Martin Carr reviews the tenth episode of Constantine…
Quid Pro Quo: A reciprocal exchange from the Latin circa sixteenth century.
Underutilised and under the radar no longer people. Finally seasoned supporting player Charles Halford gets his chance to outshine Matt Ryan, in a move destined to see the fortunes of Constantine take on a more optimistic hue. You see by concentrating focus on Chas and his family, Halford is able to display a range which combines depth and pathos without becoming mawkish or clichéd. In a storyline lifted straight from Hellblazer we get moments of backstory in flashback which provide structure and reasoning behind his unquestioning loyalty. Ryan takes a backseat for the first time this series, proving that Chas is more than mere muscle and a set of wheels.
Interestingly his wife Renee has been toned down for television. Rather less the deep rooted man hater of comic book fame, more the perpetually resentful partner with an unwavering contempt for a close friend. In all fairness she has a point as Constantine is, as many of us already know, just the sort of friend who rarely picks up a tab and gets by on charm and a modicum of good looks and fortunate circumstance.
Within the title of this episode lay a number of interpretations for those willing to look of course. For anyone who has ever heard the phrase ‘fair exchange is no robbery’ may do well to ponder the Latin lineage of Constantine’s tagline. Because there exists between these characters a delicate balance reliant upon reciprocation, in which not every exchange is fair. Upset that in any way and it became clear this week that Constantine is not the only one capable of causing trouble.
Key to this revelation is the introduction of Mark Margolis as Felix Faust. Margolis of course is well known for his virtually mute portrayal of wheelchair bound drug lord Hector Salamanca in Breaking Bad. By taking on this character that exists outside of Constantine in an established DC universe Margolis is upping the ante for all concerned. Faust is painted as an elderly curmudgeon shrouded in robes behind an ornate desk, finally able to have others do his bidding. Margolis more than holds his own against Ryan in their shared scenes never making Faust seem truly evil, helped in no small measure by his childish petulance. He has the air of a man with inherited powers and the demeanour of a latter day Albert Steptoe. This makes Faust somehow weaker in spite of his new found abilities.
It is a measure of Margolis that he is able to bring all that to the table within only a few short scenes. Proving that this show may not be attracting the numbers, but it has nothing to do with the quality of material on offer. What is needed here is reliant upon audience reciprocation as much as any consistent character arc. For that to happen, people need to open their collective eyes and embrace the unconventional. Constantine has quality and originality on offer and there is a bargain to be struck, an exchange to be bartered if you will. For those prepared to invest themselves there are returns capable of transcending more mainstream offerings. That choice is yours to make.