“I’m beginning to wonder whether I came back for a reason.”
As an injured and bleeding Avery is saved by the man he plotted to murder, Abby faces her own consequences when she has to answer for her secrecy regarding the Marais swamps just as Nathan Ellery inserts himself into the Swamp Thing sweepstakes of scientific discovery and untold riches.
With a continued focus on Avery Sunderland’s blasé character arc and but a passing mention of the supernatural forces at work in Marais, “Long Walk Home” is the least interesting Swamp Thing yet. Though there are nuggets of promised sprinkled throughout, much of the narrative is a vanilla coating mixed with clunky storytelling that does nothing to foster anticipation for the final two episodes.
Still suffering from his wounds, Avery makes his way through the swamp, reliving visions of a past tragedy (the death of his father) paired with nightmares born of his most recent conflict with the Cable family, his hopes of survival or virtually nil. That is, until Swamp Thing steps out of the murk and carries Avery to the safety of Alec Holland’s old lab. He explains his transformation to Avery and, despite knowing the man that was the cause of his condition is before him, is surprisingly civil. This civility seems to strike a chord with Avery who promises Swamp Thing that he will do everything in his power to return the creature to the man he used to be. Alas, a leopard such as Avery isn’t so quick to change his spots and instead, is integral in the mercenary takedown of Swamp Thing at episode’s end.
Back at CDC HQ in Atlanta, Abby has her own issues born of her being incommunicado with her superiors. She’s initially confronted by Dr. Palomer (Adrienne Barbeau (Swamp Thing (1982), Escape from New York, The Fog) who’s not a fan of Abby’s rogue actions in Marais. This is a welcome change, considering the laundry list of protocols Abby has broken, motivations notwithstanding. But Palomer’s authority is fleeting when Nathan Ellery enters the picture, his position at the Conclave evidently giving him power over the CDC itself. After Woodrue’s briefing, Ellery is all-in on tracking down Swamp Thing, as the applications for such a specimen are too numerable to count. Realizing the trouble Swamp Thing’s in—not to mention her friend Harlan’s mysterious disappearance—Abby rushes back to Marais, only to realize she’s too late. Alec has already been taken.
For its forty-plus minutes of run time, “Long Walk Home” does very little in the way of character or story building. For a fleeting moment, it seems as if Avery still possesses a modicum of honor but that well dries up the moment Woodrue lays out the truth to him. The sole action sequence between Swamp Thing and the mercenaries is a poorly written confrontation primary hidden underneath the nitro gas they use to freeze him. Abby’s reunion with Harlan was a welcome treat, as the pair do an adequate job conveying their bond of friendship. Still, there’s too much flab to the narrative ranging from Swamp Thing’s questionable fight tactics to the levels of authority afforded to Ellery and the mysterious Conclave. With the supernatural portion of the series put on hold for a week, human avarice takes center stage but is a poor substitute to the more interesting concept of the darkness, even if the parallel itself is apt.
Root and Stem
- There was a real opportunity to make an otherwise dull episode somewhat decent when Swamp Thing is confronted by Conclave mercenaries. Instead, Swamp Thing is extremely passive in handling these combatants. While tossing them around like candy, he does nothing to subdue them, either by his hand or calling on the powers at his disposal. It’s as if they the creatives behind “Long Walk Home” knew that both time and money was limited, thus chose to hide the action behind smoke and mirrors (in the former’s case, quite literally).
- For as little and insignificant as their roles were this week, Lucilia and Matt’s screen time could have been completely cut from the episode. Though Matt has a heartfelt moment where he extolls his anger upon Lucilia, that time would have been much better spent expanding on the Abby/Harlan friendship, or even giving us a bit more behind Ellery and the Conclave.
- If there is a saving grace in “Long Walk Home”, it’s the fascinating dilemma Woodrue’s presents to Avery regarding the potential boon of researching Swamp Thing itself. Woodrue’s motivations are entirely driven by finding a cure for his wife but such is his framing of the benefits of Holland’s condition, the question must be asked: how much should we allow one person to suffer if, in the end, it saves millions? It’s not a simple an equation though it is very difficult to accept the horrible circumstances Holland would be subject to during this time. Two of my favorite cinematic characters had diverging viewpoints on this: Star Trek’s Spock famously said “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” while, in Infinity War, Captain America’s lesser celebrated “We don’t trade lives” is just as powerfully opined. It’s a fascinating predicament Avery finds himself in, one they should have spent more time exploring. Ultimately the most heinous part of their actions is not dismissing the suffering of one man that’s the problem; it’s never giving him a choice in the first place.