Constantine pilot is shaky, but promising

Title: ConstantineMV5BMTQ2MzQzMjA2NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODg1MTI4MjE@._V1_SY317_CR1,0,214,317_AL_

Starring: Matt Ryan, Charles Halford, Harold Perrineau

Plot: John Constantine (Matt Ryan), a brooding, wisecracking paranormal investigator abandons retirement to save a life. With the help of an angel named Manny (Harold Perrineau), Constantine may also be able to save his damned soul.

Why See It: The task set before a pilot episode is a rather unfair one. In its first episode, a show is expected to prove its entertainment value, establish its world, and give first-time viewers a story arc to wrap themselves up in. It is no surprise, then, that few pilots are truly representative of the story they unveil. Like countless ventures before it, Constantine does what is asked of it at the starting line and, as a result, is bogged down in lame exposition. On the acting front, Constantine’s first outing was a mixed bag. Ryan plays the show’s namesake character with an appealing swagger that almost made me forget I’d seen him a million times before. In everything from Star Wars to Iron Man. Regardless of his comic book antics, network television’s Constantine is the type of surly, wisecracking action hero that feels instantly familiar. Attempts were made at fleshing out his role but these fell a bit flat. The introduction of a young girl who Constantine accidently delivered into the clutches of a demon felt less important than it should, considering that it resulted in his damnation; a key plot point. Later, Constantine discussed his tumultuous childhood in the middle of attempting to send the episode’s primary antagonist back to hell. The moment felt so forced and hokey that I ended up laughing when I should have been empathizing. A secondary stumbling block of the pilot came in the form of Lucy Griffiths. Her character, Liv, was forced to play that terrible part of both damsel in distress and stand-in for the audience. Most of her lines were questions (fair ones, admittedly) meant to pull back the layers of the Constantine mythos for uninitiated viewers. Unfortunately, this job is both uninteresting and unflattering. Instead of allowing Griffiths to react naturally to her predicament, the script forces her to spend every second fleshing out the concept of the show. She comes across as rather unconvincing when compared to more colorful personalities unburdened by the duties of exposition providing. The key issue here was that that pilot took on more backstory than it could chew in its hour runtime. The insights it provided would have been more effectual if sprinkled throughout the first few episodes and, had this approach been taken, the first episode would have felt far less rushed. Despite these hiccups, though, Constantine is promising enough to warrant further investigation. Rushed world building and cliché’ broody moments aside (seriously, two traumatic backstories for one character) the show proved surprisingly unsettling. Its first episode may not have been stellar, but few ever are. I, for one, will be tuning in next week.

Rating: ★★★

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