This Swamp Thing review contains spoilers.
Avery Sunderland has a “Long Walk Home” in Swamp Thing episode 8, which serves as an interesting exploration of the character while also thrusting the action forward, and places Swampy in real danger. But is there enough time to wrap everything up by the series finale in two weeks?
The episode opens focused on Will Patton’s Avery in the swamp, and by all appearances, close to death. And that’s how the swamp wants it. Despite his tenaciousness in surviving, and having enough wits to bandage himself up, and carve directional markings into trees (he was swamp folk before being a “legitimate businessman,” after all), the swamp chooses to taunt him. He has visions of Lucilia, hears haunting voices, and stumbles around, losing blood as well as his sanity. The particular moment of Lucilia sprouting vines from her eyes, and mouth, is freaky stuff, if a bit heavy on the computer effects.
But we also get an insight on his relationship to the swamp. He has seen things. His own foolish father – who spouts Trumpian quotes such as “A man takes what he wants” – is burned alive in an extended, gruesome moment as vines lock onto him, and drag him into the fire. It is painful to watch (for the audience, and for both young and old Avery), but that’s what you get for hacking into a tree that bleeds.
Still, we get a sense that as much as Avery talks about what the swamp has given him, and Marais, he truly has a grudge against it. It is something to be tamed, and taken from. So yes, Avery, the swamp does want you dead.
Swamp Thing says as much. The erstwhile Alec Holland has shown empathy to Avery, but is angry over the abuse, and imbalance he has caused. He thinks The Green has transformed him to correct the balance, and battle the darkness Avery has stirred up – but if he only knew how directly Avery is to blame for his death/rebirth.
This did irk me somewhat. The Green showed Swampy Abby’s past, so why is it holding back on Matt or Avery’s involvement in Holland’s murder? Does Swamp Thing not want to know?
No good green deed goes unpunished in Marais, however. I never believed for a moment that Avery would choose to save Holland, but he was trying to convince himself, which is a nod to Patton’s performance. Even when Woodrue was speaking with Avery, the broken former king of Marais half-heartedly protests. But it doesn’t take much for him to relent. After all, why cure the goose that laid the golden egg?
Woodrue seems bigger this episode. Kevind Durand is taller than Patton by eight inches, but his character has seemed smaller thus far. Now, he is empowered, and the camera shows his size. Seduced by resources of The Conclave, he is so convincingly manipulative. Eager to get out the high school cafeteria-esque lab, we have a great subtle expression of contempt from Durand when that lab rat spills rubbing alcohol all over. Another notable character beat occurs when Woodrue tries to lure Holland out with “maybe you’ve read some of my work.” When Swampy confronts him, and confirms he knows the fellow scientist, Woodrue’s outsized ego demands he asks which work Holland has read.
I hope we get more dialogue between Woodrue and Swampy. These two science minds might have a lot to say to one another (in between what will be some definite torture/experimentation).
Of course this immediately precedes the ambush by The Conclave’s good squad. Swamp Thing gives the strike team the warning to “leave while you can,” but eventually falls after exposure to liquid nitrogen.
We have had ample horror (but more, please), and a lot of ruminations from Swampy, but this crushing moment is one of the most superhero-show scenes we’ve had so far. The action sequence is good, though largely shrouded in nitrogen fog, but it will be disappointing if it notes a shift in the remainder of the series, or if we leave the swamp for a brightly-lit mad scientist lab. A little of that would be fine, but I cannot help but be anxious since we’re on the clock here.
Regarding Abby’s story, she takes a brief detour back home to Atlanta, and the CDC, only to meet her new boss, Dr. Palomar – played horror queen Adrienne Barbeau, also from Wes Craven’s 1982 Swamp Thing movie. Even though Palomar is a pawn of The Conclave, which is asserting itself quickly in all matters, she has a point that Abby has kinda sucked at her job lately, and fell off the grid. Also, maybe Abby shouldn’t be telling everyone about Alec Holland. Now, poor, likable (and best friend ever) Harlan is likely dead at the hands of The Conclave.
I appreciate the need to sideline Abby a bit in this episode, in order to focus on the bad guys, but it feels late in the game for this. Still, I am intrigued by her box of Marais stuff, especially the necklace she pulls out of there. Another tease about the mysterious Arcane family?
While another enjoyable episode of Swamp Thing, I am admittedly frustrated that all of this is coming to a head at this point. Only two installments left to wrap it up? I am feeling a little green about that.