Old Flames and Old Monsters: Constantine’s “The Saint of Last Resorts”
There are people in life we drop everything for. It doesn’t matter if we haven’t spoken in years. It doesn’t matter what happened or what didn’t. When the nightmare hits the fan and the impossible happens, that’s who we reach out to. And that’s who shows up.
In this week’s Constantine (The Saint of Last Resorts), we meet another of the Newcastle crew, Anne Marie. She’s got a neat trick of being able to protect herself, and she appears in the millhouse, calling on an old debt. She’s not one to mince words or suffer fools lightly, but given the look on Constantine’s face, it’s not just the debt that sends him to Mexico. And it’s not just the monster of unknown variety that compels him to go. No, some people pick up the phone and no matter what it costs, you answer.
Interestingly, when Anne Marie’s bilocation spell’s done, we see her back in her room at the convent, holding a punk rock photo of herself and John. And whoever made that picture happen is a genius. It’s perfect. But the fact that she held onto that photo after all this time speaks volumes. Constantine may owe her, but that’s not all there is to this. For her, he may be her great heartbreak – the one that sticks in your ribs for the rest of your life, never quite allowing for peace. More on that, later.
The conversation between Zed and John (when he informs her she isn’t coming with them) is interesting. When he talks about himself in any capacity, Constantine is hideously uncomfortable. He admits that he and Anne Marie slept together, but the look on his face makes it clear that it wasn’t just sex. No, sex itself is easy. Feelings? Haha, not so much. Anyone who tells you differently is either lying or a sociopath. But back to the point: John also reveals that Anne Marie is who got him involved in the occult scene. Which means she’s a big part of his past and the way that past informs the future. Of course, Zed is rather miffed that Constantine’s leaving her behind. He says that she’s still on R&R, which is why he’s been letting her stay at the millhouse. But something about that reasoning rings a little false to me and falls a wee bit flat. Could it be that John’s keeping her close to keep an eye on her? And that he leaves her behind, because he doesn’t really trust her? Possibly. Time will tell on that.
Chas and John arrive at the convent and are immediately confronted with the fact that neither speaks Spanish. Chas quips, “We should’ve brought Zed” with just the right amount of reasonable sass. But Anne Marie’s there, dressed in her nun’s habit, and John looks both taken aback and amused. Chas sneaks in a brilliant eye roll at John’s face, before they head inside. Anne Marie and Constantine talk business for a moment, until they venture into an awkward bit of parsing out the past. “I always thought one of us would flee to Mexico, but I thought they’re be tequila involved.” Slow clap for that line, because tequila’s my favorite. And slow clap for it, because it demonstrates John’s curiosity. It’s not idle when it comes to Anne Marie. He wants to know when and why she became a nun. But he makes one joke too many and Anne Marie only sees the brash, blustery exterior of a man who doesn’t give a damn. Not the man underneath, who gives too many damns (so to speak). You can actually see him struggle to cobble his walls back together, as Anne Marie hurls some figurative punches his way. It’s not merely salting a wound. It’s tossing Newcastle with gasoline and lighting a bloody match. She lays into him with a quiet, raging fury – spouting off all the members of the Newcastle crew, not stopping to notice the actual physical distance John put between himself and her when she started digging at the exact place of his shame. The body language there was magnificent, and Matt Ryan’s sharp subtlety is well-done
Chas, Anne Marie, and John start poking around the place where the baby went missing. (This is intercut with Zed walking around the millhouse, finding a door that leads to a misty abyss. That comes into play later, of course.) Sister Luisa saunters in while they’re looking around, and she starts flirting with John pretty hardcore. And Constantine being Constantine gives it right back, later calling her Sister Flirtatious and insisting that she started it. That bit made me chuckle. Because holy gods, John flirts with everyone, and it’s rather marvelous. Anyway, John casts a spell with some runes to discover what stolen the child – and the runes promptly catch on fire, indicating that the monster in question has covered its tracks. But the precaution signals that the child might still be alive, so Anne Marie and Constantine head off to unbury the child’s placenta (ew. So much ew. A WORLD of EW) from the family’s yard. That will give them a connection to the baby’s soul, enabling them to find him.
Arriving at night to the creepiest foggy yard, occupied by an equally terrifying tree, there’s an unexpected vulnerable exchange between John and Anne Marie. She reveals how hurt she was when Constantine slipped out of bed to go chase after other girls. The root of her wound isn’t Newcastle – it’s further back than that. The ungodly betrayal of a first love. And John doesn’t have his walls up here. What she says gets through (and I so adore her sass, when she asks, “Do you want that vow of silence back now?” Anne Marie’s got a devastatingly quiet way of chastising John. It’s challenging and not explosive, but the effect is still visceral).
When they begin digging in the yard, John apologizes to her. He doesn’t seem the type to throw apologies around lightly, and his words are spoken with genuine regret. Anne Marie’s having none it, though – throwing his ego in his face, the fact that he tends to use people, snapping that “everyone’s just a port in your storm.” But then John looks up at the tree and grabs the most disturbing pear I’ve ever seen. Cutting it open, the damn thing bleeds and the tree starts bleeding too – and thank you, because THAT will be occupying my nightmares. HUMAN FRUIT, guys. Incidentally, the symbolism of John standing there with blood on his hands did not go unnoticed or unappreciated. Regardless, the father, Hugh, rushes out of the house and John tells him that the baby’s still alive.
We cut back to Hugo, Anne Marie, and John tossing back some tequila (FINALLY), discussing the particulars of the situation. One of Eve’s sisters is what has stolen the baby. The sisters are goddesses of hell, which sounds both powerful AND alarming. During the conversation, Anne Marie asserts something interesting: “Evil wins when we let it destroy our faith in the power of good.” That sums up a main struggle of the show: believing in good, believing in its power, even in the face of unspeakable evil. That’s part of John’s battle – and perhaps Anne Marie’s as well. While she’s talking, though, Constantine’s gone distant again, his body language as rigid as a wall. Perhaps her words hit too close to home.
Hugo gets up to answer the phone, Anne Marie lays into John yet again, saying that his ego is out of control. But it’s not John’s ego that’s the problem here. It’s the pain that seems to overwhelm him, and the guilt, when she’s near. He drank at least four shots of tequila in that short scene. That’s a defense mechanism, liquid courage. When Hugo comes back, we’re told another baby’s been stolen – and to make a long story short, it’s his son’s secret child. This means the baby snatching isn’t random – it’s attached to a lineage. To find out why, they later go to visit Hugo’s grandmother. Who, you know, John also flirts with.
Meanwhile, Zed’s getting art supplies from what has to be the least well-lit and most atmospherically creepy art store ever. And it just so HAPPENS that Eddie, hot model dude with an agenda, finds her. They go have a drink at an equally creeptastic bar, where she has a vision after touching his hand (a white room that looks like a bank vault). Playing it cool, she essentially lures him back to the millhouse, kicks his ass SPECTACULARLY, and we learn her real name is Mary. And that he father (ominous, much?) wants her home. We discover that Zed spent most of her childhood locked in a room, which is a few shades of Carrie. She’s some kind of salvation, supposedly, and the Crusade (Eddie’s word) will also find her. Some crusaders show up, shoot Eddie, and chase Zed around the millhouse. Harkening back to the earlier scene, Zed drops one of them into the abyss without so much as a backwards glance. For all her ass kicking, Zed is surprised by a creeper with a syringe, who is hellbent on taking her home. Which, I guarantee, will make for the world’s most terrible family reunion. I have thoughts about Zed’s family, but I’m going to see how it plays out.
To figure out which goddess of hell is pulling a Jareth at the convent, John casts a spell that will reveal her true reflection in the foundation. Before he starts, Anne Marie gets in his face again, and he flat out asks why she bothered to call him, if she’s just going to give him flaming crap every time he turns around and tries to help. John surmises that it’s because he is capable of making the tough calls that she isn’t, snapping that she should just go off and pray while he does the hard work. That exchange, right there, is preciously two ex lovers still holding on to each other. Only someone who knows you inside and out can hurt you like that.
Chas has an interesting role in this moment. He knocks John in the shoulder and makes it clear that he’s not okay with his bullshit, before trailing after Anne Marie. Here, he is levelheaded and soft, a counterbalance to Constantine’s brash blundering. He explains what Anne Marie is missing about John’s demeanor and reactions. “He’d rather risk your feelings than any other part of you. That’s how…he deals with the pain. John has one thing that makes his life worth a damn, and he can’t do it if he lets anyone in too close. Like he did…with you.” That it’s not that he cares too little, but that he cares too much. Every snark and every quip is merely a slight-of-hand, the ordinary magic of misdirection. It rings true, because who hasn’t known someone who acts the fool to hide the truth? Who puts up walls with good intentions? Hell, I’ve dated one. At least one. Anyway, there’s a really sweet moment between Chas and Anne Marie, and Charles Halford has a way of melting my heart.
Curiously, when Constantine starts the spell, Sister Flirtatous shows up mid-incantion and tries to shoo him away, raising John’s hackles. He calls out a series of hell goddess names (turns out she’s Lamashtu) until she whirls around and reveals herself in a fit of fury, nearly drowning John, until he manages to stab her. While Anne Marie is bandaging his wound, he explains that they’re dealing with Lamasto (Anne Marie really looks worried). They head off to visit Hugo grandmother, Pia, to uncover the darkness at the roots of this particular family tree.
Pia explains that La Brujeria is back, tracking down their family. Pia’s grandfather was a part of La Brujeria (the literal translation for that, by the way, is The Witchcraft. Totally sounds better in Spanish). Pia’s father had run away from La Brujeria, but it seems that no one can escape his/her past. John steps out on to the porch for a smoke, where Anne Marie and him get to talking. (Again: someone get me that lighter.) John has a small crisis of reality, because he doesn’t want to believe the Brujeria still exists. He doesn’t have a spell to shut them down, to fix things. And for Constantine, there are few things worse than helplessness. If someone wields a power that makes JOHN need a smoke, rant, and a pace – that certainly doesn’t bode well. But he realizes that Pia is right. This is the overarching bad of the season – the rising darkness is La Brujeria. He’s been fighting against it all along.
In the midst of this conversation, Anne Marie admits that she sees the truth in John (that he cares too much), now – and that she came to Mexico as a way of hiding, too. They’re both wearing disguises in their own way. Underneath her habit, she’s still the same scared girl she was at Newcastle. This gives John an idea to bring Lamashtu out of hiding and allow them to find where the babies are being stashed: filling a chicken with Hugo’s blood and disguising it with a glamour to look like a baby. Since the hell goddess is going after his family, it should do the trick. Trouble is, Anne Marie has to make the offering. And unlike Gary Lester, she knows this immediately as John starts hinting about it. Called out, John gives a brilliant turn about how “no price is too high to save the innocent,” which wins Anne Marie’s respect. It also will come back to bite him in the ass not too long down the road.
Before making the offering, there’s a layered, touching scene between John and Anne Marie. Their posture is a mirror of one another (hands on their hips), as they’ve finally gotten to a bit of middle ground. Constantine takes the blame for Newcastle, telling her that she’s got nothing to repent for. It wasn’t her failure – it was his. But that’s when Anne Marie comes clean about the genesis of her guilt: she blames herself for getting him into the occult. He was 15 when they first met – always hiding from his father and longing for a mother, someone to take care of him – and instead of helping him escape it the easy way (sex), she invited him into the underground world of darkness and magic. That is the true blame that she’s been carrying about. But John assures her that it was “a world of wonders” that she introduced him to – there’s a real spark in his eyes, a light that we haven’t seen before. For a few brief moments, there’s no regret in his bones, just gratefulness. He gives her a necklace – the icon of Puzuzu – a demon that used to be Lamashtu’s soulmate before an ugly breakup. This necklace allows Constantine to close the gap, figuratively and literally. He and Anne Marie kiss, a tentative thing at first, a kiss that asks permission and says a million things without a single spoken word. When she kisses him back, it’s a kiss born of a fevered history, a wild bit of wanting that can only be born out of a caged longing. For the barest second, they hold each other’s faces, a tender gesture. Then, she pushes him away, using her hand to create distance between their bodies. And it hurt too look at that moment, for all its vulnerability and John’s almost bewildered agony. Beautifully done – and props to Claire van der Boom.
Anne Marie makes the offering, and they follow Lamashtu down into the freaking SEWER. Because of course. Chas and John go down the rabbit hole, with Anne Marie arming herself with Hugo’s gun. Once in the sewer, they split up – with Chas saying, “If you need me, scream.” Such a small line, but wonderfully delivered. It’s so earnest and so commonplace for Chas.
John and Anne Marie recover the babies. And in a rather stunning bluff, John uses one of them as leverage to pull information out of Lamashtu, getting to the heart of the rising dark’s plan. La Brujeria wants to abolish the separation between hell and earth, which is why Lamashtu has been working for it – purely self-gain. Which, you know, hell goddess and all. Hardly altruistic.
As soon as he knows the game plan, Constantine drops the Puzuzu amulet with a few choice words, igniting blue flame and sending her to meet her old flame. Literally in flames. Nice symbolism, there. Anne Marie takes the second baby from John, who then hands it to Chas. Anne Marie and John hear another baby crying and start to go after it, when they discover a supposedly extinct monster – an Invunche. There’s no way to outrun it and no magic to fight it. So, with all the practiced coldness of survival, Anne Marie shoots John, leaving him as prey to the Invunche. Right before she shoots him, a look of betrayal and respect cross his face, and she repeat his wisdom back: no price is too high to save the innocent.
Is this the treachery that Papa Midnite’s sister spoke of? That John would be betrayed by someone close to him? Perhaps. It would prove the old truth that only those who are closest to use can wound us so soundly. It’s ironic that Constantine spends so much time with his defenses up that once he finally lowers them, that’s what gets him hurt. It would make any sane person think twice about letting anyone in – assuming, of course, that there is a next time.