In a matter-of-fact voiceover, John Constantine, the eponymous main character of the upcoming NBC TV show, explains why he's undergoing shock treatment. And a moment later, as we see him zapped with electricity, it becomes clear that this show isn't going to pull any punches. Toss in a complement of bile-spewing demons and one iffy angel, and we now have a show to rival Supernatural.
We saw the first episode of Constantine, based on the long-running DC comic Hellblazer, in a screening at New York Comic-Con. And although your dance card is probably full thanks to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Gotham, Arrow, The Flash and others, this may be worth a spin. Especially when you consider:
Crossovers with the DC Universe
Without giving too much away, Constantine and a friend visit a safehouse, and there on a table we see ... a very interesting object (an earlier trailer spoiled it, but we prefer to remain discreet).
With its roots in DC Comics, technically Constantine could live in the same continuity as Gotham, Arrow and The Flash. But fans of the comics also know there's a bevy of characters unlikely to appear in those shows who could make an appearance here. These include Lucifer, Zatanna, the Sandman (Wesley Dodds), the Sandman (Morpheus), Timothy Hunter and of course, Swamp Thing (John made his first appearance in Alan Moore's run of Swamp Thing).
While we can only speculate, it wouldn't surprise us if the screenwriters gave us a bit of Vertigo.
Have you heard the phrase, "Heaven doesn't want him, and Hell's afraid he'll take over?" That must have been written with Constantine in mind. The demon-fighting Liverpudlian may get the job done, but he's sharp-edged, sarcastic and not a very likeable guy. This version of John is a little more in-your-face and less wry than the comic-book version. But at no point is he some dumbed-down, cuddly version of himself. What a relief.
True(ish) to the comic book
Hellblazer is a comic book about angels, demons and bitterness. Constantine loses battles and rarely has a clean victory. So it will be in the TV show, it seems. Also, fans of the comic will be happy to learn that the series looks to be adapting a lot of Constantine's origin story. And let's just say Newcastle is not a place John wants to revisit any time soon. It's a promising start.
The pilot was a bit more action-packed than we'd expected, and John is without the cigarettes that gave him cancer, an important plot point in the books (*shakes fist at network broadcast standards*). But though there might not be smoke, there's plenty of fire. It's going to be interesting to see if the show can navigate between action sequences and the more dread-inducing horror that characterizes the comic book.
A corpse writhes in a black body bag, fighting to get out. A parking lot comes alive to swallow a woman up. Bugs bugs bugs. If demonic thrills and angelic chills are up your alley, then this show may give you your next great nightmare. Obviously, there are limits to how far things can go on a major network, but it looks like the producers are working hard to find the places where they can creep you out within those boundaries.
So far, Constantine is as unsettling as it is engaging. We're looking forward to more.
Constantine airs on NBC on Oct. 24. Will you be tuning in?