This review contains Swamp Thing spoilers.
It’s weird being in the midst of an episode review for a show when you find out the whole thing has been canceled. But it’s especially disappointing when the episode you’re writing about is so damn good. Such is the case for “Worlds Apart,” the excellent second hour of the just-canceled Swamp Thing on the DC Universe streaming platform.
Following an impressive premiere, the new episode – directed by executive producer, and Underworld master Len Wiseman — delivers more horror, some gore, and satisfying swamp monster hero action while setting up a supernatural element.
The action picks up after the events of the pilot episode that had Alec Holland (Andy Bean) blown up and transformed by the swamp into the titular monster (Derek Mears). CDC doctor Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed) mourns for Holland while also trying to get to the bottom of the green contagion, and processing her encounter with the thing.
As the main human character, Abby Arcane has a lot to do, and Reed does the work well, whether it having a tete-a-tete, or happening on a murder scene. The writers and Reed have crafted a character who retains her composure even while expressing emotions. She’s believable, and even though she only spent basically a day with Holland, her feelings about him work well enough.
The scene between Abby and Will Patton’s Avery Sunderland was especially good. Patton is always so convincing at playing charming, threatening, and slimy all at once. The tense scene where he apologizes to her, but also warns her from barking up his tree is really great character work.
It is equally enjoyable to watch Patton opposite Kevin Durand as biogeneticist Jason Woodrue. Durand is one of those actors always welcome in genre fare, although for a guy that plays a cocky bruiser so well, he’s convincing here as an arrogant, and nerdy scientist.
But let’s get to the really fun stuff.
Although we’re mainly seeing Swamp Thing in the dark (and the show is almost too dark), I like what I can see of the suit. The scenes of the mutated Holland tearing plant chunks away from his body (as he connects psychically with the infected little girl from the hospital) are satisfyingly gooey.
While I am still ascertaining how well the character of Swampy will work without him talking much, or at all (aside from Holland’s video diaries), I appreciate the series wasting little time to give him some action. Making solid use of its unrated platform, the show indulges in a shocking bit of gore this episode with the surprise death of the cop, and then the murderer being ripped apart by vines. The swamps of the show looks like a soundstage, but is nonetheless a pretty enjoyable set, and used effectively in the chase sequence culminating in that shed.
This entire final act with Swamp Thing is excellent for balancing all the elements of horror, and allowing the creature to be truly brutal while also protecting an innocent – and then seen as a monster by Abby. It is a creepy, violent, tender, and heartbreaking.
However, the stuff with Virginia Madsen’s Maria Sunderland and Jeryl Prescott’s Xanadu was an episode highlight. I already love the series treatment of the comic character Xanadu, and the séance scene between her and the grieving mother is incredibly creepy – although the reveal of the sleeping Maria cuddling an undead version of her daughter is even more so.
Although the series is built on a science-gone-wrong ecological horror story, I dig the supernatural element we are already being treated to. How it connects to Woodrue’s accelerant, and Sunderland’s plan to monetize the swamp (Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor would respect his real estate plans) is as-yet unclear. But it certainly seems that Abby’s return to Marais has stirred up paranormal activity – as if the town didn’t have enough to deal with at the moment.
A couple stray thoughts about “Worlds Apart”: You can’t help but like Ian Ziering as Daniel Cassidy (and future Blue Devil), as a never quite famous actor, and video store owner. In the one scene we get with him, he’s friendly, and a little dodgy. Beyond that, I am not yet feeling Matt Cable (Henderson Wade) as a lovelorn cop. But it’s a pleasure seeing Jennifer Beals in anything, including as an accented Sheriff.
Although Swamp Thing is a dead plant man walking due to cancellation, the series is off to a strong start with effective genre elements, and solid acting. And hopefully the show can keep it up, and tie things up with a satisfying series conclusion.