'Constantine': TV Review

Constantine S01E01 Still - H 2014
Quantrell Colbert/NBC

Constantine S01E01 Still - H 2014

A demon sleuth and master of the dark arts (so his card says) gets another shot at staying out of hell by tracking down, well, demons

The DC Comics character comes to life on the small screen, but the pilot doesn't do him justice although the lead actor does

Most people have never heard of the comic book character Constantine, though many have heard of him through the Keanu Reeves movie of the same name, which actually doesn’t help. Friday at 10 pm, however, you can see the TV version with the premiere of Constantine.

The pilot is very spotty. That doesn’t help either.

However – and given some of the dialogue and other nonsense tonight, that’s a pretty big however – there’s still hope that Constantine can turn into something you might want to spend an hour with on Fridays. Besides, it’s paired with the always-entertaining Grimm and you can do a lot worse for solid drama blocks.

The real hook, the reason it’s worth waiting on to see if Constantine can develop, is star Matt Ryan, who manages to ground what otherwise seems like an insane amount of explosions, action without reason and utter jibberish.

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Ryan is likable. As demon hunter and almost-kinda-sorta master of the dark arts, John Constantine, Ryan gives viewers a person to cheer about even though in this first hour they may not have much knowledge about why they should be cheering for him. Is Constantine a good guy? He’s been damned to hell by angels, who can do that apparently without The Entity At the Top signing off, if there is such a thing at the top.

Anyway, we know about powerful angels because we meet one in Manny (Harold Perrineau), which is officially the worst name for an angel in the history of such things. Manny tells Constantine that, sure, he’s been damned to hell, but if he can help the angels out by looking into some disturbing rumors about demons rising up from said realm, maybe he can get part of his life back.

At least that’s what seems to happen in the pilot. Murkiness is a thing in Constantine. A big thing. Nowhere more in evidence than where Constantine’s motivation for getting back into the demon-chasing game is revealed as mainly an attempt to save Liv (Lucy Griffiths). You see, Constantine knew Liv’s father — who possessed the ability to see though demons’ disguises — and he’s hoping to recruit Liv to his cause, revealing to her her hidden abilities and the good they can do in re: protecting the innocent.
It’s all very well and good — except that executive producers Daniel Cerone (The Mentalist, Dexter) and David S. Goyer (Man of Steel, DaVinci’s Demons, The Dark Knight Rises) and probably NBC decided that Liv wasn’t working as a female lead.

So, nevermind.

In episode two, that whole recruit-Liv-for-the-cause thing becomes Liv-who?, apparently, and a real character from the comic books takes her place. And, yes, it would have been too costly to recast and reshoot the pilot.

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You might be thinking, “Well hell, I could just skip tonight and watch the second episode.” And you could. It’s not like you’d lose a whole bunch of plot — just exposition. But since no second episode was made available to critics, there’s no telling if the murkiness gets clearer.

That’s not much of an endorsement, nor should it be given the whole pilot rejiggering and lack of a follow-through from NBC, but again: A whole series could be built around Matt Ryan. He’s worth hanging in there for.

In the meantime, just watch Grimm first and then hope by the second or third episode, that just who the hell John Constantine really is and why we should root for him becomes clearer.

Email: Tim.Goodman@THR.com
Twitter: @BastardMachine