Constantine S01E05 ‘Danse Vaudou’ episode review

What we thought of Constantine Season 1 Episode 5, ‘Danse Vaudou’, with major spoilers

After steady improvement over the last couple of weeks, Constantine stalls a little with ‘Danse Vaudou’ though it’s not for lack of effort. This was 40 minutes packed with action and some welcome character development, but it was all a little scattershot.

In New Orleans, cop Jim Corrigan (In The Flesh’s Emmet Scanlan) is drunkenly relieving himself in an alley when he sees a masked young woman slash up a musician with a pair of fabric scissors. To his horror, his bullets seem to pass right through her. Constantine, Zed and Chas take a ride to the Big Easy and they soon find that there’s more than one unquiet spirit in town. Unfortunately for John, all the clues point towards Papa Midnite, who’s not exactly pleased to see him.

Let’s start with the positive. There’s a whole lot of energy in ‘Danse Vardou’ and some of the horror on display continues the show’s willingness to go for the gut. Misaki’s (Chasty Ballesteros) attacks with that big pair of scissors packed a punch, especially when they were pushing Chas’ powers of rehabilitation. It was also a nice move to bring Papa Midnite back so soon after ‘The Devil’s Vinyl’ and it reinforces the world in which Constantine has to manouevre and survive in.

Michael James Shaw put in another strong performance as the voodoo priest, as Midnite was forced to confront the fact that his magic was being manipulated by a dark force and the services he was rendering were going horribly wrong. His scenes with Matt Ryan were among the episode’s best; fiery, sarcastic and loaded as they use their respective histories against one another even as they team up to take on the greater evil. Ryan is also continuing to improve (from an admittedly pretty strong start) and his take on the character feels more natural every week. Also on the plus side, Chas is back this week and he’s got his cab up and running.

On the downside, there’s simply too much going on here. Mutilated model Misaki is much scarier than mournful hitchhiking spirit Philip (Colin Dennard), who isn’t given the time to make his story as affecting as it should be. The divide and conquer approach that the team takes also means that some of the strands are more fun than others. Constantine trying to get Papa Midnite onside is the episode’s strongest suit, while Chas trying to not get sliced to ribbons is also fun, leaving Zed’s exposition adventures with Jim Corrigan to come in third place.

Corrigan is known to comics fans as the man who will become The Spectre in the DC universe and there’s a heavy hint towards his eventual fate in an effective final moment between him and Zed, as she gets a glimpse of him covered in blood and looking, well, spectral. Scanlon, who was superb as Simon in the second series of In The Flesh, is solid enough here but it’s mostly a reactive role. Hopefully he’ll get a bit more to sink his teeth into when he next appears. It’s also a shame that the teases about Zed’s backstory feel like they come at the expense of the episode’s momentum, and there’s only so many times that the show can drop massive clanging hints about someone in Constantine’s midst betraying him before we lose our patience.

Still, ‘Danse Vaudou’ was good fun with some ghoulish jolts, some fine sparring between John and Midnite, and a strong display of confidence. Constantine is still wobbly on its feet but it looks like it could be getting there.