Constantine’s material is niche. I understand that. It is a DC property but it lacks the name recognition of the majority of DC’s staple. Shows like Arrow and The Flash, both great in their own right, had less to fight for in their initial few episodes. The Arrow had already established itself with the CW audience as a recurring character in the network’s previous DC offering, Smallville. Yes it was a new actor, but the character was familiar, as was the shows deep brooding themes which aligned nicely with DCs live action Batman films. Once Arrow had established it’s audience, The Flash was an easy sell. An expanded DC universe on television. The Flash became more of an event series than a pilot. Then there is Gotham, quite seriously DC’s weakest television show, and yet it continues to succeed on the Batman name alone. Constantine has none of this, and yet in my opinion, it is the strongest of the bunch.
Constantine never really fit in with the other DC staples. For most of its existence, it lived on the DC fringe – their Vertigo line of comics established for this very purpose. Titles like V for Vendetta, Sandman, and Hellblazer (Constantine’s comic series) were dark and gritty and their main characters were not to be confused with Justice League members. They were flawed, far removed from the infallible Superman, Wonder Woman, and others. As such, their story-telling was complex and filled with subtlety.
Constantine the television series brings much of this to bare. The main character is not out to pursue a noble cause. If anything he bares a devastatingly large amount of guilt on his soul and it both strengthens and weakens him simultaneously. Some of the acting can be hammy, most notably from side characters like Zed (Angélica Celaya) and Chazz (Charles Halford), but as their characters grow, so to have their performances. And yet all of that is but a minor grievance when compared to the generally charismatic John Constantine – Master of the Dark Arts (Matt Ryan). His motivations are uneasy to say the least. Burdened with the guilt of an exorcism gone wrong, Constantine seems willing to wage war against an unwieldy tide of evil that seems to be pushing its way into our world. It is dark television but it revels in it, giving the stories a necessary sense of levity and fun.
NBC has recently announced that they are not going to be ordering the back nine episodes on Constantine’s first season. Arguing that it is not meeting the expectations set up by its Friday night lead-in Grimm, IGN reports that NBC is deciding not to produce the full 22 episodes slated for a standard network drama, leaving Season One as a short 13 episode season. This is a shame as there is a clear arc the show-runners are leading toward, and it would be terrible to see it miss its natural conclusion. That being said, there is still hope that a second season could come as while most shows incapable of receiving the full 22 episode order are routinely canceled in the same announcement, Constantine’s future was left uncertain, and therefor very much up for grabs. Constantine’s ratings have actually received somewhat of a spike in recent weeks, a positive sign to say the least, and NBC has started to cross-promote the show with their basic cable channel SyFy. It’s future, however, will rest with those who choose whether or not to watch it. Here’s hoping they choose in the affirmative.
Follow Tom on Twitter @thomaskagar