Constantine recap: "The Rage of Caliban"
John and Chas face off with a child's spirit holding a vendetta against parents while Zed is... off at art class?
A few things feel off about “The Rage of Caliban,” as the episode contends with problems the show had seemingly corrected in the past few episodes. There’s actually a good reason for that: “Caliban” was the second episode shot for the series, but was pushed further into the season so Zed could be introduced to viewers immediately following the pilot. You can thank EP Daniel Cerone for that tidbit.
As a result, there’s both good and bad news about “Caliban.” The good? There’s some genuinely good jump scares, Chas and John have some room to shine, and a few aspects that have confused in previous weeks are explained in full here. The bad news? “Caliban” is rougher around the edges than “Danse Vaudou” and “A Feast of Friends.” The hour has some fun moments, but in the end, it all feels a little trivial.
“Caliban” starts out well enough, with a gruesome double murder. Two parents have been killed while their child survives, but there’s not a suspect in sight. As the cops arrive though, one possible perp becomes apparent—the daughter, whose telekinetic powers and eyes that can turn completely black maybe indicate there’s something supernatural involved. But I’m just going on a hunch here.
John and Chas have the same inclination and travel to the girl’s home in Birmingham, Alabama, to investigate. While exploring the crime scene, Manny appears to John to not only namedrop the season’s big bad, the “rising darkness,” but to also explain that he can’t directly help John on the case.
What’s in the way of Manny the angel actually being angelic? That pesky little thing called free will, which prevents angels from directly affecting events on Earth. It’s an explanation that should have been inserted into an earlier episode. One of my biggest problems with Manny since the show began has been his knack for appearing, offering nothing but cryptic warnings, and leaving as suddenly as he arrives. I thought this had been an aspect of his personality, but knowing he’s actually prevented from being helpful is a great revelation. I just wish it had come sooner.
Even without Manny’s help, John determines that the spirit that possessed the girl is now on the loose. And what is it searching for? Another child host, of course. John learns that there’s actually been a string of parental deaths and child survivors dating back 35 years. John suspects that just saying the name of this spirit will be enough to stop it.
Cut to little Henry, whose parents are attempting to calm his night terrors. Mom and Dad attempt different parenting techniques—Claire, his mother comforts him, while his father, Daryl, is more of a tough love kind of guy. It’s all for naught, though, as the spirit of the week flies through his open window. (What kind of kid afraid of monsters leaves the window open?) Henry screams, but when his parents return, he’s as serene as could be. Henry’s not himself, but his parents don’t realize that quite yet.
John, meanwhile, is off to visit the earliest known, still-living host, Marcello, who happens to live at a mental hospital and is practically catatonic. John discovers from a doctor that Marcello had a nasty set of parents, who he killed with an ax, a tool his father used to reprimand Marcello. How does John verify that? The three missing fingers on Marcello’s hand. Guess a finger for a finger didn’t quite suit the spirit.
And that spirit has moved on to wreaking havoc in Henry’s home. It causes Daryl to shred his feet on a set of exploding lightbulbs in a well-shot sequence. Henry further acts like a modern-day Damien, even forcing a crow to collide with the sliding kitchen door right in front of his mother.
John and Chas, using a series of maps with ley lines (at least Constantine provides a weekly cartography lesson! …It’s cooler than it actually sounds) are able to track the path of the spirit. More importantly, the two demon hunters share a nice heart-to-heart during their research. Chas accidentally picks up a sword that acts like a truth serum, causing him to tell John about his wife, Renee, who has left him.
NEXT: Kids these days, they’re out of control!
Their emotional reprieve doesn’t last long, as John finds Henry at a playground. John attempts to warn a teacher on duty of what’s about to happen. It’s difficult to be taken seriously, however, when you’re a lonely looking adult male wearing a trench coat at a playground. And so Henry fractures the skull of a schoolyard bully.
John takes one more stab at stopping Henry, appearing at the boy’s house and claiming to be the school’s new counselor. He blows that cover quite quickly, though, revealing he’s an exorcist, which earns him a shiner courtesy of Daryl. Good thing John left his card on the counter before Henry’s parents send John to jail.
While locked up, John’s fellow inmate transforms into Manny. The angel won’t give John answers but does offer guidance after name checking John’s sordid past, including John’s sister, father, and an attempted suicide. Thankfully, he escapes his past when Claire comes to discuss Henry’s possible possession.
Freed from jail, John explains their options—binding the spirit to a location, or an exorcism. John would rather avoid the latter because of Astra, so they settle on the first plan of attack.
John has Claire, a doctor, drug her son (again, these parents probably have more than a few issues to resolve), before they meet up with Chas at an abandoned home—Marcello’s house. The three of them attempt a séance to bind the spirit there, but they fail miserably. John doesn’t understand why the spell won’t work, but knowing that Henry will soon wake up, the trio rushes back home.
Henry, now conscious and dressed in a horrific, hairy zombie costume becomes agitated as John, Claire, and Daryl argue. John bewitches a mirror to bounce Henry’s deathly telekinetic blasts right back at him. The boy retreats out into the streets, where he crushes Chas between two cars (But hey, don’t worry! He can revive himself, remember?) and rushes off into a local Halloween haunted house.
John runs in after him, but accidentally smashes his mirror. All he has left now are his words. Thankfully, John has realized that the spirit is actually Marcello, who telekinetically flips John around the room until the exorcist gains the upper hand. He forces the spirit out of Henry and binds him to the only place a living person’s spirit can remain—its original body.
John ends the episode with a heavy dose of narration, over-explaining both the death of Marcello’s parents and that, while John doesn’t quite have the answers, he’s going to keep fighting against the “rising darkness.” It’s a disappointing end to the episode, but one that many early outings for new shows suffer—the attempt to neatly wrap up a story’s metaphorical and emotional threads with exposition rather than actual resolution.
Thankfully, it’s a storytelling trap Constantine has already moved past, and hopefully not a clunky sign of things to come.
Between Heaven and Hell
– John’s introduction in the episode is a fun one—the mighty exorcist is passed out in a girl’s bed. He barely remembers her name, but he needs to leave now because her boyfriend is at the door.
– In one of the episode’s weakest moments, the attempt to explain Zed away is in a line of dialogue that explains she’s in “art class,” which distracts as a lame excuse more than it helps in any way to cover up the out-of-order placement of “Caliban.” Hopefully, no one will be out with a cold in future weeks, as the show really does work at its best with the full ensemble intact.
– Manny calls John a “desperation move” against the “rising darkness,” but there’s likely a better reason than he’s willing to admit.
– The episode felt quite a bit like a solo outing for John, even with Chas’ involvement. It was great to actually learn a bit about Chas’ life outside of his appearances, but the show would be wise to move into actually exploring his, John, and Zed’s backstories, not just hinting at them.