I’m going to start this recap off by saying two things: if you aren’t live Tweeting while watching Constantine, you’re doing it wrong, and if you aren’t #DrinkingforConstantine (yeah, that hashtag was totally necessary) while watching Constantine, you are also missing out. I very rarely watch anything live because DVRs have spoiled me—I like to fast forward through commercials. I make an exception for Constantine, though, because the cast and show runners all live tweet. Combined with the Hellblazer army, that makes for some very entertaining viewing. Picture watching this show with all your closest friends. Now multiply that by 100. Or 1000. Yeah, that’s what it’s like. Nothing short of brilliant. Added bonus: we’re using Twitter to #SaveConstantine (hashtag also necessary, don’t judge) and get a season two for our favorite show. #Hellblazer4Life. Join us. Now onto the recap for this week’s ep, “Rage of Caliban.”.
We open at night, on a house decorated for Halloween. Inside, sounds of a struggle. And a lot of blood. So much blood. On the ceiling, more blood and a man seemingly crucified to the ceiling. He begs for mercy and falls down, in front of a little girl who is hugging her knees, apparently shell-shocked by the scene.
Shortly after, the police arrive and a female cop comforts the shell-shocked kid. A male cop, who seems determined to pick a fight tries to call her away from the girl. The female cop excuses herself from the kid and has a bit of an argument with the guy cop on how to handle the situation. While this is happening, a cup of coffee on the counter between them goes all Jurassic Park with the ripple effect on its surface. The girl’s eyes turn demon black, the coffee mug explodes, and the guy cop, pulls his gun on the coffee cup. The female cop steps in to get everything settled down and walks the kid away from the kitchen.
To the delight of fangirls everywhere, we flash to a half-naked John Constantine in bed. He’s being rudely awakened by a woman, presumably last night’s hook-up, who is ready to kick him out in spite of his offer to cook breakfast because her boyfriend is coming over. Constantine says she didn’t tell him she had a boyfriend, but offers to set the table for three in the kind of off the cuff one-liner this show’s writers excel at. She refuses and sends him out the window after a last kiss, and we see him running down the driveway, still half-naked. Fangirls rejoice.
A bit later, at the Time Lord Mill of Awesome (you cannot convince me Constantine isn’t a Time Lord, I’m sorry), Chas says that while Zed’s away, Constantine is his problem. He asks where John wants to start, but John isn’t playing this game. He wants his breakfast, dammit, and abhors all attempts to take it away from him. He tries to shoo Chas off, but no go. Chas presents him with the Map of Bad Things, the one that tells them where the problem zones of rising darkness are. Constantine picks Birmingham because hey, it’s close, they can get there by lunch. (Constantine is apparently food motivated just like me.)
Shot of Birmingham’s statue of Vulcan later (shout out to my Birmingham friends who introduced me to that statue), and we arrive at the house from the intro segment. Chas gives Constantine the background of the crime and Constantine breaks into the place. Entering the house, he sniffs the air and licks a sticky spot on the wall, as you do. Suddenly the angel Manny appears, which John is less than pleased about. Manny wants to know what Constantine’s plans are for the upcoming battle with evil. John wants to know why he is so important in the grand scheme of things and Manny replies with a “damned if I know” type answer. Trying another tack, Constantine asks why the girl was spared from the attacks on her parents, and Manny gives an infuriating “Sorry, can’t tell you” answer. Apparently angels haven’t been able to provide direct answers since humans gained free will. What Manny can tell him is that the things Constantine used to deal with have gained in strength, so he should be open to other approaches. Whatever that means. Unfazed, John casts a spell and sees some of the events that happened last night, including the girl being possessed and that the spirit who possessed her has moved on and will be looking for someone else to hole up.
As if on cue, we’re at another house decorated for Halloween and a kid (Henry) is screaming that someone is in his room. His parents come to comfort him, and his mom reminds him that his imagination tends to run away with him at Halloween. Dad has him covered, though, and throws a scary Halloween mask at him—apparently Dad bought the whole costume so this year the other kids would be afraid of his kid. Dad gives him a pep talk and tells him that he just has to believe in himself. Mom wishes him sweet dreams. (As if, lady, this is Constantine, no one ever has sweet dreams.) And sure enough, once the parents are gone and the lights are out, the closet door creaks open. Henry turns his bedside lamp on, throws a pillow at the door to shut it, and turns the light out again, which is the mistake of his life because the camera reveals someone underneath his curtains, approaching his bed. Henry screams. Cut to commercial.
When we come back, the lights in the room are on and Henry is standing over by the window. His parents come running, asking if everything is okay. Henry apologizes, saying he doesn’t know why he screamed, and tells them they can go back to bed. Mom and Dad exchange a hopeful glance, Dad asks “really?” and Henry says he’s feeling much better. Riiiiighhhhht. Better in a “redrum” sense of the word, I’m sure.
Meanwhile, at a bar, Constantine is hunched over his cigarette and beer (I am constantly amazed and impressed at how many ways they work John’s smoking into this show). A woman with cleavage on display tells him that she could lose her paralegal license for meeting him, but she owes him, so she’ll give him a file she sweet talked out of someone from Child Services. (I think she might deserve to lose her paralegal license because that seems morally questionable.) The file is on the little girl from the beginning of the episode, who is apparently in protective custody now. Surprise, hers isn’t a unique case—there have been a rash of killings like this across the southeast US. They were never connected because there was a significant amount of time between the killings, but in the last month there have been three. And all three kids started pitching fits in the days leading up to the murders. Constantine figures that will happen when you have an evil spirit in you, and hopes that one of the kids remembers the name of the spirit possessing them, which might be enough to banish it. The paralegal says there’s no way to reach the more recent kids since they’re all in protective custoday, but one of the early survivors, Marcello Pannetti, lives nearby. In the local mental hospital.
An attendant at the mental hospital explains the details of the Pannetti double murder: Marcello went Lizzie Borden on his dad and threw his mother in the grain thresher for good measure. Understandably, he doesn’t get many visitors. When Constantine expresses doubt that a ten-year-old would be able to do that, the attendant explains that what goes around comes around. Apparently punishment for childhood misdeeds in the Pannetti household involved an axe and a bloody tree stump. Just when you’re thinking “What the hell kind of punishment would that be?” Constantine gets tired of Marcello not responding to his questions and takes a good look at the guy. In addition to having the ultimate “the lights are on but no one’s home” look on his face, Marcello is missing parts of various fingers. Ohhhhh. That kind of punishment.
Back at Henry’s house, things are going bump in the night and Dad gets up to investigate. He goes to the front door which is ajar, closes it, and belatedly asks who’s there. He tries to turn on a lamp, but it isn’t working, and we hear the tapping of a lightbulb on a table. Overhead lights aren’t working either. More tapping. Dad looks under the dining room table, where there is a collection of every lightbulb in the house. The chandelier sparks, revealing Creepy Henry. This scares the crap out of Dad and he falls over. Henry unconvincingly claims that he just walked in because he “heard noises.” Dad is busy pulling lightbulb shards out of his foot and says that he heard the same and thinks that someone was in their house. Henry thinks that this would be a good time to go back to his room, but cautions Dad to “be careful.” (This episode has convinced me never to have children, what about you?)
In the Time Lord Mill, Constantine is filling Chas in on his visit with Marcello and marking down where the attacks have occurred on a map. Chas suggests trying to find another survivor, but Constantine says there’s no time for that; the rising darkness means it’s going to kill again soon. But, he has a theory. Using an overlay that shows ley lines (“mystical trackways flowing with electromagnetic energy”), they can see that all of the murders have occurred along a specific ley line. The next victim is also going to be somewhere along that line, so at least they have a plan of action.
Henry is walking home from school when he gets barked at by a guard dog. The dog is barking its head off, pulling at its chain and snapping its jaws mere inches away from Henry, but he isn’t bothered. He stares at it, the dog’s collar seems to tighten, and it settles down subserviently on the ground. Henry-1, dog-0. Writers-1 for no actual violence against dogs, which is one of my triggers.
Back in the Mill, Constantine is scouring the shelves for something that will help them detect the spirit on the ley line. Chas picks up a sword and asks what it does. Constantine dismisses it, saying it won’t help, and Chas clarifies that he didn’t ask if it could help, he asked what it does, but as usual Constantine is “too self-involved to hear…like always.” Chas then goes on a tangent about Renee, but says he can’t talk to Constantine about her, and just when you’re wondering what the hell has gotten into Chas, Constantine takes the sword away. He explains that it’s the Sword of Night, which compels the holder to speak the truth. Since things in the room are already a little awkward, he asks Chas if there’s anything he wants to get off his chest, Chas says no, and they move on. Constantine finds something on the bookshelf, but says there’s no time to explain what it does because he has to find some frankincense. (“No time” is a recurring theme tonight.)
More arial photography of that statue of Vulcan, in case you forgot from everyone’s lack of Southern accents that we were in Birmingham. Henry’s Mom comes out to the yard with a knife because it’s time to carve jack-o-lanterns (this was originally supposed to be the second episode aired, which explains the jump back in time). She realizes she has forgotten markers and goes back in the house, leaving her really creep son with a massive butcher knife. (#PoorLifeChoices) In the amount of time it takes her to get a marker, Henry has laid waste to the giant pumpkins and is holding the butcher knife like he could go another ten rounds. Mom asks for the knife back, and Henry responds “I’m not done carving.” While the music raises to a level that indicates Mom is next on the list of things to be carved, she is oblivious and demands the knife back. Unbelievably for anyone who has ever seen a horror movie, she gets the knife back without incident, but Henry nods his head and makes a crow commit suicide against the back door of the house, where it explodes in a mess of blood and broken glass.
Constantine and Chas wander up a darkened road with John swinging a censer of frankincense. The frankincense suddenly takes a sharp left, which Constantine says means that it’s fleeing the presence of evil (suddenly the censers at Catholic mass are so much more interesting, aren’t they?). They’ve found their house. However because “hello, we tracked an evil spirit to your house. It might be in your kid, mind if we take a look” never works out, they decide to bide their time until there’s an attack.
The opportunity comes the next day, when Constantine is observing a schoolyard and sees Henry and another kid fighting. He tries to alert the playground monitor to it, but the teacher is understandably more concerned with the disheveled British guy in a trench coat hanging around a schoolyard full of kids. In the time the teacher is interrogating Constantine, Henry strikes again and uses his powers to throw the kid that was bullying him into a spinning merry-go-round on the playground. (Bonus points to the audio effects team, because that crunching/squishing sound is going to haunt me for a while.) While everyone runs toward the scene of the crime, Henry calmly rides the merry-go-round.
His mother isn’t so calm in the next scene, when she tells Henry that the bully had a fractured skull when he was admitted to her hospital and asks what he was doing. Dad is less upset and almost admiring when he asks Henry if it was self-defense. The tension between Mom and Dad rises, and Henry’s starting to make the knick-knacks in the room shake when the doorbell rings. It’s a slightly less scruffy Constantine (amazing what straightening your tie can do), who claims to be the new counselor at the school. Mom and Dad let him in saying that they can’t understand what happened because this is so unlike their boy. Constantine agrees, holding a root up close to Henry’s face. Henry screams and his parents demand to know what’s going on. Constantine admits that it was a mandrake root, (which evil spirits hate), that he’s an exorcist, and that Henry is possessed and he wanted them to know the truth. Dad is having none of this and knocks Constantine out with a right hook.
Constantine wakes up in a jail cell, propositioning his cellmate for booze and bemoaning how far he’s fallen since his time in the asylum. He claims that he’s cursed when it comes to kids “probably because I was such a wretched little bastard myself.” Camera pan to reveal that the cellmate has become Manny the angel, who suggests that John get some therapy for that whole issue. Constantine has no time for an angel who can’t help him, and Manny says that he can offer guidance, which John scoffs at since he’s made it this far with no angelic help. And then things get real and Manny asks how Constantine knows he wasn’t there when his dad abused him or when he wanted to commit suicide. But just as Constantine is about to give Manny a piece of his mind, Manny disappears and Constantine is left with his actual cellmate, who is now puking all over the floor.
Henry’s Mom and Dad are fighting again over how Dad handled Constantine. Mom reminds him that he’s a role model, Dad claims the boy has to learn how to handle himself, and Henry is having issues with the lack of anger management in his home and makes a bunch of stuff in his room explode. Mom catches sight of Henry’s demon eyes in the mirror when they go to investigate, and Dad belatedly gets on the “violence isn’t the way to handle things” train to calm him down. His speechmaking fades into the background as Mom looks at her son and knows without a doubt that the boy ain’t right.
Back in the jail cell, Constantine is in a somewhat compromising position when he gets a visitor: Henry’s Mom. She has one question for him: “What did you mean when you said my son’s possessed?” Apparently he’s convincing, because the next scene shows them at a table outside as Constantine shows her pictures from the other crime scenes. She tearfully admits that something is terribly wrong with her son, and Constantine tells her that sometimes kids’ souls don’t cross over, they act out. Mom wants to help her boy, but they’re up against the same problem: they don’t know who this spirit was when it was alive. Constantine could attempt an exorcism, but he’s still got a bit of baggage on that subject thanks to what went down with Astra in Newcastle. Rather than throwing the spirit out so that it can find another host, they’ll have to bind it to the spot, which means that Mom is going to have to participate in the seance. She agrees to do whatever it takes, at which point Constantine asks “You did say you were a doctor, right?”
We find out why this question is so important in the next scene. Henry is drawing angry pictures of a man with a bloody axe. Mom takes a deep breath and tells him she brought him some vitamins from work to make him feel better. In the form of a syringe. Whatever is in that syringe is definitely not vitamins, though, because it brings the spirit to the surface before knocking Henry out. Mom tells Dad that Henry’s asleep on the couch and that she’ll be back soon. Dad doesn’t show much of an interest in either of them and gives her a dismissive “see ya, hon.” I think there were problems in this family even before the kid got possessed.
At the Pannetti house, Mom meets Chas and Constantine gives her some of the background on the soul that’s in Henry. Since this is where the soul started its killing spree, its connection to the land makes the Pannetti house the ideal trap for it. Constantine talks about the house like it’s alive, which amps the creepy factor up to 11 even before birds start flying out of rooms and Chas appears out of nowhere. And of course, Constantine picks the room where the murders happen for the seance. He warns them that they have to hold hands and not break contact until he recites the binding spell. As Constantine summons the spirit, Henry starts twitching on the couch back at his house. The music surges, something opens the door to the murder room at the Pennetti house, everyone opens their eyes to look, and…it’s a three legged baby deer. Mom is looking for meaning in this, but Constantine declares it all a waste of time. Chas suggests that Marcello was never possessed and killed his parents on his own which would mean that the spirit had no connection to the house, but Constantine insists that doesn’t work with the ley lines. Mom is getting more twitchy by the second about Henry waking up and insists they have to get the spirit out of her son. Constantine drags his feet about an exorcism, but Mom says she trusts him to do this. Problem is, he doesn’t trust himself anymore. She pleads with him, and cut to demon Henry waking up in time for trick or treat.
Henry costumes up and oblivious Dad tells him he looks great as a zombie. At that moment Mom comes back with Constantine in tow to perform the exorcism. Mom and Dad argue about it, Constantine joins in the debate, and Henry loses his little demon mind, hurling a chair at his dad. This provides Constantine with the key he needs: conflict is the spirit’s trigger. Constantine quickly enchants a mirror to use as a shield, and Henry’s magic is bounced back at himself. He puts on his mask and heads out into the night, because if there’s one thing scarier for an audience than a possessed kid, it’s a possessed kid in a scary costume on Halloween night. Chas tries to stop him, but Henry hurls a car at him and pins him between two cars. Constantine goes off in pursuit of Henry, right into a haunted house.
In the most suspenseful five minutes of network TV I’ve seen all year, Constantine works his way through the haunted house as things jump out at them from all sides. Eventually he finds Henry in costume, and holds the mirror out in front of him in defense. The costume dissolves and a zombie mannequin pops out, shattering the mirror in the process. Understandably pissed at this turn of events, Constantine punches the mannequin. He turns around to find Henry, holding an axe, which gives him the final clue he needs to the puzzle: the “spirit” is Marcello. Constantine tries talking sense into it as Henry/Marcello flings him around like a rag doll, but it’s not having an effect. Marcello/Henry raises Constantine into the ceiling crucification pose we remember from the beginning of the episode, drops him to the ground, and starts swinging the axe. Constantine dodges and eventually gets his hands around Henry where he can bind Marcello “to your rightful place.” It’s over and Henry’s back to normal. Constantine takes him home, and in a voiceover explains that Marcello’s crime was so traumatic that his soul fled his body and continued the killing. Since a soul can’t cross over while the body’s alive, Constantine banished it back to Marcello’s body in the mental hospital, which is at least secure. As for his own inner child, healing it is the thing Constantine is dreading the most about the battle with the rising darkness, but he has to stop it or “the world will change forever.” Presumably into a place with creepy knife-wielding, bird and dog controlling children, FSM help us.
I say this every week, but Constantine is my favorite show of the week. And while I know that Friday night at 10PM is a horrible time slot for a show, I can see why the NBC execs put it there. This is a show that demands to be watched late at night in a darkened room—half the fan tweets in any given week are saying “I just jumped” or “I just screamed bloody murder” because of when it airs. It’s one of the best written, best acted, and best produced shows out there, and “Rage of Caliban” is a prime example of this—if I hadn’t found out from the live tweeting that it was meant to be the second episode of the season, I would never have known. It was just that well done. I’m almost sorry that it didn’t get its original Halloween air date for just that reason. You need to be tuning into this show if it isn’t already on your watch-list.
Oh, and for kicks? This week’s #DrinkingforConstantine items were “possessed kids, séance, Manny, John’s foreign tongues, British colloquialisms, and Chas pain. Look back at this recap and take a guess at just how much alcohol the What’cha Reading staff consumed while watching (let’s just say it was a damned good think I had leftover Thanksgiving wine). If you’re interested in playing with the Hellblazers next week, you want to follow @Charlie_Halford and check in with him before the show starts since he’s the one that calls the terms. And protip, write them down because you aren’t going to remember them once we start. Any time you see one, hashtag your tweet #DrinkingforConstantine. Another protip? Don’t even think of doing shots because you’ll be deader than Chas. This is a long game, friends, choose your beverage wisely.
We’ll see you next week…join us on Twitter. And sign this petition to get Constantine a second season!