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Swamp Thing S01 Ep03 Deep Breakdown: He Speaks

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I am about to say, in a fashion one might – were they feeling generous – describe as succinct and concise, the exact sentiment that I will then expel many, many more words proving throughout this review.  I’ll try to phrase it in fun and different ways, and it certainly will involve far more plot details than the five words that I promise are coming, right around the corner, any second now, but I will leave it up to you, letting you know that no opinion I profess will be any more controversial than what I’m about to say, right… now: I fucking love Swamp Thing.  It’s a really good show, and yes, I worried that perhaps it was the momentum of newness often present in a freshman show.  But by three episodes, we have a sense of quality and ambition.  Swamp Thing could settle for just being that weird body horror show about the monster-guy, but instead it is something more complicated and nuanced.  There’s a carefully unravelling mystery and – quelle surprise – there’s some pretty damn impressive character development.

DC Universe

And honestly, who could have foreseen it?  Usually once you introduce the concept of a bio-engineered swamp monster, you kind of abandon hope for character.  But we start this episode seeing Alec talking to one of the men that Swampy has torn asunder; he is reconciling his guilt with what was ultimately an elemental reaction to what he has become.  But we know that Alec – with the pretty face and the good hair – is not so much entirely human anymore, so we also know that this is a vision, a hallucination, and so that all of this is happening inside Swampy’s head.  Which is a telling detail in and of itself.  He is not mindless or devoid.  Some pretty industrious and very gnarly bugs go into the pieces of the man torn asunder and hold him together.  As my notes for this episode point out, nothing good has ever come from a bug-puppet.

Meanwhile, Dr. Woodrue – he who made the accelerant – has taken over the CDC operation to cure the virus.  To return to my point about this show taking the time to be more nuanced than it necessarily needs to be, we see that his wife, the Lady Dr. Woodrue, is suffering some sort of gradual degenerative disease.  Look, Woodrue didn’t need to have a reason.  He could have been a patsy, an overly ambitious scientist, too hungry for discovery, any of these things.  But the grace with which it is revealed that his own reasons for wanting to find biological answers are sad and delicate is admirable, and frankly very uncommon for any comic based show.  Of course, the methods he’s using to treat the virus are wrong and stupid because, as we learn, there is something in the swamp itself that the accelerant specifically reacted to – he may have created the accelerant, but he’s not taking that variable into account.

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Abby’s assistant, Harlan, contracts the disease, which spurs Abby to break into Alec’s lab in the hopes of finding literally anything that might help her figure out the cure. I’ve said before, and I fear that I will have cause to say it again, that in the swirling haze of this wonderfully weird show, Abby is the weakest link.  Frankly, she and Alec did not have enough time together for the dewy, sad-eyed nostalgia she seems to be feeling in his lab.  Look, he was hot.  I get that.  No one is arguing that!  But still, she knew him for five minutes.  I love you, Swamp Thing, but please no more flashbacks to the 20 seconds they had together.

Anyway.  Bug-man sneaks on in and is approaching Abby like a real creepo, when Swampy explodes through the floorboards to defend his woman.  He beats Bugman into submission, but recognizes the raw materials that were the man he dismembered, and in a moment of empathy and kindness, simply tells the bugs to leave him.  Which they do.  And friends, I tell you no lies, Derek Mears is really, truly great as Swampy.  He gives him a pained physicality and a steady, almost weirdly calming voice.  If I expected him to be less human after the transformation into swamp monster… I was wrong.  Swampy is actually a very compelling pile of moss.  He tells Abby that the virus isn’t fighting, it’s fighting back, which is enough information for her to realize that the harder they hit it with antibiotics, the more it mutates and evolves.  She returns to the hospital and administers what I will simply call stuff that manages to at least stay the virus.            

DC Universe

And now, we’re gonna run a little long because a hell of a lot happened and I assure you, I am still cutting shit out.  But before we can say adieu, we need to look in on Avery, who became full villain this episode.  We learn that he was taking unsanctioned loans from a banker named Gordon – loans he has absolutely no ability to pay off.   He tries to convince Maria to give him some of that sweet, sweet family scratch but she saw him trying to seduce a lady cop earlier and is pretty much done up with his bullshit. Avery goes to Gordon’s house and executes the only reasonable alternative to paying the loans in a timely fashion; he bashes the living hell out of Gordon with a golf club.  Our southern gent is a stone cold murderer.

I am so psyched to see where this is all heading.  From a horror perspective, would I call it scary?  Not necessarily, though it is gnarly as hell, and I am here for that.  But.  It is worth the time.   Every great episode reminds me how sad I am that there will only be one season, but as some clichés like to remind us, it is better to have loved and lost…

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Kelly Mintzer hates dolls but loves movies about evil ventriloquist dummies. She is working her way through the “Sandman” series slowly but surely, and has been compared more than once to that iteration of Death. Holding down South Philly with a creative writing degree and the full series of “Hannibal”, she hasn’t seen her natural hair color in years.