A tip from Manny leads John, Zed and Chas to a nearby hospital, where an overdosing drug addict shows signs of dark influence. When Zed becomes sidelined by seizures and Manny stays mum once too often, John grounds the angel - literally. Unfortunately, Manny is totally powerless when he is in a mortal body and Heaven's Light may be the only thing that can counter the darkness that they encounter.
The Garth Ennis run on Hellblazer (the idea of John binding an angel to his will & John's gambling to win various rare magic items) & The John Ostrander run on The Spectre (new mythology for Eclipso and The Black Diamond).
Angelica Celaya and Harold Perrineau play off one another beautifully as Zed and Manny finally meet in the flesh... so to speak.
The fake out regarding the ultimate villain of the episode is very well played.
The title comes from a line from Halmet - Act I, Scene 4 - "Angels and ministers of grace defend us!". The line is spoken by Halmet, as he sees the ghost of his father.
During the Garth Ennis run on Hellblazer, John was able to bind an angel to his will. With the assistance of a succubus, John was able to remove an angels' heart. So long as John held the heart, he could command the angel to do what he wanted. This binding was somewhat more permanent than what John does to Manny on the show, however.
The black diamond called The Heart of Darkness is a reference to the DC Comics super-villain Eclipso - specifically the re-imagining of the villain orchestrated by writer John Ostrander as part of his run on The Spectre. It was there that Eclipso was revealed to be the first manifestation of God's Wrath. Eclipso became more obsessed with Revenge than Vengeance, however, and was imprisoned inside The Heart of Darkness. The Heart was broken int 1000 pieces by a gem dealer, which weakened its power to hold Eclipso. After that, any human who held one of the black diamonds would become possessed by Eclipso and turn upon whoever had made them angry.
John's shopping list includes tannis root, adder's tongue and catnip.
Tannis Root is a fictional herb first mentioned in the film Rosemary's Baby. In the movie, Tannis Root is used both as a reagent in dark magic and as way of devil worshipers marking one another by its distinctive smell.
Adder's Tongue is a name applied to a genus of about 25-30 different ferns. Their leaves are used in the treatment of wounds by alchemists and white witches.
Catnip - in addition to being a recreational substance for felines - has a number of magical and medicinal purposes. It can be used to sooth colicky babies or as a blood purifier for infants. Magically, it is often used in love potions and charm spells meant.
The Mill House contains a room that holds a sunny, outdoor meditation garden. Zed's visions do not trouble her while she is in this room, for some reason.
Zed uses Ariadne's Thread to stop herself from becoming lost in The Mill House. In Greek Mythology, Ariadne was the Princess of Crete, daughter of Minos. It was she who told Theseus the secret to navigating the great Labyrinth under Crete - using a great ball of string - and how to slay the Minotaur that lived there. Depending on the legend, Theseus either abandoned her once his quest was complete or was informed by Dionysus that he had already claimed Ariadne as his bride to be.
Manny tells John to go to a hospital named for St. Catherine. There are a number of Catholic saints named Catherine, but the first was Catherine of Alexander who is the patron of nurses and maidens.
John knows a spell that can reveal the spark of life in living beings and dead bodies - aka Elan Vital. The spell produces a bright light capable of burning human corneas. The spell also reveals the absence of that spark as well as the dark matter radiated by evil forces.
A vial of the air from Hades can be used to temporarily stun an angel while they are possessing a human body.
John apparently knows a siren and had a wild weekend with her once. Sirens, in Greek Mythology, were creatures who attempted to lure men into danger with their beautiful voices. The myths differ on whether or not sirens had beauty to match their voices or if they had an appearance similar to that of a harpy, with bird-like body parts. John's description seems to suggest the former.
Angels can be trapped in a human body if a magician can carve an appropriate sigil into the flesh of the human host before the angel can leave the body.
When possessing a human body, angels lose all connection to The Heavenly Host as well as all of their angelic powers. To that end, a bound angel is little better than an ordinary human. In fact, given most angels lack of experience in managing emotions, they are likely to be more hindrance than help to the magician who binds them.
When an angel possess a human body, magicians will see the angel as however the angel wills their normal selves to look, albeit it dressed in the clothing of their human host. Reflections will show the face of the human host and non-magicians will also see the possessed mortal as looking perfectly normal.
The Heart of Darkness is a black diamond made of calcified evil. Reportedly forged from the power of a dark sorcerer whose infernal powers once threatened the earth, the diamond was broken into many pieces by an angel's sword.
Since then, humans who came into possession of a piece of the diamond become possessed by darkness, becoming super strong and homicidal, acting upon whatever impulses enrage them most. In this case, a doctor began killing people who wasted their second chances at a new life.
The presence of dark matter interferes with illumination, either causing lights to flicker or by extinguishing them outright.
The Mill House contains a piece of The Heart Of Darkness in a puzzle box. Jasper's note says that the box was retrieved from "a gift of God". John later realizes this was a literal translation of the place where the diamond was found - "bagh dadu" or Baghdad.
The pieces of the Heart of Darkness are drawn to one another like magnets.
The light of Heaven is the only thing that can destroy dark matter.
John: Heroes are usually jerks at heart.
John: Hopefully I've got our psychic out of sensory deprevation.
Chas: She needs to rest.
John:Why don't we all just take a bloody holiday, eh?
Manny: (possessing Chas) Don't even think about it!
John: Oh, I forgot - angels.. they can't read sarcasm.
Manny: I can read it. I just don't have the patience for it.
Zed: The thing about Ariadne... Dionysus rescued her but she ended up dying anyway.
(As Chas gets ready to sneak out of his hospital room)
John: Yeah, that's a good idea. Stay here and they're likely to experiment on you in the name of science.
Chas: Oh, like you did?
John: That was in the name of magic.
(As Manny throws up after smelling a dead body for the first time)
John: (deadpan) Oh yeah. Go ahead. That's great. Just contaminate the crime scene.
John: (To Manny) Oh, and speaking of infernal power... can you use a computer?
(After Manny experiences the pleasure of the flesh)
Manny: I don't know how you get anything done.
John: Well, a little bit of denial and a lot of gin
Zed: My visions? Are they a gift from God? Or do my abilities come from somewhere evil? And the tumor is my punishment?
Manny:.Do you think your powers are evil?
Zed: Sometimes they feel that way. But since I've met John, I... I've been able to use them to save lives. And if this is my gift, I'll put up with the pain.
Zed: So my visions do come from God?
Manny: Like I said, John grounded me in this body. So I'm cut off from my power. But based on what you told me, Zed, you have all the answers you need.
John: I want to tell you something about me that nobody knows. I wake up every morning and for the first five minutes of the day... I imagine that everyone I care about is dead. I lie there and... I mediate on that. So that when it inevitably happens then uh... it lessens the blow.
Zed: Then what do you do?
John: I spark a ciggy and fry an egg.
John once again makes use of his enchanted playing card as a fake ID. It was last seen in 104.
John makes reference to the events of 110 and Zed pushing herself too hard in New York. In a callback to the flashbacks from that episode, John refers to what he did to Chas to make him semi-immortal as being done "in the name of magic."
Manny destroys The Scry Map.
Zed is able to see Manny as John does by the episode's end.
John makes reference to a wild weekend he once spent with a siren. At some point, he won a jar full of air from Hades from her.
John Screws Up
John's binding Manny very nearly gets him and Zed killed.
John also misidentifies the killer and is slow in figuring out what "gift from God" means.
The Bottom Line
The villain of the week is a bit crap and all too easily disposed of in the end - a waste of the potential for Eclipso from the comics. But the build up and the fake-out are handled well. And the business of the core cast - particularly the scenes with Zed and Manny playing off each other - are so good you won't mind too much.