Previously on Constantine: Sister Anne Marie hobbled John so she could escape an invunche. The cult of Zed’s Dad kidnapped Zed. We all came to the striking realization that we’re still only halfway through the season. “The Saint Of Last Resorts: Part 2” picks up right there in the sewers with John and the invunche. He casts a demon, Pazuzu—the demon he used to defeat the big bad of the previous episode—into himself in order to survive the gunshot and the invunche. It works in this magnificently anticlimactic way. They stare each other down like they’re posing for the Alien Vs. Predator poster, and that’s that. The invunche slinks off to, what, feast on the rest of Mexico? This episode has bigger fish to fry. The Zed escape is equally half-assed. Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy to watch Zed burst free of a van, tackle her attacker while handcuffed, and stick him with his own sedative syringe. But the overriding feeling of the first few minutes is what we predicted: That’s it?
Don’t leave too soon, though, because the rest of the episode is a party. Start with that cut from Zed saying, “Hopefully we can find him before he hurts someone else,” to that God’s-eye shot of John passed out on the asphalt bloody. Pull back a little farther and we see somebody else passed out with a gun to his head. Nope, it’s a severed arm. And make that five dead somebodies scattered all around John. And the cops are here. The greater the slaughter, the funnier it is. It’s a beautiful, wordless encapsulation of Constantine’s black-comic horror.
So John goes to Mexican prison, which will make it harder for him to self-exorcise. But notice how many ways “The Saint Of Last Resorts: Part 2” corrects previous narrative failures. First, it doesn’t skip many steps, and the big one it does (John getting into a fight with those gangsters), comes at the beginning instead of the ending (like way back when those henchmen played the Devil’s music at that club and killed some college kids), where it matters more. So here John meets with a British consular officer, then John trades the officer’s wallet he apparently pickpocketed (a surprise joke!) for information about the yard, then he starts looking for supplies for his exorcism in the chapel. Meanwhile Chas picks up Zed, they have to convince Anne Marie to help them, then Anne Marie has to locate John—two bodies are better than one—and last they have to sneak into prison. Some of the inmates are in the gang whose members John, well, Pazuzu demolished, so they try to take their revenge. Plus there’s the issue of sneaking back out of prison.
That last dilemma is especially specific to these particular characters and circumstances. See, the escape plan is that Chas and Sister Anne Marie are escorting a deceased inmate (John, strung out on heroin to slow down Pazuzu) out. That generic situation isn’t the obstacle. The obstacle is that the exit guard has a broken nose courtesy of Chas. When Chas tells Anne Marie about the issue, she takes a second and breathes into her rosary. Suddenly, across the street, there’s a second Anne Marie, just in underwear, waving at the guard for help because someone’s robbed her. It’s hilarious. The narrative goes a little overboard here—that joke is funny enough to sell the rest of the escape, but instead there’s a bit of suspense about whether the distraction will work and how convincing the fake Anne Marie looks—but it’s a good example of improvement number two: The plotting of “The Saint Of Last Resorts: Part 2” isn’t very generic.
For its last trick, the episode actually takes its time with the climax. For all the incident it crams into the plot, each sequence is a little bit longer than the last. The episode builds. Don’t take that for granted. One late act takes Sister Anne Marie from beginning the exorcism to a moment of profound doubt that the writing doesn’t really sell, but at least you get a sense that the hard part isn’t tracking down the target. It’s actually getting rid of the demon itself.
The episode is further underpinned by a lot of character and relationship development. Almost none of this works as well. Maybe if the series to this point had been as deft with motivations and backstory as this episode, it might actually matter to us when Pazuzu says with John’s voice that Sister Anne Marie is a failure. Or when he taunts Chas about his dead family. Or tells Zed she’ll go crawling back to her daddy. “Barely worth his one night of pity” is a sharp bit of dialogue thrown Anne Marie’s way, but even that’s generic. The structure is getting more sophisticated, but the characters are still two-dimensional.
For the most part. Matt Ryan is beastly throughout “The Saint Of Last Resorts: Part 2.” John’s still a little too cool for school for someone who thinks “bloody” is enough to make something funny. But this performance is just complicated enough that he’s magnetic. He has every reason in the world to want to defend himself against the inmates who are trying to jump him, but he’s trying to warn them off. Even better, during the actual exorcism, he gets out a strained, “That’s right you bloody bastard. It bloody hurts, doesn’t it?” It’s not the line but his performance that sells it. For the others, it’s easy to lean on gravitas when you’re dealing with Hell taking over Earth, so the funnier the better. For Anne Marie, that means her exit strategy, and for Chas, that means his entrance. After Zed pays off the guy like a pro, Chas tries to follow her lead and then realizes he has a better chance of incarceration by just assaulting the guy. As the guards carry him past the fence, he looks up at Zed across the yard and flashes this great bloody grin. And for her part, Angélica Celaya does land an emotional punch where it counts. During the attempted exorcism at the prison, some snake creature called The Tempter bursts in. It’s a quick, fast montage: The Tempter owning Chas, John telling Anne Marie to kill him, Anne Marie raising the blade. Then there’s a quick cut to Zed that is just so scared and raw and discordant that it’s touching, and all she says with her little voice is, “Anne Marie…”
Throughout the episode I kept thinking of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. That’s too much to ask for, not least because Constantine’s tone is on the opposite end of the spectrum. But you can imagine all kinds of ways this episode could lay the foundation for future installments, Buffy-style. What if, instead of taunting the characters with backstories nobody’s too invested in, Pazuzu taunted them with alleged prophecies about their future failures? What if Sister Anne Marie didn’t cut the gang by a quarter at the end? What if the episode hadn’t lost track of the invunche? What if Pazuzu had left a mark on John? Who knows? Maybe he will have. But after an episode like “The Saint Of Last Resorts: Part 2,” I wanted nothing more than for the episode to reach out and grab the rest of the season tightly. Instead things go back to the way they were.
- An intriguing question from Manny: Why didn’t John ask God for help instead of the Devil? And an obvious answer from the audience: God hasn’t shown much interest in helping John.