As the mysterious disease continues spreading through the town of Marais, a new menace crawls from the swamp!
The first chunk of this episode was like something out of the Evil Dead franchise, in all the best ways. The extreme close-ups and the kind of dazed way that Alec navigates his nightmare/vision gave the whole thing a very unsettling air, and that’s well before you get into the icky bug stuff.
If I’m judging the newest developments in this episode correctly, Swamp Thing may be dealing with the Rot. Also known as the Black, this is the elemental force of entropy and decay, as well as one of the main opposing forces to Swamp Thing and the Green in DC Comics lore. The rapid decomposition and overwhelming presence of insects as well as a full-on zombie in this episode certainly seems to point in that direction.
Which begs the question: is the opening sequence — wherein Alec is confronted by the man he killed in the last episode — a nightmare that Alec/Swamp Thing is having? Can he dream or even sleep? Or was the Rot reaching out to the Green’s new protector to have a little chat? This would also add a little more clarity to Maria Sunderland’s visions. Perhaps last week’s seance with Xanadu connected her to the Rot in some way?
Whatever the case, it makes for some trippy and downright upsetting visuals. On the downside, this new enemy and its relationship to Swampy kind of gets lost in the shuffle. This week was a lot of episode, juggling multiple plot lines and introducing even more. While it’s still a solid episode, some of the story felt a bit underserved by the sheer amount happening at all times.
As for the moment when “he speaks”? Well, the voice of our titular monster is exactly what you’d expect from years of comics. It’s gruff, like tree branches scraping against a windowpane, yet it’s halting and unsure. It sounds like a man learning to do everything all over again. And to actress Crystal Reed’s credit, she plays Abby’s first moments with the resurrected Dr. Holland just right. There’s a mixture of relief, sadness, and abject terror on her face. She’s clearly glad that she’s alive … but at what cost?
Speaking of Abby, she has a habit that I’ve noticed in the past few episodes that really stuck out to me this week. For someone whose first speech to the doctors of Marais included the fact that she demands everyone wear surgical masks and gloves at all times, she seriously can’t wait to yank off that mask at every opportunity. When she’s examining her friend Harlen, who literally has vines growing out of his face, she takes off the mask and gets real close to him so they can talk!
This is something that happens pretty often in movies (Iron Man fighting without a mask, etc.), but when it’s a precaution that this specific character has mentioned, it’s extra noticeable when it’s not followed. This is just a weird nitpick that took me out of a couple of scenes, but your mileage may vary.
One of the more intriguing new pieces of the puzzle is the conversation between Daniel Cassidy and Nemue Xanadu toward the end of the episode. For one, it appears that Danny isn’t in Marais of his own free will. For another, he and Xanadu have a history, as she reminds him of his mysterious “mission.” This moody sequence paints both characters in an entirely new light. Xanadu is a little more light on her feet and sassy, not bothering to put on a “wise and powerful” show for Danny, who comes off as more tortured and frustrated than the kindhearted bro we saw last episode.
Another thing about this scene: the counter at Danny’s store has the exact same VHS tapes that were situated under Alec’s television in his lab. Sure, Danny owns a video store, but those same movies stacked the same way? That can’t be a coincidence. The camera lingers on the counter for a few moments too long. Why was Danny going through the lab?
Again, there’s a lot of episode here. Every character’s storyline has developed in new ways, with even more wrinkles and narrative curveballs thrown our way. What’s wrong with Caroline Woodrue? What’s the history between Avery and Lucilia Cable? How will Liz continue her investigation into Sunderland’s finances (by the way, it was great to see her working the beat in this episode).
The final scene with Avery crossing yet another line in his downward spiral, was visceral and upsetting. Will Patton plays this scene perfectly, as it’s hard to tell how much regret Avery has in these moments. It doesn’t seem like this is the first time for him.
The writing and acting are still top notch, but there’s just so much plot packed into every scene in this one that some of the main threads get short shrift, including our title character’s latest struggle.
This was another fantastic episode, though it does feel slightly less focused than the previous two. Even so, Swamp Thing is a constantly entertaining and intelligent horror series that gets more intriguing with each episode. Join me next week as we explore the “Darkness on the Edge of Town.”