This Swamp Thing review contains spoilers.
And so we have reached the end of the road, or garden path, for Swamp Thing. After 10 consistently good episodes, the series finale is dirty, but largely paydirt – even though the unceremonious early cancellation still rots.
Titled “Loose Ends” (Springsteen really has a song for everything, doesn’t he?) the episode attempts to precisely tie them all up. For the most part the mission succeeds, but it’s a rushed affair. Following the events of last week’s episode, which felt messy to this reviewer, we pick up with Abby, Swamp Thing, and Alec Holland’s skeletal remains.
Their dialogue about whether the creature is a copy of consciousness with “memories stolen from a dead man” or the presence of the man Abby once knew is compelling. It is a hard sell to explain effectively, but it largely works and feels comic accurate. But before Swampy can come to terms with his existential crisis, he has to go savage on some mercenaries led by Jake Busey.
The Conclave goon squad are paper thin characters, but they’re only there to die. Still, it’s a bit sad to see Busey relegated to ham-and-cheese lines like “We’re not hunting it, it’s hunting us.” Also we spend a lot of time hearing about a baddie named Romero, who disappears minutes after being introduced (and looks like he got a swampy crucifixion). But hey, at least he has an homage as a name.
Anyhow, the scenes of the hulked-out Swampy unleashing the Green on the villains is highly entertaining. The show hasn’t really felt lacking in the action department for me, but it is nonetheless fun to get a full-on superhero display. Busey’s death is sufficiently gory with the lower half of his face ripped off, and the rest of his team picked apart by murderous flora. However, I would have liked more of the creepy aesthetic that the show has previously delivered.
Berserker mode aside, the post-primal scream moment between Andy Bean’s Alec Holland and Derek Mears’ Swampy are poignant. It serves as a send-off for both these characters, but especially for Holland. It is a subtle bit of acting, but I loved Bean’s chuckle after Swampy tells him, “Go away, you’re dead.” Holland will stick around in spectral form, but I enjoyed him encouraging our hero to choose his own destiny. Swamp Thing isn’t human and he is seen as a monster, but he can also be so much more – especially with Abby’s companionship.
Speaking of Abby, the series was anchored initially by Crystal Reed’s Abby Arcane, but ultimately she isn’t given much to do in this finale. It seems she is largely reactive, rather than proactive. She deserved more of a story this episode, but her arc somewhat felt lost along the way as we came to focus more on Swampy. Still, Reed has been great in the role, and I like the touching end where she chooses to stay by his side to face the darkness together.
(I appreciated the succinctness of Swampy’s “I would like that very much.”)
Meanwhile, the show wraps up its other characters.
Avery is sent by Ellery to clean up his mess (and get blind drunk). I doubt he’ll have much of an empire to run anymore, and his fate seems sealed with the green flu. It’s a fitting end that, after taking so much from the swamp, the swamp will consume him with his own poison. Will Patton has been reliably good as Avery, making the good ol’ boy businessman sympathetic, and likable, even as he gets darker. A broken man, he comes full circle and essentially becomes the man his father wanted him to be. He couldn’t kill the gator from his childhood, but has no trouble killing the only woman who loved him (with a big Bowie knife, which got its name in Louisiana).
We never see Lucilia’s body, but one assumes she didn’t make it out of the trunk (she was doomed as soon as she tried to reconcile with Matt, and he didn’t reciprocate her “I love you”). Maria, who was pretty sane, goes insane and is relegated to a spirit world with her daughter. Daniel finally gets the hell out of Dodge, after awkwardly explaining the whole Blue Devil situation to Liz (and wow, did we get eyefuls of Blue Devil comics!). And I guess Liz’s journalist character arc concludes with … taking over a video store? And oh look, it’s Madame Xanadu, a character we haven’t seen in a bit – just showing up to say goodbye.
All right, it didn’t all work. And it seems like the supporting women on the show especially got a raw deal. Virginia Madsen’s Maria in particular deserved a better fate.
And while there is a lot of clunkiness here we also get a lot of weirdness.
Kevin Durand has been a joy to watch this entire season, playing against type. From arrogant scientist driven by ego, and a desire to save his wife, to unraveling and going totally bonkers, he has sold Woodrue’s development. Durand’s Woodrue is odd and unsettling and reminds me of Jeffrey Combs’ Herbert West from Re-Animator. Playing opposite Selena Anduze (who has delivered a sympathetic character and held her own this season) Durand chews it up as he restrains his wife and cooks up what looks like a pesto made of Swamp Thing’s organs. I love the madness of these scenes.
Plus we finally get to Floronic Man in a post-credits scene that thankfully doesn’t skimp on the costume and rewards Durand’s performance. He looks like a big green demon (almost reminiscent of Darkness from Legend). I would have liked more brown in his color scheme, but I’ll take this lest Floronic look too much like Evil Groot. Anyhow, this was a tasty reveal, only made disappointing because it appears to be the last time we’ll see this version of Dr. Woodrue.
Despite the episode title, Swamp Thing concludes with unresolved loose ends. Poor Harlan, are you still alive out there? What’s really the deal with The Conclave? What about Abby’s family history?
Overall, this is a satisfying finale that wraps up a lot while also leaving potential for a return to Marais. The series had some missteps, but was largely an above average horror series with scary and spooky moments (and really fun gross-out practical effects). It wasn’t averse to dipping into the surreal, and ruminating on trippy ideas from the comics. The show got a lot right and the art direction was top notch. Swamp Thing himself looked great as fans were treated to several iconic shots straight from the comics.
Finally, Derek Mears’ thankless performance as Swamp Thing is incredibly noteworthy. Even though the actor is used to being largely covered up in his roles, this is a highlight. Acting inside that big suit, he captured the gentleness of the giant character, as well as the potential for brutality, through heavy, thoughtful movements.