Another stellar outing for 'Swamp Thing.'
- 🌿That stunning Swamp Thing costume.
- 🌿Jennifer Beals!
- 🌿Practical effects other horror shows should be envious of.
- 🌿Does a great job broadening the world of Marais.
- 🌿Perfect creepy Fall viewing.
- 🌿Far more obvious horror moments than the pilot.
- 🌿Madame Xanadu, baby!
- 🌿We miss Alec Holland and his ugly flip flops.
This post contains spoilers for Swamp Thing.
Check out last week's review here.
After a rip-roaring broadcast debut on The CW last week, Swamp Thing is back and good news for fans of the good green boy, it's a far more Swamp Thing heavy episode. Now that the origin story has been laid in the pilot, the James Wan produced series gets to the meat with Derek Mears putting on an incredible practical suit and giving an emotionally stirring turn as the central elemental plant creature. Speaking of the heroic monster, we begin the episode in the swamps where he is coming to terms with his new status. Shock horror! He isn't handling it well. Leaning into the body horror of becoming part-man part-plant works well, and as Swampy tears at his own foliage we learn that young Susie Coyle (Elle Graham) has a connection to Holland and the mysterious force that has resurrected him. But, of course, none of the doctors believe her.
With Alec Holland (Andy Bean) still missing after his explosion - ah, dramatic irony -Abby (Crystal Reed) takes her old friend and resident himbo cop and classic Swamp Thing character Matt Cable (Henderson Wade) into the bayou hoping to find the missing scientist. But all the pair find is the reality that Alec isn't coming back. Despite their history, Matt doesn't believe Abby's story of the swamp creature she saw on the night of Alec's death. I'm still eternally impressed that in just one episode the show built enough chemistry and care between Alec and Abby that you really feel for her despite the fact that the pair had just met on screen. Speaking of Abby, she's staying in the to-die-for wooden bayou home of Liz Tremayne (Maria Sten) and is trying her best to come to terms with the loss of Alec Holland. It seems like we're going to be learning more about the death of her friend, Shawna (Given Sharp), who turns up in a perfect jump scare moment.
That story plays heavily into this episode as Abby visits the nefarious Avery Sunderland (Will Patton), father of her late friend and ex-employer of Alec. Patton is the perfect chilling patriarch but in "Worlds Apart" he offers up a masterclass in emotional abuse and gaslighting. Playing on Abby's loneliness and guilt, he puppeteers her while denying the information she needs. In an hour that includes powerful psychics, monsters, and multiple angry ghosts, it still manages to be the scariest scene as Patton imbues every word with malice, menace, and a passive aggressive level of faux care that will send a shiver down the spine of anyone who's dealt with a narcissist. It's another great example of how Swamp Thing excels at character and emotion in a way that many comic book series struggle to or take years to develop. Two episodes in and it's arguably one of the show's biggest strengths.
Along with Abby trying to solve the mystery of Alec's apparent death, we also get to meet a roster of iconic deep cut DC characters this week. First up is local psychic Madame Xanadu (Jeryl Prescott), a bronze age creation who in DC lore is also Nimue, from Arthurian mythology. Basically, she's a powerful magic user with deep connections to big name comics characters like Zatarra and Zatana. Of course, in the horror-tinged world of Swamp Thing she's a powerful seer who Maria Sunderland (Virginia Madsen) visits in order to contact her dead daughter. Prescott is terrifying as a woman with the burden of sight, especially when she realizes something has changed in Marais and violently senses the new energy that has taken over the swamps that surround the small town. It feels like a very classical horror performance that also builds in a little humanity for the callous and selfish Maria who clearly cares for Xanadu as a friend.
Another awesome addition is Daniel Cassidy (Ian Ziering), also known as Blue Devil. He's the proprietor of the local video store who seems to have a secret. If you've read the comics you'll know what that is, but let's just say Daniel is waiting in Marais for a reason and he might not be alone. Ziering is so funny and engaging as the retired stuntman-turned-retailer that I could honestly watch an entire series just about him. He's also happy to help Abby as he was renting out his spare room to Alec and, thanks to his kindness, Abby finds her friend's computer and old video diaries which reveal she wasn't the only one to feel a spark. Serious shoutout to Andy Bean for making me care about Alec Holland, a character I truly never gave a second thought to in my Swamp Thing fandom. Here, though, his sweetness, silliness, and passion come through in a way that makes me long for more of the character even just in video or flashback.
Kevin Durand also makes his debut as the frenetic scientist Jason Woodrue. He's probably the most high-profile Swamp Thing character we meet this episode and Durand shines as the strange plant-obsessed man who as it turns out is behind the accelerant which--dun dun duh!--Avery has been pouring into the swamps. I was struck as I watched this week how much Swamp Thing feels like a response to 2020, yet it debuted on DC Universe in 2019. Rich white men devastating the communities around them for profit; a virus that is impacting the poor while the wealthy thrive. There's a timeliness now that makes the series feel even more powerful. And as Avery's plan to drain the swamps with the excelerant so he can develop the land and fill his coffers is revealed, it was almost too close for comfort. But it does work in the show's favor.
Following the structure of the pilot, we end this week with a big swamp set piece where we get to see Swamp Thing save the life of young Suzie after she sneaks into the waters on the boat of a local cop who quickly gets dispatched by Avery's men who are retrieving the accelerant Alec discovered from the swamp. Mears is stunning as the creature; his performance and practical suit meld to craft something that feels truly otherworldly. Abby and Matt head out to find the missing girl but not before Matt's mom, Lucille (Jennifer frickin' Beals), warns him off falling for Abby once again. Love triangle, anyone? Before things can get too awkward, though, Abby comes across Suzie and Swamp Thing. Understandably terrified, she 'saves' Suzie from the beast but soon is disturbed when the child reveals that the monster told her his name was... Alec.
This is a truly great followup episode that manages to recreate the success of the pilot while building out the world of Marais and the lore of Swamp Thing. Bring on next week!!
Swamp Thing airs on The CW on Tuesdays.
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