Constantine: NBC drama brings the hellfire from its premiere episode


Premieres: Oct. 24
Airs: Fridays at 10pm
Who’s In It? Matt Ryan, Emmett Scanlan, Lucy Griffiths, Angelica Celaya

Constantine NBC matt ryan
Look at you. You’re an average, busy person. You wouldn’t count yourself a “nerd” necessarily, but yeah, you read some comics as a kid, you went as Batman that one Halloween and sure, you saw The Avengers in theaters. But who didn’t? “So, what’s up with this Constantine thing?” you ask yourself, not unreasonably. And we, the super nerds, forgive you for your reasonable ignorance.

NBC’s gritty new supernatural drama has a lot to live up to in the eyes of many diehard fans of the contemporary horror comic Hellblazer. The titular lead character, John Constantine, was created by comics legend Alan Moore (writer of the comics on which the box-office smashes Watchmen and V for Vendetta were based) and some of the best comics writers in the business today, including Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman, have contributed to the Hellblazer series. So longtime fans have been understandably hesitant about this new show, especially considering the poor treatment the material received at the hands of Francis Lawrence and Keanu Reaves back in the 2005 movie of the same name.

But what’s all this to you, oh person of limited interest in the long and complicated history of comic books? More than you’d think.

If you’ve ever enjoyed a gritty, supernatural drama, novel or movie, chances are it was influenced by Hellblazer or influenced by something which was influenced by Hellblazer. Have you read the best-selling book series or it’s short-lived TV series The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher? Hellblazer inspired. Love Castiel, from Supernatural? Look at that trench coat and skinny tie! Hellblazer inspired. If you’ve enjoyed an episode of Grimm, The Originals, or The Walking Dead, know that Hellblazer helped pave the way for it in the hearts and minds of pop culture consumers. See? Now you’re starting to get why you should care!

Written by David S. Goyer (screenwriter of Man of Steel and Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy) and directed by Neil Marshall (whose work on HBO’s Game of Thrones landed him an Emmy nomination), the Constantine pilot has a lot going for it, embracing the heart of the groundbreaking comic book series — including homages to its geeky origins to keep old-school fans happy — while updating its tale to feel contemporary and accessible to newcomers. Although most of the special effects leave something to be desired and the dialogue gets clunky in places, believable performances by lead actors Matt Ryan and Lucy Griffiths keeps things moving along without too much fuss. The show’s use of old magic in a modern setting blended nicely, without relying too much on one or the other — or pitting the two facets against each other — which greatly helps the style of the series.

Constantine also wastes no time getting right to the intensity when it opens on the title character settling in for a nice round of electroshock therapy — and that’s no joke. John Contantine’s dry voiceover lets the audience know that he has checked himself in to this vaguely American Horror Story asylum in order to combat demons of his own. The Constantine we meet it tired and perhaps a bit washed up, half-heartedly trying to heal his mind and soul. Fortunately, this doesn’t last long and a visit from a body-snatching spirit sends him on another mission, with only the mysterious message “Liv Die” to go by. Although the words mean little to the audience, Constantine resigns to a fate he seems to know well and checks himself out of the hospital.

While the announcement that Griffiths will be replaced as Constantine’s female lead by Angelica Celaya playing familiar Hellblazer character Mary “Zed” Martin may make some viewers nervous, the series was well-received at San Diego Comic-Con — a crowd frequently proving difficult to please.

Constantine premieres Friday, Oct. 24 at 10/9CT on NBC.

Matt Ryan as John Constantine © 2014 NBCUniversal Media, LLC Credit: Quantrell Colbert