After last week’s killer vinyl, this week finds Constantine facing a demon with a similarly gruesome MO but with a more personal twist that continues the show’s move towards surer footing. ‘Feast Of Friends’ revels in its horrors and putting its hero through the emotional wringer, even if it doesn’t quite nail the horror or personal trauma as effectively as it could.
When Gary Lester (Jonjo O’Neill) arrives at customs, sweaty, nervous, and in the throes of heroin withdrawal, he’s very insistent that the customs officer not touch the antique bottle he’s brought with him from the Sudan. And with good reason, as a demon in the shape of a horde of cockroaches quickly pours down the throat of the officer, leaving Gary to make his escape. Naturally, Gary’s an old friend of Constantine’s and heads to his place for help. However, John’s not exactly pleased to see his old mate; a junkie who was there to witness the terrible events at Newcastle.
While Zed attempts to tease the details of Newcastle and Astra out of the pair, John tries to track down the demon as it cuts a swathe through restaurants, supermarkets and butchers, devouring food until its host body expires and it has to pass on. After consulting/tripping with a shaman, Constantine realises that this is a particularly nasty demon that requires a binding spell that comes with a serious catch: it has to be bound in a host body, forcing both to die.
Fans of Hellblazer will be familiar with Gary Lester, the founding member of John’s band Mucous Membrane. His story here plays out pretty much as it does in the comics, pitching up at John’s door with a problem he can’t handle and a seriously doomed fate. Jonjo O’Neill gives a strong turn as the needy, wounded junkie who desperately wants redemption but lacks the moral fibre to get it himself. That’s why he comes to John, who’s going to give him the kind of hero’s exit that you wouldn’t wish on anyone: days spent tormented by a demon that’s consuming you from the inside out.
It’s nice to see the show continuing to explore John’s knack for being forced to use the darkest means to achieve the necessary goal. He knows that Gary wants to be the kind of man that he’d look up to, and the way he manipulates his friend into agreeing to becoming the tool to get shot of the demon is well-played by Ryan, that cocky arrogance unable to mask his self-awareness and guilt. He does have a bit of heavy-handed guilt-ridden shouting at Zed, but the final shot of the episode, where we see him sit by the tortured Gary’s bedside as Manny appears, is far more effective.
On the other hand, the monster of the week business feels a bit like a missed opportunity. Given that we’re dealing with hordes of cockroaches and ferociously hungry possessed people consuming whatever they can get their hands on, it’s never really that revolting (although spider walking Jo was fun). While the beastie has its moments, at its worst it’s reminiscent of Vincent D’Onofrio’s character in Men In Black. Still, Ryan gives some good Constantine swagger, correcting the “Days Without Incident” sign at a meatpacking plant where the butchers have been butchered, and giving dancing critique to a possessed security guard.
Following ‘The Devil’s Vinyl’, ‘A Feast Of Friends’ continues to show promise. It’s still a little shaky when trying to fit its various characters together: Chas is absent (fixing his cab, apparently), Zed is there to draw exposition out of characters and Manny’s appearances, while very welcome and well-performed by Harold Perrineau, are a little too neat and predictable. Still, another fun, fast-paced 40 minutes and some reasons to be cheerful. Perhaps best of all was the fact that we’re finally spending some time exploring John beyond the swagger and the stream of Brit-isms, and that can only be a good thing, mate.