Constantine Episode 3 recap: The Devil’s Vinyl

Constantine Papa Midnite Lori Acken

Welcome back, Constantine fans! I’m glad to see you’ve stuck around long enough to give this series a shot. I figure by the time you’ve hit episode three, you might as well finish out the season, right? We’ve had time to introduce all major players in the plot, set the tone, and establish the season’s big arch and now that you’ve all gotten properly invested with me, I say we finish our strong and see if NBC can do this series justice for fans new and old.Constantine NBC matt ryan

We cold-open as a pretty blond lady wanders into an abandoned building filled with dead gutted animals in various states of decay, mostly suspended from the ceiling. Although she’s clearly freaked out, she keeps her wits and pushes through the building, eventually finding a record covered in ice and sitting non-suspiciously in a room filled with even more dead animals. She gathers it up and takes it to a studio to have it checked out. She delivers it to “Bernie” with nothing but the instructions not to listen to it. She wanders out of the room for two seconds to talk to her daughter on the phone, and of course Bernie just runs the record through his system, not at all thinking about listening to it and then… He listens to it. And promptly freaks the freak out and puts a screwdriver through his ear while blondie screams outside the studio. You had one job, Bernie.

After the opening title sequence, we cut back to Georgia and the safe house. Zed has arrived at headquarters and gets a gun to the face and a polite enough greeting from Chas, who proceeds to walk her through the old mill where John is naked and summoning dark spirits. After giving Zed a moment to take it all in, Chas leads her on a tour of the house, explaining some of its mysterious qualities including its tendency to change size and shape. Nothing suspicious to see here. By the time they reach a door to an infinite tunnel, John joins them and brings the conversation back to the reason Zed was invited in the first place.

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A new stigma has appeared over Chicago on Liv’s map and this time Constantine thinks it has to do with the death of a recording artist friend of his named, you guessed it, Bernie. He has Zed try to call up a vision of Bernie’s death but all she gets is the sensation of cold and the smell of jasmine. It’s not particularly useful, but when Constantine tries to leave without her, Zed insists on coming, reminding him that he’d promised to help her control her powers after she helped him with the coal monster. He reluctantly agrees to let her tag along (partially because she has a license and a working car and he doesn’t), but has Chas vet her while they’re gone.

Constantine and Zed make their first stop at the morgue where Bernie’s body is being held. Zed makes herself useful by stealing an ID to get them into the building, where John pulls a Pushing Daisies on the entire building. He raises the corpses for just long enough to ask Bernie how he died, but Bernie only manages to get out the words “acetate” and “moonrise” before he and all the other corpses in the building collapse back into their eternal rest. Constantine is left befuddled by the tiny clues but Zed manages to solve the riddle with a fifteen-second Google search, once again proving herself useful.

Turns out, Moonrise was a record company that folded a few decades back and Team Constantine goes to find the company’s original owner, who lives in a nursing home in the city. Constantine physic-paper’s their way into the building with a card enchanted to look like whatever he wants as long as it’s card-shaped. They talk to Marcus, who’s apparently on his deathbed but still manages to tell them about the cursed acetate he made with a legendary blues singer back in the day. The rumor was that the singer had made a deal with the devil to make himself famous but Marcus hadn’t believed it until the singer exploded while recording a final album. The record held the voice of the Devil as he took back the singer’s soul and retained some demonic properties, like making the listener kill themselves and other people. Marcus hid the record away, fearing its power, but a private detective working for a man named Ian Fell had come asking after it just weeks before Constantine and Zed.

Before they can ask any more questions, Marcus reveals that an angel is standing in the room with them. Zed runs for help, but before she can do anything, time freezes and Constantine watches as the angel takes Marcus’ life away, reminding the audience that Constantine has a deal with some higher powers of his own. Constantine leads Zed out of the nursing home and takes her to a mansion, also located in the city. He informs her that he knew Bernie because he’d had  a band back in the day and Bernie had produced their first album. Fell is the name of one of Bernie’s big-ticket  singers who had sprung to fame out of nowhere twenty years before and remained popular even though he had no particular talent, which Constantine found terribly suspicious. By that record, he should also have been suspicious of every member of Nickelback and Green Day, and also Justin Bieber… but I digress.

Constantine - Season 1

They break into the mansion, where Constantine confronts Fell, furious over the death of his friend. Before he can break bones, however, Zed smells Jasmine again and the blond from earlier enters the room. Jasmine, Fell’s wife and back-up singer reveals that she sold her soul in exchange for her husband’s life, who should have died from cancer twenty years ago. She explains that the man she’d made the deal with promised to break her deal if she brought him the acetate that night. John suspects foul play (soul-brokers who break their deals lose influence in the demonic circles, apparently) and insists on confronting the broker himself. He leaves the acetate and Zed at the house and goes to meet the broker.

John goes to the abandoned factory where Jasmine was intended to meet the broker, only to realize the broker is a front for a more sinister foe: Papa Midnite.

Constantine Papa Midnite

The two aren’t friends but they’re clearly familiar with each other as they square off in the factory. Constantine tries to figure out Midnite’s goal in attaining the acetate but before he gets anywhere, Midnite’s henchmen knock him out from behind. He wakes up tied to a copper platform which negates his limited magic powers.  Midnite injects him with an anti-coagulant and then cuts his wrists, promising him a slow death just in case his henchmen don’t find the acetate back at the house and need to torture him for more information. This is all pretty reasonable villain behavior except that Midnite then leaves a bottle of K vitamins just out of Constantine’s reach, which will negate the effects of the coagulants if John can get to them. He claims this is a “professional courtesy” and maybe the writers are trying to establish that he’s a man of honor somehow but of all the lazy plotting on TV these Saw-level shenanigans make zero sense.

Back at the mansion, Zed has just called Chas to the city, asking him to bring some supplies for Constantine, when Midnite’s henchmen arrive. Zed’s usefulness apparently ends here because there’s really nothing she can do when Jasmine immediately gives up the acetate. She tries to tell the henchmen not to touch the vinyl directly but the advice has clearly fallen on deaf ears. The two thugs leave and as soon as they are in the car, one of them begins to stroke it lovingly and insist it needs to be played.

Constantine is still bleeding out all this time when a homeless man wanders into the building and steals his coat. Constantine begs the man to untie him but time freezes again and Manny, John’s angel “friend/guardian”, appears. He refuses to actually do anything useful (like untie him) but the angel does call John out on his desire to keep the acetate for his own use. Manny reminds the magician that the voice of the Devil is not a magic card and its survival in the world can only bring death. The angel then disappears. Constantine tries to convince the homeless man into untying him again, this time by promising him a credit card which is actually just the psychic-paper-card. Instead of untying him, however, the homeless man steals the card and then tries to kill John so he can’t go home and cancel it. Fortunately, Zed-ex-machina arrives to beat the old man over the head with a two-by-four and save John for like the fourth time in this three-episode-long series.

They bandage up John’s wounds, get him the vitamin K and head back out into the morning only to find the aftermath of the henchmen’s ignorance. The two men apparently went to a crowded club and played the record over the speakers, prompting everyone in the club to go crazy and kill themselves/each other. Zed charms her way into the crime scene to figure out what’s happening. Chas arrives and gives Constantine the supplies he asked for, as well as informing him that Zed isn’t on any official police databases and the men contemplate if that’s a good or a bad sign.

She remains useful, however, because she finds the only survivor of the night, a deaf busboy who saw everything but wasn’t affected by the record. Zed conveniently knows ASL and translates his story for the men, although it technically doesn’t tell them anything they don’t already know. However, she also sees a white tiger pacing in the ambulance, which happens to be the mascot of a local college with its own radio station. They assume this is the henchmen’s next play and race to the studio.

The record begins to play over the station as they arrive. Zed and Chas go to stop the station’s signal while Constantine turns up the tunes on his iPod, drowning out the studio’s speakers, and launches into the madhouse. College students at the station have gone crazy but John tries to get passed them and into the recording booth where the henchmen have set up. He’s nearly there when someone catches his headphones, pulling the earbuds out and exposing him to the voice over the speaker. He begins to collapse when Midnite arrives on the scene with his cursed Winchester rifle, doing the only logical thing in this situation and shooting out the speaker. Wounded and exhausted, Constantine can’t do much to stop Midnite from going after the acetate physically, so he magically locks the door to the recording booth and calls on the dark power of the record itself to send it back to Hell, destroying both henchmen along with it.

Midnite is furious but foiled and at the end of the day neither party gets to add the acetate to their magical arsenal. As the episode closes, John seems to have won one for the side of the angels but he’s made himself an enemy in the process and he still doesn’t know if he can trust Zed or not, leaving us plenty of problems to solve as the rest of the series unfolds.

So what did you think of this episode, Constantine/Hellblazer fans? Share your thoughts in the comments section below?

New episodes of Constantine air Friday nights at 9/8CT on NBC.

Photos by: Tina Rowden/NBC