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Reason Brains.

Photos: Guy D'Alema / NBC

Fallen Angel

Manny finally puts his hands on the heart of the matter.

My issues with Constantine remain more or less legion, but its pacing problems are at the vanguard. Often seeming to somehow rush and drag at the same time, it's somewhat amazing that it's only on its seventh episode. This week, John Constantine and one of his rotating sidekicks Zed venture to a particularly deep notch of the Bible Belt, where a struggling rural preacher handles rattlesnakes as part of his regular church services. This should be an interesting meet, right? One man has faith despite all evidence to the contrary, while the other believes only because he's seen too much proof to do otherwise. Too bad so little comes of it, as John ends up justifying his cynicism to Zed instead of to Pastor Zachary. Chalk up another missed opportunity for Constantine.

More interesting is the somewhat mirrored conversation between Constantine's celestial tech-support rep Manny and the angel Imogen, who is trapped on the mortal plane. Manny's faith in his Boss remains solid despite his ongoing disillusionment with humanity, whereas Imogen suggests that if Manny really believes that angels could run the earth better than humans could, maybe it's time to do something about it. Open rebellion against God? How'd that work out last time, for that dude Lucifer? This conversation, being rather more interesting, is of course considerably more brief. Dammit.

In all, we wait through a lot of slow dialogue and bad acting, both from guest actors and a certain member of the regular cast who still needs to learn the difference between acting in a supernatural drama and acting unnatural. But when the payoff finally comes, it's almost worth it. Manny, who up to this point in the series has done little besides act flaky and vague, finally abandons his previously stated policy of non-interference. Big time.

In this episode's weekly single tense moment, Imogen has been revealed as not only fallen but Fallen -- one of Satan's minions whose presence on Earth bodes nothing well. She's got Zed in a stranglehold, and when John begs Manny to intervene, Manny reminds John of the rules, then vanishes. Imogen mocks John for having such a useless guardian angel, until Manny Quantum-Leaps into Zed's body and actually does something helpful for once. Namely, he reaches into Imogen's chest and yanks out her beating heart. He even curses in the process!

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We know too much about Constantine to wonder much about him, having already learned in the pilot where he came from, what drives him, and how he acquired his skills. And we know the question of whether he can be de-damned isn't going to be answered any time soon. That leaves the supporting cast to carry the load of being mysterious, and I have to say they're holding up their end. Zed won't tell Constantine anything about herself even as shadowy pursuers close in on her; we're still waiting for an explanation for Chas's Wolverine-like healing abilities; and we know from one of Zed's visions that something quite nasty is going to befall Jim Corrigan. And now Manny has stepped over a line he wasn't supposed to cross. I've felt like Harold Perrineau has been slumming this whole time, but now that his Hamlet act is over, we might soon get to find out why he took the role in the first place. Aside from all the gold contacts he can wear, that is.

At the end of the episode, Manny confides to Constantine that he'll face consequences for the demonic ichor on his hand. But I dearly hope he won't retreat back across that line. He's much more interesting on this side of it.

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