The seventh episode of Constantine takes us to rural Appalachia, where one may find not only corn-on-a-stick, but in some corners, charismatic Christian ministers who still display their faith through the practice of laying on of hands, speaking in tongues, and snake handling.
A Pentecostal minister in Kentucky refuses to heed his sister’s warnings, and chooses to use a venomous rattler in the snake-handling portion of his sermon. Their church’s congregation has been dwindling since the former minister, their father, died, and he wants to put on a good show. OF COURSE the snake bites him in the middle of his spectacle, and he dies nearly instantly. As his sister tries to resuscitate him, a fiery feather appears in the dead minister’s hand, and he awakens. Stuffing the feather in his pocket, he leaps to his feet as the congregation gasps and cheers. A man missing part of a leg rushes down the aisle on crutches, and the minister lays hands on him. The man’s missing leg grows back, just like that. It is a miracle!
Zed is in a life drawing class, sketching a nude male model, when she has a vision of snakes slithering around her ankles. She lets out a scream, and the instructor takes the interruption as an opportunity for a short break. The model approaches Zed, saying about her outburst, “I hope it wasn’t me,” and introduces himself as Eddie.
“No—you were fine. You were … more than fine.”
He asks Zed out, and though she demurs at first, Eddie the model is charming as well as attractive, and Zed agrees to meet him for dinner later in the week.
Returning to Jasper’s millhouse, Zed and Constantine ridiculously talk at each other simultaneously, both refusing to stop to listen to the other, until John hears the word “snakes.” “The middle of bugger-all” Kentucky is the latest hotspot on the scry map, and the Miracle Leg of Briarwood First Assembly of God has been reported on the internet—at least in the woo-woo corners of it, if not the mainstream press. John starts packing his Bag of Tricks for the trip—Chas is off “making good with his daughter” (yes, Chas’s daughter now exists in the Constantine TV world too), so Zed’s driving. John packs a little hand-held scythe that he says he nicked from the Grim Reaper himself, along with other articles of protection—a rabbit’s foot and condoms. Our Constantine—always prepared.
Word has spread about the miracles of preacher Zachary, and a crowd has formed at the latest revival meeting, both in and outside of the little church. John and Zed witness as he appears to heal a blind man, and the two discuss matters of faith:
Zed: They’re all so hungry for something to believe in—he’s just preying on them.
John: Well, suckers make easy prey.
Zed: They’re not suckers. They’re just not jaded like you. They’re still searching for the magic in their lives.
John: I didn’t take you for a religious one.
Zed: I don’t know what I am. But I like to believe there’s a guiding hand in it all.
John: Guiding, judging, damning—He’s a Jack-of-all-trades, really. I mean I’m not critiquing or anything, but I’m pretty sure He’s not very keen on me.
But then they see Zach heal a man with burns, or rosacea, or acne or something—whatever it is, we can see the redness on the man’s face disappear. This is not just a guy pretending to be afflicted; something is actually happening to these people. Reverend Zachary begins speaking in tongues—Constantine may not be able to understand Enochian (“the language of the bloody angels”), but he knows it when he hears it, and Zach is chanting in Enochian.
Nate, the young man with the freshly regrown leg, is with a doctor who is looking over before-and-after x-rays. The doctor is happily baffled, but Nate is starting to sweat and is feeling feverish. Suddenly his pupils go soupy, the lights in the exam room start to blink on and off, and Nate leaps from the exam table and kills the doctor with his bare hands before walking out, still in boxers and bare feet.
Back at the church, sick and injured believers are queuing up for the laying on of hands by Zachary. Zed and John join the line, and when Zed takes the minister’s hand, she sees big black wings. John’s turn is next, and he shrugs off a handshake by saying he’s got a cold, and only asks Zach, “Where did you learn Enochian?” He doesn’t get an answer. “Who are we to question the gifts of the Lord?” is all Minister Zachary has to say on the matter.
Newly bipedal Nate is wandering along a road and is not looking good. His face has red streaks and his eyes are wild. A Jefferson County Sheriff’s cruiser prowls by, and the deputy stops. Nate kills him, and then lopes off like an animal on all fours.
Constantine and Zed are having one of those inane conversations in which she believes people are good and she’s always wrong. She thinks Zach has his parishioners’ interests at heart, and people are being healed, so what’s the problem? John reminds her that the blood map doesn’t lead them to places where everything is fine.
John brings her along as he follows his nose to a nearby pond, where all of the fish are floating on the surface. “Pobrecitos.” The power needed to effect the healing is draining energy and life from the land around the church. John tries to call for Manny to ask about the Enochian, but he gets no answer. So he draws a sigil of an ouroboros in the sand and performs a ritualistic summoning, but adds “Please?” to the end, which works. Zed becomes Manny, advises John to face the sun, and suddenly Zed is back. He asks her to stand by him, facing the sun, and to hum the melody of the Enochian chanting they heard from Zach earlier. Soon they hear the sound of a beautiful voice repeating the song. John says, “Echolocation,” which doesn’t make any sense, but whatever. (“Enocholocation,” maybe.) They follow the sound of the voice to a tree in a field, where they find an angel lying in a layer of fallen leaves. She rises and spreads her wings.
They take the weakened angel to a barn that Zed says “looks abandoned.” (We suspect the barn’s not abandoned at all, as there’s a tractor outside, and there are a couple of nice wool blankets with no signs of rodent chew-holes in them on fresh hay bales inside. Maybe Zed considers any premises that aren’t inhabited at any given moment “abandoned.”) The angel’s name is Imogen, and she says that she was taking a dying mortal to Heaven when the man pulled a feather from her wing, causing her to fall to earth and the man to be revived. Wing damage is one of the only ways for an angel to physically enter the mortal plane. (“Piss-poor design, if you ask me.”) Zed is chuffed to be seeing a real live angel. Imogen (played by the lovely Megan West) has crazy golden angel eyes like Manny, but with her copper hair and silvery pall we can’t help but think she looks a little like a Nova Scotia duck-tolling retriever. (She also reminds us a great deal of Chantinelle, aka “Ellie,” a succubus of Constantine’s acquaintance from the comics.) Manny shows up again, but Zed can’t see or hear him in his spirit form. She wanders around with her arms outstretched, clumsily trying to find him while he and Constantine talk. John berates Manny for not having been more help earlier, but Manny had nothing to share:
I didn’t know that she fell, John. Angels are compartmentalized. It’s all part of the Plan—to prevent our interference and keep humanity’s freewill intact.
It is determined that Imogen’s feather must be returned. John puts a spell of protection around the barn by running a hose around it, charming it, and turning the water on. Then Zed and John return to the church grounds.
At preacher Zach’s house, he and his sister, Sarah, learn that Nate is a suspect in the murders of the doctor and the deputy. Zach now has the angel feather concealed on a cord around his neck. Sarah has been concerned about recent events from the beginning, and she has also been showing signs of illness, but has hidden them from Zach because she does not trust his healing powers—especially now that nice young Nate, the first to be healed, has become a killer. The siblings get into an argument. Sarah says to Zach: “Your head’s not quiet.” Since even before the recent death of their father, Sarah has noticed something wrong with Zach. Her lack of faith in him upsets Zachary, and he kicks her out of the house and his congregation: “I can’t have a nonbeliever tainting my flock.”
Zed pitches a tent outside the church among the faithful who have traveled to seek healing as a thunderstorm looms. John goes to Pastor Zach’s house to try to get the feather from him. When talking fails, John reaches out to take the feather from Zach’s neck, but the power of the feather throws him backward. John retreats to come up with a new plan, and arrives back at the tent just as Zed is being attacked by Nate. John kills Nate with his mini-Grim Reaper scythe. See? Prepared!
The next morning, back at the barn, John tells Zed, Imogen, and Manny (who has stayed to watch over Imogen) that Nate had become what he calls a ghoul through bad magic. They assume that Zed was attacked due to the psychic connection she made with Zach. They still believe they must get the feather, now not only to heal Imogen, but to keep the others who have been affected by its power from turning as Nate did. It’s Zed’s turn at bat.
After the morning sermon, Zed speaks to Zach, playing against his distrust of John, and saying she wishes she could start over. Well, hey! Turns out she can! Zed’s going to be baptized.
Cut to a big group baptism ceremony in a river. We guess someone went ahead and cleaned up the dead animals first, or that the river is much farther away from the church than the pond is. As Zed is lowered back into the water by Zach, she snatches the feather from his neck. As we have seen, Zed is really good at stealing stuff. The feather protects Zed from those who reach out to grab her as Zach stumbles in the water. Meanwhile, all of the people watching on the shore who had previously been healed begin turning ghoulish and attacking. John, who has been lurking among them, shouts, “Everybody run!” He picks up a huge Flintstones-like club from the shore and starts swinging at the ghouls.
Chaos ensues. Zed pulls Zach from the water, and they and Constantine barricade themselves inside the church from the pursuing ghouls. Zed escapes out the back to bring the feather to Imogen. John has his back to the church doors, trying to hold back the ghouls, while Zach paces and moans and does not help at all. He is manic and freaked out by more than just the ghouls pounding on the church doors. He recounts his secret tale of having run over a person in a drunken hit-and-run. John becomes even more alarmed—killing a person is a mortal sin. There’s no way Imogen was taking Zach to Heaven; he’s destined for the Other Place.
At the barn, Manny and Imogen are having an angel-to-angel chat, and start commiserating about those nutty humans. Her extreme opinions make Manny start to realize that Imogen may not be one of the good angels, subservient to Heaven. Zed bursts in with the feather just then, and Manny looks stricken—he has said over and over that he cannot change the course of human events, and Zed can’t see or hear him anyway. She replaces the feather, causing the ghouls attacking John at the church to revert back to their human selves. Imogen, her health restored, spreads her wings as they turn from white to black. It is now clear to all—Imogen didn’t just fall; she is Fallen.
Imogen takes flight to leave the barn, but the protection spell Constantine cast works both ways—although created to keep evil out, it is now serving to keep evil trapped within. She falls to the ground as John arrives. The whole story is revealed—Zachary didn’t take the feather. Imogen gave it to him so she could escape Hell, and the ghouls were set in play to return it to her. Imogen was cast out for the same sin as Zachary. She killed a mortal. But while Zach’s sin was an accident, Imogen’s was committed “just to see how easy it would be.”
Imogen has no intention of returning to Hell, and grabs Zed by the throat. Manny and Constantine stand helplessly by.
John: You’re the only one who can stop this.
Manny: You know I can’t.
John: You mean you won’t. Help her! You’re either in this bloody fight with me or you’re not. Come on!
Manny: You know the rules. [Manny disapparates]
Imogen: Guess you’re on your own. Your angel did what they always do: nothing.
Manny [in Zed’s place]: Like hell.
Manny has taken over Zed again, and he reaches into Imogen’s chest and pulls out her heart. Constantine and Manny exchange looks, then the angel is gone, leaving Zed standing there with a beating heart in her hand.
Zachary is back at his pulpit, preparing to make amends with his flock and his God. The congregation is back down to normal size, and his sister Sarah is among them, once more welcome and looking relieved. There are no rattlesnakes to be seen.
At Jasper’s, Constantine sticks the beating heart of concentrated evil in a jar, while Manny perches nearby. Manny reminds John that one of the reasons Imogen was able to break into the mortal plane was due to the veil between worlds growing thinner with the advent of the Rising Darkness, and that more bad things will surely be right behind her. Manny wordlessly splits as he always does, and John adds the throbbing heart to Jasper’s collection, right next to what looks very much like the Medusa Mask, which we also caught a glimpse of in the pilot episode.
Finally, Zed is in the bath when she gets a call from her waiting date, Eddie. We forgot about him too! She begs off their date, saying they can try again another time. But then we see Eddie in his car, and a big guy in a tie and crucifix pendant is in the back seat. The date was a trap for Zed—but set by whom? We are guessing by the look of the mystery backseat man that we are in for an appearance by the Resurrection Crusade, in which case we will be learning more about Zed’s past as well as continuing the theme of faith gone horribly wrong. As the more closely the episodes are to the original Hellblazer stories, the darker and better they’ve been, and we find this to be good news. Though we doubt Zed would agree.
Angels exist. Sound the bloody trumpets. As for religion—all right, be nice to your neighbor and all that. But the world isn’t all puppy dogs and rainbows. You can’t just pray evil away. You still have to fight. Hard. All alone.