Once upon a time (October 2013), NBC decided to go all-in with horror genre programming. Why not? Grimm and Hannibal had earned pick-ups. What better plan than to add a genre show to the low-expectation Friday night spot following Grimm, building a horror block of programming? Thus, the network TV reboot of Dracula was born.
Fast-forward a year later. Dracula was cancelled by NBC, leaving a hole in the Friday night horror block. In the meantime, The CW was having success adapting DC Comics properties for the small screen, with Arrow a hit and The Flash launching that fall. What’s a major network to do?
Enter Constantine. We can go into all the reasons that Constantine and NBC didn’t play well together (feel free to do so in the comments below if you like), but the least of these reasons was the portrayal of the title hero, John Constantine, by actor Matt Ryan. Ryan’s Constantine was about as spot-on as one could expect to get on over-the-air television. Which is why it was great this week on Arrow to see Oliver call in a favor to help get the resurrected Sara’s soul back.
We know Legends of Tomorrow is coming. We’ve been beaten over the head with it since the series was announced, particularly in our current DC/CW programming. We have active storylines on both shows that involve Legends characters. These have been introduced and handled with varying degrees of subtlety and success. The current arc on Arrow concerning the Lance family is one of those better examples of how to handle those plot threads. Seeing how the writers handled introducing Constantine from the greater DC television universe (multiverse?) gives me hope for how these characters from what will be three different shows will be used. Pop in where it makes sense, make a solid cameo, then get out before overstaying your welcome, but not without making a generic “if you ever need me” statement.
How does Ollie know Constantine? Flashback to Lian Yu, where John Constantine is searching the island for a mysterious hatch leading into the ground. I half expected him to tell Ollie that Jacob told him that the island is like a cork in a bottle, trapping the smoke monster here so it can’t get to the outside world. Instead, Constantine is in search of a magical artifact, which he finds in the tunnels connecting to the hatch. Ollie saves Constantine from a very new-looking booby trap (must have been installed by the Dharma Initiative and not the island’s earlier residents). So, Constantine owes Ollie one. To wrap up the flashback sequences, Constantine warns Ollie that this island is a bad place that attracts bad people (I swear, I’ll stop with the LOST comparisons when I no longer am given LOST comparisons to refer to). Constantine uses the artifact to transfer the tattoo from his own arm to Ollie’s abs, telling Ollie he’ll know what to do with them when the time is right.
(Aside #1: if you pause the scene at just the right time, you can see that the tattoos are the Cantonese symbols for the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42.)
(Aside #2: I made that up.)
Ollie calls in that favor because Feral Sara has been on a rampage throughout Star City after breaking out of her chains and out of Laurel’s basement, targeting young women who look like Thea. When Sara does catch up with the real Thea, the resurrected assassin with a bad case of bloodlust and missing one soul puts Thea in the hospital.
It’s at the hospital that we get down to brass tacks about what this episode is really all about. Last season, Ras al Ghul attacked Thea, nearly killing her. Ollie traveled to Nanda Parbat and made a deal with the devil that was Ras to restore Thea to good health. The cost was Ollie submitting to Ras, which was a ruse. It was, in other words, “The Queen’s Gambit”. The more far-reaching effects were the sudden fits of bloodlust that Thea has experienced since her restoration.
Laurel lost her sister once, in the shipwreck. Then Sara came back, and Laurel didn’t like it. Once Laurel put down the bottle, the two sisters were able to repair their relationship. The Sara died again. In the aftermath of Sara’s latest death, Laurel alienated her father. Now, Sara is up and ambulatory –sans soul– because Laurel decided that she wanted her sister back. To have Ollie standing in the hospital where Thea is in bed because of Sara’s attack is more than Laurel can take. She calls BS on Ollie and his lying and secret-keeping and “I’m a hero and you’re not so ha ha” attitude.
Ollie knows that Laurel is right. He hasn’t been the stand-up guy toward the Lance family that Ollie says he wants to be. When the political strategist that Thea hired to oversee Ollie’s mayoral campaign tells Ollie to distance himself from the Lance’s, Ollie is too quick to see the guy’s point, even if it looks like the kid is still working on his Bachelor’s degree. Thea talks some sense into Ollie and that’s when Ollie uses what has to be one of the last of his remaining lifelines to phone a friend.
Meanwhile, Damien Darhk has a job for Captain Lance, to implant a virus at a federal data center, which erases files on ex-military personnel. Ollie doesn’t want Lance to go it alone and has Lance ask Diggle to tag along. Lance comes clean to Dig about how he got mixed up with Darhk. Knowing it is the best chance the team has of bringing down HIVE, Dig agrees to work with Lance.
As the names of those whose files are being deleted roll across the screen, Dig recognizes his brother, Andy, as one of those people. Lance badgers Darhk into telling him why HIVE had Andy killed. Turns out that Andy wasn’t the good kid that Dig remembered. Andy was building his own criminal enterprise and ran afoul of HIVE, which is why HIVE had Andy killed.
We all have sibling issues, brother.
Presumably, we can put one set of issues to rest. Constantine works his magic (which does not include the feather from one peacock… perhaps plucked from the NBC mascot?) which takes Constantine, Ollie, and Laurel into a spirit realm that looks a lot like the Nanda Parbat set (they do love to recycle sets on this show… Brother Blood’s lair, the Vertigo set, Thea’s apartment where Ollie & Felicity are staying, now this). Here, Constantine keeps the dark forces dressed as assassins away while Ollie and Laurel draw Sara from the Lazarus Pit, restoring her soul to her body in the real world.
While Team Arrow has been delving into the mysteries of the magical world, over at Palmer Tech, Felicity has Curtis –he of the bronze medal in the decathlon in the 2008 Olympics– slamming energy drinks and trying to crack a mystery in the technological world. There was some artifact (not the magical kind that transfers tattoos better than, well, a kid licking a sheet of transferable tattoos) on the last recording Ray left Felicity before he disappeared and was assumed to have died in a fiery explosion that took no time at all to repair. Curtis decodes the signal… and we have a little more work to do between now and the Legends premier!
So, death watchers, what say you? This episode was all about what a person would do for a fallen sibling. Could Thea be our mystery corpse? I know there has been backlash every time I bring it up, but we have another episode where Ollie and Laurel are being brought closer together by the writers and producers. Does Felicity get bumped so we have our Green Arrow/Black Canary romantic pairing? Are they bringing the two together just to rip them apart with another death of another member of the Lance family? If so, then which one? Laurel? Quentin? Sara, again? Could Curtis become addicted to energy drinks and have his cardiac episode in May?
I really hope we get more Matt Ryan as John Constantine. I hope we can start working more notable DC characters into the fold as well. Above those, though, I hope we can have a united DC television universe. The trend has been for Marvel and DC to appoint one person or small group of people to lead the film and television vision for the respective franchises. DC has that in the cinematic world with Christopher Nolan and, to a lesser extent, Zach Snyder. Maybe Ben Affleck as well, should he direct a feature or two. I hope we can see DC properties seeded to other channels (like Marvel has done with Netflix and ABC) that create a unified DC television universe (multiverse?) under the Berlanti/Kreisberg/Guggenheim watch. A Supergirl crossover, however unlikely, would be a step in the right direction.