Remember “Haunted” as when Arrow fully embraced its geekdom. Yes, this episode features the highly anticipated return of Matt Ryan’s “John Constantine”, a character the Welsh actor portrayed during a 13-episode run of the show Constantine on NBC last season. Constantine is best known as the magician and master of the dark arts from the DC Comics series Hellblazer.
Enthusiastic fans tried to save Constantine through a social media campaign, but the show was officially pronounced dead last May. That’s what made the news that not only would Matt Ryan be donning the character’s trademark trench coat again, but it would be on CW’s Arrow so exciting.
The good news is “Haunted” definitely did not disappoint. The episode is remarkably fun and cleverly written, which works to highlight John Constantine’s smirky smugness. Right off the bat, the viewer meets two versions of Constantine in the episode. A five-years younger version in Oliver’s (Stephen Amell) flashbacks, and an older, sassier version that comes to Star City to help restore Sara’s (Caity Lotz) soul.
After resurrecting her dead sister Sara by using the Lazarus Pit in Nanda Parbat, Laurel (Katie Cassidy) brings a living but highly crazed and volatile Sara back to Star City and keeps her chained up in a murky utility room. That is, until Sara escapes and goes on a rampage across the city.
It doesn’t take long before it’s discovered that Sara is after her killer, meaning Thea (Willa Holland). After setting a trap for Sara by using Thea as bait, Team Arrow captures her. Then it’s just a matter of restoring her soul, but who could do that? Well, Green Arrow happens to know a guy who owes him a favor, and his name is John Constantine.
Back in the Arrow cave, Constantine performs a soul-restoring ritual. In order to complete it, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Constantine are sucked into some sort of dream realm, where they battle sword-wielding assassins. In a final act, they physically free Sara from demons pulling her down into the Lazarus Pit. It’s a wild, trippy sequence that works when you take into consideration the black magic factor. In the end, Sara regains her soul, and Oliver and Constantine share goodbyes and go their separate ways.
I really enjoyed seeing Laurel have a larger role in this episode. Though the show bears Arrow’s name, any comic book geek will tell you that Laurel Lance/Black Canary is an important character, and it’s been disappointing to see her in a supporting role for the past two seasons. So, when a highly impassioned Laurel tells Oliver, “It’s ok for you to do whatever you have to for your sister, but it’s not OK for me to do the same for mine?…It’s because you don’t see me as an equal,” it’s rings true. Or maybe it’s just nice to see her get a little fiery. Either way, I’m very much in favor of more Laurel or Black Canary-centric episodes.
Honestly, I’ve never seen an episode of Constantine, so I’m not sure of the show’s failings. However, it seems apparent in “Haunted” that Ryan’s take on the character really shines when in a group setting. While the ending absolutely leaves room for John Constantine to be a recurring character on Arrow, I’m more excited by the idea of Constantine on Legends Of Tomorrow season two.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
The episode’s pacing was a bit too brisk. “Haunted” begs to be a two-parter, but due to Matt Ryan’s other commitments, his availability for filming was limited. Still, some breathing room between the Constantine and Oliver flashbacks and their reunion in the present might have strengthened the storytelling.
NUGGETS AND TIDBITS
Did Green Arrow really just pick up his cellphone and call John Constantine? He did, and I love the idea of Green Arrow’s contacts list being full of superheroes.
Neal McDonough’s Damien Darhk continues to be an enjoyable villain. At one point, he asks Captain Lance (Paul Blackthorne), “Are you sticking around for a cupcake or something?”
Just a hunch, but the truth behind the death of Diggle’s brother might have some negative ramifications for Team Arrow.
John Constantine gave Oliver his Chinese character chest tattoo? Pretty cool.
“Haunted” was a delightfully fun episode of “Arrow”, which really made the most of its impressive guest star. Now, let’s find out if the show can maintain its momentum, as next week sees the return of Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh).