Culture of Pop

Constantine Review: Danse Vaudou

This week’s Constantine took us to New Orleans and featured a female monster who cuts up people’s mouths and is impervious to bullets. After the cold open with the monster-of-the-week, we got an establishing scene of Constantine, Chas and Zed all living together. It was nice seeing their vibe in their downtime. They get to business pretty quickly though, with Constantine activating a psychic connection between Zed and the map that tells them to go to Louisiana. Jim Corrigan, the police officer who tried to shoot the monster and couldn’t, doesn’t want the team getting involved. He’s also the person from Zed’s psychic vision that brought them there.  Jim Corrigan is also The Spectre in the DC comics universe.

When Constantine and Zed check into their room, they have some banter that I guess is supposed to be sexy but it really didn’t play for me.

There’s a scene of a young man– maybe a teen or just slightly older– hitchhiking and the old man who picks him up starts to touch him. So, this show erased the queerness from any of the actual developed characters, but is throwing in a random predatory gay? He’s immediately killed by the young man who turns out to be a demon and the whole thing is such a cringe. Why would they think this is a good idea?

At the crime scene, Zed tries her hand at getting info. She doesn’t have the hang of it yet, she says that it was her sister who crashed her car and the cop on the scene immediately tells her there was no woman in the car, just a man. Nonetheless, her and Constantine do get some of the info they need.

Jim Corrigan tries to arrest Constantine because “anyone who reports a crime before it happens isn’t a psychic, he’s a murderer.” Constantine insists that if they keep looking for living suspects they’re not going to find them and they should be checking obituaries for people who’ve died in those areas. He turns out to be right: Jim Corrigan IDs the killer from the alley and she’s a dead woman. She’s a former model named Misaki whose career was ruined when her face was cut up.

Constantine talks to the rival model who cut up Misaki’s face. She’s on a path to redemption, she’s sought treatment for her mental illness and her addictions. Constantine has a moment of connecting with her when she says that she can never lose the guilt of what she did but she tries to help people and every time she helps someone, she asks Misaki’s spirit for forgiveness. Constantine asks if she’s haunted by Misaki, trying to make it sound metaphorical so she won’t be scared off.

Meanwhile, Zed talks to the grandmother of the young man who died on the highway. At the same time, they both reveal that they saw the same medium who said he could help him talk to the people they’d lost: that man was Papa Midnite.

Constantine shows up while Papa Midnite is in action, helping a woman talk to her dead husband. Constantine explains to the crowd that they think they’re just talking to the dead but they’re actually raising them, sending them on a killing spree. Papa Midnite actually didn’t know this was true, but when he visits the woman whose husband died, she discovered that she’s now living with that dead husband. She’s not worried at all and thanks him but Papa Midnite can tell he’s killing her and draining her energy. Now that he actually knows what’s going on, Papa Midnite tells Constantine, “We need to stop this.”

Jim Corrigan joins Zed on a highway stakeout and we find out he actually knows Zed. “Why’d you change your name?” he asks her. She doesn’t have to answer because they see the ghost on the side of the highway and pick him up. It’s hard to tell if Zed has a plan, but she tries to find out a bit about the ghost’s background and then when he appears in front of the car, she runs into him hard.

Constantine and Papa Midnite gather up the bodies of the three people whose ghosts are haunting the town and burn them. Meanwhile, Zed and Jim Corrigan keep driving along, picking up the highway ghost. This last time Zed uses all the information she has on him, talking to him about how she talked to his grandmother. This time he asks her to pull over. Back with Papa Midnite and Constantine, we see that the bodies they tried to burn are barely singed. This was actually a genuinely surprising moment and I’m glad they’re establishing that a lot goes into banishing spirits beyond a quick physical ritual.

We see Chas in a stand off with Misaki’s ghost, where he keeps asking her questions and she doesn’t stab him. Did they establish at some point that asking ghosts questions keeps them from killing you? If so, I missed it and as far as lore goes that’s kind of a tough sell so I wish they’d hit that beat a little harder to try and convince me that would be an effective way of fending off a ghost.

Constantine realizes he needs to get the actual people who knew the deceased and went to Papa Midnite to accept that the ghosts have to leave and to let go of their guilt for the ritual to work. That’s actually a really nice resolution. We see the bodies finally burning and each of the ghosts disappearing as the people they left behind let go.

Jim Corrigan has a talk with Zed about her past, shoplifting food. With her psychic powers, she witnesses whatever force is starting to turn him into The Spectre, but she doesn’t tell him what she saw.

“Danse Vaudou” easily had the strongest story of any Constantine episode so far and I think this show is working on a basic, supernatural monster-of-the-week level. But, I’m still waiting for more to make it really compelling or really entertaining. Most importantly, I’d like more to distinguish Constantine, Zed and Chas from any other group of heroes trying to do the right thing while brooding and/or having one-liners. And, of course, I’m really unhappy with the unnecessary predatory gay character who popped up and I hope they make up for it with other queer characters, at least minor ones, even if they refuse to go there with Constantine himself.

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