blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Swamp Thing (2019) s01e03 – He Speaks

They do bugs.

In the nearly fifty-year history of Swamp Thing, I don’t think there’s anything ickier than the bugs. Including when he fought like blood monsters who use intestines as tentacles or whatever. The bugs were worse. Just pages and pages of bugs sent from Hell to torment the living. Yuck.

And this episode does the bugs.

Only they’re not demonic; they’re… well, it’s unclear. But, so far, there’s not some entity controlling them, so they’re just bugs on their own—maybe juiced up on Kevin Durand’s magic plant serum—but they’ve got agency. Makes them kind of cute. Or at least their antics are cute when they’re not eating their way through human bodies.

This episode’s got the first talking Swamp Thing scene, presumably with Derek Mears doing the voice. It’s good. There’s no resolution to it because the writing (credited to Rob Fresco) is bad, but Mears makes it work. They also do a great job with the eyes. They’re inhuman but human. Mears saves Crystal Reed, and they have their meet again cute, albeit just after he’s fought a bug monster man. The scene immediately reveals the problem with Reed’s nighttime soap lead in a horror comic adaptation—she’s got no motivation beyond professional; Reed’s not great at the professional scenes.

Especially not the one where she whines to local doctor Tim Russ about her CDC boss coming to check on her because she’s made no progress other than being somehow involved with scientist Andy Bean’s death and not saving the dude from the end of last episode. Reed’s either got whiny scenes or ones where she exposition dumps to Maria Sten. I was hoping this script—not from the previous episodes’ writers—would be an improvement; mais no.

Still, Reed and Mears’s scene isn’t a fail, which is what’s presumably going to be important soon.

There’s also a lot brewing, mostly local industrialist Will Patton being a little more of a soap opera villain than initially implied. They implied a lot too. He’s got (unlikely) shady loans, ties to what may be an exciting criminal organization if they do any comics’ adapting, and an occasional affair with sheriff Jennifer Beals, which wife Virginia Madsen at least suspects.

So much soap.

Madsen’s good this episode. Good enough past sins can easily be forgotten if she just keeps it going. Beals is pretty good, too; not sure about the accent. They’re getting to the point where the boomer soap opera might play well on “Swamp Thing.”

They just need to give Reed something real to do. I’m not sure she will do well with it, but her whole part has been softballs. Despite being the lead on the show, and having Sten for her exposition dumps, the show profoundly fails Bechdel. All Reed and Sten have to talk about is dudes.

But Mears is good. The costume’s good. The movement’s good. “Swamp Thing” at least has got Swamp Thing.

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