Swamp Thing Done in One Season - Maybe

FTC Statement: Reviewers are frequently provided by the publisher/production company with a copy of the material being reviewed.The opinions published are solely those of the respective reviewers and may not reflect the opinions of CriticalBlast.com or its management.

As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. (This is a legal requirement, as apparently some sites advertise for Amazon for free. Yes, that's sarcasm.)

 
Twitter icon
Facebook icon
Google icon
StumbleUpon icon
Del.icio.us icon
Reddit icon
e-mail icon
Swamp Thing Complete Series 2019

SWAMP THING was one of a handful of original series created for the DC UNIVERSE streaming service -- and it's first casualty. While it completed it's first season of ten episodes, it became clear near the end that the writing was on the wall and things began to get wrapped up in a huge hurry. But there is still hope that fans may see more of the muck-encrusted mockery of a man, if the post-credits teaser of the final episode is any indication.

In this adaptation of the Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson series, Abigail Arcane (GOTHAM's CRYSTAL REED) is a doctor with the Center for Disease Control, who finds herself assigned to a team to investigate a mysterious disease plaguing the town of Marais, Louisiana. The assignment is particularly troublesome to Abby, because Marais is her former home, and we find that she left it under a cloud years ago.

The disease, which initially manifests with flu-like symptoms, is the result of a mutagen being dumped strategically in the swamps surrounding Marais. The mutagen was created with the intent of speeding up plant growth, which would have then been monetized by the town's biggest employer, Avery Sunderland (WILL PATTON). The sickness, however, was not something he had bargained for, and so he calls in the mutagen's designer, Jason Woodrue (KEVIN DURAND) to work on-site in Marais until he gets some answers.

While tending to a young patient at the hospital, Abby encounters Alec Holland (ANDY BEAN, IT CHAPTER TWO), a transplant to Marais and a former employee of Sunderland, recently and unceremoniously released. He knows what's going on in the swamp, but he struggles to prove it and is regarded as something of a nuisance by the locals.When Abby puts her trust in him, he leaves her to investigate an area of the swamp where he has found unusual activity. It is there that Holland's boat is attacked from the darkness. He's shot, his boat explodes, and his burning body is extinguished in the mutagen-filled swamp water, emerging on the shore as the hulking Swamp Thing (DEREK MEARS, THE FLASH).

SWAMP THING tries to build out and up from the Moore, Bissette, and Totleben run of the comic book series, leading up to and through the events of the classic story, "The Anatomy Lesson."  However, by the time we reach that point in the story, it is already the ninth (of ten) episodes, and we are quickly rushing to complete the arc. Chapter Ten is even, perhaps self-reflectively, titled "Loose Ends," in which all the dangling plot threads get snipped.

To be sure, SWAMP THING had its problems. First and foremost, it's always been difficult to get the look of the creature believable, without looking like a man in a rubber suit, with perfectly white teeth. That said, the production got well past this in the later half of the season, when Woodrue is performing his vivisection of the Swamp Thing.

Additionally, the series tried to throw in a plethora of other DC horror elements, including Daniel Cassidy (IAN ZIERING), who is cursed to become the Blue Devil, horror-comic host Madame Xanadu (JERYL PRESCOTT) reimagined here as a blind palm reader, and the iconic mystery man himself, The Phantom Stranger (MACON BLAIR), who was altogether a wrong casting choice for the character. Perhaps if the writers had stuck a bit more closely to the source material, we could have instead have had a shadowy Matt Ryan pulling strings until revealed later as John Constantine. Introducing the subplot of the threat of Abby's insane sorceror father, Anton Arcane, would also have been welcomed -- and I believe this was in play, as Abby's past is briefly mentioned. We do get the car crash scene that, in the comics, killed Matt Cable (HENDERSON WADE) only to have him be possessed by Arcane, but this event again comes so late in the season that I believe they writers intentionally had to leave out the possession scene, ultimately making the crash and recovery an unnecessary plot development.

Acting-wise, things could not have been better for SWAMP THING. All the major players had their roles down pat, with heavy-hitting talents like VIRGINIA MADSEN in the role of Maria Sunderland, who employs Xanadu to keep her in touch with her dead daughter (whose death she blames on Abby), and JENNIFER BEALS as Lucilia Cable, Matt's mother and the chief of police, who is having a long-running affair with Avery.

Although the series has officially been cancelled, there is still hope. The series and the streaming service are both owned by DC Entertainment, who can do what they like should they think the investment would pay off. To that end, the final episode's post-credits scene includes the introduction of Jason Woodrue in his plant-transformed body of The Floronic Man. That's quite a cliffhanger for a show that's not going anywhere, so our hope is that DC may have in mind the idea of, if not a series, then a series of full-length movies. The entire tale of Swamp Thing versus the Floronic Man, with the plants rising up against mankind. This could then be followed up with The Monkey King, which would delve into the possession of Matt Cable and introduce Etrigan the Demon organically to the mythos. But, what do I know, I'm just looking to the original, award-winning source material. That kind of well-written story is probably too sophisticated for today's audiences. But we can dream.

Grade: 
3.5 / 5.0