Of all the well-known D&D adages with applicable real-world value, the preeminent one is this: “Never split the party.”
Any Dungeons and Dragons nerd worth his or her salt knows this to be true. No matter how tempting the situation, splitting the party invariably leads to someone cornered, alone, with their back to the wall, moments from death. If only the characters in Constantine had remembered to apply the lessons learned from roleplayed demons when dealing with the real thing.
But no, the party gets split in “The Saint of Last Resorts,” not once but twice. This episode takes place in Mexico City, the furthest location yet from John’s base in Atlanta, and seeing as Zed is still recuperating from the psychic damage of ripping an angel’s heart out of its chest last week, Constantine thinks she should probably sit this one out. I assumed that meant a relatively Zed-free episode, but what it actually means is that we end up following two stories at once, both of them fraught with peril (and entertainment, actually).
John is called to Mexico by another connection to his past, an old flame/mentor of sorts, a woman named Anne Marie who introduced a young Constantine to magic, but has shunned him ever since the Newcastle affair. On the run from her own guilty conscience (a very common Constantine theme), she’s ended up as a nun in Mexico city, working alongside another nun who turns out to be a wife-killing, baby-stealing demon. Oops, did that seem like a spoiler? Don’t worry; you’ll see it coming from the moment she’s introduced in the first five minutes. It’s what I call the “Supporting Villain Constant”—if a supporting character is introduced in the episode and there’s no other logical reason they should appear in multiple scenes, the only conclusion one can draw is that they’re the villain. And in the case of Constantine, that means you probably end up being revealed as a vampire with bird talons for hands. Sorry, them’s the breaks.
Nevertheless, this may very well be the best episode of Constantine so far—tense, atmospheric, gross and action-packed, along with FINALLY providing some of the plot development/villain characterization I’ve been begging for. Did I expect the source of the Rising Darkness to be linked to “La Brujeria,” a cabal of Chilean warlocks? I can honestly say I did not, but I’ll take it. Chilean warlocks? Sure. I’ll accept anything you want to give a face and some characterization, and now we at least have an idea of Evil’s ultimate goal: To merge the dimensions of Earth and hell. Once again: Sure, why not.
Zed, meanwhile, is told not to leave the protection of the magical safehouse, so she naturally does that immediately, because she’s not very bright. Lo and behold, she runs into the young man/nude model she’d been painting in art class the other day. After touching his hand, her psychic powers inform her that he’s not to be trusted, so she sets a trap and leads him back to the house, where she incapacitates him. He then drops some big Backstory Bombs: Zed’s real name is Mary; he’s a follower of Zed’s father (some sort of cult leader?); she grew up imprisoned; and there are other goons seeking to bring her back to the fold because “she’s their salvation.” Several of said goons immediately show up, and eventually Zed is stuck in the neck with a needle, presumably headed back to captivity.
It’s a pretty cool sequence of both action and character building, as we learn why Zed has been so defensive with revealing her backstory to Constantine, who has heard pretty much everything before. It also makes it only that much more obvious that Zed is the person who will betray John down the line for whatever reason to usher in the apocalypse—who knows why, but when there are only two characters in the entire series “close to” John, and one of them is Chas, it severely limits the potential twists.
The episode ends on a cliffhanger, which is a first for Constantine: John gut-shot and bleeding out in a sewer while an apparently invincible monster called an “Invunche” closes in on him. It’s a good old Flash Gordon serial ending: TUNE IN NEXT TIME, KIDDOS! I would be curious how Constantine was going to get out of this one if the credits teaser for next week’s show didn’t immediately show me exactly how: He’s going to invite the demon into his own body to contain it, which means we’re getting another exorcism next time, except it’s Constantine whose soul is at stake. Thanks for destroying the point of the cliffhanger, NBC. Such suspense.
Still, I can’t help be excited by how the plot has now kicked into overdrive. Things are unfolding quickly for both John, Zed and their understanding of “The Rising Darkness,” and for now I’m more pleased than ever to be along for the ride. The show returns from a brief break on Friday, Jan. 9.