Murder, Mystery, and Intrigue abound and the answer to a nagging question finally revealed (sort of). Pull on your waders, friends, and tread back into the bog as we unwrap Swamp Thing episode 5: Drive All Night.
Oh my goodness, we’re officially at the halfway point to the end of this welcomingly refreshing series, Horror Bound readers, and as I’ve already mentioned in previous write-ups, I’m afraid we’re going to have a lot of mysteries and questions unresolved by the end. As this week we were introduced to yet another new character in Macon Blair’s (Green Room, Murder Party) portrayal of the literally mysterious Phantom Stranger. More on him in a bit, but the big reveal this week was when we finally find out what actually happened to the Sunderland’s daughter and Abby’s best friend, Shawna.
But first, I failed to mention a brief encounter between Avery and Sheriff Cable (Beals) a few episodes ago where it was implied that they had some kind of romantic relationship previously. Well, at the opening of this week’s episode we find Avery lying to wife Maria about his whereabouts in order to meet up with lingerie clad Sheriff Cable (whom I must say is still in very good shape for a ripe old age of 55. You go, Beals!) in some seedy roadside motel. While there, Avery comes across the multiple missed calls to Cable’s phone from investigative journalist Liz Tremayne (Sten). Well, the sheriff proceeds to tell Avery of Tremayne’s recent findings into the death of Alec Holland, which in turn sets Avery on a path of threatening behavior towards both Liz and her poor old dad, Delroy, which includes a scene in which Avery commences to gut a turtle in Delroy’s kitchen to make his favorite “turtle soup.” Yeah, I didn’t need to see that. Then on top of that, Avery sends a couple masked thugs to beat the shit out of Liz, but not before the timely arrival of Daniel (Ziering) who I’m guessing was about to lay some Blue Devil hurt on those two goons until one raps him upside the head with a crowbar before running away in fear that they’ve killed him.
Speaking of which, Daniel had some nice development this week when we start off by finding him racing down a country road in an effort to escape the town that supposedly has some kind of hold on him, all to the tune of Motley Crüe’s Shout at the Devil, which I thought was clever. When he reluctantly reaches his arm out past the boundary of town, it catches fire in a blue flame. As he opens his trunk to reach for bandages and mumbles beneath his breath about striking some kind of deal back in L.A. to play “him” we finally get a reveal of the Blue Devil costume as it ominously glows a bluish glow. Muahahahaha. But we’ll have to wait and see what becomes of him after the skull crushing he received later in the episode. I’ll say this, Daniel has been getting all heroic these last couple episodes and I’m guessing it’s all leading up to that inevitable Blue Devil appearance which we may or may not get to see before this whole thing wraps up in five weeks.
Madame Xanadu, apparently Daniel’s partner in crime as we learned last week, got some decent screen time this week as well. You see, she may have accidentally opened up a “door” that allowed the dead Shawna to reenter the land of the living. So it wasn’t some delusional hallucinations Maria was experiencing these last few weeks, but actually the ghost of her daughter she was seeing and that ghost takes over and possesses little Susie Coyle in a very creepy group of scenes this episode, including one in particular that takes place in Shawna’s childhood bedroom. During these segments, you can definitely see the James Wan influence peek its disturbing little head out. There’s also a mention of some kind of connection to the death of Abby’s mother and Xanadu having some kind of hand in that as well. Man, people really don’t like that Madame Xanadu.
And one more supporting character had a nice arc this week. Look, I never thought, even for a moment, that Sheriff Cable was a crooked cop, and in a way, I guess she still isn’t, but upon following up on a lead on Holland’s murder, she comes to find out that maybe her son, Matt, could be a suspect. I think what they’re going to try and sell us is that he was starting to feel threatened by the new arrival, Holland, and competing for the affections of Abby, that it drove him to murder Alec in order to get him out of the picture. Personally, I’m not buying it, and neither was Cable. After the source tries to extort Cable, otherwise he tells everyone that her son is the killer; the sheriff proceeds to shoot him a couple times in the chest, proclaiming, “Nobody ever fucking threatens my son.” So, is it the actions of a crooked cop or a caring mother? Whatever the motivations, she finishes the swamp rat (yeah, that’s a thing, at least now it is) with one right between the eyes.
Finally, in the world of our title character, there were some interesting developments. First, as I mentioned earlier, we got our premiere introduction to the Phantom Stranger, yet another nod to a DC Comics character of the same name. Of course, he’s never actually called that in the show, but a quick glance at the IMDb credits for this episode reveal as much. In a way it was cool because it allowed Swamp Thing to get some much-needed answers to what is going on, not only inside him, but in the swamp as well and how it’s all connected. We got our first mention of “the green” which I brought up back in my review of episode one and how that is a main focus for Swamp Thing in the comics. I think it’s just a general term for all the plant life that covers the Earth. The Stranger also informs the creature about how he can tap into any of the green and see everything they have seen, like throughout all of time. This prompts him to try it and he’s instantly transported back fourteen years to when Abby and Shawna were at the bridge where the “accident” happened.
In the meantime, possessed Susie lures Maria to the same bridge with the promise that they can be together forever down there. As soon as they get there of course, Shawna’s spirit releases Susie who in turn gets back up to the road in time to warn an arriving Abby of the danger to Maria. Once she gets down to the water’s edge, Abby pleads with Maria to let Shawna go, apologizing again for her death, which snaps Maria out of her trance, only to start attacking Abby in anger, which then leads Shawna’s ghost to grab Maria and drag her under the murky depths. For just a second here, I thought they might kill off Maria. What better way to make Avery’s vengeance grow and give him reason to seek the end of Abby through the rest of the season? But then our hero shows up, Maria in arms, and returns her to the shore. Curious how good ‘ol Swampy knew to be there at that time for the save, he tells Abby he had a vision and took it as a sign to return to that spot. Then he touches a tree and Abby simultaneously and we’re finally treated to what really happened that fateful morning fourteen years prior. Turns out, Abby didn’t kill Shawna at all, but instead, what actually happened was, after the two jumped from the bridge to complete some stupid school tradition, Shawna was mysteriously dragged under by something else we still have no answer to.
I know I sound like a broken record by now, but the mysterious thing that dragged Shawna down is yet another one of those mysteries that we may never see answered by the conclusion of the series. And the appearance of the Phantom Stranger similarly introduces the same issue. Without another appearance and no second season, the Stranger just comes off as a throw away character and worse still, some kind of plot device introduced just to give us, and Swamp Thing, some much needed answers to plot questions. Because remember, even before any of the cancellation talk started, production was abruptly cut down to ten episodes, from the initially ordered thirteen, and what are the odds that the creators were not only able to wrap up the seasons arc in thirteen episodes, but then rewrite and recut it in just ten? We’ll find out soon enough as we now have only five more episodes before the conclusion. Here’s hoping, friends.
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