CONSTANTINE Season 1, Episode 7 'Blessed Are the Damned'

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Zed’s chaos-compass visions bring her and Constantine to Kentucky, where a mediocre preacher has become an overnight celebrity after returning from a fatal brush with a rattlesnake’s fangs in possession of the power to heal the sick and infirm with a mere touch. Problem is, the power comes from the feather of an angel’s wing and that as a result that angel is now trapped on the earthly realm and wasting away. Additionally, those touched by the preacher’s healing hands soon descend into rabid madness as ghouls, meaning the magic at play isn’t all light and holy.

The Christian faith has always been a subject ripe for discussion in shows featuring the supernatural, what with the ineffable nature of its deity and it often being difficult to truly ascertain whether events are solely the work of humans, or God working though them. Constantine’s continued cynicism in the face of indisputable proof of the existence of the divine is chalked up to his perspective that belief in love-thy-neighbour teachings is not enough by itself (“The world isn’t all puppydogs and rainbows”) and that evil has to be fought directly wherever it is encountered. As far as he is concerned, the existence of a supreme being is not a subject for discussion, but a minor detail of no real relevance.

From the opposite perspective, Zed’s growing sense of wonder over discovering the existence of angels gives some proper depth to her character, something that’s been much-needed for a while now. As intriguing and enigmatic a presence as she is, long gone are the days where it was acceptable for a female character to merely be the hot sidekick (if you could even realistically argue that it was truly viable in the first place), and her interest in learning of the reality behind the ambiguity of Christian teachings from someone with first hand experience of it begins to shed some light on what drives her, as does her desire to know if her psychic powers came from God, or somewhere else. Her point of view also lays some further groundwork for a looming plotline lifted from Hellblazer’s early days. *cough*ResurrectionCrusade*cough*

The appearances of the angelic overseer Manny have thus far have been characterised by aloof condescension, and he hasn’t done much more than deliver cryptic pronouncements of the danger ahead that weren’t actually very helpful. Given the new perspective of his frustration over the free will granted to humans but which angels were denied, his behaviour becomes a little more understandable. It seems that angels are just as often in the dark regarding the wisdom of God’s actions as humans are, and since unquestioningly following orders is in his nature, it seems he can be at a loss as to the true purpose of anything he does. While it’s neither his place to dictate the actions of humans nor to interfere in their decisions, his rigid adherence to such rules also absolves him of any responsibility regarding what ultimately happens to them, something the episode’s climax forces him to accept and truly make a choice over whether he will be a mere bystander in the fight against supernatural evil or an active participant in it.

The onslaught of the ghouls gives events a necessary sense of urgency and, being reminiscent of anything featuring zombies you’d care to name, evokes a more direct horror feel to proceedings. While the twist in the tale is a neat one, twists are at their best when they are clever enough to remain concealed in spite of the necessary clues having already been revealed, rather than a revelation thrust out at a suitably dramatic juncture without anything in the way of foreshadowing. In short: good, but can do better.
 

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