Before He's on 'Arrow,' Get Familiar With John Constantine
The Hellblazer is coming to Star City soon. Here's your chance to get reacquainted.
John Constantine is coming to Star City.
On the Nov. 4th episode of Arrow, Matt Ryan will reprise his role as the streetwise, chain-smoking magician and con man from the short-lived NBC series Constantine.
An adaptation of the Hellblazer comics from DC/Vertigo, Constantine aired during the Fall 2014 season and was a hit with fans (Ryan was praised for making the popular character feel realized) but scored low in the ratings. Its niche appeal and huge budget spelled an early death for the horror procedural drama, totaling just 13 episodes.
But true to Constantine, who in Hellblazer once tricked the devil into curing his lung cancer, the character cheated TV death and will have one last rodeo on The CW’s Arrow.
But what could we expect from the beige coat mage from London during his stay in Star City? Today, I’m looking back at his 13-episode season to provide some ideas.
Constantine begins with exorcist and “master” of the dark arts John Constantine checked in to the mental asylum Ravenscar. John is wrecked with guilt, serving penance for failing to rescue a little girl named Astra from hell by the demon Nergal in an incident he refers to as “Newcastle.” Paying for his failure, Constantine’s soul is damned and he’s wasting away behind brick and concrete.
After he receives a message from a friend from beyond the grave, Constantine sets off to find his friend’s daughter Liv who is living a normal, if unspectacular life. But she wields a powerful sixth sense she does not understand, and she’s being hunted by a cabal of evil, the Brujería, capitalizing on a “Rising Darkness” where malevolent magic grows more powerful each day. Constantine, together with best mate Chas who is struggling with a power of his own, task themselves with protecting her. During this time, Constantine meets his guardian angel Manny, who has been ordered by heaven to watch over him, for the first time.
Unable to handle the pressure of facing the Brujería, Liv skips town, but not without leaving a gift: a map that plots out where the Rising Darkness is at its most concentrated. (Behind the scenes, actress Lucy Griffiths was unable to commit to a full season’s worth TV.)
Not long after Liv leaves, Constantine meets Zed Martin, an artist blessed (or cursed) with clairsentience. Stubborn and hot headed, she forces her way into his and Chas’ operation after helping John solve a mystery in a small mining town in Pennsylvania.
In the series’ third episode, Constantine encounters his greatest rival, the voodoo priest and crime lord Papa Midnite. Possessing a cursed record that has the devil’s voice, Midnite hopes to use it to bargain for his soul but is stopped by Constantine and swears revenge.
Throughout the show Constantine, Zed, and Chas find themselves from New Orleans to Mexico City to Brooklyn, making friends — like Detective Jim Corrigan, destined to become The Spectre had the series continued — and enemies, like the demon Pazuzu and the villainous super mage Felix Faust. John is also reacquainted with old friends from his past, all of whom were involved in Newcastle and dealing with the repercussions of that night in their own way.
In the series finale, John, Zed, and Jim Corrigan rescue a young girl from a devil-worshipping serial murderer who has been strangling virgin girls after “marrying” them. Slightly heartbroken that Zed has chosen to be with Jim, Constantine confronts Manny about the Rising Darkness but does not get the answers he seeks.
In the last moments of Constantine, Papa Midnite tries to claim a bounty on John’s head placed by the Brujería. Turns out, it was Manny who placed the bounty and reveals himself to be at the head of the Brujería. But Manny declares the hunt for John off and that he’s “off limits” for now.
The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist, but how about convincing the world he’s an angel?
It is unknown what Manny’s true intentions were, if he really was an angel or the Devil himself, and why he wanted to kill John Constantine in the first place. Constantine was not picked up by NBC for a second season, and efforts to shop the series to other networks like Netflix, Hulu, or NBC Universal network Syfy proved fruitless.
But John Constantine will return in Arrow. The producers have confirmed that Constantine will have a hand in resurrecting Sara Lance, who will go on to fight as the White Canary in the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow crossover.
In this week’s episode, “Restoration,” Laurel and Thea will bring Sara’s body to Nanda Parbat, the home of Malcolm Merlyn and the League of Assassins. They are in possession of the mythical Lazarus Pit, an enchanted pool that can bring the dead back to life, but if Constantine is supposed to be involved we can guess that the Pit just won’t work the way they want it to.
It’s unlikely that John will get to resolve any unfinished business, be it with Manny, the Brujería, or Astra and Nergal. (Only Matt Ryan is contracted to guest star.) Arrow isn’t his show, but Constantine’s world is firmly in the DC TV universe now. Hell and damnation exists below Star City’s relentless crime and Central City’s gateway to Earth-2 (Man, the DC Universe is kind of fucked up), and that’s where Constantine will forever dwell.
It’s certainly better than being dead.
Update: An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that Constantine is guest starring in “next week’s” episode. His episode will air Nov. 4. That mistake has been corrected.