When something monstrous starts kidnapping newborns in Mexico City, an old lover of John's calls him for help. Reluctantly, as it turns out, as Annie (now Sister Anne Marie) was part of the Newcastle crew and her trust in John is as limited as the local police's ability to deal with the idea of a baby-snatching demon. And as Chas and John head south, the past Zed has been running from finally catches up to her.
Swamp Thing #37 (introduction of Anne Marie, The Brujeria and The Invunche), Hellblazer: Original Sins (The Resurrection Crusade and Zed's background) Hellblazer #11 (references to The Newcastle Incident) and the writing of Alan Moore in general.
While no reference is made to her exact age on the show, it seems unlikely that Anne Marie is older than John. At least, she can't be old enough to speak about him having been a 15 year old kid when they met.
The chemistry between Matt Ryan and Claire van der Boom is quite good and the two really do come off as a pair of estranged ex-lovers.
The direction and editing on this episode is top-notch, with some very effective "freak-out" moments. The scene of John and Annie talking alone in the church is particularly well-framed and John's fight with Lamashtu at the fountain is truly terrifying with its up-close camera-placement simulating the claustrophobia of a drowning victim. And the effects for The Invunche are film-worthy to say nothing of being really scary!
Much of the Arcana from this episode is taken from Swamp Thing #37, which was also the comic that introduced Anne Marie as a character. This comic also introduced The Brujeria as a menace for John Constantine to fight against and The Invunche as their guard dog.
Not surprisingly, given his penchant for research and reputation as a scholar of magic, Alan Moore stayed very close to the original Chilote folklore regarding Invunche and Brujeria in his story.
In the original comics, John described Anne Marie as "fat, forty and secretly in love with me." She was a psychic and a groupie for John's band. The two never slept together. Her counterpart on Constantine is younger and in better shape. However, both became nuns as a result of the Newcastle incident.
Reference is made to the demon Pazuzu. While this is the name of a real demon in Babylonian mythology, it is also the name of the demon from The Exorcist.
In the first issue of the comic Warrior (1982) Alan Moore claimed to be possessed by Pazuzu.
John says that Anne Marie has the power of bilocation - the ability to be in two places at once. This ability is usually the province of saints, sufis and other holy men. In practice, what Anne Marie does seems to be closer to astral projection - the ability to send one's mind outside of the body - on account of Anne Marie isn't physically in John's house and the image of her body cannot be touched.
John identifies the strange creature that Zed draws as an Invunche - also know as an Imbunche. Invunches are a creature from Chilote folklore. They are similar to golems in that they are crafted magical beings. However, invunches are inherently evil and created by warlocks as guard dogs for their lairs.
Invunches are created from first-born sons, who had not been baptized within nine days of their birth. The baby would have its head twisted backwards and one of its feet sewn to the back of its neck.
John says there haven't been any Invunche since before the last great Biblical flood but is proven wrong about this point by episode's end.
John crafts a Purification Bowl for the trip to Mexico, saying he lost his last good one in Puerto Rico. A purification bowl can do the job of a priest and bless any water placed in it, turning it into holy water.
According to John, many wall-dwelling supernatural beings target children. Among these are Faeries, Duendes (a Latin American pixie, similar to a goblin) and nursery demons.
Rune stones can be used in conjunction with the right spell to identify various paranormal entities at a crime scene. This generally works with most of the baby-snatching entities, as they aren't clever enough to cover their tracks. However, powerful and clever entities can use magic to block the scrying and set the runes on fire.
John is mistaken for El Cuycuy - the Mexican equivalent of The Boogeyman - by one of the nuns. The Cuycuy is also a kidnapper and eater of children.
Many cultures believe that burying the placenta of a baby under a tree on the family's property brings good fortune.
John knows a spell that can determine if a baby is still alive or dead using the placenta as a link.
According to John, the kidnapper is one of the demon goddesses of Hell - specifically, one of Eve's sisters who refused to submit to Adam and chose an eternity in Hell over a lifetime on Earth. He names four of the Sisters of Eve - Lilith, Durgia, Naamah and Lamashtu.
In Jewish folklore, Lilith was Adam's first wife, created from the Earth as he was. For this reason, she refused to be subservient to Adam and left the Garden of Eden. She would later copulate with demons and other spirits, giving birth to all manner of monster.
Durgia seems to be another spelling for Durga. Durga is one incarnation of the Hindu goddess Shakti, who is the personification of feminine creative power and motherhood. Durga is perhaps best known to Western culture by the name of her most fierce aspect - Kali.
In Jewish mysticism, Naamah was a demoness who caused epilepsy in young children. A frequent cohort of Lilith - she, like Lilith, gave birth to a number of monsters and plagues.
In Mesopotamian mythology, Lamashtu was a demonness who menaced mothers and newborn children. Whenever possible, she would kidnap babies that were still breastfeeding, suck their blood, eat the flesh and eventually gnaw on the bones. John identifies her as the youngest of Eve's sister and calls her "a glorified vampire".
John's switchblade is capable of harming demons.
John knows The Brujeria as a legendary group of warlocks from Chile, who have existed since prehistoric times. John believes they died out a long time ago but the truth is that they have been in hiding for a long time. Legend has it they were so wicked that not even Hell would take them in.
In the real world, Brujeria is a term for witchcraft and may refer to any coven of witches or warlocks. It is not the name of a specific, larger group.
John quickly figures out that Le Brujeria are the rising darkness he has been recruited to fight.
John is able to craft an illusion using a raw chicken and Hugo's blood that makes the chicken appear to be a baby of Hugo's bloodline.
Pazuzu is the Babylonian demon king of the winds and a bringer of drought and destructive storms. While an evil spirit, he is also frequently invoked by exorcists to banish other evil spirits. His power is most frequently invoked by amulets carrying his icon and his sworn rival is Lamathsu.
Lamastu is in the employ of La Brujeria because they have figured out a way to break the boundaries between Hell and Earth, allowing the demons to openly walk The Earth without restriction.
John: I always figured that one of us would flee to Mexico, but I thought there'd be tequila involved. Or skinny dipping.
Chas: (To Anne Marie) He'd rather risk your feelings than any other part of you. That's how... he deals with the pain. John has one thing that makes his life worth a damn and he can't do it if he lets anyone in too close. Like he did with you.
(When trying to talk Anne Marie into helping him con a demon)
John: No price is too high to save the innocent.
Anne Marie: (To John) I can see it now. It's not that you don't care. It's that you can't care about anybody and do what you do.
John: No, no, no, You shoot that, it's gonna attack us for sure.
Anne Marie: No, John. It will attack you.
(John looks at her shocked as she aims the gun at him)
Anne Marie: "No price is too high to save the innocent."
John: Oh, you're a quick study, love...
Zed makes reference to still recovering from Kentucky, where she and John traveled in 107.
Touching a fallen angel's heart has inspired Zed to sketch Biblical imagery, including Noah's Ark during The Flood and a picture of an angel.
John reveals that Anne Marie was part of his crew for The Newcastle Incident and that he owes her a favor.
Zed speaks fluent Spanish. John does not.
The hideaway has magical traps that can protect whoever is inside from intruders. It also has a doorway that leads into a dark and stormy abyss. Zed uses this room to get rid of one of her would-be captors.
John and Anne Marie slept together once. We later find out that it was the night before The Newcastle Incident and that John left their bed to go bar hopping, looking for other girls to sleep with.
It was Anne Marie who brought John into the occult scene when he was 15 years old.
Anne Marie makes reference to Gary Lester, who we saw in 104 and Ritchie Simpson from 101. She also mentions another member of the Newcastle Crew - Judith.
Zed never took art lessons until recently.
John is good enough at reading people by the tones of their voice that he is able to figure out the gist of a conversation without understanding a word of it.
John makes another reference to the bloodline curse magic practice by gypsies, as he did in 102.
Eddie calls Zed by the name Mary. She reacts violently to it and makes reference to having been locked in a room for most of her life.
Eddie is killed by his fellow Crusaders, shot in the head after Zed threatens to slit his throat.
One again, John is seen smoking on the porch at Hugo's grandmother's house.
Mexico City, Mexico
John lost his best purification bowl on a trip to Puerto Rico.
The Fridge Factor
Averted, for the most part. Zed holds her own pretty well until she is snuck upon by a man with a hypodermic full of sedative.
The Bottom Line
As an adaptation of the original comics, it works quite well. As an hour or horrifying television, it works VERY well. A wonderful episode with a truly shocking cliffhanger that will leave you in desperate need of Part Two..