swamp thing: he speaks

“Nature is brutal. Life devours life. It’s a battle to the death.”

The third episode of DC’s Swamp Thing is live and it continues to cultivate the fantastical horror elements of the series while expanding upon the ever-present mysteries and shady relationships in Marais.

Abby is able to save Harlan and arrest the disease’s progression thanks to some advice from Swamp Thing. (Photo: Fred Norris, 2019 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved)

After last week’s encounter with Swamp Thing and rescue of Susie, Abby opens up to Liz about the swamp’s newest resident. Despite the incredulity of it all, Abby’s composure about what she saw is incredible and it doesn’t take long for her to focus on the real problem: the scientifically baffling disease tearing through Marais. Combined with the arrival of the Woodrues and the events of “He Speaks”, this swamp disease will continue to play a massive part in Swamp Thing’s first (and only) season.

Even though the titular creature, after saving Abby from a Munson reconstructed by (assumption here) the accelerant-driven insects, shares the key into arresting the disease’s progression in those infected, there’s still no information on the underlying origins, aside from Dr. Woodrue’s accelerant having something to do with it. One should have every expectation that even with things at the hospital seemingly under control, it’s only a matter of time before the disease mutates once more and quite possibly out of Swamp Thing’s tenuous control/understanding.  

Outside of Abby’s struggle with Alec’s fate and wrestling with the powerful infection, Avery Sunderland’s character is irrevocably marked as a big bad. Sunderland’s story is, unfortunately, one of the least captivating parts of the series thus far: he’s the town icon, the rich businessman whose financial troubles are being kept under wraps. His acquisition of under-the-table bank loans thanks to Gordon Haas has kept his swampland ambitions afloat. More than that, it’s Maria whose family money is the foundation of Avery’s empire. This is taken from him when, in an act of resolve, Maria refuses to help her husband anymore. This rejection pushes Avery into eliminating at least one irritation: Gordon Haas. Though, now that he knows that Liz is onto him, Gordon may not be Avery’s final victim.

Interspersed with the biological origins of Swamp Thing, the human aspects with Abby, Sunderland, and others, there also is a mystical component to the show that is slowly starting to be unfurled. Maria’s conversation with a zombie-like avatar of her daughter Shawna—one that attacks Avery’s probable infidelity as well as his use of Maria for her family’s money—seems a prime candidate for the dark forces Madame Xanadu warned her about last week. Even more important is Xanadu’s visit to Daniel (Ian Ziering, Beverly Hills 90210, Sharknado) and her cryptic announcement that his tarot card readings, after 8 years, has subtly changed. It’s likely that Abby’s return to Marais has driven this anomaly in Daniel’s fate but, like most things in “He Speaks”, the questions created far outweigh the answers given. Three episodes into a ten-episode season, that is exactly the type of pace needed to keep viewers tuning in.

Root and Stem

·       One of the two big missteps I found taken by the first two episodes was Alec’s rushed transformation into the titular character. He and Abby didn’t get a chance to formulate a chemistry that would make sense of his longing for her. Though saving Abby from the Munson amalgam made sense as it frames Swamp Thing as the protector of those in need, that final scene of him watching Abby and Matt dance lacked a true emotional tie, flashbacks of Alec before the change or not. Despite the derivative nature, if the two had had a relationship prior to Abby’s return to Marais, the narrative connection between the two would have been so much stronger for it.

·         More on the Swamp Thing character, I think it would have been a bit more powerful if, at least for another episode or two, he could only speak through Susie. This would have given him extra time in fighting through the dual nature of his present existence. A minor gripe, but taking that extra time could have added a bit more weight to what Alec is experiencing. (Side note: Some of these things could very well have been planned but when the series order was cut from 13 to 10 episodes, it may have necessitated the acceleration of some narrative themes as it relates to the Swamp Thing).

·         Speaking of the derivative, “He Speaks” seems to have eliminated any potential for Avery Sunderland to be anything other than a by-the-numbers baddie. From using his wife for her money, killing the bank manager, and most likely going after Liz, almost everything about him is set up to be a one-note antagonist. The only interesting aspect is the affair he’s had (or having) with Sheriff Cable. Unless there’s another surprise in his closet, that and Will Patton’s performance are the only things standing between Avery’s otherwise forgettable character.

·         The most heartbreaking part of “He Speaks” was watching Jason Woodrue care for his wife Caroline. She obviously has an early onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia and this reveal adds purpose to his character’s need to discover the secrets behind the swamp. He’ll most likely become an antagonist but, unlike Avery Sunderland, there is a depth to his story, a human connection that will drive his narrative and is one I’m particularly interested in seeing develop.  

Swamp Thing – “He Speaks”

7.5 out of 10