Ever since Constantine’s unceremonious exorcism from the NBC prime-time lineup, fans have been clamoring for a little bit more of Matt Ryan’s depiction of their favorite Justice League Dark member. On tonight’s Arrow they got their wish: they got just a little bit more of John. Just a little bit.
If you told the season one Arrow audience that this show would eventually feature an episode where a post-Lazarus Pit crazed Black Canary’s soul would have to be magically saved by a petty dabbler of the dark arts, they would have been as skeptical as, well, all of Team Arrow was when John Constantine finally shows up in the Arrow-Cave.
So it should go without saying that the seamless way they integrated having John Constantine on a show that started as a tale of street-level vigilantism was the episode’s biggest success. Constantine’s presence not only continues this season’s trend of having the peripheral DC characters be the most charming parts about the show, but also aides in making the future White Canary’s return to the Flash-Arrow-verse all the more digestible…
Despite this being a big fan-service episode for the DC TV audience, the steady pace of the ongoing Damien arc, as well as the work being done on this season (of both Flash and Arrow) to set up Legends of Tomorrow, doesn’t slow down one bit.
Fortunately for all the Hellblazers out there, the writers cleverly used Constantine in both the present day storyline and the island flashbacks. In an even more clever way, they used John to give this season’s flashback storyline some actual teeth. Five episodes to find out that Oliver is doing more than just infiltrating a drug ring? Getting Arrow’s audience out of that hell alone should earn Constantine’s way into God’s graces. In fact, hell could should just trade John’s promised soul for some of the Arrow writers for how criminally underutilized he is in the present day storyline.
The episode was off to a good start with a fittingly horrific Sarah Lance going on a murder spree through Star City. By the power of Lazarus Pit, zombie Canary’s freakish strength threw a bit of chaos into the chess match-like conflicts of this season. To top it all off her run at Speedy, and Speedy’s guilt-driven willingness to die, brewed up a much needed ounce of genuine tension to a show that has a League’s worth of cliche plot devices for getting around death.
It was all set up to be a very worthy challenge for Constantine; but by the time Green Arrow, now-Black Canary, and John finally face up to what’s taken Sarah’s soul hostage — it all comes up short. Sure, Constantine can magic the shit out of things better than most any other person in the DC Universe, but it’s really the fun, con-artist way that he does it that really makes the character.
Before the lights (literally in the case) go down in the climax, and the real show starts, John warns Ollie and Laurel that, “whatever’s locked her soul away is not going to give it up without a fight — so be ready.” Then we do actually get to see John show Team Arrow some real magic, but when it finally comes to blows, all Ollie has to do is kill a few stuntmen in League garb while John out fences another one with swordplay that even the Star Wars kid could have come up with. Some fight, John.
It wasn’t quite the triumphant return of John Constantine that we all wanted, but it wasn’t such a bad showing. Sure, he didn’t get to smoke a single cigarette, but he brought all the wit and charm that made us love him in the first place. Couple that with the geek-chill of hearing the NBC theme song pop up in fun places and you can bet that any non-believers are now under Constantine’s spell. Except, probably, the execs who decided to cancel him at NBC.
You can go to hell, NBC.