Constantine, a show that seems to be slowly putting the pieces together outside of the serial bits it is obligated to display, took another step forward this past week. The fourth episode, "A Feast of Friends", did something so very necessary. It allowed for some character moments to actually happen. We got to see Constantine at his best and worst, the rumpled exorcist/sorcerer that he is, in dealing with a hunger demon named Mnemoth. We've also got junkies, really strong psychotropic substances and some more info about whatever the hell happened in Newcastle.
So, the episode opens with Gary (Jonjo O'Neill) making way through customs into the US rather nervously. He is drenched with sweat and looking rather poorly. The agent eyes him suspiciously after asking if he had anything to declare. Cut to the interrogation room and a TSA officer with a WAAAY too thick accent questioning him. Seems Gary just got back from Sudan and is in Atlanta why? To see a friend of course. There's a bottle on the table and a warning issued by Gary to not open it. Well, of course, the thing gets butterfingered into tiny pieces and a swarm of roaches spiral out and into the security officer.
Constantine and Zed are out in a park (somewhere?) chatting when, of course, Manny shows up. He makes a rather glib remark about most people not having the "stomach for what you (Constantine) do." Zed sees a vision of coins raining down from Heaven, a sign celestial beings are near it seems. The angel then just vanishes after John inquires as to "what he was doing" there. A bit pointless but, sure, why not.
The demon, now out of its bottle, is jumping from person-to-person in Atlanta wreaking all sorts of havoc. The visual of the roaches was good though a bit too "clean", I suppose. They always flew in such tight spirals and always seemed very contained if fluid. John is on the case, of course, after Gary shows up at his doorstep. Zed stays behind to keep track of the junkie -- whom we find out has been hitting the heroine pretty friggin' hard as of late -- so Constantine can do his usual business. He enchants some sort of bottle using the Ring of Solomon and away he goes.
Things don't go quite to plan and John has to lock away the raging demon inside a meat locker full of fresh corpses and mutilated sides of beef. Back to the drawing board! John decides to visit a local shaman and consult with the spirits, so to speak. The drug he takes in is the most powerful on Earth it seems and only the shaman has the antidote. Trippin' balls is an understatement and John asks when "do we take the other to stop it?" but, of course, the shaman is already laughing in the most cosmic and awful of ways as he asks it. The universe opens up for a moment and it all becomes quite clear. A sacrificial knife (kuja) is needed and a vessel has to be chosen (a human one) to contain the beast. He goes to find Gary and the knife but, at this point, his friend decided to skip out on Zed and go find a new fix. Constantine encounters two drug dealers mercilessly beating his friend for lack of payment (it seems?). He pulls out a vial of the drug he took earlier, promising a high like they've never had. So, though we never see what happens, it can be safely assumed those guys are probably dead or possibly left drooling in a vegetative state from how powerful the substance is? What a dick you are, Constantine. He scoops Gary up and takes him back to his lair to regroup and plan on how to get that kuja.
It is here that the plot takes a backseat to actual character development and the show gives us a respite from the constant forward momentum it has possessed prior. Newcastle, the oft hinted at yet never elaborated on event, is brought up and it seems Gary lost himself into the world of drugs and debauchery after what took place in that English town because of it. "All the screaming, all the horrible noise.." and all he could do was hide under a bed as it all unfolded, eyes covered in fear. Guilt has eaten Gary alive it seems. He's wanted to atone for that awful day and while in Sudan on a bender he comes across a young man carved up with containment runes. He extracted the demon from its fleshy cage and into the bottle that wound up getting broken to pieces later in Atlanta.
There are allusions made to what John was like during those days and how everyone just wanted to be around him. A veritable cult of personality this guy was running and they all went along on a ride to the gates of Hell itself. We don't get to know much more about Newcastle yet but we're further assured that things got really bad. REALLY BAD. I mentioned earlier that this show has a habit of just constantly moving forward with plot and leaving little room for much else. This episode, while still having a fair amount of plot to get through, finally took the time to embellish upon John's character further.
He and Gary are out together having a drink before heading off to steal this sacrificial knife. John goes on a bit about how people can, indeed, change. "You know what I always say..people have the capacity to change." Gary replies back, "You've never said that." There's a quickly exchanged glance followed by, "Exactly." That small intimate moment is exactly what the show needs more of. We get a character building moment followed by the ramp-up to what is definitely the worst thing the character has done on the show to date. Gary, in his want to atone, goes along with Constantine to steal this knife and stop this demon. They come to the Fox Theater to enact their plan and, while on the main stage with the demon-infested innocent in sight, Constantine lets him know what has to happen. The only way to stop this demon is to contain it within a human host and let it starve. It will kill the host in the process after an agonizing four to five days.
Gary, still coming down from his earlier high, agrees to do so. "No better way to go out." Gary is truly committed to somehow being a hero in the end of all this despite clearly being lead down this path by his good buddy, Constantine. Cold man. Real cold.
The plan works, of course, and John is slinging Gary over his shoulder to get him inside after it's all done. Zed berates him for betraying a friend like that. She questions him further, digging deeper into the whole issue brought up by this episode. Gary, while a constant source of irritation and always the screw-up, was still a friend. "You think I wanted this?" he asked Zed. "Any of this? People around me die. I told you this you would happen." So for all the supposed growth we saw earlier and torn away when the truth of his actions came to light..still we see a man torn up about what he had to do. It had to be done but it still puts a stain upon his soul.
The final shot is what really sold this episode for me. Gary, writhing in sheer agony in dealing with the demon raging inside of him, is strapped to a bed. Constantine is clutching his soon-to-be expired friend's hand tightly but unable to look at him. His jaw is clenched tightly and he is clearly having a hard time dealing with this all but there he sits, holding his friend's hand as he is eaten way from the inside. Manny (Harold Perrineau) shows up. There are no words, no voice-over to wrap things up. Nothing. Fade to credits. That was a VERY powerful moment that wrapped up the entirety of the episode and pegged another piece of the puzzle that is Constantine's character to the board.
Not everything worked great, though. Some of the interaction between Zed and Gary during the scenes where Constantine was away? Eh. She gets to experience the intense highs and lows of addiction along with the withdrawals thanks to an incidental touch. Heck Zed even gets psychically attacked by Gary later in the episode when he decides its time to vamoose and go score his next fix. The overall effect of this happening is very, well, low-rent but that is to expected of a TV show with a TV budget and constraints. Manny's appearances are, again, mostly unnecessary aside from the very last scene. The shaman involved with making Constantine trip balls would have been better if it had been Papa Midnite but still a decent segment in an episode some what slim on magic. The hunger demon itself was a bit underwhelming but, then again, this episode wasn't really about anything else other Constantine.