blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Swamp Thing (2019) s01e05 – Drive All Night

Wait, did “Swamp Thing” just get good? I mean, this episode’s definitely good. It’s a combination of season arcs progressing and culminating, better than normal writing (credited to Franklin jin Rho), and better directing of the actors. Greg Beeman directs. I’m not sure I’ve seen anything he’s done since License to Drive in 1988.

But he gets Crystal Reed’s best performance of the show so far, a decent supporting one from Maria Sten (I knew calling her out would result in her getting better, three years retroactively), and a full-stop good one from Jennifer Beals. Will Patton chews a little less on the scenery as the show’s revealed more of his villainy. Virginia Madsen’s uneven but ultimately successful. It’s her season arc getting the culminating here.

This episode marks the halfway point in “Swamp Thing.” The show infamously got its season order cut, then got canceled before even airing, so it was unclear if the show would ever find direction. It does. And, regardless of the quality, their gradual buildup does pay off. Including Swamp Thing Derek Mears finding out about the Green, but not from John Constantine (a Matt Ryan cameo would’ve been difficult but extraordinary), but instead from a Phantom Stranger (Macon Blair, in a Silent Bob impression). It all starts tying together, including Reed realizing there’s something supernatural to the swamp.

Mears and Blair have a handful of scenes together—two or three, but if there are three, the second one’s entirely unmemorable—where Mears learns how to listen to the trees. They tell him (and the viewer) something about Reed’s history with Patton and Madsen’s daughter, played by Given Sharp. Melissa Collazo plays young Reed, and it’s kind of amazing how well they cast younger versions of people even on streaming these days.

Sharp is haunting Madsen, this episode possessing her new ward, Elle Graham. The possession stuff is just okay until Graham starts trying to manipulate Madsen, then it starts getting good and never slows down.

Then Beals has a subplot tying into the murder of Mears’s human self (Andy Bean shows up in flashback, which is starting to get annoying). Real good twists and reveals, with Beals raising the bar on “Swamp Thing”’s acting. Patton’s a delight, but he’s hamming it up. Beals is outdoing him sober, so to speak.

Plus, Ian Ziering’s getting downright sympathetic.

I’m hopeful “Swamp Thing”’s uptick will continue; either way, Drive All Night’s a fine forty-five minutes of television.

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