Spoilers ahead for the February 18 episode of Legends of Tomorrow on The CW, called "A Head of Her Time."
Most of Legends of Tomorrow's aptly-named "A Head of Her Time" revolved around the beheaded Marie Antoinette who returned to her time to use a magical perfume to charm people to death, but the secondary story revolving around John Constantine is the one that will have lasting consequences. Astra decided she was sick of Constantine and made a deal to speed up his death, which was 10 years in the future at that point due to lung cancer. Constantine is dying of cancer now thanks to Astra, and ended the hour coughing up blood. What do the DC comics tell us about his fate?
Fans of Constantine in the comics likely perked up their ears once a death due to lung cancer down the line was mentioned, as his terminal diagnosis with cancer kicked off the famous "Dangerous Habits" arc. Legends of Tomorrow executive producer Grainne Godfree addressed the comics inspiration for the turn Matt Ryan's incarnation of Constantine is taking:
We wanted to give him one of the iconic storylines from the comics, where he gets lung cancer, and he’s going to try to do everything he can, in the most John Constantine type way, to get out of it... wrestling with mortality and all this rich, deep character stuff.
"Dangerous Habits" is clearly the comics arc used as inspiration for this Legends of Tomorrow plot, and it ran for six issues of DC Comics from May - October 1991. A lot happens in those six issues after Constantine is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, but the aspects that are potentially relevant to Legends of Tomorrow's version of the story are pretty straightforward to pick out.
In the comics, Constantine angers Satan, one of the lords of Hell, to the point that Satan plans on tormenting him in Hell more than anybody had been tormented in Hell to that point. This leads Constantine to the conclusion that he absolutely cannot die and go to Hell. After failing to convince an angel to save him because of all the sins he committed, Constantine goes for a last resort: selling his soul to the other two lords of Hell.
What purpose does this serve? Well, each of the lords of Hell was left with the impression that they alone held the claim to Constantine's soul. When he was dying, the three lords of Hell discover that they each have a claim, and if Constantine dies, they'll have to go to war to determine who gets to claim his soul.
A war between the lords of Hell would create unbalance, which would open Hell up to an attack from Heaven. They come to the realization that the least risky solution would be to heal John of his cancer so that there would not need to be any conflict over his soul after his death.
So, Constantine ends "Dangerous Habits" very much alive and with Hell very motivated to keep him that way. What does this mean for Legends of Tomorrow? Will Constantine survive on screen because he lived in the comics? According to executive producer Phil Klemmer to TVLine, that's not necessarily the case, because Legends isn't doing a precise adaptation of the comics arc. Here's how he put it:
[A] balance, because we want to honor [Dangerous Habits], [but] at the same time, we want to break new ground, as well. Hopefully, we found the right balance with that. But there’s no predicting where we’re headed based on the books.
Well, Legends of Tomorrow intends to honor to legendary comics arc, but it won't follow what happened to the letter. For fans of the comics, I have to hope that similarities to "Dangerous Habits" don't stop at Constantine suffering from lung cancer in both versions of the story. Phil Klemmer did go on to say that incorporating pieces of "Dangerous Habits" into Legends was "very, very, very important to [star] Matt Ryan," who Klemmer described as "the world’s leading expert on all things Constantine."
He has played Constantine on more than one show! Only time will tell how closely Matt Ryan's Constantine will resemble DC Comics' Constantine in the "Dangerous Habits" plot, but there will be at least one major difference: Ray and Gary in the mix. Yes, two of the least Constantine-like characters on Legends of Tomorrow will be with good old John, and it sounds like they might have a big part to play in Constantine not dying. Executive producer Grainne Godfree hinted what's in store:
John wants to just be miserable and drink alone, and they’re not going to let him do that.
Are Gary and Ray going to try and push him to find a way to save himself, and that's how they're "not going to let him" miserably drink himself to death? Or are they simply going to try and stop him from shuffling off to the afterlife drunk, miserable, and alone by staying with him?
I can see them easily doing the second, but I'm not sure Ray or Gary would push Constantine to do something like sell his soul to three different lords of Hell, no matter how much they want their friend to live.
Then again, this is Legends of Tomorrow we're talking about, and the latest episode featured the Legends (sans Sara, who hasn't had an easy season) traveling to the 18th century France to stop Marie Antoinette from using perfume to charm the French to death, ended with Zari abandoning her perfume venture and DJ boyfriend to become a Legend and eat doughnuts, and Brandon Routh and Courtney Ford continuing to make the most of their few remaining episodes before leaving Legends.
Unfortunately, the episode description for next week doesn't reveal a whole lot of details about what's coming on the Constantine front. In the February 25 episode, most of the Legends will travel to 1990s Hong Kong to try and defeat Genghis Khan, who is the latest historical villain to rise from Hell to cause trouble. Ray, Gary, and Nora attempt to help Constantine as he fights for his life, but Constantine wants to make a deal with Astra instead.
Tune in to Legends of Tomorrow on Tuesday, February 25 at 9 p.m. ET to see what's in store for Constantine and whether or not it follows the events of "Dangerous Habits." For some viewing options that don't involve deals with devils, check out our 2020 winter and spring premiere schedule.