“Transitions in life. They can be difficult.”
The past truly begins to assert itself on the inhabitants of Marais this week as Dan is reminded of his deal, Abby and Maria have a ghostly reunion with Shawna, and the Swamp Thing recognizes that the visions given to him by “the green” is connected with Abby and the dangers she will face.
Over the last few episodes, the hints that Maria’s visions of her deceased daughter were more than just a mother unable to let go of the past were present. “Drive All Night” solidifies that when Shawna’s tainted spirit takes over Susie, the little girl Maria has latched onto to in a subconscious attempt to lessen the ever-present pain of losing Shawna. Of all the supernatural clues sprinkled into this season, this episode does the most with them. It’s not just Shawna’s malevolent spirit feeding off her mother’s pain, luring Maria into a swamp-filled death that signifies this particular aspect of the series narrative, but also Dan Cassidy’s mysterious story gets another bullet point.
Though there isn’t much in the way of detail, Dan’s tether to Marais is shown when he attempts to leave town, convincing himself that meeting (and saving) Abby releases him from whatever Faustian bargain he’s made. The last part is particularly apropos considering the demonic costume that remains in his trunk; one whose eyes glow with a supernatural light similar to the barrier that prevents him from escaping his own personal prison (and burning the hell out of his arm).
For Dan, one has to wonder if this deal is one that transcends death as, towards the end of the episode, he looks to be on death’s door after taking a crowbar to the skull. It seems as if he’s being prepared by some nefarious force to become an avatar for the real big bad, the shadowy darkness Madame Xanadu has warned others about on multiple times.
And then there’s Swamp Thing himself. Still trying to order the flashes of memory he’s getting from Alec Holland, he meets the Phantom Stranger (Macon Blair, Logan Lucky, The Florida Project), a man that points Swamp Thing in an unusual yet wholly understandable direction. Instead of fighting the violent flashes of images he can’t comprehend, the Stranger suggests that the Swamp Thing embrace the “green”, that psychic link shared by the trees of the swamps, trees that have seen so many things throughout their history.
If that sounds like the Weirwood trees from Game of Thrones, that’s because it is. Tapping into these memories, the Swamp Thing (and viewers) experience Abby’s worst memory: helplessly watching Shawna dragged under the water and to her death. This flashback also gives us the idea that something sinister has been out in the swamps all this time, separate from the events that have happened so far this season. Couple that with Dan’s mysterious bargain—they have to be related, as anything else would be overly coincidental—and something has chosen now to make its move.
Now the question becomes is this presence after Abby because she got away 14 years ago or is there something about her bloodline or connection to Swamp Thing that is key to this nameless darkness achieving its goals?
Despite upping the ante of the supernatural dealings in Marais, “Drive All Night” is lacking the spark to the narrative that could have made this an extremely compelling episode. Even the horror tones that have been interwoven into the show’s DNA since week one came off as a cardboard-y and stiff. The musical queues were particularly disruptive, interrupting the flow of tension in certain scenes which made them caricatures of well-established drama. Though there are many aspects that signal the episode as a turning point in the series, “Drive All Night” was a missed opportunity to really get viewers excited for the back half of Swamp Thing’s first (and only) season.
Root and Stem
- Even in the disappointment, there were some solid developments that expand the spider web of intrigue, with Sheriff Cable having the most substantial arc. Despite knowing the bastard that Avery Sunderland is, not to mention him being married, she’s still all about sleeping with him. The two do share a history, one that was derailed by Maria coming to town and Avery latching on to her family’s money, yet Lucilia’s actions are still surprising. Still, even that comes secondary to her confrontation with Remy. From what he said, her son Matt may not be the golden boy she though he was; and though Remy was trying to blackmail the Sheriff (in addition to pulling a gun on her), killing him like she did really calls into question her character and is the show reminding us of the shades of gray—with some frequenting to the much darker shadows—people tend to live in.
- Shawna’s possession of Susie is another curious thing that wasn’t really explained. Was it Susie’s exposure to the elements of the swamp that opened her up to Shawna’s ghostly hijack or Maria’s own emotional attachment (to Shawna’s memory as well as to Susie)? Not sure if it matters now that Shawna has been seemingly expelled back to the swamp. But if you add to the visions of darkness Swamp Thing experienced and combine it with this (plus Dan’s supernatural ties) and one can only wonder what lies ahead for this darkness.
- With so much of the series focusing on Swamp Thing, the supernatural presence in Marais, and even Sheriff Cable’s actions this week, the entire “Avery Sunderland is a bad guy” is losing more and more steam. Even his confrontation with Liz lacked intrigue and the more he’s on screen, the looser his character becomes. If the other plot threads can stay consistent, they will prevent this ineffective narrative arc from bringing the show down.