“Swamp Thing” reveals one of the many superhero tv show caveats: an origin episode isn’t the same thing as a pilot episode. Yes, last episode introduced the various characters, but this episode—in addition to introducing more supporting characters (well, at least one)—sets up what they’re going to be doing on the show. For example, Virginia Madsen, who’s no better acting-wise, unfortunately, is going to be trying to resurrect her dead, apparently drown in the swamp daughter. It’s unclear if it’s intentional or not or if an evil spirit is manipulating things.
Or newly introduced sheriff Jennifer Beals (doing a Southern-ish but specific accent), who also happens to be dreamy deputy Henderson Wade’s mother. She’s worried Wade’s life-long puppy dog crush on Crystal Reed will get in the way of something. It’s unclear what. Beals gets mad when Wade and Reed go looking for a missing kid; it’s a strange, concerning professional flex from Beals.
Or still munching away at the scenery Will Patton. At first, I felt bad for Patton—it was his scene opposite Madsen—but later on, he picks things up, relishing in the shitty, good ol’ boy but wealthy industrialist, who may or may not have a human side. At one point, Reed has to ask Patton for a favor, and we find out however the daughter died in high school, it was in a way Patton can say he doesn’t blame Reed.
Of course, Reed’s local bestie Maria Sten has just told Reed not to trust Patton. Or reminded her not to trust Patton. It’s soap, but grim and gritty soap. They’re trying real hard to be Southern Gothic, and they’re able to pull off the visual trappings of the genre. Sort of. Ian Ziering shows up as a cheesy action hero who owns a retro video rental and vinyl store in town, a la Kevin Smith. It’s so weird it can’t not work. Oh, also basically Internet cafe because no one knows how to use their smartphones in “Swamp Thing.”
The show also establishes how Andy Bean will stay in the credits even though he’s become a giant swamp thing, played—in suit—by Derek Mears. The show’s doing something interesting with the Swamp Thing introduction. They’re dragging it out, for one thing, but they’re giving him a psychic connection to little kid Elle Graham. Not sure if she, Swampy, and the dog will fend off angry villagers in an homage to Saga of the Swamp Thing #1, but there’s a not zero chance.
Bean has video diaries, which he apparently records on his iPhone, then uploads to Ziering’s very not-Apple PC laptop but also not showing a brand. Bean loads them into iTunes on the PC. We find out from the diaries he’s not rich actually (meaning he was regularly breaking into his old lab last episode), and he thinks Reed is smart, driven, and lovely. Also, he’s a sandal enthusiast.
But the real surprise is Kevin Durand as Jason Woodrue. Woodrue—previously essayed by Mr. John Glover in Batman and Robin—is a Swamp Thing mainstay and, in the show, Durand’s working with Patton. Durand’s a hoot. He’s trying really hard to do something different and succeeding. Despite having a big cast, it’s the first spotlight performance, partially because everyone else is pretty constrained. Hence Patton having to devour armchairs.
Reed mostly gets to run the episode, with diversions, and it’s okay, but just. Thanks again to special effects and production values, the show can carry through the weaker moments but, again, only just.
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