This Swamp Thing review contains spoilers.
Swamp Thing is the show I was hoping it would be, and the fourth episode delivers on a lot of beauty coupled with a damn fine cringeworthy gore moment, and visuals straight out of the comics. And by the glory of the Green, I think we might be on the way to some Arcane family history.
Borrowing the title “Darkness at the Edge of Town” from one of Springsteen’s most beloved songs (and a title many other shows, including Arrow, have used), the episode is about the fears of the people of Marais, and the secrets being dredged up due to the meddlings in the swamp. And in this case, there is a literal darkness that should have stayed buried, but instead is unleashed like yet another virus.
For Delroy, Lucilia, and Abby, the darkness reveals traumatic memories, nightmares, or fears. Sadly, for Todd, it toyed with his phobia of snakes, and that results in his hack/slash/chop self mutilation. The horror of the scene is top notch, with tension perfectly stoked, without the camera looking away too much as Todd gets stabby, and plunges his hand into the garbage disposal. Seriously, I was eating my lunch whilst watching the episode, and had to put my food down for a moment. It is that good of a moment.
And yet, the best stuff this week happen in the swamp, between Abby and Alec/Swamp Thing. (Although it is unintentionally amusing that Swampy has zero chill when he extends his vines to pull her boat close). There is chemistry between the characters, which is not easy considering Swamp Thing is not incredibly verbose.
I continue to be impressed with Crystal Reed as Abby because she sells a character that can easily be laughable or melodramatic. The scientist who gets caught up in the strange, and supernatural, and befriends a monster man. Yet, she grounds the character (and the show) by remaining empathetic and believable. And when she has her nightmare vision with the faceless man, we tease the idea that her comic book origins of the magical might be present here as well.
Meanwhile, Derek Mears is a damn delight to watch as Swamp Thing. Aided by an excellent suit (and the dark lighting of the swamp) he has the hulking movements down perfectly. When he absorbs the darkness from Abby (after a scary, but surprisingly tender scene as he holds her while she hallucinates), he rushes through the swamps as his vegetative body lashes out in anger. It conjured visuals from the comics.
And with Swampy’s mastery of his body, and powers, we finally get him talking about the plant life speaking to him. Can a mention of the Green be far away?
Though not a new concept, I love when little towns become the epicenter of a supernatural storm. And Marais has invited it, no thanks to Avery Sunderland. Things are out of whack, and a larger darkness is making its way from the edges of town straight into the center. It doesn’t seem so great that Xanadu’s gifts are out of sorts, either. Also, Ian Ziering is clicking as Cassidy. He actually gets more screen time this week, as he sorts out his destiny – and the culmination of the deal he made with someone/something. But he’s both likable and smarmy enough to keep me guessing about what role he’ll ultimately play on the show.
We didn’t get much from Kevin Durand’s arrogant scientist Woodrue, but what we did have continues to highlight how good the actor is playing against type. He isn’t going to be much help to Abby, but will he take Swampy’s sample to Avery, or keep it to himself in his quest to aid his ill wife?
Speaking of Avery, he’s a bad boy. Ditch a body, then throw a party; “buy” an orphan to get his wife’s love money: Will Patton is in full villain mode at this point after becoming a cold-blooded killer last week. The flashback of young Avery and his father seemed out of place, even if it was meant to show the kind of man he was raised by, and the lessons to succeed at all cost. However, as all the spooky stuff builds in Marais, I hope the show moves Avery’s story along a little more, and we get to The Conclave faster.
Also, poor little Susie Coyle. First her dad died from a swamp virus, then she was laid up in the hospital, then someone tried to kill her, and now she has to go live with the Sunderlands in their haunted house. This will end well, right?
Swamp Thing is zipping along, and is doing so with great horror moments, and beautiful shots of our titular hero in the darkness. The show is moving fast, and setting up promising threats. Now let’s just hope we’ll get payoffs before the series end.