[This is a review of Constantine season 1, episode 7. There will be SPOILERS.]
It’s not often that you can say “based on a true story” about an episode of a show like Constantine, but ‘Blessed are the Damned’ is actually based on the real life practice of snake handling, which is still used in a number of U.S. Pentecostal churches. Based mainly on a passage from the Gospel of Mark, which states that true believers in God will “speak with new tongues… take up serpents… lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover,” snake-handling has claimed the lives of at least 70 people since the practice began, and the snakes probably aren’t very happy about it either.
As far as the records show, however, no one has ever come back from the dead with healing abilities, as Pastor Zachary does in this episode. It isn’t long before John works out that angel intervention is involved, and that Pastor Zachary’s “miracles” are sucking the life out of the surrounding countryside and turning his faithful flock into a bloodthirsty mob.
‘Blessed are the Damned’ won’t help the Supernatural comparisons (though Supernatural at least waited until season 4 before jumping feet first into angel lore), but at least it’s a story that gives Harold Perrineau something to do other than occasionally pop in and get snarked at by John, then drop a cryptic clue before vanishing again. Apparently, his divine instructions mean that he cannot “interfere” with things on Earth by giving explicit answers, but he can drop massive hints and possibly include a diagram or two. God works in mysterious ways.
The angels of Constantine are a lot less omnipotent than you’d expect. Not only does Manny rely on John and Zed using “angel echolocation” (just go with it) to find crippled angel Imogen, he’s also able to get right up in her face without realizing that she’s actually a fallen angel who crawled up to Earth out of Hell itself. You’d think there would at least be a lingering smell of sulfur.
In fairness to Manny, Imogen does look pretty good for someone who’s been thrown down into a fiery pit, and ‘Blessed are the Damned’ opens up a whole lot more questions about angels than it answers. In traditional mythology, fallen angels become demons and look appropriately demonic, so it’s somewhat bizarre that the only difference between regular angels and fallen ones in Constantine is a wardrobe change. The reason why Imogen, in her crippled state, is able to disguise herself as a perfume advert is also never adequately explained.
In addition to Manny being given more to do, Zed is also offered a more instrumental role in ‘Blessed are the Damned,’ as she is struck by visions of snakes while drawing a nude male model (no jokes, please) and takes the lead in many aspects of the investigation, including stealing the feather off Pastor Zachary and returning it to Imogen. She also uses her psychic powers on the pastor to get a reading of his personality, but for some reason that time he killed a guy slips under the radar.
Overall, ‘Blessed and the Damned’ is a pretty inoffensive episode that moves the season arc along another couple of millimeters, but the combination of the monster-of-the-week formula and the rather lazy plot device of Liv’s bloody scrying map is making the show feel a little soulless, like each episode just came off an assembly line. It feels far too tame for a show based on Hellblazer and it still doesn’t have anything to make it stand out or feel unique, unless you count Matt Ryan’s accent. It’s a show that can act as a decent diversion for an hour, but there’s nothing about it that’s “must-see.”
Since season 1’s production was cut off at 13 episodes, there’s been an online campaign to #SaveConstantine, but in order to earn a second season the showrunners really need to #WriteSomethingWorthSaving.
Constantine returns in ‘The Saint of Last Resorts’ next Friday @10pm on NBC. Watch the promo below.