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Constantine series premiere recap: 'Non Est Asylum'

John Constantine can’t escape his troubled past in the series premiere.

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Constantine Recap
Quantrell Colbert/NBC


TV Show
Current Status:
Sci-fi, Comic Book Adaptations

Constantine is the last comic-book-to-television adaptation to premiere this fall, and is perhaps the most unique of the group. Rather than the costumed antics of Arrow or The Flash, or the costume-adjacent antics on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., or the pre-costume antics on GothamConstantine takes its decidedly more supernatural source material to heart.

My colleague Jeff Jensen called the series’ premiere an “all-in-a-hurry pilot” that delivers “an utterly unnecessary Supernatural-ish, Grimm-esque” take on the character. And he’s not wrong in evoking The CW’s decadelong running tale of demon hunters.

The pilot doesn’t initially do much to set itself apart, and there is a bit too much crammed into the hour, but Constantine’s pilot gets enough right in its main character to offer hope for the future. There’s of course the episode’s reshoots, which I’ll address at the end, that make this a particularly strange pilot to judge, after all.

With that in mind, however, let’s take a trip to Ravenscar Psychiatric Facility in dreary old northern England.

“Non Est Asylum” introduces our antihero in a voluntarily precarious situation—receiving electroshock therapy at Ravenscar. John Constantine is already an exorcist by the time we meet him, and he already wants to forget some of his days on the job.

But as he tells us, there are “some you never will” forget, and neither electrocution nor group therapy sessions put his mind at ease. John witnessed the death of a girl named Astra in Newcastle at the hands of a demon, but he is also wrestling with emotional demons as well as the flesh and blood, drag-you-to-hell kind.

Matt Ryan quickly captures the essence of the character in look, but perhaps a bit less in personality. He’s dryly sarcastic, witty, and a bit of a prick–exactly what a network TV version of the much darker comic book character would be. But his veneer of cool can’t prevent the trouble that haunts him from following him wherever he goes. Even to Ravenscar.

John discovers a possessed woman scrawling a message on a bug-infested wall at the facility. Try as he might, John knows he can’t walk away from the scene, and instead attempts a rather messy exorcism. But the ensuing destruction of the room was not for nothing. John recognizes the message the demon left—”LIV DIE”—is for him.

And no, the demon didn’t fail first grade spelling, Liv is the name of a woman in Atlanta, Georgia, a car rental associate whose mysterious car troubles prove to be more than faulty wiring. The earth literally opens up beneath Liv, but John appears just in time to offer his help. As any self-respecting person would do when confronted by a stranger and a demonically challenged parking lot, however, Liv books it.

John’s momentary reprieve is dashed, as Manny (Lost alum #1 Harold Perrineau) the angel swoops down to give John a run for his money as the guy with the worst attitude on the show. Manny promises something is on the way, leaving the master of the dark arts with more questions than answers. My money is on that something not being good. At all.

Trouble follows Liv back to her apartment, where a mysterious man carves a strange symbol on her door and leaves a ring of salt outside her apartment. Any Supernatural fan will know that’s a protective measure, but unfortunately the same precautions were not taken for her neighbor, who’s found dead later that evening.

Well… not exactly dead, as something thrashes around in her body, killing the medical examiner driving her/it to the morgue in the episode’s sole truly creepy moment. In a world full of demons, possession, hellfire, and the like, hopefully this scarier side of the show won’t be as scarce in future episodes.

NEXT: The power this demon’s supplying, it’s electrifying!