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This review is part of the feature DC TV-U Summer Break 2016. We recommend you to read the introduction first.
The Hellblazer aka John Constantine is an exorcist, demonologist and Master of the Dark Arts. You might be familiar with the character from the 2005 movie Constantine with Keanu Reeves. The movie was more inspired by the comics, rather than being an adaptation. But just like Arrow, The Flash and Gotham were already on the small screen, while NBC was the one broadcasting Constantine the TV series. This time, we can say that we had our first good and faithful adaption of Constantine. The crew made some choices during the development of the TV Show that they felt the need to explain. Choices that the mainstream audience was confused about. Let’s remember that NBC is the channel that broadcasts Blacklist, Chicago P.D, or even The Voice. Not really a place for the Master of the Dark Arts, is it ? Yes, Grimm is on NBC as well but in my opinion Constantine is darker and more specifically targeted. I would have imagine better Constantine on The CW (next to Flash, Arrow and Supergirl) or El Rey (as the rumors had predicted). Have a look at the trailer, and let’s talk about it.
John Constantine, as you can see, is this blond, typical British guy. He’s cynical, snarky, cunning and hardcore smoker. The smoking aspect is very specific to the character. He smokes in a way that looks like he’s trying to kill himself, and he simply never stops. The lung cancer is another important fact in the comics that emphasizes his sin. It was a concern for the fans even before the TV Show started. NBC doesn’t allow the advertisement for cigarettes and it’s forbidden to show the actors smoking on their channel. The producers reassured the fans though. They would be able to often demonstrate the relationship between Constantine and tobacco without the need to show him smoking directly. And they did it brilliantly.
But everything else was brilliant as well. The characters are all well-written. From Constantine, to Chas, through Zed and Papa Midnite. On top of that, the actors play them all the right way. Matt Ryan is incredible as John Constantine and I wouldn’t picture anyone else playing the role. Everything is faithful to the comics and only Manny, a “guardian” angel that helps Constantine only via talking and no actions, is well done. Of course it’s a trope, the angel that is forbidden to act but will advise the hero. But in the TV Show, the relationship is funny, light and brings a lot to the character’s development. You also learn some surprising revelations, that you’ll never know now that it has been cancelled!
The whole mysticism is amazing. The spells, the demons, the spirits etc. It doesn’t feel cheap and even though it’s fantasy, it doesn’t feel overwhelming either. The main challenge with the horror-fantasy genre is to find the right balance and I think Constantine nailed it. We have demons, spells, spirits, voodoo, and it all looks plausible with a mystical touch.
You can notice that from the pilot (and trailer) the main female character isn’t the same as the rest of the TV Series. In the pilot we have Liv Aberdine who’s found by John when she starts having visions. He tells her she is waking up, and this reminds me of the relationship of the two main characters in the movie. The producers have changed the female lead to Zed, who comes from the comics unlike Liv, and this led to different plot development. They didn’t want to have a teacher-student relationship driving the plot. So instead of that, Zed who’s already aware of her psychic abilities and is a strong and developed character, brings a big difference to the evolution of the show. It might sound confusing to have a main female character for the pilot and suddenly a whole new one for the rest of the series. But I think it was a good choice. The pilot is there to attract the audience and give a general feeling about the show.
Everything was perfect for Constantine and suddenly, NBC cancels it. This was my biggest disappointment TV shows wise! We thought for a moment that it would be bought by El Rey. There was a petition to save Constantine and even Stephen Amell (Arrow) shared it. Constantine does a few cameo appearances in Arrow, and he’s often mentioned in the show. He’s part of the DC TV Universe, and when The CW bought Supergirl we could have hoped for Constantine to be bought as well.
Big changes await us in the DC TV Universe with the Flashpoint. I’ve already mentioned I have hopes that Arrow gets back on track. I would absolutely forgive them for their mistakes if they included Constantine in the TV show, basically doing the same with Constantine as they did with the Flash. Or even a reboot, who cares. But we want to see Constantine every week on our TV and it’s a shame that nothing, or nobody is doing anything to make him return.
To me, this is Platinum.