A preacher begins to experience actual healing powers, but is the source of that power good or evil?
When your show involves angels and demons, the god question has to come up at some point. With Manny being an increasingly prominent part of Constantine, the show decided to tackle it in “Blessed Are the Damned.” But there’s a fine line that has to be walked, especially when approaching that question through an evangelizing southern preacher named Zachary.
The minister commands a relatively small flock of followers, and is not afraid to employ theatrics in his sermons. He pulls out a poisonous snake, as his preaching father once did, to prove to his congregation that evil can not harm him. Fine idea in theory, though he probably should have listened to his sister, who told him the churchgoers wouldn’t have a
damn darn idea if the snake was actually poisonous. He doesn’t, and the serpent bites him clean on the neck.
Zachary appears to be on the brink of death—until he isn’t. Suddenly he’s as spry and energetic as ever, and apparently even has a nifty new power: he can genuinely heal his people. He gives one guy, Pete, his entire leg back; another man, his sight.
But with great responsibility comes great trouble. In her art class, where she’s being hit on by the day’s model, Zed has a premonition of snakes that leads her and John to Zachary’s church. By the time they arrive, Zachary’s flock has grown to megachurch levels, but what really intrigues John is that Zachary speaks Enochian, the language of the angels.
Meanwhile, we learn that Zachary’s powers perhaps aren’t quite so angelic. During a visit to the doctor following the reappearance of his leg, Pete goes feral, letting loose guttural growls and pummeling him to death. He then continues his spree, tearing out a local cop’s innards before fleeing the scene.
Unaware that Zachary’s followers have begun a homicidal streak, John and Zed return to the pastor’s church, where Zed has a vision. John interrogates Zachary about the Enochian, but the preacher calmly dodges, saying he would never question the Lord’s gift. As Zed comprehends her vision, she realizes that Zachary is close to death. She attempts to defend his people and their faith, but John is too wary of Zachary’s powers. He suspects it’s taking a toll on the land, a suspicion proven correct when they visit a local river full of dead fish.
When John calls on Manny for help, the ever-capricious angel takes over Zed’s body—he appreciates the courtesy “please” John included in his summon spell—to present a clue: he tells John to look toward the sun before relinquishing his hold on Zed. With Zed back in control of her body, John has her hum a few bars of the Enochian that Zachary had spoken, which leads them to an angelic call from a pile of leaves. There they find a flesh-and-blood, yet clearly ailing, angel, who they bring to a barn to convalesce.
Zed is amazed by the angel, who reveals her name to be Imogen (no question more Poots than Heap). She was on her way to bring a dying mortal, Zachary, to heaven, but he ripped off one of her wing’s feathers. Consequently she was thrown into the physical realm and is slowly nearing death.
Imogen’s presence forces Manny to appear for longer than he ever has before, a welcome change from his flighty appearances of the past. Zed still can’t see him, but he’s able to speak to Imogen while revealing that he had no idea she was there–angels are evidently compartmentalized to prevent any tampering with humanity’s free will.
But tamper is what they may well have to do. Zachary wears the relic of Imogen around his neck, worshipping the feather in a manner that has his sister concerned. She’s sick but refuses to ask her brother for help because she can tell he’s changed. Sensing that she’s skeptical, Zachary kicks his sister out, not wanting her to taint his flock. Quite the stand-up guy he’s become.
His mounting insanity is reinforced when John confronts him to demand the feather back. Zachary refuses, and the feather’s protective magic knocks John back. Zachary promises far worse if this “evil man” doesn’t leave. Though John may walk away empty-handed, the timing could not be better, as he returns to camp to find Pete attacking Zed. He fights Pete off, determining that he’s a ghoul driven only to seek the feather.
Zed uses this knowledge during her next approach to Zachary, who’s double-fisting venomous snakes in his latest sermon. She tells him she wants to believe, and he decides it’s time for his latest sheep to be baptized. He takes her to a river for the sacrament, but she uses the moment to steal the feather away from him. This drives the ghouls insane, but John plays a quick game of whack-a-ghoul to defend Zed as she, Zachary, and John flee to the church.
From there Zed runs to return Imogen’s feather, but that turns out to be an imprudent decision. Back in the church Zachary reveals to John that he once killed a man, and that his mortal sin would mean he was on his way to hell, not heaven. Imogen’s been lying to them.
Once patched up by Zed, Imogen’s dress and wings turn black: She’s a fallen angel. As she explains, Imogen killed a mortal to see how easy it could be—just a minor indiscretion according to her. But as she tries to flee, John’s protection spell keeps her evil spirit in the barn. With her first plan foiled, she changes course and attempts to exact revenge by threatening Zed. John pleads with Manny, and the otherwise passive angel disobeys his heavenly mandate and rips Imogen’s heart out of her chest.
John holds onto her heart, which represents pure evil, to serve as both a trophy and a reminder that even against the rising darkness they may well have a fighting chance.
What he doesn’t yet know is that someone who possibly has a stake in that war is coming after Zed. During the events of the episode she forgot about the date she made with her art class model, who was apparently commanded by a mysterious man to find her. Seems Zed won’t be able to run from her past much longer.
Between Heaven and Hell
– Zed’s art class was mentioned as a way to write her off in a previous episode because the season has aired somewhat out of order. Though it was only a brief scene, it was nice to see the show making use of its production difficulties to influence the story.
– Chas was left out of things this week, but that’s because he’s off to make good with his daughter. That arc is another tantalizing peek into the family life that Chas has in the comics but that hasn’t yet been explored on the show.
– Zachary tells his sister that at some point, with all of these new followers, “we’re going to need to build a bigger church.” So close to a perfect Jaws reference.
– Manny gets a chance to shine in this episode, which is a nice break from his too-brief previous appearances. His discussion with Imogen is particularly interesting, as he appears to want to know what it is like to be human, or at least exist in the human world. It’s not much, but it helps establish Manny as more than just some angelic Riddler.
That’s intriguing in contrast to Imogen, who doesn’t want to know what being on Earth feels like–she wants to take the world back for the angels, whom she believes have just been a crutch for humanity. This angel-versus-fallen angel battle could be incredible if it has the time to play out—just think what angels did for Supernatural.
– The episode has skirmishes peppered throughout, but the John/ghoul brawl in the church is especially exciting. John flipping over ghouls and slugging them in the face? I could get used to seeing John being more hands-on, literally, in his fight against evil.