Martin Carr reviews the fourth episode of Constantine…
John Constantine is about to have another bad day…..
Imagine an addiction so powerful it consumes you. Flesh and blood are your only means of containing a compulsion both self-aware and demonic in origin. You need an impressionable vessel with some serious guilt issues, plus a sociopathic tendency for manipulation and unwavering belief that yours is the right choice. Bear in mind there will be no coming back from this. It will only make matters worse. Welcome then to the latest Constantine pitch, black as sack cloth, morally reprehensible and brimming with Breaking Bad quantities of network baiting.
What any writer should know is that clarity comes before all things, always. With this in mind let me start by making one thing clear. ‘A Feast of Friends’ gives us more of the same with added nuance. Trapped by a situation which comes to him and faced with nothing but bad choices, Ryan continues to keep things interesting. Hints of remorse seep between the cracks of sarcasm and indifference, proving that a half decent defence mechanism is no match for human frailty. However such performances are rarely that organic and often need a great character performance to bring them out. In this case it is Jonjo O’Neill who brings vulnerability to the portrayal of Gary Lester forcing Ryan to up his game.
This role is pivotal and plays on a long and barely mentioned history which exists between these two. In harking back to early issues of Hellblazer for inspiration, producers have subtlety revealed a chink in the armour. O’Neill’s characterisation is skilled and incorporates a barely veiled sense of hero worship within their dynamic, which will ultimately be his undoing. What his presence allows is a venting of resentment from our protagonist, making him feel somehow more grounded. There has already been talk of a big screen cross over which on this evidence seems likely. In my opinion this Constantine has the ability to make that leap with no problems. Already the character feels confined by television. With a broader palette afforded them and three times their current running time, this formulaic approach could be jettisoned for something with legs. As such characters like Harold Perrineau’s ‘Manny’ would get more to do than freeze time and deliver sage advice. We would potentially get more moments of pathos similar to those delivered this episode, rather than exposition borne from necessity due to time constraints. There is a supremely rich world here to be mined and more than a few who would help with the digging. Any Hollywood studio worth its salt should start considering this property a viable option. Just do us all a favour and keep the main actor. You know what they say. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.