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'Swamp Thing' 1.03 Review: He Speaks

Gettin' to know the good green boy.

Swamp Thing looms over a decapitated body in a forest.
(Image: © The CW)

Our Verdict

Another great episode for The CW's newest horror-steeped superhero series.

For

  • 🌱A whole lotta Swamp Thing
  • 🌱Maria Sten's Liz Tremayne shines
  • 🌱Expands on the lore of the titular monster
  • 🌱Solid haunting Halloween horror TV
  • 🌱Deepcut DC characters galore
  • 🌱A romantic reunion

Against

  • 🌱Might be a little too slow burn for some viewers

This post contains spoilers for Swamp Thing.
Check out our last review here.

After two stellar episodes, Swamp Thing settles into a gruesomely entertaining groove with "He Speaks." After the death of Alec Holland (Andy Bean) and his transformation into the elemental plant creature from DC Comics, we've spent a lot of time with Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed) as she attempts to solve the mystery of his death and how it's connected to the strange and deadly illness ravaging the small town of Marais. But this episode is more concerned with the good green boy himself, Swamp Thing (Derek Mears). Horror icon Mears is doing a brilliant job bringing humanity and heart, even buried under that beautiful suit, and he gets to explore that a little more here in a duel performance with Bean who returns to represent Alec's psyche. 

While Swampy comes to terms with his new status quo as protector of the swamps, Abby is dealing with a suspicious CDC takeover which puts her on the path of Dr. Jason Woodrue (Kevin Durand). One of the saddest things about the show being canceled during its first run on DC Universe was how perfectly it cast so many of the characters and Durand is a stand out. His Woodrue shakes with a contempt for humanity while he talks about plants and the virus as if they're his children. It's a knife-edge balance that radiates danger and sets him up as a truly terrifying foe for Abby. The pair meets over the dead body of a victim of the virus where Woodrue and Abby draw a line over which neither will cross. It's a tight scene that establishes their conflict; though, of course, that allegiance may change when Abby finds out the truth about Alec. 

Another of Swamp Thing's strengths is how it builds out the world of Marais in an organic way, and this week classic DC character Liz Tremayne (Maria Sten) is at the center of that. The investigative journalist has long been at the heart of Swamp Thing lore, but Sten reimagines the character with a vim and vigor that her male creators rarely did. She's on the trail of Avery Sunderland (Will Patton) and a dodgy lawyer who appears to be working for the patriarch off the books. It's a subplot that hints at the noir-tinged narrative that grounds Swamp Thing. Even though this is a show about a magical swamp creature, it's also a story about the way that corruption pollutes small towns, how the desire and desperation of greedy men--like Sunderland, who is revealed to secretly be in massive debt--can destroy those who rely on and trust them. 

Liz isn't the only person investigating, though, as Abby can't get her morbid meet-cute with disgraced scientist Holland out of her head, so she heads to his delightful bayou lab to try and find some secrets. Alas, she just finds the swamp's latest creation. The maniacal spirit of the man who tried to kill Suzie Coyle has been resurrected in the guise of thousands of crawling bugs, a sort of realistic and grounded Oogy Boogie who wants nothing more than to destroy Abby. The fact that the being seems to be a mixture of whatever magic is in the swamp and the leftover rage of the man who Swamp Thing killed leans into one of the more interesting parts of the comic book. Swamp Thing is not, in fact, Alec Holland transformed but instead his consciousness combined with the environmental energy known as... the Green. Though that isn't confirmed here, it would be an interesting route for the show to go as it's a far more existential explanation. 

For those of you who are here for the horror, don't worry as we also have the ghost of Shawna Sunderland (Given Sharp), who is still haunting her mother Maria (Virginia Madsen) at every opportunity. That toxic family is central to a lot of the key reveals this week as we learn Shawna's ghost is slowly trying to turn her mother against Avery--or potentially save her from him--and that he has a romantic history with Sheriff Lucilia Cable (Jennifer Beals). That seems like it bodes badly for Abby and the reality of Alec getting any justice, but he has more important things on his mind as he has to save Abby from the grips of the swamp's new monster. 

Of course, what we're really here to see is the reunion of Abby and her would-be love, Alec, and "He Speaks" doesn't disappoint. Somehow the episode makes you not only believe but completely invest in this slimy monster and his sweet friend who wants to help him. With the new monster "released" after Swamp Thing encourages the esoteric magic that has infected the swamp to free him, the pair shares a moment as Abby realizes that the lumbering monster she's been seeing around the bayou really is Alec. Reed and Mears are electric as they relieve the night Abby and Alec spent together and reignite the spark that they both clearly felt. It's an interesting setup for the rest of the season as Abby suggests the pair team up to try and cure the disease and, in turn, Alec himself. 

What's a good romance without a potential love triangle, though, and a solid one gets set up here as Abby's comic book husband Matt Cable (Henderson Wade) seeks her out at the local bar and makes his move. There's definitely chemistry between the pretty pair and Matt plays on the nostalgia card, encouraging Abby to have the dance they never shared at their prom. But guess who's watching from the murky waters that surround the bar? SWAMP THING!!! Abby, how could you??? Though she's hugging up on the cute cop, she can't help but sneak a glance at Swampy and it looks like there's a little bit of lust in those eyes... we get it, Ms. Arcane, we get it. 

Will Patton is one of Hollywood's best bad guys and he ends this episode by showing just how scary he can be. Sick of the threat of his dodgy bookkeeper coming clean, he heads to his house and brutally dispatches him with a lot of glee, only to almost be found out by Liz. Though Avery manages to escape the roving journo, it puts her in the murderous businessman's sights. On that shocking note we end our latest visit to Marais and boy was it fun. Tune in next time to see if the series will commit to the human/plant creature love affair that we all want to see.