Sunday, December 14, 2014

Constantine, Season 1 Episode 8: The Saint of Last Resorts

So we have a big ornate building (a convent), nuns then a Spanish speaking couple with a new baby and a nun sneaking in sweets for the new mother. The convent is huge and spooky but everyone looks all bright and happy. I’m sure this will change soon.

Something clawed and robed reaches for the baby in the night – but the mother wakes up and screams. When the nun gets to her, her throat has been slashed and the baby is gone.

To the Mill where Zed is having dreams and drawing them – John identifies the creature as an Invunche which he thinks are extinct (he puts her visions down to a side effect of touching the fallen angel’s heart last episode).

And then a nun in her nightclothes appears looking for John (though not for the reasons Zed guesses). John recognises her as Anne-Marie – and she’s not really there, she’s a projected image from Mexico. She tells them about the attacker including the scar her cross left on her chest due to its presence – it’s clear she doesn’t like John much, but he owes her.

She returns to her body – and she has a picture of herself and John in younger punk days. Elsewhere a clawed, robed figure puts the baby in a cage.

John wants to leave Zed behind because of the whole Fallen Angel thing – Zed points out she’s the Spanish speaker and he’s going to Mexico. Zed guesses Anne-Marie was an old flame and John and she did sleep together – but she also got him into the occult and was there at Newcastle when the Bad Thing happened, like Gary. She also swore to kill him. Because of the personal drama, John is still leaving Zed behind and taking Chas.

So to Mexico, the Convent and two people who don’t speak Spanish, but they do find Anne-Marie in her habit (John did not know she was a nun) and she knows Chas. Alone, Anne-Marie tells John what happened and he attempts to flirt and be his usual self – much to Anne-Marie’s disgust since she thought Newcastle and Astrid’s fate should have changed him. She became a nun to repent for the séance – he throws back that he does help people (like flying to Mexico at a moment’s notice) and she brings up the names of the other people who experienced the séance. Definitely a lot of unpleasant tension there.

In the nursery John finds a big hole that Anne-Marie puts down to mice but John rattles off a list if “wall dwellers” that target children. Time to use woo-woo to discern what (and try and get rid of nosy nuns). Anne-Marie snarls at John for flirting with a nun (who was flirting with him, as he points out). They cast the runes and they catch fire – the monster is cloaking itself which means it’s more sophisticated than your average baby snatching monster. So they need to find the child – which means digging up a placenta.

On the way Anne-Marie and John keep sniping and their issues go deeper than Newcastle – John’s womanising and cheating on her also comes up and John’s vast ego. They dig for the placenta and find that the tree it’s buried under is now producing fruit made of flesh. Hey, does that count as vegetarian or not? When he cuts into one, it bleeds – and so do all the fruit on the tree. Human fruit means John knows who took the baby.

They also talk to the father who saw them – this is a discussion which calls for a lot of booze. The monster is one of Eve’s sisters – who said no to Adam and chose an eternity as goddesses of hell rather than service on Earth (John is quite sympathetic to that point of view). The father, Hugo, has a crisis of faith and Anne-Marie tries to reassure him while John is much more cynical. Anne-Marie snarls about John’s arrogance, John snaps back that he’s telling a man there are things they can do for his son beyond prayer. But Hugo learns another baby has been taken.

They go to the scene and they learn that the mother is alive and Hugo’s son’s (Matteo’s) girlfriend. Which distracts Hugo a little since he’s never met her and didn’t know he was going to be a grandfather. Catching the connection, John asks Hugo if he “pissed off gypsy” (it’s been a few episodes before Rroma were slurred, clearly Constantine felt the need to top up) before continuing woo-woo investigation on the understanding that Hugo’s family is being targeted.

John goes outside to cast a spell to try and identify the sister of Eve and Anne-Marie tries to stop him because it could get out of control. And John snaps – why did she call him if she didn’t want him to do anything? Saving lives means taking risks and making hard choices. He scorns her and tells her to “go and play” and let him work – she leaves and Chas follows her, smacking John for being unduly harsh.

Chas goes to see Anne-Marie and has a nice insight: “he’d rather risk your feelings than any other part of you”, a way John deals with what happened in Newcastle. He adds that John can’t let people get close – as he did with Anne-Marie.

John prepares his ritual and is interrupted by the flirty nun from earlier who is very insistent in stopping him – he checks the water and sees her reflection. He asks the nun’s name – running through the names of Eve’s sisters; Lilith and others – her name invoked she turns to flash claws and fangs. She tries to drown him in the fountain and he stabs her- she runs leaving spurting black blood behind.

Anne-Marie treats John’s arm and he tells them that Sister Luisa is Lamashtu – who normally eats babies. So what makes Hugo’s family so special. Time to see his grandmother in case his family has any secrets. When she hears what happened she says the brujeria (witchcraft?) are back. John explains they were powerful warlocks in what is now Chile who went into hiding aeons ago (why a pre-Chilean cult of warlocks would have a Spanish name that just means “witchcraft” is a little dubious). She left Chile because her grandfather was one of the Brujeria.

John is doubtful, the Brujeria are so powerful that he can’t imagine they wouldn’t have heard of it already – he’s also scared and worried because he doesn’t have magic powerful enough to face them. Then he remembers the Rising Darkness – yes, the weekly reminder of the Ominous thing of Ominousness (no spellcheck? Wow, ominousness is actually a word?) – he decides the Brujeria are not just a symptom of the Rising Darkness, but maybe the cause of it. Anne-Marie also continues their past argument and has a revelation – John doesn’t care about people because he can’t afford to and do what he does while she also acknowledges that she did run away, becoming a nun wasn’t just about salvation and redemption – it was about hiding.

Faced with discussing his feelings, John has a revelation of a trap they can lay for Lamashtu – using Hugo’s blood. By using his blood, magic and a chicken they can convince Lamashtu it’s a baby and follow her – but they need an apparent mother. John talks about dressing as a woman but it’s pretty clear he actually expects Anne-Marie to do it and she’s quite capable of seeing that. He all but admits it and adds that they’re babies – they can’t refuse to risk for them. She agrees and thanks him for being honest

Before they offer up the chicken, John tries to convince Anne-Marie that she had nothing to feel guilty for about Newcastle, it was his fault; but she counters she took a vulnerable, abused 15 year old (John) and introduced him to the occult. John is her failure. More flirting and tenderness and he kisses her. Then she kisses him back – and kissing him like that must be worth a few hail maries.

Anne-Marie makes the offering and Lamashtu arrives and falls for it – but Hugo starts shooting at her before John manages to stop him. Without Hugo they go into the tunnels and find the babies and Lamashtu finds them. John demands to know why she’s working for the Brujeria – and threatens to kill the baby she needs if she doesn’t answer (much to Anne-Marie’s horror). Lamashtu reveals that the Brujeria have discovered how to bring Hell to Earth with no boundary between them

To stop Lamashtu, John invokes Azuzu, her demonic ex-lover/god who doesn’t like her much any more. This leads to a lot of burning water and Lamashtu being pulled into a burning fiery portal. Anne-Marie takes the babies.

As they leave they hear another baby cry and see a monster… a horrible horrible monster – one of the Invunche that Zed painted and are apparently extinct (I’d also decide that saving 2/3 babies is an awesome score and it’s time to run). He has no idea how to fight it and they can’t outrun it – so Anne-Marie decides she has one choice: shoot John and while it attacks him, she can run with the baby. John compliments her on being a quick study – and she shoots him. She runs, John falls.

At the Mill, back in the US, spooky things are happening. When Zed opens a door, there’s just a vast void of nothingness behind it. Zed seems to put this down to some of the random things the Mill does – or maybe even her own visions – and goes shopping for art supplies (against John’s advice).

There she runs into Eddie, the sexy model with nefarious purposes. He takes her for drinks (while sending a text to his evil boss). In the middle of drinks she has a vision of them in a vault, and the door closing. She decides to take Eddie back to the Mill. There she kisses him – then hits him and pins him and talks about her friends coming home and interrogating him. He tells her her father wants her home – and calls her Mary. Zed knocks him out.

Eddie wakes up and says “our” father wants what’s best for her – Zed calls him on that but remarks he could be her brother since she spent her childhood in a locked room. He calls her their salvation and goes on to ramble about them being a crusade with believers everywhere. And other people enter the mill – one with a gun. When she threatens to kill Eddie if they don’t back off, they shoot him. Well that’s his value as a hostage. The man then pulls a hypodermic, planning to knock her out.

She runs and fights, knocking one of her attackers into the great big void in a cupboard. The other attacker succeeds in drugging her.

John and Anne-Marie are interesting together because they both have points. John is reckless and he certainly is arrogant and there are parts of his personality that are abrasive quite aside from the hard choices. And his arrogance has certainly cost people. The flip side is, Anne-Marie’s faith and hope are not effective (seeing Manny flap in to do nothing episode after episode makes that apparent if nothing else). To fight the darkness they have to act, they have to take risks and even do terrible things – Anne-Marie’s morality wouldn’t save these babies, as is apparent by her bringing John in in the first place.

This comes a nice full circle with Anne-Marie’s revelation of why John can’t care about people – because to do what he does he has to be, sometimes, harsh, cruel and brutal. Which is backed up by him having to ask Anne-Marie to take a risk – like with Gary, he’s forced to risk and sacrifice others for the sake of the greater good.

This is what Constantine does well. No good choices, no easy way out, not even something where he can nobly sacrifice himself – it’s the brutal necessity of risking and sacrificing others. And then, of course, we have the brutal conclusion of that – Anne-Marie sacrificing John.

I do have a minor pet issue with Lamashtu. She is a female monster who eats babies in mythology – but she’s Sumerian, not Judeo-Christian. I know it’s inevitably something that happens a lot on these kind of shows (Supernatural is the worst offender) but I’m not entirely happy with acknowledging other mythologies and beings from within them exist – and then clumsily ramming them in to Judeo-Christian beliefs. I much prefer to see them existing in parallel, than making then subsets of an already dominant belief system

I think we need an aside about Hugo’s dead wife. Because Hugo assures them his family has no secrets, so they assume there must be a buried secret – is there a reason why we don’t consider his wife’s family may be the source of secrets? Or consider her at all? Even a simple “Matteo is my child by my first wife” (especially since she seemed quite a lot younger than Hugo) would be simple enough to narrow it down to Hugo’s family being the direct source without just ignoring her entirely

Zed has got her own story along with some nice backstory – this gives me a lot of hope for some goodness to come. Except… there is no good reason why John wouldn’t have taken Zed with him to Mexico, especially given the fact she speaks Spanish (possibly as a first language). And I also smell a rescue mission coming up.