Swamp Thing (2019) s01e09 – The Anatomy Lesson

Asterisks about Writer’s Guild credit rules, I knew when Mark Verheiden’s name came up on this penultimate episode’s opening titles, The Anatomy Lesson was in trouble. It’s not a lot of trouble, but there are definite backslides. The script’s not interested in Crystal Reed’s experience at all; on the one hand, she’s the action hero rescuing her kidnapped love interest, so it’s not primed for character drama. On the other hand, Ian Ziering gets that action hero arc without any stakes whatsoever, just to not be a selfish white surfer bro.

It’s a packed episode, with three main plots, then three subplots. Reed and Maria Sten team up like it’s seventh grade to track down kidnapped swamp monster Derek Mears. Kevin Durand and Will Patton are going to dissect Mears. Ziering gets a visit from still not Kevin Smith Macon Blair, who tells him to (blue) devil up and save the day. Subplots are Selena Anduze’s Alzheimer’s getting worse while Durand’s busy on his supervillain origin story and then Henderson Wade being mad at mom Jennifer Beals. Beals isn’t in the episode, though, and Wade doesn’t have anyone to talk with, so it’s not clear why he’s mad. Is he angry because she didn’t tell him Patton was his real dad, furious because she got mad when he killed someone to stop Patton from blackmailing her, and just sad he’s a murderer? Doesn’t really matter, it’s the second-to-last episode, and Wade’s got a comics-ordained arc to complete. Then Patton has to get his revenge on wife Virginia Madsen, who hopefully gets a better send-off next episode.

Speaking of comics-ordained, this episode takes its title from Alan Moore’s famous (second) issue of Saga of the Swamp Thing. It’s not a direct adaptation (unfortunately), but it’s got the same basic reveals. The episode focuses on Durand, not Mears, which… might work out next episode or might be a missed opportunity. The episode’s got some big reveals and some reveals pretending to be big, but no reason they won’t be able to land it. Might be nice if Reed got something to do.

One last thing: director Michael Goi. Not good. Gets Sten’s worst performance in like four or five episodes, which is back when Verheiden was getting credits too. Once the action oscillates away from Reed and Sten, Goi’s direction improves, but every time it returns to them, it flounders. It’s impressive the show’s got the momentum to get through it, but it does. Good work from Durand, Anduze, and Ziering. Mears and Reed are fine but barely get anything to do.

Let’s see what happens next time.

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