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Swamp Thing S01 Ep04 Deep Breakdown: Darkness on the Edge of Town

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I promise, with about 60 percent hope of adherence and 100 percent guarantee of trying my damnedest, that I will not dedicate a portion of every remaining Swamp Thing review to lamenting its cancellation, shaking my fist and pounding my breast in the general direction of DC and the powers that be.  Starting next review.  Because today I have to say again, what a hideous shame it is that we won’t be getting more of this weird, wonderful show.  As the season progresses, I am increasingly impressed at the evolving ways they manage to progress the serialized elements, while also implementing a slightly procedural, week-to-week component that also enriches and furthers the narrative.  Let me show you how.

DC Universe

This week, what I can only describe as renegade timber poachers (and god bless this show for allowing me the opportunity to use that turn of phrase!) sneak into the swamp.  When they try to cut down some good ol’ fashioned swamp wood, a mummified corpse falls from a tree, and one of the loggers gets scratched by it.  When he returns to the one bar we’ve seen in town, he gets to work alongside Liz, Abby’s reporter friend.  He begins to hallucinate an enormous snake on his arm, and takes a knife to himself.  Despite Liz and Del (Liz’s father and the bar owner) telling him there is no snake on him, he manages to chop off his arm – and scratch Del in the process.  Liz calls Abby in and away from the sample of Swampy she took to study, and Abby discovers the mummified corpse in the swamp.

Swampy himself has become a bit of a harbinger of both doom and exposition, a situation that I might find problematic were it not for how well it actually manages to correspond to his own, gradual self discovery.  Yes, he is a convenient way to provide Abby with answers, like “it’s not a virus, exactly, it’s a darkness” (“whatever the hell that  means” – attribute that quote to Kelly not Swampy, he’s unconcerned) “and it needs a host to survive”, but also, and fair enough, he is a frightened new version of himself, talking to a colleague.  There’s something that actually, strangely, feels very intellectually honest about the moments where Swampy and Abby are talking about the virus or this new menace; I’ve previously lamented the fact that Abby is the weakest component of the show, and I haven’t completely reversed my opinion on that.  And I want to be abundantly, loudly clear on this, in a way I think perhaps I’ve failed to in the past.  It is no fault of the actress.  She’s charismatic enough, and she has dynamite chemistry with Derek Mears, even with all the swamp latex.   It’s just that she is so often sort of damsel-in-distress-ed.  But an episode like this, where she is allowed to talk about in quotation marks science – because make no mistake, a lot of this science is actually magic – and to ask the right questions and bounce off of Swampy as an intellectual equal, Abby is compelling.  And you root (yes, yes, run me out on a rail, come to my house with torches, I know, it’s an unforgivable pun, and even so, I refuse to recant) for her.  But I’ve lost the plot, let’s see if we can find it.

DC Universe

Swampy gives Abby the news about the host business, and Abby rushes back to town, having seen Ophelia – previously referred to, I believe as “Sheriff Lady” – was scratched by Del.  At the shrimp boil that Avery (more on that shit stain later) threw, Ophelia begins to hallucinate someone attacking Matt and draws her gun on the crowd.  Daniel – who remains a fascinating mystery – is able to disarm her, but when Abby goes to try to restrain her, she scratches Abby and gives her the parasite.  Abby runs to the swamp to make sure she doesn’t infect anyone else.  When she reaches the swamp, our guy holds onto her and takes the infection from her, then gives it back to the mummified remains, which are then promptly eaten by the swamp.

DC Universe

The clever conceit here is that some balance has been shifted and a darkness is taking over the swamp.  Last week we saw Bugman, and this week we see the parasite.  It’s tempting to call the resolution of these things within an episode too tidy by half but they are plagues – symptoms, not the disease.  Indicative of a bigger problem, we aren’t entirely certain of yet. 
But let’s speak very quickly on Daniel and Avery, both of whom we would be terribly remiss not to acknowledge on this day.  I don’t totally understand Daniel’s deal, but he is quickly becoming one of my most anticipated characters.  This week, Xanadu, the medium lady, mentions something about a deal he made and a heroes journey, and I have no idea what the hell that means, but guys, I am into it.  I want to see where things are going with him.  Also, this week, Avery continues to be the sleaziest of grease balls.  He has in essence bought young Susie from her shit-heel uncle, because of the good optics of an adorable child.  He believes that having Susie as a face of the virus will make people more likely to give him money.  He is a vile, disgusting piece of garbage, but he’s clever, and frankly a damn good villain.

DC Universe

I could easily write more about Swamp Thing and how it is rapidly becoming a favorite show, but I am reaching the precipice between charmingly verbose and offensively garrulous.  So.  We’ll talk more next week.  With great anticipation.  It’s not too late to check it out – this show is worth your time.

About Author

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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.