This is a good one. We see the return of both Papa Midnite (Michael James Shaw) and Detective Jim Corrigan (Emmett J Scanlan), and perhaps learn who Sister Cedella warned Constantine about—someone close to him who would betray him. This is the last of the thirteen episodes for this season, since NBC halted production last fall. There are unsourced rumors that the show might be moved over to SyFy (with the name Hellblazer), eliciting mixed reactions from fans. But nothing one way or another has been announced—we are hoping that no news is good news.
Based in part on Hellblazer #4, also titled “Waiting For The Man,” this is one of those episodes of occult detective shows that are often the most unsettling: those in which the monster is a human.
A man walks up a dark staircase and enters a room where three girls are sleeping in a big bed. “Rise up now,” the Man says. “I need your help. It’s my wedding night.”
A sliver of red moon peeks from behind a lunar eclipse. A girl who looks to be in her early teens (and who we will later learn is named Vesta Whitney) is alone in an abandoned amusement park. An old man approaches her, telling her she’s going to die. But then the three girls appear and shoo the harbinger away. They smilingly approach the lone runaway, stroke her hair, listen to her story of being angry with her mother, and invite her to join them, telling Vesta about their marriages: “The Man. We’re married to him—all of us. Would you like to be married to the Man?”
Somehow the girls have a strange calming effect on Vesta. She asks to see their wedding rings, and the girls smile as they each expose the strangulation marks around their necks.
Trio: “Aren’t they beautiful?”
Vesta: “Does it hurt?”
Trio: “Only at first. But after, you don’t feel a thing.”
“If you’re married to the Man you’d never be alone again. We’d be a family. All of us.”
“You want to marry the Man?”
Vesta: “Yes, please.”
Trio: “Come on. We’ll take you home with us.”
“You’re going to make a beautiful bride.”
The Man, meanwhile, waits nearby in his truck. A security guard approaches. The Man says his battery’s dead. The guard offers him a jump, and goes back to his prowler’s trunk for jumper cables. The Man comes from behind with his own set of cables, and slings them around the guard’s neck to choke him.
John and Zed are with Detective Jim Corrigan of the New Orleans Police Department’s Homicide division. We first met Corrigan in Episode 5, “Danse Vaudou,” when he and Zed formed a bit of a rapport while ghost-hunting. Corrigan has called them in to help with a case—a fellow detective was found murdered, and his body spontaneously dessicated. He had been working on a case involving three missing girls, and Corrigan thinks it’s related to his death (and post-death sudden mummification). They speak of a lunar tetrad, a series of lunar eclipses, the fourth of which is happening now—a blood moon, associated with ritual sacrifice.
The Man, wearing the security guard’s raincoat and clutching a bloody hammer, heads down basement stairs. It is the home of his latest victim, the guard, who can be heard upstairs gibbering and begging for his life. The Man, in a thick Louisiana accent, tells him to hush up as he heats a branding iron with a blowtorch.
Zed, Jim, and John are in a cemetery to exhume Detective Dupree. Jim touches Zed’s hand at some point—he is happy to be seeing her again—but Zed experiences the same vision she had the last time he touched her: that of Jim, mortally wounded and surrounded by a sort of swirling green mist. And, as last time, she gets freaked out.
They yank Dupree’s shrouded corpse from its mausoleum, and John pours holy water on the man’s mummified, branded chest. The mark is from a Diaboli Cauter: once a tool of the Inquisition for interrogating alleged witches, but in modern times used by satanists. (Search your copy of the Malleus Maleficarum for “the Trial of Red-hot Iron” to learn more on the former usage.) Dupree’s killing was a ritual murder—a blood moon sacrifice. When Jim walks off to answer a call from headquarters, the cadaver suddenly sits bolt upright and speaks: It’s Gary Lester in there! The spirit of John’s old friend has come to warn John that there is a bounty on his head. That was swell of him. Go you, Gaz.
What would a trip to New Orleans be without checking in with Papa Midnite? He is in his place of power, and a man Papa knows to have killed his wife kneels before him. The frightened man agrees to do whatever he is told by Papa. He is then bound to a post, and Midnite stabs him in the heart, saying. “A life for a life.” Papa Midnite means to collect that bounty on Constantine, and this murderer is going to help.
Corrigan’s graveyard call was presumably about a missing girl—particularly bad news on the night of the blood moon. He, John and Zed go to Vesta’s mother’s house. In Vesta’s bedroom, the trio isn’t doing very well coming up with clues—Zed’s visions seem to be “out of service until further notice,” as John puts it. Zed heads into the kitchen and is speaking with Vesta’s mother when Manny arrives, in the place of the mother. Zed only recently gained the ability to see Manny, and she’s an angel fangirl, so unlike John’s usual reaction, she is pleased to see him. Manny says he came at Zed’s request, though she doesn’t seem to recall asking for the angel’s help—he must have sensed her need, she infers. She seeks counsel from Manny on whether to tell Jim about her troubling visions of his death.
Shortly thereafter, John tires of waiting for either the detective or the psychic to come up with a clue. He collects a hairbrush and toothbrush from Vesta’s bathroom. Returning to her bedroom, he then incants a spell in Tibetan, scrubs at his tongue with the toothbrush, and sticks a wad of Vesta’s hair in his mouth along with the toothbrush. Zed looks on, getting seriously squicked out. Next, John breaks a lit lamp, sticks his finger in the broken bulb socket, and electrocutes himself, to the horror of both Jim and Zed. He’s bleeding from the eyes, but he’s successfully pierced the veil and seen VestaVision for long enough to know whence she was taken.
At the Man’s house, the three child wives are preparing Vesta for her wedding. She is wearing the Man’s mother’s bridal gown, which all of three of the girls also wore on their own wedding days to the Man. Vesta is still entranced in the presence of the girls—though she is in a terrifying house with a horrible stench and cultish symbols carved into the walls, as long as her pale friends are around, she remains untroubled in their thrall.
At Papa Midnite’s, the dead murderer awakens, mouth sewn shut and eyes milky. With a puff of his all-purpose Voodoo Dust™, Papa instructs his fresh zombie to go after Constantine.
Our heroes are at the amusement park where Vesta met her creepy new girlfriends. They find the guard’s abandoned cruiser, still running. Jim tries to take a moment to speak to Zed, but she cannot look him in the face. He touches her once more, and she sees the awful vision of him yet again. She shirks away, saying they should catch up with John.
Good thing, too. John is wandering through a dark funhouse when he is attacked by Papa’s zombie. Papa Midnite speaks through the zombie’s sewn-shut mouth from his hideout to say, essentially, “no hard feelings, but my zombie’s gonna kill you now.” John gets thrown around like a damp dishcloth until Corrigan starts shooting—each bullet wound sends a pained shudder through Papa Midnite, but the zombie continues its attack. The zombie finally goes down from a point-blank bullet to the head. It’s time for Zed to suit up and get those visions cranking again: “No more pissing about—we need to find that girl fast,” says John. Zed sees the abducted guard, desperate and sliced up, still wearing his raincap-covered hat. The guard starts trying to write a message to Zed on the floor in blood, but the vision is interrupted by the Man and his branding iron. Zed takes a pen and paper from Jim, and performs some psychography—a skill she uses in the comic as well. The writing is backwards, so she holds a shard of funhouse mirror up to it. It is an address: 4 Delano Street.
Papa Midnite, his zombie defeated, sends a raven to find John. In a role performed by many ravens before it (Matthew, Quoth, and Huginn & Muninn, to name a few), the bird will serve as its master’s eyes.
Back at the Man’s house, it’s weddin’ time. The trio of girls stands behind Vesta, veiled and seated in a tattered velvet chair, as the Man approaches. He lifts her veil and is pleased at the sight of his young bride’s face: “C’est magnifique.” He leads her away. When Vesta anxiously looks back to her three friends, they are gone.
The other trio—John, Jim and Zed—arrive at the kidnapped guard’s house on Delano Street. The raven is also there, and John gives the bird a long look. They wander through the house, seeing a huge pool of blood, and hear a thump—they follow the sound up into the attic, where they find the guard, crucified, wearing a barbed-wire crown of thorns. The raven watches from a tree branch. John knows that the bird is there because of the bounty on his head, and he tells Zed and Jim that they need to clear out while he deals with the issue. They acquiesce, leaving him without even so much as a phone.
Papa Midnite arrives at Delano Street, his Winchester in hand. He quickly spots John and shoots him. While approaching to finish the job, Midnite explains that the bounty he’s been promised by the Brujeria is the release of Sister Cedella’s soul from eternal damnation. (Though it seems to us that if Papa Midnite wanted Cedella to have a happy afterlife, he wouldn’t have kept her immortal soul in servitude in the first place.) He puts the rifle barrel up to John’s head and fires—and the dead, crucified guard collapses in the place of John.
John: “You’re not the only one that can reanimate a corpse. I just added a glamour spell. Nifty, eh?”
Papa: “You’d better kill me, Constantine.”
John: “Oh, shut it.” (John knocks Midnite out cold.)
Now John’s got a phone, a car, and a gun! (“Ta for that!”) He calls Zed—she and Jim have another nearby address, found by reviewing traffic camcorder tapes of the neighborhood. It was here that the Man and Vesta were about to be married in a satanist ceremony. But Vesta, no longer under the lull of the trio of girls, got frightened and ran, with the Man in pursuit.
John arrives at the Man’s house and finds the trio of girls in their bed—dead, of course, and rotting. Zed and Jim arrive, and John takes the lead as they head outside to search for Vesta, saying of his newly acquired firearm: “Mine’s bigger.”
The Man has caught Vesta, but John finds them, and Vesta gets dropped in the Man’s effort to escape. Zed handily takes the Man out with a shovel. While Detective Corrigan is cuffing the Man, John speculates aloud on what would happen if someone like the Man—a killer of cops and children—were to try to escape. At first Corrigan says, “He ain’t no demon—ain’t no ghost.” But In what might be the most unnerving scene in an already disturbing episode, Jim takes the handcuffs back off, and whispers, “run.” As Zed leads Vesta to safety, we hear a single shot ring out in the night.
John releases the spirits of the trio of girls, while the police arrive at the Delano Street house just as Papa Midnite begins to regain consciousness. Zed and Detective Jim are having a drink together, and she tells him of her visions of his death. John arrives at the threshold of the bar in time to see the two of them kiss—though Zed must be pretty fazed, since every time they’ve ever made physical contact she’s seen a horrifying vision. To the sound of Hozier’s haunting “Work Song,” John wanders off through the rain, stopping for a wee below an overpass. At the sound of Manny’s wings behind him, he says, “Be an angel. Come over here and hold it for me, will ya? … You know, you’re like a blister. You only turn up when the hard work’s done.” Despite John’s snark, Manny has come with words of encouragement—they are making progress in the war against the Rising Darkness. Constantine says, “You know me. I don’t play if I can’t win. All I’m worried about is how to spend the rest of my days after I’ve driven every last bastard demon back to where it belongs.” It’s one of those grand statements on his nature, purpose, and future that Constantine so often makes at the end of the episode.
But another scene begins.
Papa Midnite is in the back of a squad car in handcuffs, hollering for a lawyer, when time stops. The car door opens, and Papa steps out, clearly disconcerted by whatever invisible force has so strong a power. And there is our dear old angel friend Manny. The handcuffs fall from Papa’s wrists as Manny tells him that the contract on Constantine has been canceled. John is now off limits. Midnite, free yet wary and confused, asks the mysterious stranger if he works for the Brujeria. Manny replies, “No. The Brujeria work for me,” and flies off into the blood-moonlit night.
As far as the show’s basis in the comic, the story remained as true as any episode so far. (In the comic [Hellblazer #4, “Waiting For the Man,” written by Jamie Delano with art by John Ridgway], the role of Vesta is filled by Constantine’s niece, Gemma Masters.) Although unfortunate that Detective Corrigan will have to die for it to happen, we are nonetheless eager to see him as the Spectre someday. One of the joys of occult detective fiction, especially on TV, is the frequent return of dead characters, and it was a pleasantly creepy surprise to hear from Gary Lester, though briefly. And although we had to wait until the final moments of the season finale, Manny has suddenly become supremely interesting!
A lot was packed into this episode—enough to leave us wanting more. A real lunar tetrad is now underway. The next blood moon is only a few months from now, on April 4, 2015. Who can say what darkness lies ahead?