The Neurotic Nerd Reviews: Constantine- Angels and Ministers of Grace

Okay, first off- love the title. I’m a little jealous because I was trying to use it as a Weeping Angels themed Doctor Who fanfic, but its not like it’ll stop me. Moving right along…

The first thing we do, lets kill all the lawyers!
The first thing we do, lets kill all the lawyers!

Look, I’ll admit it- I love Constantine! It’s a great show that, unfortunately, seems to always have its head on the proverbial chopping block. I am one of those vocal fans trying to give it the support it needs. I’m not gonna sit here and argue that every single episode is astounding, but it makes a concerted effort at greatness with every episode. And even when it does miss the mark, it doesn’t miss it by very far.

After last weeks stellar episode, the people at Constantine have confounded me again by giving us another great episode. And how did they do this, you ask? Well they changed the paradigm. The last few episodes have been exceedingly dark and trippy, focusing on the more horror aspects of the show. And by in large, they have succeeded. “Angels and Ministers of Grace” takes us in another direction. While maintaining the dreariness and darkness associated with “Constantine”, they are able to add in elements of humor and redemption that fit in well with the episode. And as always…THEMES! There’s so many great themes explored in this episode, I’ve decided to give voice to 3 of the more prominent ones.

War and Sacrifice

It’s such a heady thing to write about, biblical almost by definition- the War between good and evil. But oftentimes we are only given glimpses of it- serialized views that take away from the human aspect of it. But what this episode points out is that war not only takes a toll on the body and mind, but also the spirit. The analogy is great: while serving in Iraq, the main “villain” of the episode got injured and had a piece of shrapnel lodged next to his heart. Only that piece of shrapnel is part of The Heart of Darkness, or condensed evil that manifests itself as Dark Matter. Or, to look at it another way, it’s the burden that soldiers and warriors must carry long after their war is over.

What a gorgeous lady
What a gorgeous lady

Another soldier examined in this episode is Zed, as portrayed by the woman of my dreams. I MEAN…by Angelica Celaya. Zed is having more and more troubles with her visions (read: her weapon in the war on evil). Turns out- she’s got a tumor. A small tumor on her frontal cortex that, for all intents and purposes, is responsible for her visions. She has a choice to make- get a biopsy and start treatment for the tumor, which would cure her of her migraines and her visions. Or, conversely, accept the pain as a necessary adjunct to her role in fighting the coming darkness. As we’ll discuss later, her reasons for taking her specific course are deeply personal, and represent the conscious decision taken by all soldiers.

And don’t even bring up Chas. Poor Chas has to get stabbed in the leg with a screwdriver AND allow the dark matter into him. Does John even offer, like, benefits or something like that? But perhaps the biggest sacrifices are the ones made involuntarily- the collateral damage, as the politicians would term it. While it’s true that the three victims of the episode may be counted among these, the biggest one comes by way of Manny, the Angel, who is forced to stay in human form because, well, John is mad at him and needs another soldier. The ants go marching two by two, hurrah, hurrah…

Poor Chas!
Poor Chas!

Second Chances

Indeed this is the calling card for the bad guy of the episode. Except he’s not even really a bad guy. Just more like a good guy who has a piece of bad…metal…stuck next to his heart. The darkness in him compels him to find people who have wasted second chances and, well…murder them. The writers touch on a few things that they have before- namely addiction and why its bad to have it. Afforded more mention though are topics not discussed by many- the second chances given to soldiers, cancer survivors and the rest of us humans who don’t have a chance.

Yes it is, Detective John Kimble!
Yes it is, Detective John Kimble!

You see, Zed’s tumor is small and, for now, benign. It doesn’t pose a serious threat to her life beyond the fact that it could grow into a fucking cancerous tumor. Zeds choice is unique amongst cancer survivors, but it is indicative of reasons that many people undertake suffering- to help others. She accepts that through her suffering others may be saved, which in and of itself is highly indicative of the man that Manny works for. Just saying.

But the big twist comes when it is revealed that the nice young Doctor who seems to be helping Zed is actually the one murdering these people. Only he’s not- it’s the concentrated darkness near his heart. But, then again, on some level it is him. I mean, I can even sympathize with him for being angry towards the people he kills- all of them are addicts of some kind who were given a second chance at life but still backslid (obviously I don’t sympathize with him that much. No need to murder, or anything). All of these people suffered because of their own weaknesses. He, on the other hand, was a medic in Iraq who was the unfortunate victim of circumstance. His second chance was really more of an extra chance, and he used it to become a Doctor and continue healing people. Those that backslid died a terrible death. The girl who chooses to ignore her second chance for the benefit of others gets confirmation of her faith (more on that later) and the one man who utilized his second chance gets taken to heaven peacefully, neath the wings of an angel.

Speaking of the angel- Manny totally boned a chick while he was in human form. I mean…is God gonna, like, punish him for engaging in the first sin? The answer is no. Manny is still an angle, but he has changed now that he has undergone the human experience for the first time. When he asks John how he deals with all these confusing emotions and hormones, I think John’s answer stuns him a little bit: “A little bit of denial and whole lot of gin.” After an episode where his character is fleshed out beautifully (and is well acted, once again, by Harold Perrineau), I think we’re in for at least a slight change in Manny’s character.

High five for Manny!
High five for Manny!

The Human Condition and Needing God

John’s relationship with Manny, and by extension God, is somewhat tenuous. There’s a respectful resentment and acknowledgement of each others usefulness. Zed, on the other hand, is still a young soul amazed by the idea of angels and demons and all of this other-worldly stuff. In this episode, Manny is cut off from the Heavenly host- which is important, as some definitions of Hell are termed “separation from God”. And for Manny, that is Hell. One thing that most of us find pleasurable (it’s sex, in case you were wondering) Manny finds embarrassing and shameful. Without his connection he is really a fish out of water, not really knowing anything about computers or even the human body. Though no doubt he has felt fear as an angel before, now he feels it as a human. When he finally does regain his connection to the heavenly host, it is stronger and Manny is more at peace because of it. This leads credence to the term “separation makes the heart grow fond”.

I mean, seriously, how is someone this straight up pretty?
I mean, seriously, how is someone this straight up pretty?

I’ll touch briefly on Zed here (truthfully, I’d like to touch on her a lot more, Amirite! Anybody? No? Okay). She has just had a bombshell dropped on her. A tumor. Yeah sure it might not be a tumor, but for all intents and purposes, in her mind, it’s a tumor. And in the midst of her suffering, Manny appears to her in human form, and she asks him a simple question: does her gift come from God or from a place of evil? Manny gives her the typical psycho-analytical bullshit response of “What do you think?” simply because he doesn’t know. And while this soothes her for the moment, it’s probably something she’s heard before. But after Manny rejoins the choir of angels, he appears to Zed for the first time in his true angel form. Remember how excited she was knowing thinking that she was in the presence of an angel in “Blessed Are The Damned”? Well now she can actually see one. Pretty much indisputable evidence of God and an afterlife and all that. Angelica Celaya does a great job of playing simply- Zed reverts back to being a young soul, meeting her hero for the first time. She asks him the same question she did earlier, and his response his perfect: “I’m here aren’t I?”

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