What happens when you take one scared child and add a vengeful, parent-hating spirit and telekinetic powers? You get one of the creepier foes to grace the on-screen version of Constantine so far.
We open this week's mystery with a young girl who telekinetically batters her parents, and then nearly does the same to a pair of bickering cops who come to investigate the scene. Constantine quickly deduces that there is an angry child's spirit possessing child after child, and goes to visit Marcello, the oldest supposed victim of this vengeful spirit.
It's a bit unfortunate that the nature of the spirit is telegraphed to the audience pretty early on. When Constantine visits Marcello in a mental institution, one of the employees is quick to share Marcello's story. As a boy, Marcello was punished by his father with an ax, and Marcello punished him right back before feeding Mama to a woodchipper. When we actually meet Marcello, he's missing three fingers on one hand and it completely catatonic. Since Marcello's punishment of his parents was actually related to his abuse, it only makes sense that Marcello is somehow Patient Zero for this whole thing.
The rest of the episode, however, is structured nicely as a horror film. Zed is somehow off at an art class during the whole episode, which is a flimsy excuse, but at least lets the show focus on the family living the horror movie and Constantine's efforts to save them. (Okay, Chas is there too, but in a tiny supportive role.) The spirit moves on into Henry, a little boy who is scared of his own shadow—at least until he's possessed. Henry is stretched between two parents, his coddling mother who doesn't even allow him to hold a knife and his macho father who wishes Henry would give the kids who frighten him a taste of their own medicine.
But once the possession starts, a horror movie plays out, one filled with both small acts of violence and larger, implied brutality. Henry sets up a trap for his father that causes him to step on lightbulbs so that the glass pierces the skin of his feet. (And we get a couple of great shots here: Henry's face as he springs the trap and causes the lights to flicker and the sight of the intact lightbulbs on the floor just before his dad steps on them.) He hacks a pair of pumpkins to bits and then seems to contemplate stabbing his mother. And we don't see exactly what happens to the kid who shoves Henry around on the playground, but the sight of Henry on the roundabout and the phrase "fractured skull" are enough.
Constantine is at its best when it hits those horror notes—corpses twitching in their body bags, people consuming everything in sight while themselves being consumed, the look in Papa Midnite's eyes when he realized he had accidentally brought a man back from the dead—so it's nice to see another episode built around horror. There's a lot of tension here, a lot of questions about how far Henry will go and what will set him off.
John pulls a nice little bit of con man when he comes to Henry's house posing as a school counselor, only to quickly reveal himself as an exorcist. (And it somehow seems apt that he's rewarded for his troubles with a knockout punch to the head.) But after the spirit makes itself known, Henry's mom realizes that an exorcist is just what her son needs.
John still hasn't realized that the spirit is not that of a dead child, but of the catatonic Marcello, and he's reluctant to perform an exorcism on a child after what happened to Astra. So instead, he performs a seance in an attempt to lure the spirit out of Henry's body and bind it to Marcello's childhood home. It doesn't work, however, and instead Constantine ends up following a costumed Henry into a Halloween-themed fun house.
The fun house showdown is, well, fun for a couple of reasons. One, it gives us some silly ghoulish trappings, a nice visual counterpoint to the genuine horrors of Henry's possession. Two, the fun house provides an amusing level of difficulty, especially when one of the pop-up spooky things accidentally breaks John's ghost-hunting mirror. It's here that John sees the flash of an axe in Henry's hands, has his "Oh, what an idiot I am" moment, and realizes that it's Marcello's soul inhabiting Henry's body. Thus, he's able to send Marcello's spirit back to its proper owner (sans superpowers), where the medical professionals can look after him.
The voiceover is perhaps getting to be a bit much—yes, we get that there's a darkness rising. But after treating us a to a miniature horror movie, I think Constantine deserves that episode-capping cigarette.