“Everything inside of you that made you Alec is still there. His mind…his memories.”
Out of all the episodes from Swamp Thing’s first and only season, none are a better representative than “Loose Ends”. It personifies all the good, bad, and ugly inconsistencies that hampered what started out as such a promising dive into DC lore.
The truth on Alec Holland’s fate revealed, Swamp Thing has become more detached than ever. Even Abby, who for so long has been driven by the hope of returning Alec to his human form, is at a loss. She still tries to convince Swamp Thing that he is Alec Holland, in mind if not body. This discussion raises a captivating argument on what it means to be human. Are memories enough to satisfy the strictures of life? Does this creature possess its own soul or has that too nothing more than an imitation, a facsimile of the original? These questions alone could have propelled this episode (and foster an extensive essay) but alas, there’s more plot to get to and, for Swamp Thing, a battle with Ellery and his mercenaries.
Early on, one of the strongest aspects of Swamp Thing was the drama and creativity used in bringing the titular character’s swamp powers to life. Since then these scenes have, for the most part, become a mishmash of adequate effects and haphazard choreography. Swamp Thing’s confrontation by the Jake Busey (The Predator, Stranger Things)-led mercs could have been one of those special moments. Instead, the scene plays out like a middle schooler’s homage to the original Predator. It very well could be that the failure of this scene had more to do with production costs and schedule constraints than lack of imaginative will on the show’s production team but it still illustrates the most disappointing part of “Loose Ends”, a microcosm of the variety of ups and downs the show has suffered through since the beginning.
If Swamp Thing’s defeat of Ellery is a bland pill, his reconciliation with Abby towards the end, where he moves toward accepting what he is, adds at least a measure of sweetness to his journey. The creature accepts not only himself but the connection he shares with Abby and, as the darkness is still out there, the two could do great things, both in protecting Marais and bringing hope to the world.
As much focus as “Loose Ends” puts on Swamp Thing, Jason Woodrue has his own fascinating arc as he fights to save his wife from her medicinal overdose. Using the organs taken from Swamp Thing, he tries out a helping on himself but is unable to do so for his wife as the cops arrive before he can feed her the sustenance. But with a stinger of a post-credit, Matt Cable, along with the audience, discovers the effects Swamp Thing’s mutagenic organs have had on Woodrue. With a horned visage similar to the Beast from Season 4 of Angel, the creature announces that he was Jason Woodrue. What he has become, as the off-screen screams of Matt Cable rend the air, will forever be unknown.
“Loose Ends” was a valiant, moderately successful effort to capstone Swamp Thing’s narratively inconsistent and sometimes sloppy season. It took the first steps repairing a major flaw—the lack of an appealing connection between the series’ two most important characters—while seemingly putting to bed some of the less interesting storylines (namely the Avery/Matt/Lucilia family mess). After several episodes absent, the darkness is once again revisited, though Maria’s “reunion” with her daughter provided no real clue as to the direction showrunner Gary Dauberman had in mind for it going forward. Had this series been given a second season, I would have been cautiously excited, despite very real concerns lingering from the freshman campaign. The pieces for a good show have always been there…unfortunately, unless a surprise comes streaking out of left field, the epithet for Swamp Thing will always be what could have been…
Root and Stem
The biggest issue for this episode (and series) is the consistency with the narrative resembled an EKG. Up, down, up, down, up, down. I liken it to the theatrical cut of Batman V Superman. So much just does not track with what came before it that one can’t help but wonder what the hell happened. At least with BvS, the director’s cut closed many of the glaring holes from the theatrical version to create a superior product. There’s no chance for that to occur here. The 10-episode narrative showed the effects of that late loss of three episodes. While problems would still exist, had three more hours been available to the creative team to flesh out most of these arcs, there’s no doubt Swamp Thing would have been a more consistent, more enjoyable story.