Everything gets ratcheted up this week: the cast, the scares, and the story, in another masterfully directed Len Wiseman episode. We dive into Swamp Thing episode two: Worlds Apart.
What’s up, Horror Bound loyal? So you’ve probably already heard the big news that broke Thursday, between the premiere of episode one and this week’s episode, that DC Universe has officially canceled this here little show. I mentioned in last week’s recap how the production was shut down early after only ten episodes were in the can of the originally ordered thirteen. This week’s news seems to confirm all the speculation surrounding the aforementioned shutdown, although the reasons being brought forth now are creative differences between the multiple parties involved and high production costs, made worse by the declination of a tax credit from the state of North Carolina resulting in a $40 million loss. We don’t yet know all the details, but that may still be forthcoming.
Look, a buddy of mine always has a saying when something like this happens and he always says it’s because “people like crap.” Meaning, we’ll get a renewal every season for more Keeping Up With the Kardashians or 90 Day Fiancé, but when it comes to new and original programming that is taking risks, whether it’s in the form of storytelling or characters, well, that’s another story, right? The pilot of Swamp Thing received pretty decent reviews across the board. I mean, shit, the Hollywood Reporter found merits in Len Wiseman’s direction and praised its ensemble cast. IGN said it’s, “a terrifying Southern Gothic horror series with dynamic characters and great world building." And our friends over at Bloody Disgusting said the pilot showed, “loads of potential to DC Universe.” Sure, the most people singing the show’s praises are those into genre programming to begin with, but isn’t that who the series is targeting anyway? Sorry, enough of the rant, I just needed to get that off my chest. On to this week’s review:
Picking up right where we left off last week, the cops have descended upon the scene of Alec Holland’s boat accident and have launched an investigation. Here we meet for the first time, Sheriff Cable, played by Jennifer Beals (how’s that for a flashback, or should I say “Flash Dance” J) and she gives our protagonist, Abby, the cold shoulder right from the get go. Apparently, her son, deputy sheriff Matt Cable, had a crush on Abby back in high school and gave him the cold shoulder all through senior year. Abby’s journalist friend from last episode, Liz (Maria Sten from Channel Zero: The Dream Door) plays a little larger in this week’s episode as well, giving Abby a place to crash and helping her with some leads in the search for clues to Alec’s disappearance.
A scene that gives us another lovely 80’s throwback vibe in the introduction of video rental storeowner, Ian Ziering’s (come on, Beverly Hills 90210 anyone? Or how about Sharknado?) Daniel Cassidy, who is also apparently a struggling actor whose credits include a Blue Devil live action film, also a hilarious little Easter egg to the obscure DC character whose identity is also Daniel Cassidy in the comic books. VHS tapes line the walls in Cassidy’s little shop, complete with cheesy synth 80’s tunes blaring through the store speakers. That scene alone took me back to my youth. It’s also here I might point out a small plot hole regarding a journal entry Holland records the night of his accident on a laptop that he supposedly “borrows” from Cassidy on occasion to edit his logs. How Alec left the swamp, went to the video store, uploaded a video from his camera and made it back to the swamp in time to get blown up is a mystery to me. But I’ll allow it.
Multiple story-lines begin to develop this week, that I’m sure will all connect eventually, the first of which occurring through a minor character I failed to mention last week: patient zero for the outbreak of the mysterious sickness in Marais, little schoolgirl Susie Coyle. She seems to have some connection to Swamp Thing, both telepathically and physically as we see when the creature, struggling to understand what he has become, begins to tear and paw at his own swampy flesh causing Susie to mimic the actions all the way back at the hospital, pulling out her IV and heart monitor. Later, in the awesomely action packed climax; Swamp Thing saves her from an attacker and helps her back to safety. On the boat ride back home, Susie tells Abby that the creature said his name was Alec and it fades to credits from there.
On the antagonist’s front, we have some growing development in both Sunderlands this week. Maria Sunderland seeks out the aid of local psychic, Madame Xanadu, to find out why she has been feeling a stronger presence of her dead daughter, Shawna, lately. This is also the first glimpse we get into the possible grander inclusion of the darker, supernatural side of the DC Universe. I mentioned briefly last week of Swamp Thing’s inclusion in the Justice League Dark team. That team kind of makes its mission statement to seek out and deal with all the other weird crap that plague the DCU and borders on the macabre and magical. Madame Xanadu was also on that same team with the likes of Constantine and Deadman. This could be very cool. Maria’s story this week wraps with a chilling visual when husband Avery goes to check up on her late one night and finds her sleeping in their dead daughters old bedroom. The camera pans around to reveal the decayed corpse of Shawna lying next to her.
Speaking of Avery, to no one’s surprise, he confesses this week to being behind both the mutagen and accelerant responsible for both the sickness plaguing the town and the living swamp plants that were accountable for all the grisly murders from last week. He divulges all this to yet another new character, Dr. Woodrue (Kevin Durand of The Strain and Vikings fame), who was the actual architect of the accelerant. And why the creation of all this chaos to begin with? Well, like any good ‘ol super villain, Sunderland is fueled by greed. The accelerant was to promote growth of the native plant species, thus leading to swamp drainage, thus allowing for more land development as well as medicines and salves from the plant life to sell to pharmaceutical companies. Avery! You evil genius you!
All in all, kind of a slow one this week, but for reasons well worth it as we got a ton of new characters and character development. There were some good jump scares this week, mostly in the few reveals of poor Shawna Sunderland, including a great nightmare sequence involving Abby early in the episode. The foot chase scene in act three, involving Susie Coyle and an evil henchman, also provide some good tension as well as the entire gore quota for this week due to the involvement of our title character. Come for the characters, stay for the last few minutes of action packed Swamp Thing mayhem!
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