In the past two weeks, genre TV has treated viewers to their own kind of sugary Halloween candy: Fox’s Sleepy Hollow and Bones collided, and this week Arrow welcomed Constantine. While the former had flexibility with a bonus hour, Arrow utilized its sparse time to beckon John Constantine of NBC’s Constantine. But it wasn’t perfect.
Rushed and lacking crucial scenes between Constantine and the rest of Team Arrow that would have been downright fantastic, “Haunted” is like a sprint with a friend when you were promised a nice jog.
To its credit, “Haunted” does some amazing exposition lifting. It was expected that Constantine would meet sometime in Oliver’s past, but using Constantine to explain the mysticism of the island that has — ahem, haunted Oliver was ace. Then, Constantine gifting Oliver the mysterious tattoo on his envy-inducing six-pack solves a mystery that has gone unanswered for far too long. As a bonus, it leaves a tiny hope that Constantine’s presence won’t be entirely forgotten in the future, even if Matt Ryan won’t ever return to the Vancouver set.
It’s not just Oliver’s sweet ab tat either. The rest of Team Arrow put to bed some things that have — sigh, haunted them. Laurel and Oliver finally get to the bottom of their tension, which is that Ollie never accepted Laurel as on his or Sara’s level. Thea finally confesses to Laurel that she killed Sara and that the two are locked in an endless bloodlust. Finally, Diggle gets his own slice and discovers the darker nature of his murdered brother.
What Arrow sacrifices in precious Constantine screen time is made up for some quick as hell plot advancement. But that doesn’t mean Constantine is wasted.
The real reason that Constantine lasted as long as it did was due to Matt Ryan’s charisma. The man was born to play Alan Moore’s sarcastic sorcerer, and in the (I’m eyeballing) ten minutes of screen time he has he absolutely steals all of it. He’s a phenomenal yang to the stiff Oliver yin. He doesn’t exchange many words with Thea, Felicity, Diggle, or even Captain Lance and everyone flat out ignores that Oliver has revealed his Green Arrow identity to him, which should have been a gigantic deal. But their passing glances and eye-rolling to Constantine’s quips show glimpses of that could have been. What if Constantine was a hit and managed regular appearances in Arrow? What kind of comedy gold have we been robbed of?
The callbacks to Constantine further remind fans the possibilities that are now no longer available. Of course were never going to get answers to the dangling questions Constantine left. But the business card, the lighter, dating his experience with exorcisms to “About a year ago,” all accompanied by cues to Bear McCreary’s theme nearly brought a tear to my eye.
But I didn’t cry because I didn’t have time to breathe. “Haunted” runs at such a relentless pace that it doesn’t indulge. Everyone’s plot arcs may have been solved but none of them left much of an impression. The episode is so preoccupied to getting to the next thing — Constantine’s three sentences he exchanges with the others is noticeable because of the speed that “Haunted” runs.
Still, it was better than Sleepy Hollow and Bones. As I wrote last week, Sleepy Hollow didn’t make the most of Bones, opting for literally one of the guests to do one thing — fire a gun — before they promptly hit the road. While Arrow had the advantage of involving just one, Constantine embedded himself into Arrow’s action. I criticized Sleepy Hollow for not involving Bones’ FBI agent with Abbie and Crane in the Halloween showdown against the zombie redcoats, even though it practically wrote itself.
Constantine not only performed Sara’s restoration, but he led Green Arrow and Canary to Sara’s trapped soul (which I admit looked like a lame struggle in a Lazarus Pit the size of a kiddie pool) and did some Darth Vader-esque sword fighting with magic. A tad out of character? Yeah, but it fucking rocked.
The template for amazing crossovers still belongs to Arrow and The Flash. Either hour of the “two-part” episodes last season remain incredible TV and provides the perfect templates for ambitious criss-crossing that doesn’t reek of fanfiction. “Haunted,” featuring Constantine, is far from a perfect episode that is plagued with a breathless speed, but that just means it’s like a rollercoaster.
And it’s a hell of a ride.