Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 4, 2020)
Back in 1971, Swamp Thing debuted via what intended to offer a one-off story in a comic book anthology magazine called House of Secrets. However, the character enjoyed a greater life via its own series from 1972 to 1976.
Old Swampy has come and gone from the scene ever since, and his biggest public splash likely stemmed from 1982’s Swamp Thing movie. None of these efforts seemed to do especially well.
Alas, the same fate befell the character’s most recent revival via Swamp Thing, a TV series that ran on the DC Universe streaming service. It got cancelled soon after its May 2019 debut.
DC Universe still put out all the episodes already in the can, though, and now we get these collected on this two-disc set. The plot synopses come from the package’s liner notes.
Pilot: “Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed) investigates a deadly virus in a swamp and finds a mysterious creature.”
I don’t ask much from opening episodes, as they exist mainly to establish characters and situations. For the most part, “Pilot” does this, as it sets up the series’ world in a reasonably effective manner. It can lean a little soap opera at times, but it comes with decent intrigue.
Worlds Apart: “Alec Holland (Andy Bean) tries to understand his metamorphosis into Swamp Thing (Derek Mears).”
Given that synopsis, one might expect “Worlds” to focus heavily on our lead character, but instead, it tends to lean on the other roles most of the time. This works out reasonably well, though, and the introduction of potentially valuable new characters adds depth.
He Speaks: “Abby’s co-worker and friend is struck with the Green Flu.”
Let’s face it: Swamp Thing offers an inherently silly character, as the “plant man” conceit doesn’t lend itself toward serious drama. The series veers toward horror, which helps make the basic goofiness more palatable, and “Speaks” manages to create some creepy moments along with decent character exposition.
Darkness On the Edge of Town: “Abby’s return to Marais dredges up her dark history with the Sunderlands (Will Patton and Virginia Madsen).”
For a series called Swamp Thing, we don’t tend to see a whole lot of Swamp Thing. Not that the stories related to the humans flop, but it does seem odd that we spend so little time with the title character. “Town” expands some of those horizons, but the relative absence of Swampy starts to become a frustration.
Drive All Night: “Sheriff Lucilia Cable (Jennifer Beals) learns disturbing information about her son Matt (Henderson Wade).”
For once, “Night” shows some indications that it’ll more actively involve its title character, and those elements lend intrigue. Too much continues to feel like soap opera related to the locals, and I find these scenes less engaging. Hopefully they’ll build somewhere meaningful eventually.
The Price You Pay: “Avery Sunderland pressures Jason Woodrue (Kevin Durand) to escalate his experiments.”
Woodrue enjoyed a pretty broad life in the comics, but if I ever heard about him in my comic-reading days, I forgot. My only impression of Woodrue comes from the character’s use in 1997’s Batman and Robin, where he played a small role.
Woodrue emerges as more significant here, and “Price” helps develop him a bit better. Add some other interesting areas and “Price” becomes one of the best episodes to date.
Brilliant Disguise: “Lucilia lures Avery into the swamp under false pretenses.”
Perhaps inevitable given the title character, “Disguise” leans toward a more environmental bent – and a clumsy one at that. Toss is some clunky melodrama and this turns into a less effective episode.
Long Walk Home: “An injured Avery comes face-to-face with Swamp Thing.”
As we head toward the season/series finale, I hoped things might heat up. However, “Walk” remains sluggish and less than enthralling. It pushes along the usual threads but none of them add up to much that works for me, even with a cameo from a notable face.
The Anatomy Lesson: “Jason conducts experiments on Swamp Thing.”
With little time left in the season/series, “Lesson” attempts to heat up matters, but it remains lukewarm at best. A few decent twists emerge, but nothing here makes me too excited for the finale.
Loose Ends: “Swamp Thing fights to protect his world.”
With mercenaries sent to attack Swampy, some action/excitement results. However, “Ends” spends more time with sudsy plot/character domains, and these still seem less than interesting to me.
Don’t expect a true finale here, though, as it seems clear all involved thought they’d get a second season. While “Ends” doesn’t conclude with a true cliffhanger, it also points the way toward additional storylines.
In that vein, stick around after the end credits start to roll, as a bonus “teaser” scene appears.
Footnote: Seven of the series’ 10 episodes receive titles taken from Springsteen songs. The only exceptions come from “Pilot”, “He Speaks” and “The Anatomy Lesson”.
This just seems to be an inside joke for the producers, as there doesn’t appear to be a real connection between the shows and Bruce. However, it feels perplexing that the series didn’t name all 10 episodes after Springsteen tracks – why not go all the way?