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'Swamp Thing' 1.04 Review: Darkness on the Edge of Town

'Swamp Thing' begins to unravel the mystery at the heart of the show.

Swamp Thing and Abby Arcane embrace in a dark forest.
(Image: © The CW)

Our Verdict

A great horror drenched watch for Hallo-week.

For

  • 😱 Impressive horror setpieces
  • 😱 Great character growth for Abby, Liz, and Maria
  • 😱 The beginnings of a modern Beauty and the Beast romance
  • 😱 Will Patton is one of Hollywood's best villains
  • 😱 Gimme more Blue Devil, baby!!

Against

  • 😱 If you're not already wholly invested in the series, the inside baseball nature of this episode might leave you cold.

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

As we head into the halfway point of this season, Swamp Thing isn't letting up. In perfect timing for Hallo-week this episode features some of the series' most gruesome moments, including a killer opening that sets up the true dangers that dwell in the swamp. As two roving explorers head into the murky waters to pillage what nature has given Marais, they're waylaid by a falling corpse which ends up momentarily latching onto one of the men's arms. Soon he's headed back into town and Liz's (Maria Sten) bar where he's a dishwasher. That might not seem like a key plot point but when he begins hallucinating and ends up destroying his own arm via some novel usage of a garbage disposal, it starts to get a little more integral to where we're going. As he lays bleeding out he scratches Liz's father Delroy (Al Mitchell), which leads to nothing good. 

Despite being named after the iconic DC character, Swamp Thing has done a great job at crafting a rich world around the titular hero that's just as intriguing as its namesake. Liz and Delroy are a large part of that, as are the other inhabitants of Marais. With Swampy (Derek Mears) himself playing the conduit between the swamp and the human world, the hold of the deadly virus seems to be loosening, so introducing this new threat in the form of a terrifying hallucinogenic force is a smart move. The depths of the darkness that reside in the waters around Marais are vast and this episode hints at the horrors to come. It's exemplified when Delroy enters the haunted house of his own mind, living through a truly demented delusion that puts both Abby (Crystal Reed) and Liz at risk. 

I'm constantly impressed by how well Swamp Thing seems to fit on The CW right now. Despite being a series that was made for a niche streaming service, the edits are minimal and the tone stays true to the eerie darkness that the show and story inherently need. It's also nice that the creative team avoided the obvious procedural route, because as much as we'd all love to get more perfectly twisted takes like Hannibal, the reality is that format can drain a great genre show. Instead of going for a monster or even mystery of the week, Swamp Thing relies on story, character, and a slow building sense of dread to keep you hooked and it works.

Another thing the show excels at is organically building in backstory without exposition. In "Darkness on the Edge of Town," we get details about both Delroy and Avery (Will Patton) and the traumas that shaped them which are neatly entwined with the ongoing horror of the series. During his swamp-induced hallucination we learn that Delroy's mother was murdered by home invaders, and in a creepy flashback we see that Avery's dad was a cold blooded killer who taught his son the brutality that we've seen him so easily display throughout this season. Both of the stories play into the core plot of the episode seamlessly, and only add more to the complex rendering of Marais and the people who live there. 

We get to see the people of Marais in their natural--uninfected--habitat when the Sunderlands host a celebration of the swamp disease dissipating. As with anything that the wealthy couple do, it's far from charitable. In fact, Maria (Virginia Madsen) and Avery have schemes on young Suzie Coyle (Elle Graham), the swamp's first victim who has a strange connection to the elemental plant creature who used to be known as Alec Holland. The pair seem intent on taking the young girl under their wing to potentially replace their dead daughter Shawna (Given Sharp), but we know that Shawna's ghost has been keeping Maria company of late, so their kind gesture towards the recent orphan is likely more of a threat to her than the swamp ever was. 

As the people of Marais party, Abby and Liz try to track down Lucilia (Jennifer Beals) who seems to be the newest host of the fear hallucinogen. They find her at the festivities ready to mow down the locals with her service pistol, due to a vision of her son dying. It's all very dramatic and Beals does a brilliant job as an overprotective mother driven mad by grief. In her attempt to save Lucilia, Abby gets tainted by the mysterious force and heads to the swamp for help from her slimy beau. Mears' Swamp Thing is honestly one of the best movie or TV monsters to hit screens, and this episode he gets to showcase the cerebral and emotional range that has made the monster such a long running fan favorite among comics fans. Abby's own vision will also please DC Comics heads as it seems to be an apparition of Anton Arcane, one of Swamp Thing's most famous villains. Luckily for Abby, her magical friend sucks the toxic force out of her and returns it to the forest, creating balance once more. 

In the final moments of the show we get some real good Abby and Swamp Thing interactions as the pair try to come to terms with all the mysteries of the swamp. This episode does a great job at building up the horrors to come. Xanadu (Jeryl Prescott) and Daniel Cassidy (Ian Ziering) weave around the main conflict with a subplot about the coming storm of evil, and we end "Darkness on the Edge of Town" with a warning from Swamp Thing: "This is only the beginning." Of course, we know that we actually only have six episodes to go before the finale, but if the show keeps up this level of quality and consistency then it should be quite a ride.