Remember how last week’s episode was actually the 2nd episode of the series, retroactively fitted into the sixth episode slot? Somehow, “Blessed are the Damned” made that work, picking right up with “Caliban”’s clumsy excuse for Zed’s convenient absence. And while Chas was once again shunted off the scenes with but a line (“making good with his daughter,” supposedly), “Blessed Are The Damned” turned the spotlight on another underutilized cast member—Manny the Angel, whose function thus far in the series has been mostly superfluous. But after a brief trip to the Christian Revival scene in Kentucky, it’s starting to look like this show might be going somewhere…
What’s a preacher when he’s got no audience to preach to? That’s the problem Zachary’s facing when we first meet him in his crumbling church hall, with a depressingly few parishioners still hanging on for hope. Taking a note from his late father, Zachary tries to inspire the faithful by letting himself get bit by a poisonous snake—because hey, a little theatrics never hurts to liven up a service. That Zachary doesn’t die is the first miracle; the second is his newfound healing powers, which he uses to literally regrow the leg of an amputated parishioner. Okay, I’m intrigued.
Zed, of course, gets a psychic flash of snakes while she’s supposed to be painting a sexy naked dude in art class—coincidentally the exact reason why she missed the “Rage of Caliban.” She’s been painting the same naked guy for seven straight days straight, I guess, because it’s adorably awkward when he comes by (finally re-robed) and asks her on a date. Hey, at least she knows what she’s in for, eh?
Anyway, Zed and John head down to Kentucky to catch Zachary’s preaching show, now that he’s drawing a huge crowd of Christians from as far away as Poughkeepsie. During the mass, Zachary starts speaking in tongues, but it’s not your standard Glossolalia nonsense like the John the Baptist—it’s Enochian, which Constantine recognizes as the language of the angels. So for the first time ever, Constantine actually summons Manny willingly, wondering how a human might have learned his special language. Again, last week’s episode reshuffling, and the explicit reveal that angels cannot interfere directly with mankind, conveniently comes into play here, as we can tell that Manny’s got some dog in this fight and he does what he can to guide Constantine right towards it: an angel named Imogen, thrust unto the mortal plane after one of her feathers was stolen by a man (as Constantine acknowledges, it’s a pretty lousy design system if it only takes one lost feather to ground an angel).
Meanwhile, everyone who’s been healed by Zachary is turning into mindless, feral ghouls. Can you guess who’s got Imo’s missing feather? Of course you can, because that’s not the twist.
Throughout the episode, we’re treated to hints of Zed’s religious background. She uses her own faith to get closer to Zachary, ultimately stealing the feather back as he baptizes her in the lake. Once the feather is returned to Imogen’s wings, everything goes black as we realize that Imogen was in fact a Fallen Angel—not unlike that First of the Fallen that we’d heard about back in “Devil’s Vinyl”—and while she is technically an angel, she’s not on the side of angels, as it were. She wasn’t coming to bring Zachary to Heaven; he was already damned to Hell after killing a man in a hit-and-run. But Imogen tricked him into thinking she was an angel of mercy, knowing full well that he would steal her feather, his newfound “healing” powers creating this army of deadly ghouls in service of the Rising Darkness.
Whoops. But don’t worry, everything’s resolved when Manny possesses Zed’s body and literally punches Imogen’s heart out of her chest, which Constantine then keeps as a souvenir of pure evil. Oh, and that cute nude model from earlier? Yeah Zed totally bails on her date with him, and also he’s working for the mysterious people that are after her.
THOUGHTS & THINGS
I will say this for the show: even in its most standard procedural moments, it’s found a few cool third act twists along the way.
While I am still generally enjoying my weekly dose of Constantine, I’ll reiterate that it doesn’t do much to differentiate itself from the leagues of other supernatural detective dramas (themselves each a pale imitation of the Hellblazer comic series). Nor has there been much of a compelling season arc to bring the viewers back—as if NBC is relying on the sparkling charm of its misanthropic protagonist (which, admittedly, is a fair gamble when you have Matt Ryan in the title role). “Blessed Are The Damned” goes a long way towards advancing the larger season plot, inasmuch as there is one at all: impending conflict between Heaven and Hell, et cetera et cetera.
The episode functioned well enough on its own, but loyal viewers (are there a lot of people casually tuning in at 10pm on Fridays?) finally got a little something of what they’ve been waiting for. It wasn’t much, but it was still more than usual. Let’s recap:
- Zed is curiously obsessed with Christian iconography, to an almost fearful and debilitating fault. For Hellblazer readers, this heavily suggests that her secret backstory could be quite similar to how it plays out in the comics; for Constantine newcomers—well, I know from Christian guilt or my name isn’t Thomas Padraig Theodosius Dunn, but it’s clear that Zed has got me beat in that department some thousand-times over.
- Manny not only broke his Angelic oath not to directly intervene on Earth (although I guess technically he only went all Temple of Doom on an angel so maybe it doesn’t count), but on the other hand, we’ve now seen the Fallen Angels themselves do precisely that. This gives more weight to that whole “Vaguely Rising Darkness” thing, since now we’ve seen our feathered foes step up and take the active role in chaos that their more saintly kin cannot compete with. Furthermore and perhaps most importantly:
- Both Manny and Imogen the Fallen Angel regard humanity with some disdain, that The Big Man Upstairs would leave this paradise of free will to such selfish, stupid creatures as, well, us. Not the most original idea as far as Biblical fantasy fiction goes, but still an exciting take for this series—the idea that Heaven and Hell could just be flipsides of the same coin, with humanity caught in that moment of quantum entanglement before the coin ever lands. Or maybe that’s just my weird interpretation of it; either way, it finally gives stakes and levels to the larger season plot.
Other than that, I’m just really hoping that we’ll some day get to see Manny, Zed, and Chas in action alongside Constantine, all at the same time. We’re so close…
Thom Dunn once armwrestled Joss Whedon. And won. He is a writer and musician who enjoys Oxford commas, metaphysics, and romantic clichés (especially when they involve whiskey). Thom is a graduate of Clarion Writer’s Workshop at UCSD, and he firmly believes that Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” is the single worst atrocity committed against mankind. Find out more at thomdunn.net.