After a young mother is brutally killed in a Mexican nunnery and her baby is kidnapped, Constantine is drafted in to help in locate the missing infant by Anne-Marie, an old flame and ex-associate who was one of those present during the Newcastle incident.
Although the culprit is soon identified as Lamashtu, an infant-devouring Mesopotamian hell-goddess and sister of Eve, the architects of events are subsequently revealed as La Brujería. A cabal of ancient and supremely powerful South American warlocks who it seems are behind the Rising Darkness, their ultimate goal is to merge hell and earth to allow demonic forces to emerge from the shadows and knock humanity off the top spot as dominant species. While not the most original of schemes, the scale of it is certainly large enough to maintain an air of foreboding, and the idea of an enemy Constantine does not and cannot possess the power to fight makes you wonder how they can possibly be stopped. We also get a brief and suitably creepy appearance from the Invunche, unstoppable humanoid demons of twisted flesh and disjointed limbs (and predating Hellraiser’s Cenobites by about three years) who were holdovers from Alan Moore’s run writing Swamp Thing during which Constantine originated.
However, despite the advancing mythology and portentous revelations, it’s the human angle of the episode that raises it above the standard. Like Gary Lester from A Feast of Friends, Anne-Marie is also racked with guilt about the debacle of Newcastle, but unlike the Irish junkie, she doesn’t spend her time wallowing in self-pity. Her life as a nun is an attempt to make amends not only for her part in the eternal damnation of a young girl, but also for being the one to introduce Constantine to the world of magic in the first place and ultimately set him down the path that it’s now impossible for him to leave. She’s far more assertive and sees through Constantine’s bullshit in a second, actually managing to wring some honesty from him. Although the pair may now not particularly like or trust each other, they can talk without pretence or deceit in the way that only people who have been through a life-altering experience together are able.
Through their talk of past regrets, more of what drives Constantine starts to come to light. It’s not that genuine human feeling doesn’t touch him, it’s that he can’t afford to let it. If he allows himself to become personally involved in what he does, his ability to fight it objectively will become weakened. One on hand, he can be jovially good natured enough to think nothing of idly flirting with a nun, while on the other he threatens to kill a baby to hold back Lamashtu, whose masters need it alive. While there was obviously never any danger of him carrying out the threat, the very fact it nevertheless occurred to him to make it in the first place really shows the darkened depths his mind can sink to should a situation call for it. Even through his duplicitous nature and bleak cynicism he still has a few ideals he holds on to, one of which being “No price is too high to save the innocent.”
Meanwhile, Zed stays behind on account of still recuperating from the events of Blessed Are the Damned (the logic fail of travelling to Mexico but not taking along the native speaker of Spanish is pointed out), but is thankfully not completely absent. As the stinger of the last episode showed, her mysterious past is catching up with her, with some religious zealots on her trail and the hunky nude model from her art class who suddenly dropped into her life evidently having some ulterior motives for wanting to get to know her. And not the usual kind.
The pure rage at being called Mary and mention of her childhood “in a locked room” only ask more questions about her, but they’re ones that will likely soon lead to some answers about who she truly is. When a couple of sinister cult fanatics come for her she fights back with the kind of vicious and inelegant street fighting that isn’t taught, but just learned. If nothing else, she’s a survivor, and certainly isn’t the kind of girl who needs to rely on the menfolk to protect her.
A cliffhanger ending as frustrating as it is inevitable leaves everyone’s fate unknown and hanging in the balance, but the wait will make it all the more satisfying to see how they each get out of the predicaments they’ve been landed in.
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