How does a man who cannot die live? Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch. As this episode makes clear, Chas Chandler- John Constantine’s ever suffering side kick- can die exactly 47 times. That’s still a heck of a burden to carry around though, not to mention the fact that those 47 lives that he can expend are the lives of the people who died around him on the night that he should have. But let me repose the question: how does a man who can die 47 times live?
As it was so eloquently stated by Uncle Ben in Spiderman- with great power comes great responsibility. Chas would be remiss to waste the lives of 47 people, so does what any man would do- he tries to give those deaths meaning by fighting evil. Try explaining that to the wife, though. In this Chas episode through and through, we explore the strife of being a contentious man in a woman-focused society.
In “The Saint of Last Resorts Part 2”, the last offering from Constantine, we learned in a brief moment that Chas fights evil at the expense of the relationship with his daughter. Because you can’t fight for the common good without sacrificing something. How many stories do we hear of police officers and firemen going through divorces because of the long hours that they work? Of their relationship with their children suffering because of their commitment to their work? Remove the title officer or fireman and replace it with Bad Ass Mother Fucker for Chas Chandler and you get the same effect.
Chas’ story hits home for a lot of fathers. The episode starts out with him driving overnight to New York City to spend the weekend with his daughter (something that had been touched on in an earlier episode). At the same time, something weird is happening in the Big Apple- people are falling into coma’s that aren’t really coma’s. Unfortunately for Chas, his daughter is one of these victims.
The culprit is none other than Mister Felix Faust- a stalwart in the Hellblazer series and a common villain for the Justice League: Dark. But who carries the blame and the guilt for the actions of the perpetrator: the father. You see, even though today’s world fights for women to be considered the primary care giver in a family, it still falls on the man to be considered the protector. As such, Chas is obviously the bad guy here.
The one person I find endlessly insufferable in this episode is Chas ex-wife and the mother of his daughter, Renee. I mean, they are obviously dealing with some supernatural, otherworldly powers here. So when Chas calls in the on mage fighting the tide of evil, you’d think Renee would be happy, right? No, instead she does what most women do and brings up the one time that John Constantine failed- that damn Newcastle incident. I mean, this is the one dude who can possibly save her child’s life and she doesn’t want him to. She doesn’t want him to. Does she have a plan? No, other than praying on what I’m assuming to be a second hand rosary. But when the man comes up with a plan, really the only one considering the circumstances, she goes all bitchy on him.
Luckily, John and Chas are both real men who don’t need no woman’s permission to save a little girls life. And Chas handles the situation like a boss! When they approach a medium who is, shall we say, reserved about helping them- Chas knocks him in the face with his own damn gun. You simply don’t mess with a man when his daughters life is at stake. John, for his part, steps up with his brass British balls and makes a deal with the man who made a deal with the devil- the deliciously evil Felix Faust.
Felix is stealing the souls of people to give himself more power, yes- but he himself is beset by a soul eating monkey demon. So naturally, John tries to use this to his advantage. The demon for the girl. Sounds fair, right? John’s plan- trap the demon in a soul circle, light him on fire and send him back to hell. But, because plot devices, John’s lighter won’t light and he’s forced to electrocute the demon instead. I know this isn’t a science based show, but I had a little bit of trouble that a hell spawned demon could be electrocuted. The whole thing was a bit unnecessary though, as Faust wasn’t about to give up the girls soul. The one two punch of lame lighter gag and old bad-guy-changing-the-terms-of-the-deal twist made the middle of the episode a little bland.
But luckily Chas comes in to save the day. In a moment we were all secretly hoping would happen, he punches John in the face for trying to tell him how to save his family. Once again, you don’t mess with a man when his daughters life is at stake. Chas walks back to Faust, gargantuan balls swinging between his legs as he does, and tricks him into thinking there’s a new deal- all 31 of Chas’ remaining lives for his daughters. When they go to shake hands on the deal, Chas motherfuckin’ blows himself up to stop Faust. HE BLOWS HIMSELF UP! I mean, sure, he knew he was going to live- but he FUCKIN’ BLEW HIMSELF UP! As John points out to Renee later, that shit still hurts-bad.
Though the main meat of the episode was a little lagging in terms of plot, the writers make up for it with their usual humor and deft approach to the subject matter. They do this by allowing the men to be men, old school style. While the woman is letting her emotions get the better of her, the men step up and do what is necessary to save the day. The whole episode feels like it could’ve aired in the 1950’s and no one would have batted an eye.
One part that does suffer, however, are the flashbacks. Since so much of the episode is devoted to the main plot line, the flashbacks feel a bit rushed and lack the powerful punch needed to really drive home their point- Chas gets this awesome ability, but loses his family in the process. I think perhaps adding in one or two more scenes to show Chas and his family before the accident would have lent a little bit more weight to the environment.
In the end, the man does the right thing, despite being hounded by the woman for doing so and at great pain and harm to his own body. But happy endings abound for all. Renee for the first time gets to see the sacrifices that Chas makes for society and finds herself with a new found appreciation for him. They don’t wind up getting back together, but she is actually happy to see him for a change.
Though she is criminally under-utilized in the episode, Zed plays an important role in furthering the overall arc of the series. When Renee is desperate to communicate with her daughters spirit, Zed opens herself up to a psychic link between the two worlds and, in short, overloads herself and gets knocked out. But thanks to this we get a nice little ending: while she was connected with the spirit world (or whatever), she had a chance to speak with John’s mother. If you remember, John’s birth caused his mothers death and his father always blamed him for it. But John finally gets to hear his mother tell him that it wasn’t his fault, and Matt Smith does a beautiful job conveying the hidden emotional wallop that that off hand comment makes.
Overall: Despite dragging in a few places, the acting and writing do enough to make up for it. Charles Halford finally gets a chance to flex his acting muscle in this episode and delivers in spades. Final grade: 3.5 nerdits out of 5.
Charles Halford’s acting as Chas Chandler.
Charles Halford as Chas Chandler being an absolute bad ass.
Charles Halford as Chas Chandler doing what he has to do to save his daughter.
Really, Charles Halford as Chas Chandler in general.
Though it does it in a very oblique and subtle way, this episode is a great discussion on Men’s Rights and the role of the father in the family setting.
The flashback scenes aren’t given nearly enough time and as such come off as a bit rushed.
Having the lighter fail was a tired gag. Felix Faust would have just changed the deal anyways.
Having the bad guy changing the terms of the agreement also felt old and tired.
Renee was really grating and annoying throughout most of the episode.
The criminal under-usage of Zed.
CHAS FUCKIN’ BLEW HIMSELF UP!
Chas punched John in the face and we all were absolutely okay with it. Let’s face it, John can be kind of a prick sometimes.
In the episode, New York Mayor John De Blasio made New York City a medical emergency site. Isn’t it, like, always a medical emergency site? If De Blasio gave a eulogy at Faust’s funeral, do you think all the wizards and mage’s in attendance would have turned their back on him?