Sunday, February 8, 2015

Constantine, Season 1, Episode 12: Angels and the Ministers of Grace

A woman, Taylor, walks through a poor, run down neighbourhood looking very nervous and clearly 
standing out. When a man asks her why she’s back there, she says her brother’s funeral is tomorrow. She buys two syringes of drugs from him.

She leaves, watched by something ominous and as she takes the drug all the electric lights around her explode in a shower of sparks. That’s probably not a good thing. A man/monster leaps out and attacks her, injecting her with both syringes and she dies as her veins turn black.

The cops arrive and examine her body, suggesting she was beaten to death. But her veins keep moving –and she wakes up, albeit with lots of shaking and nose bleeding

At the Mill, Zed is using some of the more calming magical woo-woo of the place to try and get a rest, a break from her visions, after the being put in hospital by the last attempt to communicate with a soul. Chas is all for this, John wants her back in the field (which would be kind of laughable given the number of times she’s been sidelined or left behind).

Manny also drops in because John makes a sarcastic comment about taking a holiday and he decides that they all need reminding of how evil the Burjeria is. John in turns snarks back with how little help Manny is giving; he’s also leery to take cases from Manny because he suspects manipulation. He’d rather use the scrying map – so Manny burns it. The Burjeria is all over, not just in the places on the map; he wants them to rely on signs, instincts and Zed’s visions rather than confining themselves to the map.

So the job is Taylor who has been taken to hospital which means they need to get into the same hospital – so they injure Chas. They get Zed to vision-grope the unconscious woman she sees darkness and a light that looks a lot like an angel that was also intensely painful. Taylor’s pulse drops causing the usual medical controlled panic.

While they try to resuscitate Taylor, Zed has a seizure.

She’s taken to an MRI while John pretends he isn’t worried to Chas (while clearly being so). John focuses again on Taylor and wanting to examine the body (she died) when a large man comes in with a wound from a bar fight (and missing a lot of skin on his face that he is having treated long term). He gives the nurse a whole lot of attitude and John takes an interest. I assume this will be relevant later

One spell on the body later and they learn Taylor’s corpse is full of dark matter, which it really shouldn’t be. Back on the case – though Chas insists John check on Zed first. The doctor tells Zed she has a mass in her brain, possibly a tumour, which would explain her headaches, passing out and even her visions (though John is quick to point out her visions aren’t medical). John and Zed talk and John tries to insist there’s no physical cause of her visions but Zed is more leery – and just because her visions are mystical doesn’t mean she isn’t dying

Zed goes to the roof – and meets Manny, cursing the angel for not telling them about Zed’s tumour, demanding Manny fix it and furious that he kept telling Zed to push through the pain and keep having visions. Manny tries the clich√©d “it’s not your fault” (John’s blaming you, Manny). Manny says John can’t fix it, nor can Manny – and to get back on the job. And John magically knocks Manny out.

With Manny unconscious, John carves a symbol into the angel’s chest, which fades as he completes his spell. John has decided to take Manny’s advice and “focus on what he can control” so he’s bound Manny to the ground. With Zed down and Chas researching, John has turned Manny into his bound servant; until the spell wears off. Manny isn’t a fan of this and he quickly points out the downside – when Manny possesses a human he loses the heavenly hosts knowledge and all of its power. John’s rejoinder is actually kind of awesome “it’s not like you were using them anyway”. John follows the evilly flickering lights

Now it’s the drunken maintenance guy’s turn to be attacked by the monster that causes black veins to appear – but drugs don’t appear to be involved.

John and Manny head into the hospital, Manny checking a mirror to see he still looks like the doctor he’s possessing. They find the mangled body of the janitor. And Manny is squeamish – he’s never had to deal with the smell of death or a human body while looking at the messily dead. He’s also not thrilled to see John probing the corpse; inside which is a black heart, part of a whole dark sorcerer legend Manny recites. The evil sorcerer’s power was turned into a Black Diamond which was then shattered and bits of it spread across the world. Each fragment causing death and nastiness like this.

John sets Manny to research the victims to see if they have any connection. Manny is not amused. But helpful nurse does flirt with him leaving him all confused – even when she pulls him into a cupboard to have sex. The nurse and the doctor Manny’s possessing are having an affair and Manny is rather stunned by this.

John returns to the Mill for more research and Chas wants to hear about Zed – despite John desperately trying to avoid the subject. When he hears the news, Chas tells John someone should be with her, but John focuses on the case. The Mill has one of these black diamond fragments in storage and John decides it’d be a great idea to test this on Chas. It’s unpleasant

John goes back to see Manny (and, amusingly, tells him to not bother feeling embarrassed as it’s a kind of useless emotion). Manny also feels guilty because he feels he used a woman to combat the body’s feeling of lust while John mocks him for feeling guilt about two people experiencing pleasure. John also continues to taunt him about how difficult it is to be human. Manny asks how John gets anything done “a little bit of denial and a whole lot of gin.” Yes, John is loving this.

Still Manny has found a link between the two – Taylor and Duncan were both addicts who had kicked the habit but then fallen off the wagon. Manny is enraged at them throwing away their second chance and wonders if the killer feels the same. John again tries to dodge Zed but even Manny sees how wrong this is – “she’s ill John, if you can’t talk to her now when can you.”

Manny also identifies Morris, the angry man with the skin grafts who killed his whole family when he fell asleep when drunk and smoking.

Over to Zed who is in two minds about having the tumour removed (since it may cause her visions). She also recognises that Manny isn’t human. He tells her who he is and he can’t give her answers but helps her think through the good her powers come – and that they’re a gift from god, not evil which needs punishing with a tumour.  We need far more scenes like this.

John tracks down Morris – to find him being attacked by the monster when he goes out to smoke. John runs in – and gets thrown across the room, knocked unconscious. When he comes to, he and Manny see Morris’s body

While Manny tries to convince John, again, that Zed’s illness isn’t his fault and that casualties are inevitable in war, he lets slip some things about Zed’s doctor, Gaelin. John puts it together and realises the doctor is the killer.

Over to Zed who is getting dressed to check out of hospital – and Gaelin who doesn’t understand why she is throwing her second chance away. Gaelin gets angry which is when John and Manny arrive to confront him – the shrapnel in his heart (which he explained earlier he got serving as a medic in Iraq) contains part of the black diamond. When john waves his own diamond around, Gaelin loses it, running, slash Manny’s arm in the process

John and Manny chase him, telling Zed to stay behind but she remembers her vision and follows. As they run through the spooky archive full of dead ends, Zed hurriedly explains the holy light in her vision: Manny. John quickly reverses the spell binding Manny (much to Manny’s annoyance because John told him it was timed and he couldn’t end it early). The doctor is un-possessed (and faints as the monster appears)

John prays for intercession – and Manny appears, with full wingspan. John explains to Zed that heavenly light is the only thing that can fight dark matter. Manny wraps Gaelin in his wings, telling him his time is over and peace awaits – it’s all very heavenly and awesome. They vanish, leaving only the shards of the Black Diamond behind.

Epilogue – Zed in church and John joins her. And Manny zaps in – and Zed can see him. He asks about her surgery and she says she’s not having it as John taught her magic has its costs. There;s lots of comfort and meaning between Manny and Zed, John snarks away.

On Manny. See this is where better inclusion in the series and prominent POC actually appearing as regular characters and doing things would make this whole storyline better and more fun. Because I would LOVE to see the ineffectual, constantly judging and chiding angel actually having to get his hands dirty and seeing what it’s really like. I love the idea of an angel being squeamish and not dealing well at all to being John’s sidekick. I love him being so out of depth in the human world. I love turning the tables on his judgemental self

But I hate that the series only regularly appearing Black man except Papa Midnite (which is both stretching the definition of “regularly appearing” and he comes with his own pack of tropes) gets involved in an episode after being nearly ineffective for months because John, effectively, traps and enslaves him. I hate that Manny, an angel, finally gets to do something but has to be completely depowered first. I hate that this all happens in an episode where Zed, yet again, is shuffled away from the main action.

It helps a lot that Zed’s vision is the end guide and that Manny is the end solution – but at the same time how often do we see Manny able to act? There’s some cosmic loophole because dark matter it seems. At least there was a last second aversion of Manny’s servitude and a return of his power but the whole thing could have just been so much better if Manny was more commonly involved, or Zed wasn’t so commonly benched.

And this really shows how tropes can be a real problem in media and how we need to work to subvert them and have decent, developed inclusion so we can appreciate the decent parts of a scene like this without the backage that both the media in general and this show in particular has pandered to.

Is it just me or, since we learned about Chas being only LIMITEDLY immortal, they seem to have become much more casual about risking Chas’s life?

John’s starting every day imagining everyone he knows dead is a nice little moment – it doesn’t need overwhelming or extending, just that simple story of how John copes with the fact everyone around him dies. That is a nice moment and very well done – and part of what Constantine could be and is when it is at its best.