Constantine and Zed return to New Orleans to help Detective Corrigan look into the ritualistic murder of a police officer who had been investigating the disappearance of three young girls. Along the way, Constantine is warned by the spirit of Gary Lester possessing a corpse that the Brujería have put out a bounty on him. New Orleans also means Papa Midnite, and the vengeful shaman seeks to collect the bounty as payback for Constantine’s slighting of him and also to free his sister from hell. Meanwhile, a lost and alone girl named Vesta is lured by a trio of waifs into the house of the unnamed devil-worshipping Man, who seeks to add her to his collection of teenage brides.
For Constantine’s finale, we’ve got a lot going on, but the various plotlines neither jostle for attention nor get in each other’s way, instead serving to tie together several ongoing threads from throughout the whole series.
The episode’s primary story of the search for Vesta is taken from an early Hellblazer issue with the same title, where her role was played by Constantine’s niece Gemma in her first appearance in the series. Tacitly echoing his unwavering belief from The Saint of Last Resorts that the innocent should be protected at all costs, Constantine treats the search for the girl as the only consideration, as though having a supernatural hit out on him is little more than an unnecessary distraction he can’t be bothered dealing with.
If their wistful and unfocused demeanours didn’t immediately clue you in to their ghostly nature, the ‘wedding ring’ of each of the Man’s brides being a strangulation rope burn around their necks should convince you. Although you remain reasonably sure that Vesta will be found in time, the fact that three girls just like her have already been killed means there’s no assurance she will be saved. The shadowed tomb of a house in which she remains trapped is never anything less than oppressively malevolent (even without the trio of corpses slowly rotting in the marital bed) and the slow pace Constantine takes towards actually locating her jacks up the tension with each passing moment. Additionally, the events taking place beneath the glow of a blood moon is a good excuse to bathe the night in a crimson gold half-light, further adding to the atmosphere of sinister dread.
Vengeance seems to be the key theme of the episode. The Brujería deciding Constantine must be stopped is likely to be partly in retaliation for his interference of their plans in Mexico, as well as evidently deciding that his meddling must be put to a stop before it gets out of hand. A surprising reaction, since from Constantine’s perspective he has no earthly clue how he can possibly hope to fight them. Additionally, the zombie hitman Midnite first sends after Constantine (Voodoo zombies are faster, stronger, far more durable and marginally smarter than their viral undead counterparts) is a live man put into such a state as punishment for killing his wife.
There’s also the matter of Zed’s continuing visions of Corrigan bleeding from mortal wounds and surrounded by an eerie green ghost light, which reiterate the foreshadowing of his future as the Spectre, which in turn maintains the retribution theme. The entity is a wrathful avenging spirit who hunts unrepentant murderers and destroys them in poetically gruesome ways, thus Corrigan’s execution of the Man acts as a step towards his assumption of the mantle. Although doing so was morally dubious and inarguably illegal, being confronted with the actions of a child-murdering sadist (along with, admittedly, a little pushing from Constantine) stopped him from caring, and in that moment became a force of retribution on behalf of the silenced dead. One can only presume such an attitude is part of why the Spectre will choose him as its host. As Constantine observes, “We can all shape our destiny, but none of us get to escape our fate.”
A perfect fusion of fantasy and horror that should have been better balanced before now, Waiting For the Man leaves us with some payoff for our loyalty to the series and satisfaction in its resolution, particularly during Constantine’s struggle with Midnite where we get to see him use some deception and trickery, which for a character acknowledged as a talented con artist has been disappointingly infrequent so far. While the episode ends on a revelation that causes us to question pretty much everything that has happened since the series began, it avoids being yet another of the incessant mid-event cliffhangers so beloved of TV writers these days.
At the time of writing, the show’s future is still undecided, with NBC previously opting not to pick up the season’s back nine episodes due to the disappointing viewing figures, but not yet giving any official word on whether or not the show itself has actually been cancelled. The unsubstantiated rumour floating around online that the show might be ported to Syfy and rebranded as Hellblazer has now been squashed, but it always seemed to be pure conjecture anyway. There’s not a lot more to say until we know for sure either way, but even if the series isn’t coming back and what we’ve had is all we’re going to get, at least Constantine has gone out on a high.