Constantine: The Devil’s Vinyl (1×03)

Synopsis: Constantine and Zed team up to exorcise a demonic blues record in Chicago and to save the soul of a devoted mother and wife. Meanwhile, Constantine finds a rival in Papa Midnite, a voodoo priest determined to use the record as an insurance policy against Hell.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

In Chicago, a blonde woman in distress searches for an artifact an old recording studio. Inside, it’s littered with old vinyl records and freshly sacrificed rodents. Urged by voices, the woman picks up a holy bible with a record lodged inside.

The woman then takes the vinyl to another record studio and warns its producer, Bernie, not to listen to it. The whispers coming out of the record demands listeners, and Bernie can’t resist.

The pleasant blues riff suddenly turns into the screaming plead of the singer. The headphones freeze Bernie’s head, and the situation escalates to a full-blown demonic possession. To appease the evil forces in his head, Bernie stabs himself in the head in the most graphic scene of the series to date.

Meanwhile, Zed’s tracked down John with her visions all the way back to his Atlantan millhouse, where Chas greets her with a double-barreled shotgun. They have a few words about John’s mistrust, until Chas questions why her parents would give her such a name, as it means “Zero.” She drops hints that she might be an orphan, and in they go to see the “Satanic Majesty himself.”

I really want to know the artist behind Zed’s awesome drawings. [tv.com]
Constantine, in his most bonkers expositional scene yet, is buck-naked (a chandelier cheekily covers up for-HBO bits) and covered in blood whilst maniacally screaming Latin chants, learning a new spell. Chas shows Zed around the house and reveals an endless tunnel that looks like a passage to Hell. Constantine jumps in and slams the door shut before Zed gets too curious, telling her not to wander around without a chaperone. Clearly, it’s origin story fodder.

Ever the opportunist, Constantine takes Zed to the map of “supernatural bushfires.” Zed’s powers gather hints for John’s Chicago job: scent of jasmine leads her to a field of flowers, where she feels a prophetic coldness. Before he can ditch her, Zed talks Constantine into letting her help, turning the series into a Supernatural / Elementary hybrid.

Cut to the entrance of a Chicago morgue, where they have business with Bernie’s corpse. Constantine shows off his collection of nails of St. Padwa’s coffin: a tracking device. Zed demonstrates her resourcefulness by pickpocketing a proxy card to sneak into the morgue.

Hand of Glory. [Constantine]
Using a “hand of glory” (a hanged man’s hand pickled in religious juices), Constantine raises Bernie up from the dead for an interview. The entire morgue quivers to life, and Constantine has seconds to get answers. Forced to relive his murder, Bernie can only muster fragments: a voice, Acetate, moonrise, and cold. With the powers of Google, Zed pieces together Bernie’s leads, and guesses that the old Moonrise Records might be the source of Chicago’s supernatural bonfire.

The duo visits the label’s owner Marcus Mooney, an elderly man on his deathbed, fortunately gifted with a remarkable memory. When John asks about “the Acetate,” Mooney tells the story of a blues man named Willie Joe who burned bright in the 1930s and mysteriously vanished.

Willie Joe sold his own soul to the devil for fame. One night while Willie and young Mooney were working on a new record together, the Acetate Willie worked on simultaneously recorded “the voice of the Deceiver.” With Willie’s contract expired, the devil came to collect his soul, leaving a record sealed with evil and Willie’s last song. Before Mooney passes on, he mentions Iain Fell, a metal head who wanted the Acetate.

When Zed asks why the Devil would ever want our souls, John explains: “The soul is the purest expression of God’s love. The spark of creation. Every time the First Fallen collects a soul, he’s taking his revenge. He’s paying back the Almighty for casting him out.”

John breaks into Fell’s mansion and runs down his version of the facts. The mystery woman from the beginning interjects with a gun, and is revealed to be “Jasmine Fell, off-key backup singer and loyal spouse.” Jasmine’s the one who made the deal with the Devil to save her husband from cancer. A “soul broker” named Anton trolled hospitals to make deals with the desperate, and preyed on the Fells’ misfortune twenty years ago. Anton’s promised Jasmine her soul in return for the Acetate.

Promising to save her, John hugs the troubled wife, only to slip the compass nail into her pocket before he leaves.

Papa Midnight. [Constantine]
Constantine sniffs out Anton at a dumpy warehouse. When John mentions Iain Fell, he unknowingly blows the skeevy soul broker’s deal with voodoo priest Papa Midnite (Michael James Shaw). Midnite thanks Constantine for telling him where to find the Acetate by clubbing him and tying him up for a grisly end.

Midnite wants the Acetate for a “get out of Hell free card.” Injecting Constantine with a blood coagulant and slitting open his arm, Midnite leaves him to bleed to death within four hours; Midnight dares Constantine to survive by setting down a bottle of vitamin K within arm’s reach. He’s determined to be a villain.

Midnite’s goons burglarize the Fells’ mansion and make off with the Acetate. Realizing that Constantine’s in trouble, Zed uses the compass nail planted on Jasmine to find him.

The angel Manny appears to Constantine disguised as a homeless bloke trying to make off with his shoes. He tells the ever-opportunistic warlock that he’s mistaken in thinking that Acetate has “trade value” for his condemned soul, and leaves him to fate. Cue Zed flying to Constantine’s rescue, after which she demands more of his trust.

Cut to morning at a nightclub, where police extract rows of dead bodies. While Constantine was tied up, the two goons played the Acetate at a club, which led to a bloodbath. Chas meets up with the duo bearing a fresh shirt, orange juice, and an MP3 player for Constantine. As two men continue to argue over Zed’s “usefulness,” she encounters a vision of a white tiger, hinting that Midnite’s boys are planning to broadcast the record at Scott University Tiger Radio.

Protected from the Acetate’s influence by blasting Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols, Constantine infiltrates the radio station. Zed and Chas ram their truck into the radio tower’s circuits to stop the broadcasting of the Acetate. The MP3 plan soon backfires when a crazy hipster rips John’s earbuds out.

Banishing his and Papa Midnite’s ticket out of Hell. [Constantine]
In a wild twist, Papa Midnight saves the day with a Winchester Revolver, destroying the speakers blaring the devil’s blues. Unlucky for Midnite, John quickly draws on the Acetate’s own demonic energy to send it back to Hell.

Constantine wraps up the job by dragging Anton back to the Fells. In order to win back Jasmine’s soul, Iain would have to trade in his health. Iain assures that he will fight his disease.

John and Chas force Anton to eat the contract, and all would seemingly end on an optimistic note… until the episode leaves us with a shot of Papa Midnite burning a voodoo doll of John Constantine. Yikes. I hope this means we get more Papa Midnite, and maybe an awesome duel, in the next episode.

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