Photo: Tina Rowden / NBC

An Angel Cometh

Blow Gabriel -- or some other angel, if you prefer.

A little about me: I was raised Roman Catholic, grew up to eventually find all the rituals and incantations a bit silly, and wound up as the nine-tenths atheist standing before you today. Despite that, some parts of my religious upbringing remain stuck in my brain, like the bottom of a pan you burned rice in. So there are certain lines I won't cross, if you know what I mean; big potential downside, limited upside. Still, it takes quite a bit to shock me, blasphemy-wise. Which brings us to this week's episode of Constantine.

Manny is arguably the most interesting character on the show (which isn't hard), but also the most frustrating (which is). One would think it would be handy to have access to an angel to keep you moving in the right direction, and maybe also to try and get you the answers to some of life's intractable questions that seem like they could only be answered by God himself. For instance, how is it that Jimmy Fallon's career survived Taxi?

Naturally, that isn't John Constantine's experience at all. Manny tends to show up when Constantine is in the middle of something else, make some oblique proclamations, and then vanish again before he's had the chance to say anything actually helpful. Which puts John's moments with Manny in the same category as a toddler's bath time; he doesn't want to get in, but once he's in, he doesn't want out.

So on top of his guilt and stress about Zed's newly discovered brain tumor, one can hardly blame Constantine when he decides he's finally had it with Manny's Mr. Roarke shit, and casts a spell to trap him in the body he's currently inhabiting. Given all the demons Constantine has taken on, assaulting an angel must seem like it would be well within his weight class.

Of course, the moment that happens, the monster-of-the-week A-plot becomes second banana to the short, turbulent life of Manny the man. He's obviously distressed at his predicament, enough to almost immediately reveal to John that the reason he never hangs out long is because when he does, his celestial Wi-Fi is down. Moments later Manny's standing over a demonic-murder victim, experiencing the smell of death for the first time. Shortly after that, he experiences his first human meal -- alas, in reverse. Clearly Manny is going to have a lengthy to-do list during the time he's marooned in meatspace.

Lucky for Manny, only John can see the slumming Harold Perrineau we've become familiar with. To every other mortal around, Manny looks exactly like his host, anesthesiologist Bob Carroll, and thus has the run of the hospital Quantum Leap-style. That gives him the access he needs to assist with Constantine's investigation, but it turns out to have another benefit as well.

Because it seems that Bob Carroll is having a secret affair with a hot blonde nurse. Who, unaware that her boyfriend's body is currently home to a literal angel, drags them both into a storage closet, undoes Carroll's pants, and goes down faster than Lucifer ever dreamed of.

Here's where even my heathen soul went, whoa.

Guilty and flustered, Manny confesses to Constantine almost immediately. To John's credit, he doesn't give Manny a hard time about the act itself, but he does tweak Manny for his guilt over it. He even quotes notorious heretic Aleister Crowley at the angel: "Do what thou wilt." Whoa again.

Of course Constantine reverses the spell in the end when he finds himself in need of an almost literal deus ex machina. But later, Constantine also notices that Manny appears changed by his experience. For instance, he's speaking more directly, and he's opened communications with Zed. Not that Manny is direct enough to actually tell Zed whether the tumor in her brain will kill her or whether it's necessary for her visions, but Zed isn't direct enough to ask either, so that's her own damn fault.

But speaking of opening communications, I suspect that some TV watchdog groups will be opening communications with NBC over their decision to show -- even by implication -- an angel from heaven on the receiving end of an earthly beej. Perhaps this got on the air for the same reason the show has gotten darker and gorier, and for the same reason John Constantine is actually shown smoking once in a while, which is that they figure nobody's watching anyway.

I will say this: after tonight, nobody will be watching with their parents.

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