Swamp Thing (2019) s01e04 – Darkness on the Edge of Town

I’ve been trying really hard with Maria Sten, who plays Crystal Reed’s bestie. Sten’s just in the show to ask Reed what she’s going to do next or what she’s just done. Last episode, it seemed like Sten was going to have a reporter subplot, but it was just to set up Will Patton for later. In this episode, they don’t even pretend Sten will get anything to do for herself. She’s around for her dad, Al Mitchell, to get infected with a supernatural swamp bug, but just so she can call Reed into the subplot. It’s a bad part.

And Sten’s not good in it.

Maybe she’ll turn it around. But it’s four episodes in, and she’s worse with better dialogue. This episode’s got the least bad lines so far; writing credit to Erin Maher and Kay Reindl. It’s still lots of bad lines, but much fewer than before. And there’s character subtext for the first time ever: Patton wants to adopt little orphan Elle Graham, but is it because he misses having a daughter or because Graham proves a good control for intemperate wife Virginia Madsen? It’s a wild plot for Patton this episode. He starts burying a dead body and ends buying his wife a granddaughter.

But, in the context of dark soap opera, it’s a plus for the series. And Madsen’s fine. Jennifer Beals is still solid, Kevin Durand’s still out there in the right way, and other cast members are evening out. Jeryl Prescott and Ian Ziering only seem to exist during their scenes in episodes, but this time around, the show knows how to package the subplot.

Then there’s Swamp Thing Derek Mears and newly reunited pal Reed. The show provides no context for Mears’s journey of discovery with his new existence—the plants are talking to him, and he knows how to grow trees—but from a horror angle. The show never tries to give Mears’s perspective, including when he’s never on time to meet Reed in the swamp. She goes out three times, and despite saying he can feel her presence immediately, he always takes forever to get there. So what’s he off doing?

Swamp Thing started as sci-fi horror mixed with regular horror, but the show has a real hard time with it. Maybe because they aren’t doing the sci-fi. There are a couple times there’s atrocious dialogue, but the show can get away with it because there’s nothing else they can do at that moment. They’ve boxed themselves into this supernatural threat-of-the-week format, and the only way out is through.

There are some secret origin hints about Reed; she has a nightmare about her greatest fear, and it’s not killing Madsen’s daughter; it’s something else, meaning the Madsen and Patton dead daughter storyline gets pushed some more instead of just dealt with. Hidden secret soap operas are so lazy.

Anyway.

It’s the best Reed’s been, and Mears’s still all right.

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