Constantine – Post-Mortem? Or Too Soon?


By now, fans probably got the bad news that NBC decided not to pick up Constantine for a second season.  To tell you the truth, I’m not that surprised.  Hellblazer has always been a property more suited for the likes of HBO or Netflix.  The more mature material definitely pushed the limits of network television — and it was still not enough.  However, within that bad news, there was a glimmer of hope in the form of producer Daniel Cerone raising the possibility that Constantine may be resurrected on another network.

More from TV

The adventures and trials and tribulations of our trenchcoated mage are the darker side to DC Comics’ more optimistic characters — Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.  Therefore, it was actually a noble effort in even attempting to faithfully bring him to life.  But could it succeed if they did find a more suitable network?

We explore what worked and what didn’t work in this fledgling series, and maybe propose a few of our own suggestions as to how the creators of the series can improve it.

John Constantine

Let’s start with our titular hero, Mr. John Constantine himself.  Most non-hardcore Constantine fans would remember the film version starring Keanu Reeves which got his character all wrong.  The movie was only related to Constantine by name and everything else took a tangent from the lore.  What NBC did right in this series was getting physical aspects of John Constantine down pat.

Actor Matt Ryan’s appearance and accent made him look like he jumped right out of Hellblazer and onto the small screen.  Personality-wise, they did an okay job, and here’s why: the character wasn’t cold or sarcastic enough.  Coming from a screenwriting point-of-view, I can tell you that you should always be careful of toeing the line between callousness and likability.

In the comics, Constantine is basically a scoundrel, and he makes no apologies for it.  In the television show, he was given a bit too much emotion and, at times, exhibited a little too much sentimentality.  Going back to my point about screenwriting, I can tell you exactly why they did that.  If they had set him up too much like the comics, viewers new to the character would’ve been turned off immediately because they need a hero they can empathize and sympathize with.  But, as you can see, having his personality be too soft had the effect of frustrating fans of the comic.

All in all, the writers did what they could to moreso “humanize” Constantine and preserve his more dark nature.  I can say that this was no small feat and they pulled this off rather well.  However, it would’ve been interesting to actually see how audiences would’ve reacted to an exponentially more pessimistic character.

Strong Supporting Characters

I’ll just put this out there right now: they couldn’t have cast better actors to portray Contantine’s famous helpers.  Charles Halford’s Chas Chandler and Angélica Celaya’s Zed Martin were brought to life perfectly.

Although Chas had a nationality change, everything else about the character was still left intact.  What I liked about the series was that they introduced a mystery to his character.  Audiences were definitely surprised to see his healing powers — which were not part of his repertoire of skills in the comics.  This new talent did double-duty: it garnered audience interest and kept things fresh for comic fans who knew the lore.  Hell (pun intended) I even wrote an article about Chas Chandler, questioning where he got his Wolverine gifts.

The removal of Liv Aberdeen was a wise choice at the start of the season.  This is nothing against Lucy Griffiths who portrayed her.  But introducing Zed into Constantine’s life really spiced things up.  She was still a conduit for the audience when Constantine had some exposition to do about the dark arts, but was outspoken enough to ask him the hard questions.  She also had some mysteries of her own that helped to add some momentum and tension to the overall season.

The supporting cast helped in playing off of Constantine’s sometimes shaky morals.  Even if there was no villain to challenge him at the moment, you can always count on Chas or Zed to put a little wrinkle in his plan — making our mage thing twice about his actions.

Though “Constantine” is the title of the show, it wouldn’t have hurt the series to have dedicated a few more episodes to the individuals that made up the Constantine team — Chas, Zed, and even Manny.  If The CW’s Arrow has proven anything, it’s that audience love seeing the background stories of how characters became what they are today.  Character arcs never fail to captivate viewers.

Storylines from Hellblazer

I definitely appreciated Constantine having a few episodes directly related to past issues of Hellblazer.  A Feast of Friends was one of those standout stories.  It was probably the best episode in the overall short season.  Hellblazer‘s stories are definitely something the writers should go back to.  If not to give avid fans something to look forward to, but to also show that comic book stories can succeed with little change to the source material.

Constantine seemed to, at times, play with the notion that it was both original, but also based on the comics.  It had the Rising Darkness storyline, but also took out some aspects of each character — the traits probably deemed too dark for network television.  If there was one thing it could learn from another related television show, it should be Supernatural‘s style.

For every season, Supernatural had an underlying story arc and other self-contained stories were at a minimum.  Most episodes were dedicated to one goal that the Winchester brothers were working on for the season.  That driver made the overall series that much more engaging and engrossing.  A serial nature wouldn’t have hurt Constantine.

I personally feel that one of the aspects that contributed to the demise of Constantine was its moreso dual-personality of not knowing if it was a procedural or a serial show.  If it had dedicated itself to being more serialized, it may have garnered more of a reliable following — gave audiences that “can’t miss this episode” feeling.

Final Thoughts

It’s a bit of a letdown that NBC didn’t renew Constantine for another season, especially how the show was finally able to settle into a groove.  However, I can see the reasoning behind NBC’s decision to pull the plug.  The show itself was quite expensive to make and waiting for it to capture a large following would’ve been a huge investment.

Constantine‘s first and only season definitely could’ve used some improvements, but you can see that the show was definitely making a genuine attempt at making each subsequent episode more compelling.  With good characters and darker stories inspired from Hellblazer, the series was certainly an interesting proposition for Friday nights.

It’s now up to the producers to see how they can revive the show on another network — somewhere much more suitable for Constantine‘s tone and subject matter.  Perhaps they can use this downtime to see how they can raise the writing bar more and rely less on expensive visual effects.

Constantine definitely showed the more mainstream audience that there was another side to DC other than the usual capes and costumes.  It also gave avid fans of the famous conman mage a taste of what their hero would be like in real life.  The series was certainly a noble effort.  Let’s hope that other networks can see the potential of Constantine and give it the needed nurturing for it to become a hit.

Next: Catch up on how Constantine ended its series run

More from Bam Smack Pow