Before we get into the meat of this review, there’s one question that’s lingering in my mind; Is the casting department for Constantine digging through the files of actors they like from FX’s Justified? In the pilot there’s Jeremy Davies as Ritchie, and in ‘The Devil’s Vinyl’ there’s Joelle Carter playing Jasmine, the character who brings everybody into this hellish mess. But if this is the kind of casting trend viewers should continually see in Constantine, that’s 100% okay by me.
The episode started off in an odd place as Jasmine (Joelle Carter) rummaged through an abandoned building, getting her hands on a mysterious piece of vinyl. There’s something immediately off about what she’s got in her hands. She urges the record label producer Bernie (Dikran Tulaine) not to listen to the vinyl, but naturally that doesn’t happen or else this wouldn’t be a very entertaining episode. He eventually listens to it, goes a little insane and blows up with blood splattered all over the studio. The dangerous artifact is not to be trifled with, so the only way Jasmine can deal with it is by keeping close guard of the vinyl.
Unlike the lady in the pilot, Zed (Angélica Celaya) isn’t getting rubbed out of John Constantine’s (Matt Ryan) rear view mirror anytime soon. She easily tracks down his headquarters and gets to know his right hand man Chas (Charles Halford). He’s already warmed up to Zed and believes she’s a reliable ally. Constantine isn’t too fond of her, and a lot of that has to do with his bit of jealousy. Constantine is still a bit rough around the edges with his magic usage, while Zed’s psychic powers and swift adaptation to any situation. In some ways Zed is more fluid and better with her powers than he is, but his experience and cunning still trumps her, for the time being.
This episode isn’t dragging it’s feet like the previous ones. Once Zed and Constantine find out about Bernie’s death, and how it might have some dark magic floating around it, they’re off to figure out exactly what’s going on. Constantine sharpens his speaking to the undead skills as he awakens Bernie just for a moment, just so he can get a couple of questions answered. There are a couple shots sprinkled throughout ‘The Devil’s Vinyl,’ whether it’d be through coloration or special effects, that in some ways are reminiscent of the 2005 ‘Constantine’ movie. There’s nothing particularly bad about it and in all honesty I think that movie was given a bad wrap but it is something rather noticeable in this episode compared to the previous two.
The general pace of this episode seems faster, and perhaps one of the reasons that is so is due to the television introduction of another Constantine character; Papa Midnite (Michael James Shaw). Before we get a glimpse of the menacing character, Constantine and Zed find Jasmine and her family. Not only is she the one responsible for bringing this devilish and powerful piece of vinyl back out into the world, but it’s for a price. Jasmine sold her soul in order to get her husband Ian (Marcus Hester) out of the clutches of death and back into the peak of health. She was conned into doing this by a little weasel of a man called Anton (Sean Whalen), but when Constantine goes to bully the soul dealer around, that’s when he finally crosses paths with Papa Midnite.
Now there’s plenty of ways that actor Michael James Shaw could’ve portrayed Papa Midnite, some that could’ve come off more comical than others. His introduction is especially cool between the clever use of minimal lighting and the slow swoop of the camera from a lower angle, showing just what kind of powerful force he is right off the bat. The actor, and frankly his voice, emits this fine mixture of menace and confidence. He immediately subdues Constantine, proving his power as a worthy adversary and explaining how he’s the one behind the vinyl being out in the world. He wants it for his own purposes, more to keep it than anything else, and he doesn’t want the dabbler of the dark arts getting in his way. He cuts Constantine’s wrist, not to kill him but to test and see if he’s really got the smarts to get out of that situation and go after Papa Midnite.
Thankfully he left one of his nifty trinkets near Zed and Jasmine so they can track Constantine down in time, but not before he’s paid a visit from Manny (Harold Perrineau). It’s hard not to chuckle and bask in the wonderful tension that surrounds each conversation Constantine and Manny have with each other. The two actors are so good in their respected roles, which makes these scenes all the better. Manny is more of an observer than anything else, doing very little to interfere with Constantine’s line of work. But he’s able to dodge away in time to see Zed save Constantine from being stabbed by a homeless person. There’s no time to lose if they want to go and save Jasmine’s soul, and those around the world.
Papa Midnite’s two goons went over to Jasmine’s place and stole the vinyl, but were stupid enough to touch and listen to it. Now they’re planning to infect the world with the devilish tunes, ones that could wipe everybody out. They sweep their way through a club, killing almost everyone inside. Another one of Zed’s visions leads them to the goon’s next target; the radio station. It’s kind of adorable how Constantine is feeling a little left out of the equation in saving the day, so he barges into the radio station himself with some headphones and music in hand. If he blocks out the sound from the vinyl, he’ll be able to subdue the culprits who have it in their possession. It is a rather cool scene, watching him race through the corridors while he’s blasting the Sex Pistol’s “Anarchy in the U.K.” through his headphones.
It’s a quick scene that transpires when the evil voice starts spewing out of the speakers towards all the innocent people in the station. Papa Midnite barges in, thinking that he can bully his way into getting the vinyl back, but through quick thinking Constantine sends the vinyl and the two goons down to the darkest pits of hell. Viewers get another shot of the CG effects that the show provides, and it’s not disappointing.
The episode wraps with more mystery being laid out on Zed as she brings out a strange cross. What’s it for? Hopefully it’s not used for evil, because Papa Midnite already has that covered. He saved some of the blood on his knife he used to cut Constantine to make a voodoo doll. ‘Constantine’ is really turning into a strong show, and the appearance of Papa Midnite makes me excited to see what else they have in store for us this first season.