Rage of Caliban was originally intended to be the series’ second episode, as evidenced by an unwelcome lack of Zed, whose absence is weakly handwaved by an extra line of dialogue mentioning her being at an art class. The intended timing also explains the episode’s Halloween atmosphere – this being when it was originally intended to air – but unfortunately the adulterated significance of the pagan harvest festival also extends to the story.
There’s not much here that hasn’t been seen before in dozens of supernatural horror films, both Eastern and Western, over the last 15 years. A violent spirit possesses young child Henry (Max Irons - The Neighbors), who behaves increasingly like a reject from The Omen, much to the concern of his worrying mother (Laura Regan - My Little Eye) and manly-man father (Niall Matter - A Town Called Eureka, Primeval: New World). The main problem is the sprit has done this before, with things escalating until the parents are left brutally slain but the child untouched, albeit mutely traumatised, and so Constantine and Chas must step in to avert tragedy.
The most interesting part of the routine tale is the idea of the power of names, for without knowing the name of the entity possessing Henry, Constantine is unable to summon or banish it, and still being haunted by Astra’s death he is unwilling to perform an exorcism on a child. The ultimate identity of the entity is an intriguing idea, even if the revelation was signposted by an earlier scene that would otherwise have been utterly pointless.
Although Constantine and Chas made a good team and the story gives a little more of an indication of how they operated before the series began and the Rising Darkness began adversely affecting the supernatural world, the episode feels like a big step backwards. The gradual character-building and development has been temporarily suspended as we wade through a story with little mystery or suspense that gives no greater insight into who they are.
The episode title refers to a couple of lines in the preface of Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, which in turn invokes the bestial character from Shakespeare’s The Tempest after being presented with his own hideous reflection. We can often accept our inherent evil when it remains internal, but if it becomes visually manifested, such as with Dorian Gray and Caliban, it becomes harder to ignore. Here, when presented with the consequences of its wrath the spirit flees its host, only to soon settle into another angry and alone child with bickering parents and the cycle begins anew. Or I could just be reading too much into something possibly referenced merely because it sounds cool.
Like the fantastic series opener, Rage of Caliban was directed by Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent), but compared to the immersive spectacle of his other TV work, such as two of Game of Thrones’ episode-nine-holy-shit instalments – Blackwater and The Watchers On the Wall – this stripped-back ghost story seems like a waste of his talents. While second episode The Darkness Beneath has certainly been one of the series’ weaker instalments, if the promising pilot had instead been followed up with this, the show would likely have lost viewers a lot faster and its future would currently be in even more jeopardy.
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