Legends Of Tomorrow Nailed The Death Of John Constantine, As Played By Matt Ryan
In 2014, Matt Ryan suited up as nasty piece of work John Constantine for a more comics-accurate take on the character for NBC. The series ran for a great 13 episodes, but alas it was not meant for the long-haul. Yet, in the fourth season of Arrow, Ryan reprised his role as the dodgy warlock, thus making his NBC series (at least) Arrowverse-adjacent. The biggest surprise, however, came when in the third season of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, the Hellblazer teamed up with the biggest idiots in the multiverse. Four seasons later, John Constantine met his death at the hands of a clone in a man-bun. This may seem like an ignominious end for such a storied character. However, given the divergence Legends of Tomorrow have taken with the character of John Constantine, his path to death felt very true to the character.
Despite his many appearances and iterations, many folks see the 300-issue run of Hellblazer as the definitive story of John Constantine. Throughout the series his character goes through many changes, including regressions. Equally, on Legends of Tomorrow, the character of Constantine manifested differently than in than in the comics (or even the animated version of Constantine in the DC animated continuity that ended with Justice League Dark: Apokolips War). Still, the Legends version of Constantine also stayed true to the character’s core, including his greatest failure: Astra Logue.
Another thing that John Constantine does pretty often is die. In fact, this isn’t even the first time Legends of Tomorrow showed us the death of John Constantine. However, this one is going to stick because of real-world concerns. So, let’s look at how the final fate of Matt Ryan’s Hellblazer is pretty damn perfect.
Spoilers to follow.
The Death of John Constantine on Legends of Tomorrow Seems Like It Will Stick
We know from Comic-Con at Home that while Matt Ryan isn’t leaving the series, John Constantine is. The character will show up, played most likely by an actor of color, in HBO Max’s Justice League Dark series. And DC is notoriously nervous about having two versions of their characters running around at the same time, though less so lately. Still, according to Ryan, he also thought it might be time to put the character aside for a time. It’s the dilemma faced by any long-running version of a character. Either end the story or keep it going so long it tarnishes what’s been done thus far. As much as we’d all like to see Hugh Jackman as Wolverine or Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man again, it would undercut their dramatic, “final” moments.
The season 6 premiere of Legends of Tomorrow was a little “off,” to me. However, as the season went on the storytellers found their footing. There’s been some crazy episodes (like the future reality competition show episode or the bowling alley one). There’s been some heavy episodes, most of them tied to the downfall of Constantine. Even though I believe he will redeem himself in the season finale, the death of John Constantine is not a hero’s sendoff. He dies after betraying the other Legends in a quest to get his power back. Ryan says he’s pleased with how the story ends, but his perspective is a bit different than ours.
Image via Warner Bros. Television
As he told EW.com:
“Taking him where we’ve taken him was, I feel, completely the right thing for us to do. All the writers were so conscious about trying to give him a good send-off as well. They really wanted to say, ‘We love John and let’s give him this to go.’ So, the way it materialized, it just felt right and organic.
“When the original show was canceled, I was gutted. I was like, ‘I haven’t even gotten started.’”
For Ryan, the chance to play the character from his (unfairly) failed network TV series was an utter gift to both him and the fans. He and the storytellers also took what is ostensibly a dark, cynical character and put him on the silliest and most hopeful of DC live-action projects. We got to see many versions of John Constantine on Legends of Tomorrow, and the death of this version of the character does not diminish that.
Even if he goes out as a betraying bastard and doesn’t get a finale redemption, it’s all still very true to Constantine. In the comics especially, he’s betrayed and hurt almost everyone he’s crossed paths with. I suspect that Legends will give Constantine a moment to be the hero again from beyond the veil. Yet, even if they don’t, it’s like Constantine went back to default settings before being injected back into the multiverse. Thus, the only question that’s left really is how well they pulled off this death for John Constantine, at least compared to his others.
Legends of Tomorrow Told Some Incredible John Constantine Stories
Image via CW
Perhaps the best thing Legends of Tomorrow did for John Constantine was help him fix his greatest failure. All fans of the Hellblazer know that his path began when he accidentally cursed the soul of a girl named Astra Logue to Hell. Well, in Legends of Tomorrow not only was Astra freed from Hell, but she’s joined the team. In the comics, the storytellers gave Astra a free pass to Heaven and a blissful eternal afterlife. Yet, in Legends, Constantine was able to give Astra a life, at least a second chance at one. This season Astra has been learning the Dark Arts herself, poetically following in Constantine’s footsteps. Even though he’s also gotten true love (more on that later), it is fitting that his most emotional sendoff was with Olivia Swann’s Astra.
John Constantine also got a taste of true love before his death on Legends as well. Paired with Tala Ashe’s Zari Tarazi, Constantine had a relationship unlike any others he’s had before. Zari is a privileged, self-absorbed capitalist, a sharp contrast to Constantine’s punk socialist attitudes. Nonetheless, the pairing worked (in no small part to Ashe and Ryan playing it as serious as any drama). This makes Constantine’s final choice so tragic. His obsessions get the better of him.
I admit I bristle at the thought of the Raffi Barsoumian’s Bishop being the guy who finally takes out Constantine. As a villain he’s the worst, but in a completely perfect way. Of course what this make a perfect Constantine story is that Bishop doesn’t actually beat him, he does it all to himself. Again, I suspect some redemption for John Constantine, beyond death, in the finale. Still, even if it doesn’t come, it feels quintessentially true to the character.
The season 6 finale of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow debuts on the CW on September 5, 2021.
What did you think of the death and life of John Constantine on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow? Were you happy to get more of this version of the character? Or do you think Constantine is best used in a more “serious” story? Tell us your thoughts, theories, and favorite Constantine moments in the comments below.
Featured image via NBC
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.