Constantine has a lot to live up to. Not only does the series have to completely separate itself from the 2005 movie of the same name, which starred Keanu Reeves in the title role, but it also had to live up to the other DC television series’ that have debuted this year. The Flash started out strong and continues to give fans plenty to cheer and Gotham has finally found its legs, so it almost seemed like too much to hope that Constantine could continue the run of well written, well produced comic book adaptations. Now that the pilot has debuted, comic book fans everywhere can add Constantine to their list of favorite television shows because not only does the series live up to fanboy expectations, it surpasses them.
For the unaware, Constantine is based on DC’s Hellblazer comics and centers around a detective with an attitude, John Constantine (Matt Ryan), who just so happens to battle demons and everything else that goes bump in the night. Yes, when it comes to both supernatural television series’ and small screen comic book adaptations the television landscape is a bit crowded. Because if this, it is essential that any television show hoping to make it in either genre must work hard and must be incredibly enjoyable in order to even have a chance in hell of making it through the season. Constantine plays it smart by appealing to a few different audiences and instead of playing up any one genre, it manages to encompass many different genres within its initial episode. There are elements of humor, suspense, mystery, and drama, and all of this is even before adding in the supernatural or comic book aspects of the series. In other words, the pilot manages to stand up and make people take notice in a world full of similar television programming, and it does a damn fine job of it.
The episode opens with Constantine in a mental hospital (Ravenscar, which fans of the comic will be thrilled to see) in which he has checked himself into after things went WAY sour with a job in Newcastle. After a demonic encounter at the hospital, John decides he’s ready to make like a hippie and blow this joint. Once he and his signature trenchcoat are out, he seeks out a daughter of an old friend in an effort to fulfill a promise that John made years ago. As it turns out, the daughter, Liv Aberdine (Lucy Griffiths), just happens to share her dead father’s ability to see the supernatural and the ability is just beginning to manifest itself as Constantine begins his search for her. Bonus – Liv has absolutely no knowledge of her father, the supernatural, or the possibility that abilities such as hers even had a chance of manifesting, so John’s world is completely new to her, which is done well in an effort to mirror the audience’s reactions to the magic within the show. Of course, the show does get a bit formulaic and it is a bit easy to see where the story was going but that didn’t make the journey any less fun.
The writers behind the series, David Goyer, Carly Wray, and Daniel Cerone, seem to understand the character and the source material and manage to give fans something that is both true to its origins while being original. We know that there may be plans to see some of the other characters that pop up in Constantine’s world, such as Zatanna and Swamp Thing, and if the brief glimpse of Jasper Winter’s collection is any indication, there are plenty of other crazy characters we may see in upcoming episodes (yes, ladies and gentlemen, that was indeed the Helmet of Fate). If they truly plan to bring these other characters to life, then it is absolutely crucial that the writers understand the story, the characters, the tone of the stories, and, most importantly, their audience. If the pilot is any indication, it appears that Constantine has the perfect team behind it to keep the integrity of the story in tact.
The actors all seem to have a vested interest in their roles and that is absolutely refreshing to see in a pilot episode. In many pilots, it seems that the actors are only putting in the bare minimum necessary to get the coveted series pick-up. In Constantine’s case, each of the actors gave their all and it almost seems that Matt Ryan has been waiting his whole life to play the role of Constantine. From John’s best friend Chas Chandler (Charles Halford) to the child whose memory haunts John, Astra (Bailey Tippen), to Ritchie Simpson (Jeremy Davies), and every character in between, each actor gives their all and turn in brilliant performances. Fans shouldn’t get too excited about the prospect of Lucy Griffiths gracing their screen with every episode, however, as her character will only be playing a small part in the series itself.
Fans of the comic book series may be disappointed that John isn’t walking around sucking on a cancer stick in every scene but, honestly, those cries are easily dismissed when giving the show a watch. It is a well done series that has some serious potential to last awhile. Whether or not it lives up to its potential is anyone’s guess at this point but if the series continues on the path that it’s on, it’s going to wind up becoming a fan favorite in absolutely no time.