If there was any doubt that this week’s Constantine episode was happening in New Orleans, besides the cheery “Welcome to New Orleans” signs, perhaps being battered over the head with “When the Saints Come Marching In” during the show’s opening seconds really did drive the point home. That’s the kind of show this is: The unabashedly cliché kind, at least when it comes to setting a mood. Part of me has come to think of this as “the NBC factor”—some mandate from above that any conceivable layer of subtlety should be stripped away so the show would become easily digestible pablum for the biggest possible mass audience.
And yet, yet, despite all of that, ”Danse Vadou” is somehow the most purely entertaining episode of Constantine since the series pilot, thanks to a particularly complex plot and a bit of much-needed development in the central plotline.
Being New Orleans (if you haven’t heard, this episode is set there), it’s no surprise that voodoo is at the center of “Danse Vadou.” And seeing as we were already introduced to “voodoo king” Papa Midnite in “The Devil’s Vinyl,” we already have a voodoo practitioner handy—that’s called synergy.
The problem, as it turns out, revolves around Midnite’s own brand of magic, but it’s even more complex than in some of the previously plot-heavy Constantine episodes. Ever the mercenary, Midnite has been accepting payments from grieving family members and guilt-stricken parties to communicate with their dead loved ones, but the “rising darkness” has been twisting his magic with unintended side effects. Instead of simply calling up spirits for a quick conversation, Midnite has been unknowingly bringing the dead back to life. Or turning them into ghosts. The episode doesn’t seem quite sure of which, but it’s not really important.
The important thing is that there are three different people who have been raised, and they don’t belong on Earth. This means the whole Constantine Crew needs to split up to deal with each of these cases individually, which gives us some good one-on-one time with each person. Chas the cab driver deals with the ghost of a disfigured, murderous former model, while again displaying his mystical healing abilities (which still have been given zero explanation). Zed, meanwhile, gets teamed up with a new character, Detective Jim Corrigan (who DC comics fans will know eventually becomes the powerful cosmic being The Spectre), to track down a phantom hitchhiker who has been killing motorists.
A note on Zed—with each passing week, Angelica Celaya’s portrayal of the character becomes increasingly painful. She has a single expression that gets used in literally every scenario: a perplexed, empty-headed pout that simultaneously looks like she wants to jump the bones of whomever she’s looking at. If it was just Constantine, then you could compliment her by saying that the two appear to share good physical chemistry. But perhaps owing to her knack for invading the personal space of everyone she speaks with, she seems seconds away from tearing the clothes off every single character who passes into her line of sight.
Constantine himself, on the other hand, actually shines in “Danse Vadou.” We see a bit more of his capability, such as when he effortlessly removes a pair of handcuffs and then immediately steals an officer’s coffee, but we also see his desperation in being forced to team up with Papa Midnite. Michael James Shaw is once again intense as the voodoo king, and one immediately gets the sense that he’ll continue to improve any of the episodes where he appears. Hopefully the writers continue to find ways to bring him in as Constantine seeks to understand the source of the “rising darkness.” As an aside—was “the rising darkness” seriously the only term that the writers could conceive of to describe the show’s central conflict? Because that would point to a rather alarming lack of imagination.
Finally, in the show’s conclusion, Midnite brings up a particularly plump bit of obviousness: “The Darkness is coming. Heralded by someone close to you, someone who will betray you.”
What a shock! Could it possibly be Zed, the person I’ve been saying would betray Constantine for several episodes now? Prove me wrong, NBC. Prove me wrong.
Jim Vorel is News Editor at Paste and a long-time Hellblazer reader. He hopes they’ll eventually adapt the storyline where Constantine convinces the devil to drink some holy water.