Constantine: Spirits, And Voodoo, And The Spectre, Oh My

Marshall Lemon | 22 Nov 2014 12:00
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Constantine's "Danse Vaudou" is packed full of twists, teases, and subplots that come together for a surprisingly engaging episode.

As a character and a series concept, Constantine can be a little tricky to pin down. Between his own 300 issue series, a halfway-superheroic New 52 reboot, and guest appearances in mainstream and adult-themed comics, John Constantine is many things to many people. For the show, should he be a lower-class magician trying to make ends meet? The bane of gods and demons? An addict? All of the above? While we all have an idea of what Constantine should be, its history is so enormous that it means different things to many people.

That's makes Constantine's "Danse Vaudou" so promising: It does a fantastic job of being many good things at once. The episode is simultaneously a ghost story, an exploration of Papa Midnite's character, and an introduction for a major character from DC lore, starring an everyman magician and his supernatural friends. So much variety has been packed into this episode that just about every Constantine and Hellblazer fan will find something to love.

Don't believe me? Go watch the latest episode on the official NBC website or iTunes to see for yourself.

"Danse Vaudou" opens as Constantine, Zed, and Chas discover a wrathful spirit that's taken to murdering victims in the alleyways of Louisiana. But during their investigation, a second ghost starts claiming its own victims outside of city limits, and Constantine suspects there's a connection. Teaming up with local police detective Jim Corrigan, the team slowly pieces together the sole common thread between each thread: they were summoned in seances by Papa Midnite.

But the real twist of the episode? Papa Midnite doesn't know what's happening either. It turns out that the rising darkness of this season has the unintended side effect of making the seances into half-resurrections, pulling spirits into the physical plane. Now Constantine and Midnite have to work together to find a solution, before the murderous ghosts claim any more lives.

"Danse Vaudou" is unique in that it seems to be constructed almost entirely of subplots. Sure, there's a central framework about the dead re-entering human worlds, but that's just the spine connecting each thread to a larger story. You've got two ghost stories set in urban and rural environments. There's a skeptical police detective who has no idea what to think about the supernatural. Zed gets nervous that her hidden past may have been revealed. Chas figures out how to put his resurrection abilities to good use. Even Papa Midnite's reveal doesn't happen until we're well into the episode, and for many scenes after isn't the central focus.

This creates a balancing act that Constantine pulls off surprisingly well, playing each story off each other without letting one rise to prominence. On top of that, everything ties together just neatly enough that the supernatural world is believably complex, a place where ghosts, psychics, and voodoo priests operate in shared spaces while only occasionally crossing paths. Each premise in itself wouldn't be enough to fill a whole episode, but stacking them together in this fashion makes the finished product greater than the sum of its parts.

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