Constantine Season 1 Episode 4: “A Feast of Friends” Review. “John Constantine is the dog’s nuts“
Directed by: John F. Showalter, Episode Written by: Cameron Welsh, Series created by David S. Goyer and Daniel Cerone.
Following our introduction to trainee medium Zed Martin (Angélica Celaya) in episode 2 – The Darkness Beneath and the demon weapon collector and Voodoo priest Papa Midnite (Michael James Shaw) in last weeks episode – Devils Vinyl, episode 4 of Constantine introduces us to another big character from the Hellblazer series John’s mate Gary Lester (Northern Irish actor Jonjo O’Neill) as he arrives in Atlanta after a drug and alcohol induced binge which took him from Newcastle to the Sudan. He’s brought with him to Atlanta a hunger that no one would want to experience. As another side of John Constantine (Matt Ryan) is revealed can he solve the mystery in Atlanta and help out this old friend from his Newcastle Crew?
Full Spoilers for the episode 4 – A Feast of Friends follow.
Gary “Gaz” Lester arrives in the Atlanta airport, just off a flight from Sudan, sweating and looking nervous and it’s no wonder the security guard take him in for further questioning. During his interview at the airport we discover that Lester is carrying an artifact with him from Khartoum containing the hunger demon Mnemoth. An entity that gets it’s strength from humanity’s compulsive desire to consume. The artifact is smashed leading to the release of Mnemoth who possesses the body of the security official.
From the exciting opening of the episode throughout the first half of “A Feast of Friends” the character of Gary Lester is laid bare. A former hanger-on of Constantine, Gary had more money than sense. Always trying some form of “Party drug” the events of Newcastle pushed him over the edge into full blown heroin addiction. While we get a few more details about the incident with the young girl Astra in Newcastle – “A city in the North of England with bad weather and a worse football team” – the whole picture is still being kept back by Constantine as only snippets of the incident get drip fed to Zed and the audience. Wracked with guilt Gaz went on a massive drink and drug binge after the incident and didn’t contact John again. Only coming to him now when he needs help.
There’s a great interplay between the central three characters in the episode. As Zed learns about Gary Lester’s addiction through her psychic touch to connect with Gary, which he uses against her later in the episode as a weapon and it shows the depths he will sink to. The insistence of Zed that Gary was “wracked with guilt, he’s going after the demon himself” which she knows as she’s connected directly with his mind only to be corrected by Constantine “He’s told you that did he? That’s not what’s happening,”…”I see the truth, Gary’s hopelessly addicted to heroin and let me give you a tip about addicts, between thought and action comes temptation, always” is a very well written scene. When John’s suspicions are confirmed and Gary has in fact run out to get some heroin rather than fighting the demon it’s heart-breaking and from this point onwards you know Gary is doomed. It’s nice to see the role of Zed expand in this episode into more of an emotional challenge to John. This scene between them with Zed experiencing Gary’s withdrawal symptoms and his lies to himself lead to this heartfelt discussion between her and John. We hope to see the impact of John’s actions play out in their relationship in future episodes.
While “Feast of Friends” is based on Hellblazer issues #1 and #2 and is a very faithful adaptation, some of the finer details have obviously been excluded. It’s a pity that Papa Midnite couldn’t be worked in as the shaman that John turns to for help to solve the problem of Mnemoth’s strength. However, given their run-in the last episode it may of felt a little contrived for an audience to buy into Midnite helping John so soon. The scene with the shaman Nomo and John taking the greatest drug in the world was an excellent piece in both Constantine’s tripped out humour and the visual effects with John “tripping balls” in the pursuit of why Mnemoth is so powerful and his connection to The Rising Darkness.
One piece that has been simplified is the attraction of the demon Mnemoth to people who have addictions. While it’s called out that the demon is responsible for famines in African nations, in the source material Mnemoth drives a comic addict to eat his own precious comic books and Gary back to his drug addiction making him more sympathetic than simply a pathetic junkie unable to control his addiction.
John’s sacrifice of his “mate” Gaz, though signposted a bit throughout the episode, feels genuinely shocking and is a fascinating early revelation on John Constantine’s attitude and ruthlessness in this demonic world. He’s not willing to do anything to save a friend but he is willing to do absolutely anything to save the world regardless of the impact on his soul. The end of the episode with John and the dubiously intentioned Angel Manny (Harold Perrineau) watching over the screaming, now possessed Gary Lester as Bear McCreary’s beautiful score plays is the best scene we’ve had in the show so far. It is both a deeply touching and tough ending and it is a quality scene in what it portrays that makes Constantine appointment TV.
Constantine, starring Matt Ryan, Angélica Celaya, Harold Perrineau and Charles Halford, airs on NBC in the USA and will return at 10PM next Friday the 21st November for episode 5 “Danse Vaudou” with an introduction to another well know DC Comics character. Constantine is also available in the UK through Amazon Prime Instant Video the day after broadcast on NBC in the US.
Review copy of Constantine – Feast of Friends provided by NBC