenic drugs, peoples faces being eaten off, carving kids faces up and cutting their tongues out and poking out eyeballs and swapping them with you dealer.

None of this is meant as judgemental as I don’t really understand how you can do John Constantine without these things, but the arbitrary nature of the censorship is just a bit odd.

But, with a few tweaks to include Zed and Manny, this plays out pretty much as the comic does – well, Gaz is a little less skeevy and a little more heroic – but the Hunger Demon story is a classic.  It’s handled well.

Well.

Mostly.

The “Hunger” aspect was taken down a notch and just meant ‘food’ where in the comics you had bankers eating money, body builders eating themselves, etc. As much as I like the broad definition of “hunger” in the comic, it was probably wise to slim it down for clarity. The scenes in the slaughterhouse were suitably creepy and even contained a reference to The Exorcist in the form of a pretty unpleasant ‘Spider walk’.

Gary’s decision to take the demon was mawkish TV at it’s worst. “I must atone!   Take me!”  Fuck off. In the comic version, Constantine knows Lester is a complete waste of space, and strings him along until it way too late for him to back out.   It’s only in the second before he is consumed that he realises why Constantine is sharing space with him and by then, it’s too late to get away.  John, you see, is a bastard.  He has absolutely no problem with killing off his supposed mates if it achieves his ends.

What made this ending worse was the moment when John and Gaz were breaking into the very convenient museum and that bloody angel shows up again.  From a largely pointless conversation, the drama and betrayal that is to happen in the last few minutes it’s diluted; in fact completely blown.

Having him turn up at the ending for that hideous, weepy ‘dysfunctional Satanic Brady Bunch’ moment was horrendous. I’m assuming there is a point to him being around, but it, as yet, isn’t apparent and his presence is merely an annoyance.

But.

These things don’t actually get in the way of it  being, far and away, the best of the four episodes so far. Without a doubt it has the strongest voice and the most focussed direction.  Constantine is beginning to behave a lot more like the character we know and love and Matt Ryan is, at last, settling into the role nicely.  It may be too late, though. A full season still hasn’t been commissioned and this late in a first run, that’s pretty much a warning that a second slot is unlikely to happen.  This would be a tragedy, as it shaping up to be every bit as horrifying, nasty, and fun as the original comics.

But I also have this feeling of futility.   I mean, I can sit hear and say ‘well it wasn’t like that in the comics’ or ‘the comics did it better’ but I’m not really make any difference to the TV show.  Th e key question here is ‘Does it work as TV entertainment in it’s own right?” not “will this get the fan boys hard?”

On the former, yes. It absolutely bloody does!  On the latter, I don’t care. Even though I’ve had a few problems with it, it’s TV that is willing to take risks and do something a bit ‘out there’. and that is to be applauded. However much it may have stumbled, not a minute has been wasted watching it, so far.  I might not like some of the stylistic choices, but I don’t think that changes the fact that this is brave, if niche, TV.  I want more (yay, the Hunger Demon has had it’s effect on me!) but i fear the ‘’niche-ness” is going to be it’s downfall.

By the way, why didn’t Jamie Delano get a ‘Based on a story by’ credit?

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