‘Constantine’ 1.04 Recap: The Hunger (Demon) Games

My patience with ‘Constantine’ is already running very thin. In addition to the scripting issues that have plagued previous episodes (including an annoying amount of expositional dialogue as the lead character has to explain everything to his protégé), the fourth entry also adds a lot of anti-drug moralizing, as if an obnoxious heavy-handed message is somehow what this show needs right now.

Episode ‘A Feast of Friends’ opens with a really sweaty guy trying to get through airport Customs, acting as shadily as he possibly can. Clearly, he either has the demonic equivalent of Ebola or he’s a junkie. In this case, he’s a junkie. I think I would have preferred the other option.

Sweaty guy gets interrogated by a TSA agent, who wants to know what’s in the weird-looking antique bottle he’s carrying. He insists that it’s empty, but whatever you do, don’t open it. I’m not joking, man, do not open that bottle. Naturally, the TSA agent opens the bottle. Because if there’s something deadly like anthrax in there, he wants to get right up in it with his bare hands and then breathe it in.

What’s actually in the bottle is a swarm of thousands of beetles, which flood the room and then dive-bomb in unison right down the agent’s throat. Which of course begs the question of why he just stands there, jaw agape, and doesn’t attempt to close his damn mouth after the first one goes in. But I guess we’ve already established that the TSA agent is kind of a dim bulb.

This being a supernatural show, the beetles are the manifestation of a demon that possesses the agent. He goes running through the airport like a maniac, eating anything and everything in sight until he drops dead, at which point the beetles fly out and infect the next host. This process repeats until the demon makes its way to a grocery store. The local news picks up the story and reports that it’s a virus outbreak. A virus outbreak that involves a swarm of bugs flying from person to person? Uh, OK. That’s some ace journalism there, news team.

Anyway, sweaty guy’s name is Gary Lester, and he’s an ex-friend of Constantine’s who was around during the famous Newcastle incident (the one where Constantine let a little girl get sacrificed to a demon). John is not terribly happy to see him, and repeatedly tells Zed that Gary is a dirty, no-good worthless junkie who can’t be trusted for anything. Drugs are bad, kids.

Gary explains what happened. While he was in Sudan being a junkie and doing junkie stuff, he came across a man with markings carved all over his face and body. Gary recognized this to mean that someone had locked a demon in the man’s body. He decided to exorcise the demon out of him and trap it in a bottle, hoping that this would bring him some form of redemption for his horrible junkie ways. One thing led to another, and the demon was let loose in this country, and now John has to stop it. Thanks a bunch, Gary.

Constantine identifies the problem as a Hunger Demon. What’s a Hunger Demon? Well, it’s a demon that’s really hungry and eats a lot. At one point, Constantine actually outright says that this is a metaphor for drug addicts who have the munchies and use up everything around them until they burn out. Real subtle writing, there.

Zed touches Gary and has a very explicit vision of him shooting up and overdosing. Drugs are really, really bad, kids. Don’t do drugs.

After his first attempt to capture the demon fails, John goes to a shaman to find out some more info on why this particular Hunger Demon is so powerful. The shaman makes him agree to take a drug trip (hypocrite!), during which Constantine hallucinates that the shaman plucks out John’s eye and pops it in his own head. Ewww! Don’t do drugs. They’ll make you have scary, gross hallucinations!

Overwhelmed with guilt about the whole Hunger Demon thing, and also feeling responsible for the Newcastle incident, Gary gives Zed the slip in order to go stop the demon himself. He doesn’t get very far before John catches up, though. John says that he needs Gary’s help to steal a holy Kusa knife, whatever that is.

After they get that, John then reveals that the demon requires a human sacrifice in order to trap it in another person’s body, the way it had been trapped in Sudan until Gary stupidly let it out. Guess who John has in mind to be the demon trap?

Aww, hell, Gary. You’re not having such a good day, are you?

It’s kind of a dick move on Constantine’s part to set up his friend this way. I understand that this is relatively faithful to a storyline from the original ‘Hellblazer’ comic. However, the TV version softens the edges by having Gary volunteer to accept the demon as penance for his junkie sins, whereas he was super pissed and tried to kill Constantine in the comic, and the only way Constantine could calm him down was to dope him up with heroin.

So, Constantine puts the demon inside Gary and carves the markings on his face to lock it in. Gary will spend the rest of his life in agony. The episode ends with John sitting at his bedside, looking sad.

Perhaps even more than those before it, this episode seems to suffer from a clash between a creative team that desires to faithfully translate the intent of the original comics, in which the character of Constantine is sometimes a heartless bastard, with the mandates of the television network, which demands something more mainstream-friendly that will always reassure viewers that the hero is a good guy. What we’re left with is a wishy-washy compromise, and a TV show that can’t decide what it wants to be.

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