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Swamp Thing S01 Ep05 Deep Breakdown: Drive All Night

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Before we go any further, I want to apologize for being late.  I take punctuality terrible seriously – gravely so – and like any self-respecting Hannibal fan, I abhor rudeness.  So while there is every reasonable assumption that no one actually gives too particularly much of a shit about the timing of this little piece, I’m still going to throw myself at the mercy of whatever court.  Old business out of the way, let’s move on swiftly to the new, because damn, there’s a lot to cover.

I could spend and waste so many words telling you, ad nauseam, that Swamp Thing is great, but at a certain point it is an insult to your intelligence, I’ve said it, you get it, and I respect you way too much to do you like that.  What I would like to focus on this week is just how deftly the show is managing to service multiple character arcs, while still having them feel a part of the greater plot.  This may seem foregone and obvious, but I didn’t actively realize – until I witnessed the skillful way the stories are woven through Swamp Thing – how often a show counts on the audience just caring about the individual characters enough that there is no greater call to fuse their arcs to the serialized elements.  And listen, that can be okay.  But there is something very satisfying about the way Swamp Thing makes everyone a moving piece – a necessary component – of what’s happening in the swamp.

DC Universe

Swampy himself remains the greatest surprise for me.  I truly expected him to just become some sort of ecological avenger.  Instead, this week we see him struggling to come to terms with what he is.  Call it the beauty and advantage of being a series instead of a movie, but body horror so rarely dedicates the time and energy it should to discussing the implications of having your basic physiognomy distorted.  Swampy is grappling;  the swamp keeps trying to show him shit, but he can’t process it, because he still doesn’t understand how or why he went from being stone cold science fox, Alec Holland, to being the sentient mass of vines and twigs we know and love.  Help comes via a surprisingly chill fisherman, who is either a zen guru or a manifestation of the swamp, intended to Virgil-style lead Swampy through the changes he’s experiencing.  The show, wisely, refuses to commit.   Whatever he is, he provides Swampy with some guidance and our troubled, mossy friend begins to understand that he is seeing what the swamp has seen; he shares its memories now.  Clever trick, this.  It’s a difficult and frankly overwhelming thing to attempt – turning a setting into a character – but the swamp at the center of this show feels as living and breathing and most importantly, essential, as any of the human characters.
And speaking of the human characters…

DC Universe

This episode of Swamp Thing goes full possession story, to glorious effect.  Shauna is inhabiting the body of little Susie, saying creepy things, and periodically appearing to Abby in her bloated, postmortem form.  Maria embraces it; she is thrilled to have Shauna back and since we know – because the show took the time to do the heavy lifting and establish our characters – that Maria is open to the supernatural and the belief that Shauna would return to her at some point, it actually scans as authentic that she would believe and accept that her lost daughter would return to her in the form of an abandoned child.  Of course we know that ghost Shauna is a creature more malice than comfort, so when she tells Maria that she is lonely and needs to return to the swamp, it’s pretty clear nothing good is going to come of it.  Abby follows them, aware that Susie as Shauna is absolutely bad news, and determined to stop anymore tragedies from happening on her watch (do it on your own time, death!).  Shauna releases Susie at the bog (I apologize for the awkward use of “bog”.  I hate to lampshade, but I’m acutely aware of how often I have to use the word “swamp” and it’s starting to feel clunky.  I’m sure I’ll return to it in a sentence or two) and Susie tells Abby to hurry.  Abby finds Maria and tries to call her away from the water, but a scuffle ensues, and Maria tries to drown Abby.  Abby breaks away and Maria goes under, but is ultimately saved by Swampy, who carries her to land, and then shows Abby that he shares the memories of the ecosystem around him, by mind-melding with her, to watch Shauna’s death.  Young Shauna, impulsive, urged young Abby to jump off a bridge with her.  They swam safely in the water below for a time, but something pulled Shauna under – a  memory Abby had repressed until that moment.  The something bad in town is, it seems, not new.

DC Universe

I want to hit everything, but there’s always so much on this show; so please bear with me while I do the “things that happened” lightning round!  Our friend, Daniel, a stealth favorite character for me, tried to leave town but discovered he can’t.  He has a frustrated talk with a blue devil mask he carries in his trunk and I am intrigued as hell.  Liz is still a total boss, refusing to be intimidated by Avery, even after he sends some heavies to pop her tires and menace her.  She kicks their asses, but unfortunately one of them is able to deliver a bonk to the head of Daniel.  And perhaps most importantly of all the developments this week, we discover that it’s possible that Matt was involved in Alec’s boat blowing up.  Ophelia is investigating Alec’s disappearance and speaks to a man who witnessed the boat going out and he alludes to having seen Matt that night.  He attempts to blackmail Ophelia, but she ain’t to be flexed with where her little boy is concerned and shoots him.  Perhaps Swampy’s long glowers at Matt are NOT a manifestation of jealousy, so much as a recognition of danger, a development I would be here for.

We are officially halfway through the season, and I genuinely can’t say enough positive things about Swamp Thing.  If you have the means, it’s worth every penny.  Or if you know someone who’s already paying for the service, it’s definitely worth borrowing their log-in.  See you next week!

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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.