Brief Thoughts On Swamp Thing, Episode 8
by Erik Amaya
Let’s start with Adrienne Barbeau.
It is now something of a tradition for DC Entertainment series to honor the past. Former stars in previous film or TV projects become the parents or nemeses of the characters they once played. Supergirl and The Flash both employed previous iterations as parents — Supergirl even went as far as to import Smallville star Erica Durance when they needed to recast Alura Zor-El. So it was only a matter of time before Swamp Thing found a way to honor its past. As improbable as it seems, Alec Holland and Anton Arcane jumped from the pages of Saga of the Swamp Thing into two feature films and a surprisingly long-lived television series on the USA cable network. As it happens, we’ve discussed The Return of Swamp Thing on Your Weekend Cheesy Movie, so that will give you some idea to the film’s quality. But we also discussed the original Swamp Thing feature itself, which featured Barbeau as a curious mingling of Abby Arcane and Matt Cable named, appropriately enough, Alice Cable. She happens to be one of the best things about the first film and as original Swamp Thing performer Dick Durock left this mortal plane in 2009, Barbeau is definitely the most appropriate face to see back in the Swamp Thing milieu.
But the show did a clever thing in making her a clear threat from her first line.
As Abby’s (Crystal Reed) new supervisor at the Centers for Disease Control, one immediately gets the impression that Dr. Palomar (Barbeau) has very little time for her shenanigans. It seems innocent enough except for the obvious goon skulking around the CDC. Abby returned to headquarter to test the sample she took from the rot in the swamp, but it seems her drive-all-night play was not fast enough. Nathan Ellery (Michael Beach) beat her there and seemingly compromised the entire agency. The swiftness with which he brought his resources to bear suggests the Conclave is more than just a corporation.
Then sense of menace in broad daylight was a continuing theme this week as Avery (Will Patton) faced phantasms during his stroll across the swamp. Of course, night brought the revelation that the swamp took his daddy many years ago, and seemingly turned on Avery when he was still a child. Amplifying the menace, though, was Swamp Thing (Derek Mears) himself. Mears definitely deserves recognition as he brought the intellect, sensitivity, empathy, curiosity, and rage of the character to his talk with Avery. Punctuated with slams into a nearby table, Mears never lets the viewer forget that Alec (if he is Alec) is something more than a man and as volatile as nature itself. It is a stunning performance even before you remember Mears is working through heavy prosthetics and blood-red contact lenses. Had the series not been cut by three episodes, we could easily see Swamp Thing and Avery’s talk dominating most of an episode. Sadly, though, it must play within the accelerated timeframe because ideas have to be paid off, Abby needs to get back to Marais, and at least one of the remaining episodes has to be a proper adaptation of “The Anatomy Lesson.”
We’ll probably talk about that monumental issue of Swamp Thing a little bit more next week.
Instead, let’s take a look at what losing three episodes cost the show. Liz (Maria Sten) is essentially a guest character now. Had the series continued, it is easy to see how she would have been key in exposing the Sunderlands and the Conclave. But at this point, it is entirely possible that the her phone call with Abby in last week’s show was her final appearance. We’ve also lost the Blue Devil thread. It will probably be paid off to some extent in Episode 10, but it is clear the show had greater plans for Daniel (Ian Ziering). We also lost Suzie Coyle (Elle Graham) along the way. Presumably, she’s still in Shawna’s (Given Sharp) old room, but who knows? At least Matt Cable (Henderson Wade) and his mother Lucilia (Jennifer Beals) are still alive in the narrative and, hopefully, part of the grand climax. If we’re right, it will look a lot like “The Anatomy Lesson” and form most of next week’s episode.
Swamp Thing streams Fridays on DC Universe.