DC’s ‘Swamp Thing’ Is a Deliciously Horrifying New Show
Swamp Thing is one of the graphics novels that exposed me to the horror comics. The Alan Moore graphic novel version just touch my horror nerd soul. It’s about a scientist Alec Holland, who stumbles upon some wrongdoing at his lab. He later loses his life in an explosion. No one ever recovers his body. They all assume that it was consumed by the fire. But, Holland is not consumed by the fire. He was taken in by “The Green,” the consciousness of the trees, grass, flowers, roots, and all things “natural”. The Green created a body for Holland: this grotesque slimy, veiny, misshapen, green thing of a man who could regenerate. Holland’s new body is also hot-wired into The Green. The comic is violent, brooding, and monstrous.
I love it. (Probably going to read it again tonight.)
So, when I heard that DC was adapting the Swamp Thing comics for TV, I had to see it. I didn’t expect the adaptation to be exact. However, the story had to have the violence, darkness, and brooding that the comic carried. I was encouraged by the Gotham and Doom Patrol TV shows, which are rich in story, too. Gotham was on network television and yet had succeeded in capturing the noir darkness of Bruce Wayne’s hometown. The weekly injections of Doom Patrol are refreshing in their unmitigated oddness, frankness, and violence that the group is known for in the comics. It shouldn’t be a problem to do the same with Swamp Thing, right?
DC Did Not Disappoint
The pilot opens with a scene that introduces us to the setting for the show, a place where willows weep low, almost the ground. Swamp moss and vines decorate this dense landscape of muddy water and overgrown vegetation. All of the structures in the place are well-worn, made of wood that seems rotted. It’s all dark…and scary. You can almost smell the mud.
The Green is already active and angry in the first scenes of the show. (We can discuss how this works for the story in a recap later). We’ll find out the reason as the episode wears on, but the first introduction is fraught with the trappings of a horror film. There is the dark and scary setting, along with the eery sounds of foreboding.
Tension is high when we see The Green unchained and removing the life from the human trespassers. The swamp vines are lethal and pierce through soft human bodies like a knife through warm butter, even those humans who are up to no good. The graphics are not spared. There are blood and parts everywhere. The scene just before the camera cuts away from the carnage is like something out of Children of the Corn. This show is really terrifying and scary good.
Expect Some Adaptation Changes, But a Good Story
The story is a bit different than the one we remember, but it’s still a good one. A town is experiencing some very odd (and gross) illnesses that are starting to affect the children. CDC doctor Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed from Teen Wolf) is there and investigating. However, it looks like she has other connections to the town and to the cause of the illness. She runs into scientist Alec Holland (Andy Bean of Here and Now, Power) as he also scavenges for clues to the cause of the illnesses.
The two of them team up and find some really nasty casualties of the illness. The graphics here will remind you of the bathroom scenes in Dreamcatcher (imagine them but all the red stuff is green and slimy instead). They quickly realize that this is more than an illness. The whole town comes to the same conclusion at an explosive meeting.
But, Abby is connected to this town in a very intricate way and she eventually tells Alec. A little romance starts. We all know how this is going to end. Alec ends up in an explosion and is taken in by The Green. (It’s in the comic, this isn’t a spoiler.)
Will Patton and Virginia Madsen play the twisted billionaire couple Avery and Maria Sunderland that the show has slowly set up to be the villains. The character I noticed was Walking Dead’s Jeryl Prescott is Madame Xanadu, a DC mage who is white in the comics. I am hoping to see them develop her character in the series to be much more than a placeholder (and as a dark-skinned black woman in braids). Henderson Wade (Riverdale, A Million Little Things) plays sheriff’s deputy Matt Cable. The legendary Jennifer Beals (Taken, After) is Sherriff Lucilia Cable, but you won’t meet her until episode two.
You Can’t Miss an Episode
It’s best if you just think of episode one as the must-see for some key details on what happens to Alec (if you know what I mean). Episode two digs deeper into what caused The Green to go haywire in the first place. And, let me just say, you won’t believe the connection between the Sunderlands and Addy…
Swamp Thing is a horror comic come to life on screen. The title character is revealed at the end of the pilot episode so watch carefully. I truly expected something more cartoonish, but the monster they unveil is truly a beautifully frightening one. Most important is the humanity within him is evident, which is one of the key traits that I love about this character. You can see the human struggling to live inside the body of a monster.
See the show for yourself on May 31 on the DC Universe app.
Rating: 5 of 5 stars