[This is a review of Constantine season 1, episode 12. There will be SPOILERS.]
Zed is feeling a little under the weather in this week’s episode of Constantine, but luckily for her, ‘Angels and Ministers of Grace’ is set almost entirely within the walls of a hospital, as the gang goes to investigate a woman who has apparently suffered an overdose… an overdose of evil, that is. The whole gang gets in on the action for this one: Zed, Chas, and even the enigmatic angel Manny, who is brought down to Earth when John casts a spell to trap him inside a human body.
Unfortunately the spell also deprives Manny of his link to heaven, his angelic powers and a significant chunk of his usual personality, which means that he’s not useful for much except running around providing comic relief with his inability to cope with things like computers, blood and..sexual activity. Nonetheless, it continues Manny’s path along what might be the most interesting character arc of the season: from pious observer to active participant in human affairs.
Manny certainly has a better time in this episode than Zed or Chas, the latter of whom is made to stab a screwdriver into his own leg as a pretext for getting into the hospital (“my tummy hurts” apparently wouldn’t have had the same impact), and then later has to act as a guinea pig by touching an incredibly evil artifact to test exactly how it kills people. Meanwhile, Zed discovers that her visions may actually be the result of a brain tumor and has to decide whether or not to have it surgically removed.
The Big Bad this week is taken from the pages of DC comics, though given a new backstory. A black diamond formed from the dark power of an evil sorcerer was shattered into shards and spread over the globe, corrupting anyone who came into contact with one of the shards – similar to the devil’s mirror in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen.
The exact machinations of the black diamond honestly get a little muddy and hard to follow, but the general gist of it is that someone possessed by the power of the black diamond is punishing substance abuse addicts who have fallen back on their old habits by killing them and filling their bodies with dark matter. Of the three victims, the first is the only one to come back to life and then die again – possibly because of the drugs she was injected with right after dying. Again, it’s unclear.
There are no prizes for guessing who the culprit is, since the obvious red herring of this episode is too obvious and there’s only one other character who’s properly introduced and given a substantial amount of screen time (The Saint of Last Resorts Part 1 also suffered from this common failing of TV show “mysteries”). Upon being discovered, Dr. Gaelen turns into a lumpy-faced giant (why?) and can only be brought down by Manny having his angelic power restored and… killing him? Sending him up to heaven? This might be one of those rare episodes that has too little exposition.
Zed ultimately decides to keep her tumor since she believes that the migraines she suffers are the price that she has to pay for magic. It’s one of those character decisions that seems poetic but is actually a little frustrating, since the tumor could easily be a side effect – rather than a cause – of her abilities, or it could be completely unrelated to them. It seems odd that John, with his vast knowledge of the arcane and network of contacts with supernatural abilities, can offer no insight on other cases of mediums with similar symptoms.
‘Angels and Ministers of Grace’ could have been one of Constantine‘s better episodes if a little more work had been done to tie the various plot threads together and offer more clarity for each of them. As it is, it’s largely a filler episode that doesn’t advance the plot much, but at least gives Harold Perrineau a chance to do a bit of clowning around.
Constantine returns next Friday @8pm on NBC in the season (series?) finale, ‘Waiting for the Man’.