The Bloody Map of Murder sends Constantine & Co to New Orleans, where they investigate several deaths that have occurred in seemingly inexplicable circumstances. With the Big Easy being the home of continental voodoo, the trail unsurprisingly leads to Papa Midnite and his side-business of necroscoping, and whose magic it transpires has been adversely affected by the Rising Darkness, not only allowing the dead to be spoken to, but also inadvertently resurrecting them into urban legends.
One is represented by the straightforward Vanishing Hitchhiker, a young man lost on a roadside whose sudden disappearance when inside a car causes its driver to be startled into crashing. Then there is the lesser-known Kuchisake-onna (Slit-Mouthed Woman) a Japanese myth of a mutilated murder victim who hides wide facial scarring with a surgical mask and slashes her targets with scissors. Interestingly, neither are specifically identified as pre-existing tales, but the details are reproduced too faithfully to be coincidental, the latter even down to the exact words the disfigured woman is reported to speak, along with the way in which she is ultimately dealt with.
The deaths are being investigated by one Detective Jim Corrigan (Emmett Scanlan - In the Flesh), a name DC fans may recognise as the earthly host of the Spectre, a cosmic entity with the self-explanatory and truly magnificent designation of the Avenging Wrath of the Murdered Dead, and a destiny hinted at in a vision from Zed. It’s rather refreshing that, unlike many members of fictional law enforcement initially unconvinced of the veracity of the supernatural, he actually adjusts his worldview based on what he experiences, and should the show emerge from the limbo in which it was recently suspended, he will doubtless return.
What with Zed’s belated addition and Chas’ frequent absences, this is the first time in the series it feels that the central trio are truly operating as a team; Zed working with Corrigan to deal with the lost teenager, Chas taking on Asian American Mary, and Constantine forming a temporary alliance with Midnite to figure out to return the dead from whence they came. Despite this latter co-operation, the two magi still clearly despise each other and frequently argue over the arrogance each perceives the other to operate by. Midnite holds disdain for Constantine’s twisting of belief structures to suit his own ends and refusal to accept the dominion of higher powers, while Constantine is critical of Midnite regularly conversing with the dead, who should be left alone, and making money from ordinary people’s grief. It’s about as close a conversation between a spiritualist man of faith and a free-thinking rationalist as the premise of the show will allow.
The idea of combining magic was a neat idea, mixing Midnite’s voodoo with Constantine’s exorcism to craft a unique spell to deal with a unique conundrum, and presents the intriguing idea that various forms of magic are not inflexible forces with unbreakable laws, but mutable energies that can be reshaped to fit a requirement, constrained only by the imagination of the person wielding them. Also, the ultimate resolution of the revenant presences being down to the emotional connection of the living to the departed means that magic is not merely a byword for omnipotence, but has limitations and cannot always be relied upon as a go-to solution for any problem.
Surprisingly, we actually get to see Constantine smoking, and after all the uproar surrounding the fact that he wouldn’t it seems a bit insignificant. Perhaps after someone pointed out to NBC that as one of its most popular shows regularly features cannibalism, torture, ritualistic murder and bucketloads of blood, getting all pissy about someone sparking up on screen was a little inconsequential in comparison. If that was got out of the way without much commotion, next we can hopefully see some implication that Constantine swings both ways.
We’re also given a greater understanding of Chas’ “survival skills.” It seems that he’s not actually indestructible after all, but that every time he’s killed he comes back to life soon after with a dramatic gasp for air in a manner not entirely dissimilar to Captain Jack Harkness. How he attained such an ability, and at what cost it is maintained, remains to be seen.
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