Constantine in “The Darkness Beneath” is quite a different show from the Constantine of “Non Est Asylum,” the series premiere. Lucy Griffiths’ Liv is out, while Angelica Celaya’s Zed Martin is in, and the mythology and supporting cast established in the first episode took a break for a more standard case-of-the-week affair.
Did these alterations make for a better show? Well, yes and no. Constantine is still finding its voice, and “Darkness” allowed viewers to see another side of the show—one that’s a little easier to jump into but seems discordant with the urgency established in the pilot. John Constantine was initially presented as a figure haunted by the figurative and literal demons of his past.
Yet, in “Darkness,” he’s also willing to selflessly work a case devoid of these more personal goals. Does that sand away at the rougher edges of John’s character, or help to make him a more complex and dynamic character? The answer to that lies in the town of Heddwich, Pennsylvania…
On the Road Again
A town centered around coal mining, Heddwich’s workers have been concerned with the strange, unnatural sounds heard in the mine shafts. One such miner, Lannis, meets his untimely end when an everyday shower transforms into an oily, flame-filled death trap. This isn’t due to fracking water, however—something is supernaturally rotten in the state of Pennsylvania.
And so John feels the otherwordly pull of a mysterious force toward Heddwich. Upon his arrival, “Darkness” wastes no time addressing the show’s most significant change. Zed and John bump into each other on a street corner—a meet-cute scenario more at home in a romantic comedy. Zed hasn’t been able to stop drawing John—her apartment is full of pictures of him, and, in her own words, he’s “really starting to piss her off.”
Zed believes this meeting is destiny, but for John, Zed is just a cute girl on the street, someone who dabbles in dime-store magic with “a tongue in his ear and a hand in his pocket.” He’s distrustful of her drawing of him, claiming it’s a ruse to rob him, and he’s not completely off—she does lift his wallet before he runs off to talk with the locals.
John learns that mining accidents, and the strange sounds that accompany them, have haunted the town for months. And John finds out firsthand that when he taps on the mine wall with a pick ax, something knocks back. That’s never a good sign, is it?
Looking for answers, John attends the wake at Lannis’ home. He arrives prepared, of course, with a frozen dinner in hand. Once inside, though, his mind is much more set on the scene of the supernatural crime than the buffet table. Slipping into the roped off bathroom, John snags a sample of some mysterious slime (thankfully he doesn’t have to descend into the sewers to collect it), but is quickly discovered by Lannis’ grieving wife. Or at least, she should be grieving—she’s more inebriated than devastated. Sure, grief can make people do some strange things, but coming on to John, who is pretending to be a journalist, shouldn’t be one of them.
John rebuffs her advances, more intrigued by the soot mark on her arm, but any chance to investigate further is ruined as she chases him out. She refuses to let John escape unscathed, though—the president of the mining company sucker punches him, not wanting to hear a word about spirits or demons.
Beaten but not broken, John returns to his hotel room, only to discover Zed waiting. She tries to convince John that his presence must be fate bringing them together. He’s more intrigued by her talk of visions and other abilities than destiny, though, so John humors her a little while longer. Testing her powers, her vision of fire and a giant cross leads John to an abandoned, boarded up chapel where he encounters the wispy shadow of a spirit haunting the town.
Meanwhile, Zed goes off to investigate on her own, hitting a local bar where she meets a former priest, Ellis, drowning his sorrows. With few leads, she returns to her temporary residence, where John is repaying the favor of crashing her alone time. John questions her nomadic lifestyle, and she quickly retorts, “I know what I’m running from, do you?”
Zed’s clearly along for the ride, though, and it’s something that lends John and the show a much-needed dynamic. Whereas Liv was very much a passive audience cipher, there to ask the questions viewers may have, Zed is much more immediately an active presence. Zed can shift a strong-willed and steadfast nature to a more vulnerable and inquisitive nature, and Celaya and Matt Ryan showcase some great chemistry with actual spark.
NEXT: There’s demons down in them there mines.