An old friend of John's returns and brings with him memories of Newcastle... and a particularly disgusting demon.
Now that’s more like it.
Constantine has spent the past three weeks trying to figure itself out. How procedural should it be when episodes aren’t focusing explicitly on John’s backstory? How much of that history should be teased out? How dark can the show go? And just how big of an ass is John supposed to be? “A Feast of Friends” goes a long way toward answering those questions in a satisfying way.
One caveat before jumping into “Feast”—centering an episode of supernatural television around insects can go wrong. Very, very wrong. Although the swarm of bugs that comprises this week’s demon baddie leads to several disgusting sequences, “Feast” remains intriguing in the face of its more unseemly aspects.
“Feast” most succeeds in how it evolves viewers’ understanding of John. There’s been some lip service paid to his past, but by involving someone who actually participated in what happened at Newcastle, some fascinating dynamics rise to the surface. The good and heinous sides of John come out during “Feast,” but every emotional beat feels earned by what happens, not just what characters say.
Much of that success is due to the arrival of Gary Lester, or Gaz (Jonjo O’Neill), as John often refers to him, who flies into Atlanta looking like he’s fighting a months-long cold. Traveling from Sudan, Gary brought along a suspicious vial, which unfortunately houses a swarm of hungry bugs. Once a snooping airport guard cracks open the bottle, a tidal wave of bugs flies out into the room and… directly down the guard’s throat. I’ve had bad dreams about swallowing a fly while I sleep, but this scene will definitely haunt my dreams for the next few weeks.
Before discovering the fate of the nosy guard, let’s check in on John and Zed. Zed is enjoying her time in nature—a nature that doesn’t look like it’s crawling with ghosts and demons—while John looks like he’s nursing a hangover. She surprises him with the revelation that she’s never done drugs, a subject with which John clearly has some history. Their sharing session is interrupted by Manny, however, in a moment that only serves to remind viewers that Manny hasn’t done anything of note yet. He swoops in, hints at something ominous, and flees. If he’s going to be sticking around, Constantine needs to find a more interesting use for him.
At least Zed fits well into the show’s dynamic. The two return home to Jasper’s cabin to find an infestation of khapra beetles and a man—Gary, to be specific—floating in the cabin’s zero gravity trap. Gary and John haven’t spoken since what happened at Newcastle, but John refuses to answer Zed’s questions about what happened there to either them or Astra.
Instead, he’s curious about Gary, who describes how he came to possess a bottle of demonic bugs. He found a man in Sudan with strange carvings on his face. Attempting to exorcise the demon out of him, he hoped to save the poor guy, but unfortunately, only unleashed the demon on another man.
That man, the now possessed guard, is busy wreaking havoc around the airport by eating everything in sight before the bugs slip back out the way they came (the man’s mouth, for clarification) on to possess the next poor fool they can find.
NEXT: What a long, strange trip it’s been
John has a plan to capture the demon, fashioning a new vessel in which to capture it, but it’s a plan he’ll execute himself. He continues to avoid Zed’s questions about Newcastle, instead focusing on Gary’s drug addiction. Angelica Celaya does some fantastic work showcasing Zed’s saddened frustration as she genuinely wants to help, but John simply won’t let her. He instead runs off to a local grocery store, where the demonic plague has spread.
Zed tries a new gambit–questioning Gary. He remains vague, but he lets slip a bit about John’s past. A whole group accompanied John to Newcastle, all wanting a bit of the famous John Constantine’s mojo to rub off on them. But then something possessed Astra and dragged her to hell. The ordeal still visibly haunts Gary. Zed goes to comfort him, receiving a good shock of visions from Gary’s past that sweeps her off her feet.
John is faring a bit better, having tracked the demon’s trail to a meat packing plant, where he encounters another poor possessed soul. He attempts an exorcism, forcing out the storm of bugs from its host, but the new vessel he’s crafted doesn’t quite cut it when it comes to demonic holding cells. Instead, John takes refuge under a slab of meat—I hope he cleans that trench coat of his after this mess—and escapes while locking the demon in the freezer.
John returns for a brief cabin visit, only to find Zed and Gary have “touched,” though not in the way he’s thinking. He’s not all jokes during his brief stay, as he takes a moment to examine Zed’s drawings of a man from her recent visions. There’s only so much he can do with the information, though, and so he stops by Nommo’s African Cuisine, where the proprietor (Charles Parnell), a shaman, has been waiting for John. He reveals the name of the demon, Mnemoth, but in order to discover more, he and John need to go on a trip. A drug trip, of course.
Nommo shares some sort of drug with John—one whose high will last forever unless they use the counter agent Nommo has—and the two enter one of the shows trippiest and frankly grossest moments yet. Nommo actually pulls John’s eye out of his socket and pushes it into his own (a move that guarantees I will never chomp down on whatever he and John just ate).
After their trip through what equates to a Grateful Dead music video, John and Nommo discover Mnemoth’s origins, and that the only thing that will trap him is a sacred Kusa knife. It’s necessary for holding the demon down, but before John can relay word back to home base, Gary forces Zed into a vision coma so he can rush off and right his wrong.
John, however, knows Gary has another matter to take care of first—his high. He finds Gary beaten up under a bridge by two drug dealers. He bargains for their lives with his own stash—an extra twig of Nommo’s everlasting trip stick.
John takes Gary to a bar to reason with him, though that’s not the first place most would take any sort of addict. Gary spills his heart out, ashamed that he betrayed John and Astra, having felt like he was to blame for what happened at Newcastle. But John says he doesn’t blame him. He never did. It’s a wonderful scene that peeks into the hidden anguish that fills John’s being, and it’s the type of scene that couldn’t be done without introducing the characters intrinsic to his history. it shows Constantine is on the right track, especially as the scene’s concluding dialogue reveals John’s levity even in the face of horror.
John: “You know what I always says, Gaz? Everyone has the capacity to change.”
Gary: “I’ve never heard you say that before.”
NEXT: Making the ultimate sacrifice
The two decide to fight Mnemoth together, to give Gary the chance at redemption he so desperately seeks. But the Kusa knife is locked in Atlanta’s Museum of Convenient Plot Devices. The two break in, but not without a quick pestering from Manny, who asks John if he’s really prepared to do this–this not being the break in, but something clearly much more serious. What that is exactly remains a mystery as Manny disappears and the two carry out their heist. It all goes according to plan, though John does have to improvise by hypnotizing the museum’s security guard into taking his own sobriety test.
Kusa knife in hand, they find Mnemoth has begun killing at a theater, and after worming their way in, John’s plan, and what Manny hinted at, is revealed. The only vessel that can hold the demon is a living, human vessel. And John has planned for Gary to fill that role.
It’s a truly horrible decision John makes–to trick his friend into sacrificing himself, but Gary is ready to meet his fate. John warns it could be days of pain and anguish before he dies, but Gary wants his life to finally mean something.
And so John sends Mnemoth straight into his friend, and adds injury to possession by carving symbols into Gary’s forehead. It’s a decision Zed understandably confronts John about. She is furious at what he did, but John’s operating under different assumptions. He knows those around him will die–to him, Gary was a casualty for the greater good. He didn’t want to manipulate Gary into this position, but he believes he had no other choice.
And it’s clearly a decision John doesn’t take lightly. He sits with Gary, holding his hand as his friend thrashes around, chained in bed with a plague of demonic bugs rolling around inside him. Even Manny appears to stay with the two of them, as Gary’s screams echo into the night.
It’s a powerful ending, one that demonstrates how nasty John’s line of work is, and how he feels deep regret for some of his choices, but he commits to them no matter how much pain they cause him or the ones around him. And Manny’s silent, supportive cameo in the scene is a powerful cap to the episode, as the angel says more in this one action than he has in all of his cryptic messages since the show began.
Between Heaven and Hell
– It’s strange that the show writes off Chas again. This time, he’s out repairing his cab. For a character who is supposed to be one of John’s oldest friends, they really don’t seem to be together all that much.
– John’s use of the enchanted card introduced last week was a nice touch. Many shows would have just brought in that handy tool for an episode, but it’s nice to see John’s bag of tricks actually become part of the character and not mere plot devices.
– John’s best line of the episode wasn’t one spoken, but instead when he changes the packing plant’s sign that reads: “This plant has worked _ days since last incident, erasing the previous number to a round zero after he discovers a dead body. That definitely isn’t up to health code regulations.
– As Gary sacrifices himself, he tells John there’s no better way to go out. Really? You can’t possibly think of a better death tahn swallowing a demon’s worth of beetles, which will then cause constant harrowing pain for a week? I can think of at least three better ways to die than that.
– For fans of the Hellblazer comic, this episode should be a memorable one as it pulls many of its major story elements from the story of the first ever issue in the series.