Swamp Thing (2019) s01e01

I can’t get the “Swamp Thing” theme out of my head; a subtle but undeniable earworm courtesy composer Brian Tyler. It is not at all related to any of the previous themes—well, it could be from the 1990 show, I don’t remember; I did wonder how the Swamp Thing movie score would work over the new show, with its production values and its CGI. Despite having two movies and a three season TV show under the franchise belt, this “Swamp Thing” is the first one capable of getting close to the comic in terms of visuals.

The special effects are okay. They’re going for a 1982 Thing thing, only with plant vines, and it’s fine. The show initially presents as a sci-fi medical thriller but quickly veers into straight horror and conspiracy thriller terrority, with a lengthy break in premium but not transcendent soap opera. CDC troubleshooter Crystal Reed is back home since leaving in disgrace; she somehow killed her best friend (a bridge and a car are somehow involved, but no more details yet), and the friend’s mom, Virginia Madsen, ran her out of town.

So, despite taking place in Louisiana (fake with a good regional name Marais versus real place from the comics Houma), no one has an accent. It’s Southern California Gothic. Madsen’s married to industrialist Will Patton, who’s experimenting on all the yokels without anyone suspecting because he’s such a good old boy himself. It’s an easy performance for Patton, who has the most accent, whereas Madsen’s—so far—blank. With an outrageous accent, she might stand out. Without one, and without any visible emoting, it’s a disappointment. This episode’s extraordinarily well-paced, so the Reed and Madsen scene had goodwill going in. Like, it could’ve been something.

It was not. Combination Madsen and the script, but mostly the latter.

Anyway.

The medical sci-fi thriller involves rogue, disgraced scientist Andy Bean, who sneaks into the hospital where Reed and her team have set up base to investigate a mysterious outbreak. After hinting at potential supporting cast members in Reed’s homecoming arc (hottie sheriff Henderson Wade and cool newspaper reporter Maria Sten), the episode ends up being Bean and Reed, hanging out, doing science, blowing things up, running from plant monsters, and so on.

Bean’s scientist without mercy comes off like a twenty-first century Richard Dreyfuss from Jaws; he’s an entitled, privileged rich kid whose hobbies happen to coincide with the greater good. Is Bean charming in the part? He’s not unlikable, which is a success.

Reed’s okay. After being active in her first scene, her character’s been entirely passive since. Despite being the lead, she’s rarely got anything but potential agency. Someone else comes along and takes over. It’s a problem.

But “Swamp Thing” generates more than enough momentum through this first episode to warrant a return. Especially since this episode’s presumably more prequel than the pilot.

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