By Rich Epstein
We open last week's Constantine with a small town preacher, Zach (Patrick Carroll) who has a new rattlesnake to use in his sermon. His sister, Sarah (Juliana Harkavy) warns him not to use the rattler as it still has its venom. Other snakes have had their venom milked out. But, Zach's daddy used to use a poisonous snake in his sermons and by gum, so will Zach. Any guesses what happens next? If you guessed "Zach gets bitten by the snake and dies" you're right. However, this is Constantine, and people don't always stay dead. A gold feather appears in his hand, and Zach rises and begins praising Jesus. He touches a man without his leg, and the leg is healed. I've gotten on this show for being a little too repetitive in the openings, so it was good to see something different something different. Instead of seeing a demon and instantly knowing what John Constantine (Matt Ryan) will have to fight, we have no idea what is going on right now. We don't know what brought this man back, whether the man himself is the evil John will have to fight, or if something is using him to create chaos, or if there is something altogether different going on. I like it. The small-town preacher thing is a bit cliché, but at least we don't know exactly what is going down two minutes into the episode.
Zed (Angélica Celaya) is in art class (so I guess that's why they stuck the line in last week to cover her absence) drawing a nude man when she sees snakes crawling all over her legs. One embarrassed scream later, and she heads back to the cabin to tell John. She's very excited to be having visions without touching anything, but it doesn't seem to have been much use as John already knows about the preacher and they are off. It's just the two of them, as Chas is making things right with his daughter. This is episode 7, and I think Chas and Zed have been in the same episode all of twice. Do they not like each other or something? Is it a cost saving measure?
Zed and John show up at a sermon to watch the preacher give sight to the blind. They assume the preacher is a fake, until they see him heal a burn victim. The preacher starts speaking in tongues, and John recognizes it as Enochian, the language of the angels.
So, remember that man with the healed foot, the first one the preacher healed? He goes to see his doctor, who is amazed. He's even more amazed when the man kills the doctor with his bare hands. Okay, guessing that the preacher isn't wielding such a good power after all. You kinda had to figure that, or there wouldn't be much conflict for the show. But, I expected the preacher to be the one possessed, not the healed. It's a pretty nice twist, and really ups the stakes given how many people have likely been healed already.
Zed and John make it in to speak to the preacher. Zed takes his hands and sees a vision of light and what appears to be an angel. Zed can sense that the preacher believes in what he is doing, but John believes there is a dark power at work. He takes Zed to a lake, where all the fish are floating at the top, dead. He tells her that there is something poisonous coming through.
John needs help, so he calls on his resident angel friend, Manny (Harold Perrineau), who won't help directly, but does give John a cryptic hint about Enochian that leads John and Zed to what appears to be an injured angel, Imogen. It seems she was taking a mortal beyond, when he pulled out a feather and returned to life, trapping her in this plane and potentially killing herA mortal isn't supposed to be able to remove the feather. Something tells me we are about to get another vague reference to rising darkness.
The sheriff tells Sarah that they are looking for the healed man as a murder suspect. She warns her brother that they shouldn't be messing with things they don't understand. He tells her that they aren't supposed to understand God's plan. At this point, I am thoroughly confused by this man. Zed saw him as a true believer, but he ripped the feather off an angel. Sarah's getting sick, but won't let her Zach heal her. He kicks her out, of his house, and the church.
Zed and John set up camp near the church, and John goes to Zach's house looking for the feather. He tries to take it, and is thrown back by a force. Zach still thinks that he is doing good, he thinks the feather was protecting him from evil. Back at the camp, legs shows up and attacks Zed. John gets there just in time and is able to save her. He calls the man a ghoul, and Imogen confirms that he is just the first. Mortals aren't meant to wield the power of angels.
Zed goes to talk to the preacher, and he offers to baptize her along with the rest of his flock. As he does, she grabs the feather, but everyone else that was healed chose this exact moment to show up. John, Zed and Zach run to the church and bolt themselves in. Zed runs out the back to return the feather. Lucky for her, the ghouls aren't smart enough to go around the church and continue to try and break down the door. John tries to hold off the ghouls while Zach drones on whining about that time he killed a man with his car. John's ears perk up, realizing that Zach died with a mortal sin on his soul. He wasn't on his way to heaven after all, which means that Imogen isn't an angel. John is just about to get killed by a ghoul when Zed returns the feather and the ghouls revert. Imogen's pristine white feathers become black, and Manny realizes she was a fallen angel. Which of course he has to tell us, uttering the line "You're fallen". Ugh. John just told us that Zach wasn't on his way to heaven. Do we really need Manny to fill in the rest?
John's protection spell traps Imogen, so she grabs Zed, threatening to kill her if John doesn't lift the spell. He begs Manny to help, to join the fight. He does, becoming Zed and ripping out the heart of the fallen angel.
We end with Zed's model friend. She stands him up for a date, accidentally, and he informs someone with a giant crucifix that she isn't coming, yet.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable episode. I still don't feel like the show has really hit its stride, and there is a lot of room for improvement, but the episode did a really nice job of mixing things up and keeping interest high. It would have been really easy for the show to make the preacher evil, but it didn't. Rather, he was a pawn in a plot by a fallen angel.
It was nice to see the story advance for Manny as well. His heart to heart with Imogen gave some actual depth to the angel and a sense of conflict. Not only are angels unable to feel pain, they can't feel the sunlight or any other earthly sensations. Imogen manages to lead Manny down the path of pondering whether the humans deserve all they have been given before he remembers himself and shuts down that line of talk. It was nice to see Manny exhibit actual feelings rather than just annoy John.
The writers also gave us some additional tidbits about Zed's past. She's been scorned by religion at some time in the past. She wants to believe, but at the same time understands that there is something very dangerous about a true devout. Of course, we get a bit of an answer (and more questions) at the end. Fans of the Hellblazer books have a pretty good idea who is being introduced next week. For the rest of us, here's hoping we finally get some answers.
Rich Epstein writes for Bleeding Cool. He can be found on twitter at @kaspe_r11.