Since NBC moved ‘Constantine’ to its new, earlier 8 PM time slot on Fridays, the show has struggled in the ratings without the network’s hit (and similarly themed) ‘Grimm’ as a lead-in anymore. At this point, I don’t expect the series to be renewed for a second season, but I’ve committed to seeing this one through.
In some ways, this is a shame. I’ve talked plenty enough in the past about the show’s unevenness, but the actors finally seem to be settling in with their characters. This past Friday’s episode puts a big focus on supporting character Chas and winds up being one of the most interesting episodes the show has had so far.
‘Quid Pro Quo’ opens with a little girl being attacked by a smoke monster in her bedroom. The child, we’ll soon find out, is Chas’ daughter Geraldine, and he happens to be in Brooklyn to visit her. By the time he arrives, his ex-wife gives him grief about always being late, but he’s the one to find the girl unconscious on the floor. At the hospital, Chas discovers that Geraldine isn’t the only victim this has happened to. The doctors can’t explain an outbreak of children falling into comas. Naturally, he calls John for help. The ex isn’t too happy about this, as she doesn’t care for John or the influence he has over Chas.
In flashbacks, we learn that John and Chas had been out drinking together some years earlier. John left early, but jokingly put a protection spell on his friend first. In a scene uncomfortably similar to the real-life Providence nightclub fire of 2008, a band takes the stage and a badly mishandled pyrotechnic effect sets the bar ablaze. Many people are trapped inside, including Chas. Yet he somehow survives the fire and recovers quickly from his serious injuries. John is amazed that his protection spell actually worked. In doing so, Chas absorbed the souls of 47 other victims of the fire, and thus has 47 lives. He can die up to 47 times and come right back, until the souls run out.
After this incident, Chas became determined to live up to the responsibility that holding all these souls inferred. He dedicated himself to helping John battle evil. The amount of time this took him away from home is what broke up his marriage.
Back in the present day, John, Chas and (ugh) Zed track the outbreak to a man named Felix Faust, formerly a second-rate wizard (or “mage”) who has recently gained significantly more power and has developed a big ego trip about it. Faust collects souls, and children make easy targets. John tries to barter for Geraldine’s soul. Faust offers to give it back if John can exorcize an invisible tiger demon called Calibraxis that’s been pestering him. When John kills the demon by electrocuting it, Faust argues that he didn’t do the job correctly and tries to change the terms of the deal to make John do another errand for him.
An impatient Chas goes to Faust himself and offers to give the wizard 32 souls, including his own, in exchange for his daughter. To demonstrate that he really has them, Chas slits his own throat with a knife and dies, then comes back to life a minute later. It turns out that this is all part of a ruse to get close to Faust, upon which Chas grabs the man, pulls the pin on a hand grenade, and blows the both of them up. Chas will put himself back together again shortly, but Faust’s death releases all the children’s souls he had stolen. Daughter Geraldine wakes up from her coma, and Chas’ ex-wife starts to warm up to him again.
Even though the naming of the villain “Faust” is far too on-the-nose, and the visual effects for the climactic explosion are kind of terrible, this is probably my favorite episode of the series so far. Chas’ storyline and the explanation for his power are really compelling. Even so, improvements like this are probably too little, too late to save the show. Maybe I’m wrong and NBC will give it a reprieve, but I won’t hold my breath for that.