- Series Title: Swamp Thing
- Season: 1
- Episodes: 10
- Discs: 2
- Network: DC Universe (Warner Brothers)
- Cast: Crystal Reed, Andy Bean, Derek Mears, Ian Ziering, Virginia Madsen, Will Patton, Jeryl Prescott, Maria Sten, Jennifer Beals, Henderson Wade, Macon Blair
- DVD: Widescreen Blu-Ray (R1, NTSC)
This review contains spoilers for DC Universe’s Swamp Thing.
Swamp Thing is a horror series, about a small town in Louisiana named Marais where everybody has a dark secret. But it’s also partly a Beauty and the Beast tale, which, along with the interesting choices for cameos by DC Comics characters is partially why I really, really liked this series – horror aspects notwithstanding. The series opens with Dr. Abby Arcane and her partner in Africa (presumably) and dressed in full Hazmat suits. They enter the dwelling of two young children, where the older boy tries to protect his younger sister from these terrifying aliens. Abby finally removes her helmet and addresses the boy in French, convincing him they are there to help his sister, and of course, he can accompany her. Later, Abby defends her actions to her partner, but he tells her she “was amazing”. The two are infectious disease specialists, working for the CDC. But this is mere prologue, as Abby and her partner, Harlan are sent to Marais because of a strange, unknown disease.
Abby arrives in Marais, a town she has a connection to, as well as having a dark secret. Maria Sunderland, wife of the richest guy in town, is none too happy to see Abby and we get an inkling of why she left Marais – but no details. The disease is strange and seems connected to the nearby swamp. Abby goes into the swamp and meets Dr. Alec Holland. They get together and begin to work together, though he seems more interested in the swamp than the illness that is striking randomly in Marais, whereas Abby is a doctor first. However, as Alec and Abby learn to trust each other and share data and resources, Abby also tells Alec she googled him. She knows he was discredited as a biologist because he faked data in one of his studies. Alec explains that’s why he’s in Marais – to rebuild his reputation. Although not stated outright, it’s also why he took money from Avery Sunderland to fund his research. But Avery has had enough of Alec, he orders his cronies to attack Alec’s boat while he does research in the swamp.
Alec emerges as Swamp Thing (though the name is never used in the series at all) half-Alec half-intelligent walking, speaking plant, and Guardian of the Green. Alec (now Swamp Thing) and Abby will continue to work together. Abby will attempt to find a cure for the “Green Flu” virus and for Alec. They also will unravel many of the secrets of the town. Also in the town is Abby’s old friend, Liz, an old friend of Abby’s and the daughter of a widower who runs the local bar. Then there’s Daniel Cassidy a stuntman and actor who made a deal and is now trapped in Marais, as well as becoming Blue Devil, the character he played once. There’s the Sunderlands – Avery, who runs the town and is involved in dirty dealings in the swamp, including illegal dumping (which is causing the “Green Flu”) and his wife, Maria. Avery’s mistress is the local sheriff, Lucilia Cable, whom he has under his thumb in more ways than one. She’s turned a blind eye to Avery’s corruption for decades – but when he starts involving her son Matt (a deputy) in his schemes and corruption, it will be the last straw.
As Abby and her team work to cure people of the illness that comes from the Swamp, we see how others treat, or in many cases, mistreat the swamp. A group of guys is in the swamp, destroying it when they find a dead, mummified body. The rising of the Rot (the Darkness in the swamp) fights back. Two are killed, and the third returns to town, but he’s been bitten by a tendril of the Rot. He returns to the local bar to wash dishes and starts hallucinating, seeing a snake on his arm. Even though Liz and Delroy (her father) try to control him they are unable to and he stabs his arm several times then sticks it in a running garbage disposal, before dying. It also scratches Delroy. As the police and ambulance respond, Delroy shoots up his own bar with a shotgun. The Sheriff is able to finally subdue him but gets scratched. Delroy is sent to the hospital. Abby arrives at the bar just as Delroy starts shooting (and she helps calm him down). When she talks to Swamp Thing he tells her about The Darkness invading the Swamp. She returns and goes to the hospital but Delroy is now fine. Then she realizes that the Sheriff was scratched and that this darkness causes hallucinations of deep fears and nightmares. Trying to find Lucilia, she finds her at the Crawfish Boil party Avery is throwing. Again, Abby has to calm her down – and she gets scratched. Abby returns to the swamp with the darkness, and Alec, Swamp Thing, heals her.
But now that all the people have been healed, Abby should return to the CDC. But she wants to heal Alec. She’s seen an inkling of what The Green is, but she doesn’t quite understand it. She also has seen the horrors of the Rot and the Darkness that inhabits the Swamp. Abby returns to Atlanta and the CDC. But when she arrives the new head of the CDC is very angry with her. Her samples are taken and she isn’t allowed to oversee the tests. She sees Nathan Ellery at the CDC but doesn’t know he’s the mysterious businessman from the Conclave who is now bankrolling Avery and his new partner, Dr. Woodrue. Abby has one conversation with her old partner, Harlan, who remarks on how much she’s changed.
Later he arrives at her apartment, and the two share pizza, wine, and conversation. By the end of it, Harlan’s agreed to back Abby against their new boss. But he won’t get the chance – he’s kidnapped outside her door and we never see him again. The next morning, Abby’s credentials do not work. She’s taken to a meeting room and Ellery gives her an ultimatum – turn over Dr. Holland or else. Abby tells him no and that he better leave Alec alone and storm out. Abby will return to Marais.
In Marais, Daniel Cassidy is in the hospital. He got hit on the head after he defeats Liz from “muggers” sent by Avery, and he’s in a severe coma. Dr. Woodrue injects him with Abby’s sample of Swamp Thing’s tissue. Cassidy wakes up – but is “burning”, covered with blue fire, and we see the Blue Devil. This lands him back in the hospital. The same “studio guy” who made him his cursed offer appears and shows him a horrific future where Abby and Liz are murdered by Conclave troopers. Cassidy breaks out of the hospital so he can stop it. Meanwhile, Abby and Liz are trying desperately to find Alec who is not in the swamp. They know Avery, Ellery, and company have kidnapped him. Liz looks for properties owned by Avery and finds his wife is transferring everything into her name. But they also find an old factory that matches a picture Abby stole. They head there to find Alec.
At the factory, things start to resemble the vision that Daniel had. But Blue Devil attacks and kills the troopers. Abby and Liz are able to escape, find Alec, and help him escape. Meanwhile, Avery has his wife, Maria, locked up in a mental institution. Matt meanwhile gets drunk at Delroy’s bar after he has a fight with his mother. That night, driving very drunk, he gets in a one-car accident. Lucilia attends him at the hospital. Avery shows up promising to marry Lucilia after he divorces Maria. Lucilia turns him down. When she leaves the hospital, Avery is waiting for her inside her car. He stabs her, then drives her to the swamp. Locking her in the trunk, he watches (tinted in red) as her sheriff’s car sinks into the swamp.
Swamp Thing and Abby arrive at the Swamp. Swamp Thing keeps saying he has to know if it’s true. He walks into the Swamp and returns with a body in his arms. But Abby tells Swamp Thing that not only did she care for Alec, but she cares for what he’s become. She sees his humanity and through him she sees the Green. The two are united.
Woodrue finds his wife, Caroline, who is suffering from advanced early-onset Alzheimer’s, at their home after she overdoses on medication. He takes his samples to make her a cure. When she seems afraid to eat the cooked heart of Swamp Thing (Can you blame her?) Woodrue eats some of it himself. Abby arrives and tries to call 911. Woodrue attacks Abby. The police arrive and stop him, and Caroline is taken to the hospital by ambulance without taking Woodrue’s “cure”.
Swamp Thing is a spooky, intense series. It unravels like a mystery as Abby’s arrival in Marais causes secrets to be revealed (at least to the audience). Lucilia and Maria plot to kill Avery, but Swamp Thing finds him and heals him – an act of compassion that’s probably his one and only mistake. (It leads to Swamp Thing being captured by goons in the swamp and Dr. Woodrue experimenting on him.) Avery’s revenge includes putting Maria in a mental institution and killing Lucilia. Woodrue has eaten part of Swamp Thing, but we don’t get to see him become the Floronic Man as a result. Cassidy is finally free of the Blue Devil’s curse as it left him at the factory and entered one of the soldiers. He leaves Marais. Swamp Thing defends his swamp from Ellery’s men the second time they arrive, kills most of them, and tells Ellery to leave and never return. And yes, Swamp Thing and Abby are together.
Again, this is a spooky, intense horror series. It’s extremely well-shot. For a series that largely takes place, at night, on the water, in a swamp -you can actually tell what’s going on all the time, without it looking over-lit or like it’s filmed in a studio. That may sound like an “ok so” statement, but you’d b surprised how often scenes at night are too dark and the viewer can’t follow the action. Or, conversely, scenes outdoors look like a backlot or studio. Abby is a great character and if you’ve read Constantine from DC Comics, you know she will become Avatar of the Red, part of the balance that Swamp Thing seeks. Abby’s continuing journey could have made for a great second season, as could have following up on Blue Devil and the Floronic Man. We also see Madame Xanadu but other than warning Maria about the Darkness she’s released, she doesn’t get to do much. And Jim Corrigan, the Phantom Stranger, appears to Swamp Thing about halfway through the season to give him a pep talk about destiny. All of these characters are great and could come back or have more to do in a second season. It’s really too bad that DC Universe canceled this show. What we got is great, and I recommend watching it, but I for one would love to see DC Universe bring the show back.