Over the weekend, NBC announced that production on ‘Constantine’ will stop after completing its initial 13-episode order and the show will not return for the spring mid-season. However, the series has not officially been canceled, and could be renewed next year depending on how ratings go over the next several weeks. Friday’s episode, meanwhile, once again skirts by with just enough glimmer of hope for improvement to keep me watching.
I happened to notice in the credits that episode ‘Danse Vaudou’ was directed by John Badham, once a feature filmmaker behind hit movies like ‘Saturday Night Fever’ and ‘WarGames’, but who has spent most of the past decade working as an invisible presence in television. Not that you would notice; Badham was never exactly an auteur with a distinct style or voice. TV suits him.
The plot of this one sends Constantine to New Orleans, where a girl wearing a surgical mask slashes up another random girl in an alley. A drunken cop named Jim Corrigan happened to be on the scene after stumbling out of a bar. He shoots the assailant several times, but she doesn’t even seem to notice before vanishing. We’ll learn later that the killer is the ghost of a fashion model who was disfigured and murdered by a rival.
At the same time, the ghost of a hitchhiking teen is causing drivers to crash into the same tree where he was killed by a hit-and-run. Constantine leaves Chas to investigate the model while Zed and the cop investigate the hitchhiker. You know, for a guy who boasts about preferring to work alone, Constantine sure seems to accumulate a lot of friends to work with him.
Constantine himself traces these ghosts back to his old nemesis, the voodoo priest Papa Midnite, last seen just two episodes ago. Acting as a medium, Midnite has been casting spells to help the families of the dead contact their deceased loved ones. Unbeknownst to him, a powerful force that Constantine calls the “Rising Darkness” has been messing with his magic. The dead aren’t just talking to the living; they’re coming back. Midnite’s latest client is a woman whose husband died of cancer. Now that he’s back, the husband is draining the life out of his wife.
While Constantine and Midnite grudgingly join forces to cast the spirits away, John’s friends have to distract the ghosts. Chas, who can quickly heal from any injury, lets himself get attacked by the model and tries to confuse her by asking her a bunch of questions. Zed and Corrigan pick up the hitchhiker and try to make him believe that he’s dead. When that doesn’t work, Zed hits him with her SUV.
Eventually, the only way to disperse the ghosts is for their families to finally let go of their guilt while Constantine and Midnite burn the corpses. Also, Corrigan tells Zed that he recognizes her from an old missing persons case. She touches him and sees a vision of his death, and it’s not pretty. John makes Midnite ask his voodoo spirit connections in the underworld about the Rising Darkness. All he learns is that someone close to Constantine will betray him.
All in all, this is a decidedly adequate episode that hints at a potentially interesting “mythology” story arc involving this Rising Darkness business. Unlike the last few episodes, it has no major objectionable scripting problems. It may not be a great episode, but it’s enough to keep me around for a little while longer.