A major change to Constantine in Legends of Tomorrow has made the character more comics-accurate and solved one of the show’s biggest story problems.
Warning: The following contains SPOILERS for Legends of Tomorrow season 6, episode 5, “The Satanist’s Apprentice.”
A recent episode of Legends of Tomorrow did the unthinkable and drained John Constantine of most of his magical mojo, requiring him to start from scratch in building up his power levels. Strangely enough, this may serve to make the Arrowverse version of Constantine more like his comic book counterpart, who depended more on trickery than true magic. It may also solve the series’ recent dependency on using Constantine’s magic as a deus ex machina.
The action of Legends of Tomorrow season 6, episode 5, “The Satanist’s Apprentice” centered around Astra Logue, the young girl whom John Constantine lost his soul trying to save from a demon. Grown to maturity in Hell, Astra was having a hard time adjusting to life as an adult on Earth and Constantine was not much help, depending on his magic to solve basic “adulting” problems. This led Astra into the tutelage of famed dark wizard Aleister Crowley, whose spirit Constantine had trapped in a painting years earlier. Crowley exploited Astra’s anger and impatience, tricking her into helping him take over Constantine’s body and acquire the tools he needed to run amok on Earth. Thankfully, Astra was able to correct her mistake with a spell created by her mother, a powerful witch, that drained the magical power from other practitioners of magic. Unfortunately, the same spell drained Constantine’s powers along with Crowley’s, requiring that he once again “start from the bottom and work my way up.“
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There has been some debate between fans of John Constantine as to just how powerful the character should be. Originally, Constantine was presented as more conman than conjurer, preferring to manipulate beings more powerful than himself, like the much abused Swamp Thing, into doing what needed doing rather than risking his own neck. This was the status quo in Constantine’s solo series Hellblazer, and his many appearances throughout the Vertigo Comics universe. However, more recent stories placing Constantine in the DC Comics Universe have made him a contemporary of the likes of Doctor Fate and Zatanna, possessing true power but preferring not to depend on it. The Arrowverse Constantine has mirrored this progression somewhat, being more dependent on rituals and artifacts in the short-lived Constantine series, yet capable of throwing around fireballs whenever he felt like it in Legends of Tomorrow.
This conflict was laid bare in “The Satanist’s Apprentice,” which opened with the Arrowverse Constantine using magic for frivolous things like doing his laundry or fixing the Wi-Fi. This flew in the face of the comic book Constantine’s philosophy that you shouldn’t depend on magic because “when you really, really need it to work, it won’t.” By depowering John and forcing him to go back to basics, the show has restored the classic vision of who John Constantine should be.
A less magical John Constantine may also address one of the major complaints many have had about the Legends being too dependent on his power in recent seasons. While Legends of Tomorrow has always been the most light-hearted of the Arrowverse series, the stakes of the show have ironically become less severe since the usually dour Constantine joined the crew of the Waverider, with John often having some magical solution to the problem of the week. The series itself mocked this earlier in season 6, with Step 2 of Ava Sharpe’s plan for rescuing Sara Lance from alien abductors being simply, “Have John Constantine use magic.” With Constantine now relying more on his natural charm rather than raw magical force, the show should become less predictable and, hopefully, more satisfying.
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