“Constantine” Re-cuts its Pilot to Lose the Sidekick and Change the Focus, and the Results are Murky at Best

Matt Ryan as John Constantine

Matt Ryan

Angelica Celaya as Zed

Angelica Celaya

Reposted from our friends over on Amityville Now

The pilot for NBC’sConstantine, from the DC Comics character of the same name, made the rounds of the intertubes a few weeks ago. But after its release/escape, NBC made some significant changes–like removing Lucy Griffiths (Robin Hood, True Blood) as his intense-yet-perky assistant Liv, and replacing her in Episode 2 with Angelica Celaya, a Latina beauty (born in Arizona, but known primarily for her Spanish-language work) as the comic-book-based Zed, a gifted artist who’s far more mysterious and driven than Liv. Still: how do you drop a continuing character when the whole first episode is built around her introduction? Well…it’s tough. The cutted-and-pasted (?) third act of the pilot, substantially different than the original, makes the show seem strangely unfocused and talky, despite the obvious charms of Welsh actor Matt Ryan as the trenchoated master of the mystic arts. Question is: can the series survive its last-minute surgery?

Lucy Griffiths

Lucy Griffiths

Answer: It remains to be seen. It must have been quite the challenge to reshoot and re-cut the last five minutes of the pilot–an hour intended not only to introduce Constantine himself, but his new sidekick–so that the sidekick can be gracefully ushered offstage. After all, the whole hour is about Liv, being menaced by a demon who’s exacting revenge on her because the demon hated her long-thought-dead Dad who in fact died quiet recently (See? It’s complicated.) Ultimately, the first two acts remains intact and hold up well enough (though the whole opening sequence with the shock therapy and the exorcising in the insane asylum is pointless. Even the writers know it; it ends with a bald-faced acknowledgement of same: “Oh, well, that was a waste of time. Never mind.”) It’s not until the climax of the episode, with all the set-up for their Further Adventures, that things get kind’a wonky…

In the original, the demon inhabits a portly security guard, who sprouts cool luminous tattoos and gains even cooler lightning powers. In the new version, the guard is supplanted right at tattoo time by a simulacrum of Constantine himself in corpse make-up. Why? It’s not really clear. It has virtually nothing to do with the “Liv problem.” But maybe they wanted to make the show more Constantine-centric, so now he could talk to ‘himself’ about his own guilt and challenges, rather than focus on the now-temporary co-star.

In both versions, John succeeds in banishing the demon, then–rather inexplicably–sends Liv off for her safe-house home with his mysterious, burly driver Chaz. (No big thanks or goodbye scene because, remember, in the original she’s going to be back.)

In the original, Chaz drives Liv by a crime scene on Edgewood Avenue–the result of demon activity Liv’s new scrying powers had revealed hours earlier, and a tragedy Constantine and she couldn’t address, what with the demon trying to destroy the city and all. Seeing that dead body galvanizes Liv, solidifies her commitment: she will stand by Constantine, despite the risks, and fight the demons with him–even if she has to force him to do it, reluctant hero that he is.

L-r: Harold Perrineau as Manny, Matt Ryan as John Constantine, Angelica Celaya as Zed, and Charles Halford as Chaz

L-r: Harold Perrineau as Manny, Matt Ryan as John Constantine, Angelica Celaya as Zed, and Charles Halford as Chaz

In the new version, she still goes to the crime scene, still sees the dead body that’s the result of demonic mayhem…and then (apparently) has the exactly opposite reaction: In spite of all the strangeness, blood, and danger she’s seen in the last forty-eight hours, this murder of a complete stranger is enough to freak her out and make her decide to disappear. No demon-hunting for Liv, now way, despite the fact that her father died because of it, her new best friends just saved her life, and she has the internal power to see and fight demons like nobody else. Nuh-uh, forget it.

The last we see of Liv is her standing, stunned, over the body of the anonymous boy-victim. Next thing you know, we’re in a John’s favorite bar, with previously quiet Chaz stalking in to say, “You scared her off,” a length talky-talk scene that’s essentially a quick summary of the scene they couldn’t get Lucy Griffiths to film: after the body, he tells us, she went back to the safe house, packed a bag, and fled to a cousin’s place in California (which sounded suspiciously like that nice farm where our old, sick dog Splash was sent to when we were only ten years old). John gets it. “We’re not all cut from the same cloth,” which is just a variation of the line at the end of the first scene: “Oh, well. Never mind.” But not to worry, Chaz tells us. Liv may be gone, but she wants John to keep fighting. Oh, and here’s the map of demonic activity all over the U.S. that he’s supposed to follow–the same map that she handed to him directly in the first version, when she said, “Okay, let’s go fight us some demons together.” So: no good-bye scene, no “sorry, I can’t do this” scene–nothing. And now we end with a mysterious over-the-shoulder shot of a shapely brunette drawing endless pictures of John in some madwoman’s garret. It has to be Zed, who will be introduced next week.


Dramatically, it was a bit like getting dropped down an elevator shaft. All this time spent with Liv and her backstory and then…boop! She’s gone. And what happened to his hillbilly sidekick Ritchie, played by Justified’s Jeremy Davies? There’s a lot of time spent introducing him and his backstory as one of Constantine’s strongest allies…and he’s not appearing again either, at least not in the first half-dozen episodes. Instead we’re going to see a couple new allies, drawn from the DC Universe: Jim Corrigan, known to fanboys as the first and longest-lasting secret identity of The Spectre, of the DC’s most venerable mystical characters, and Papa Midnite, a Vodou shaman from the pages of the Constantine comic Hellblazer. Bottom line: a major reset of the show almost before it’s begun, leaving only Constantine himself and his now much talkier and apparently immortal sidekick Chaz–along with angelic kibitzer Manny, played by Lost’s Harold Perrineau–to provide a bridge between Episode 1 to 2.

So what’s the result of all this on-the-fly surgery? Kind’a kicks the slats out from under an already stumbly show. John gives up ‘way too much information (we hear his whole rather trite “daddy hated me, Mommy was kidnapped by demons” storyline by the end of Act II) and he screams a lot more than the always-cool Constantine of the comics. He also keeps telling us how he’s a ‘bad boy,’ but we really don’t see it. In fact, that’s the biggest problem with Constantine in general, versions 1.0 or 2.0: we hear of a whole lot of telling about him and his world, but we see remarkably little of it.

With the deee-lightful Flash, the solid Arrow, the grimly cute-but-high-potential Gotham and the resurgent Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. all showing promise, Constantine has some stiff comic-books-on-TV competition. Sadly, it comes in low in those rankings, after this first cobbled-together ep.

Let’s all wait and see, shall we?

Anyway: click here for a promo for Episode Two, coming up on Halloween night, and get a glimpse of Zed as well.

P.S. IMDB, whoever wrote the plot summary for this series needs to actually watch it. This is not the story of “a man struggling with his faith [who] is haunted by the sins of his past but is suddenly thrust into the role of defending humanity from the gathering forces of darkness.” That sounds like a big remake of Blatty’s The Exorcist. This ain’t that.