OK, I'll admit it. I went into the show thinking I was going to hate it. There was a part of me that hoped for the best, but I knew it wasn't going to happen. I knew that I'd get the New 52 version of John Constantine, which I loathe, for the most part.
But something interesting happened. CONSTANTINE, the TV show, wound up in the middle ground between HELLBLAZER and the New 52. I did not expect that, and I was pleasantly surprised.
Before we go any further, I want to state that I despise the idea of John Constantine, exorcist. He's not, all right? While he's had practice booting demons out of people, he's not an exorcist by trade. And I also dislike the idea that he doesn't smoke. Ordinarily, I wouldn't care about something like that, but the comic book version of him DOES smoke, and it's not a superficial ain't-I-cool kind of thing. It actually fits into the story, in particular the Dangerous Habits storyline.
But there were two moments in the pilot episode that sold me on the TV show. The first was when Constantine spiritually blackmails a character into doing his bidding. When you look at HELLBLAZER, very little of it is magic. It's almost always a con job. Constantine does have magical abilities, but 80% of his character is made up of conning other people into doing shit he wants done. That one moment is absolutely Constantine-ish enough for me.
And then there's the other side. Constantine isn't just a mystical character armed with wisecracks and a penchant for being in the wrong place at the right time. He's also a dude who likes to hang out, have a few drinks, get some laughs out of his mates. The very end of the episode shows him in a bar with his friend Chas, getting boozed up and bullshitting about something your friends would bullshit about. That's the part that the New 52 always forgets about.
But . . . goddammit. HELLBLAZER is a story of British horror. I'm glad they kept Constantine rooted in the UK (and they actually got an actor who looks like the character this time), but I hate that this show happens in America. I'm not sure that this could be fixed for a modern audience, though. As soon as Constantine took on the lead role in HELLBLAZER (he was always a supporting character in SWAMP THING before), Jamie Delano, the first writer of the series, definitely put a particular stamp on the character. I don't think you can have a Constantine who wasn't a young man during the Maggie Thatcher period of England. It had such an overpowering effect on the character and the storyline that a modern audience can't connect with the original John Constantine anymore. My John Constantine was a period character. He'd be in his sixties now, to give you a good idea. Of course, Nergal's blood has kept his appearance much younger than you'd expect, but still.
The TV show is good. Not great, but good. What would make it better? Chas being a hard man and British. He doesn't need to be involved with magic like he is on the show. It would be nice if his wife was introduced, considering her hatred of Constantine and the situations that could get the two characters into. What else? Well, I love that Astra is a major character point on the show, but it would be great if the people who died during that incident were haunting Constantine, like in the comics. Also, if those who died in SWAMP THING were haunting him like in the comics? That would be amazing.
It's too early to say, but my fellow comics fans know Constantine as a guy who will sacrifice his friends for the greater good. Maybe we could have some of that taking place on the TV show?
CONSTANTINE earns extra points for the Dr. Fate reference. I desperately hope that will come into play later on the show. Anyone who read the original BOOKS OF MAGIC by Neil Gaiman will appreciate this. Currently, the New 52 is trying to pull some kind of stunt with Dr. Fate. It's actually not bad, but it could be better. Waaaaay fuckin' better.
I've got high hopes for the TV show. I'll definitely be back next week, and probably every week after. I didn't expect that.