Swamp Thing – S1 Ep5 – Drive All Night Review

Director: Greg Beeman

Writer: Franklin Rho

Starring: Crystal Reed, Virginia Madsen, Will Patton, Derek Mears, Andy Bean, Henderson Wade, Maria Sten, Jeryl Prescott, Jennifer Beals, Elle Graham, Ian Ziering, Kevin Durand, Given Sharp, Macon Blair, Al Mitchell, Scott Deckert, Melissa Collazo and William Mark McCullough

The spirit of Shauna Sunderland grows ever stronger, pulling her mother and Susie Coyle into darkness. Daniel Cassidy’s ties to Marais prove strong and a Stranger visits the creature who was once Alec Holland. Secrets are revealed and the swamp shares its memories, in the sixth incredible episode of Swamp Thing.

In The Coyle Of A Dilemma

Elle Graham is an incredibly talented actress, and for someone so young, her range is truly impressive. In this episode she goes from frightened and vulnerable, to strong and downright terrifying, embodying her own character and that of the deceased Shauna Sunderland brilliantly.

The scenes between her, Virginia Madsen and Crystal Reed in this chapter are emotionally charged, and amongst some of the most horrific and terrifying I’ve ever seen on television.

The Wisdom Of Strangers

Swampy learns more about his own nature and is introduced to the concept of the Green. Macon Blair is truly mesmerising as a fisherman, who appears from the mists of the bayou like a Phantom. He proves to be a true friend, even though he’s a total Stranger. Who knows where he came from and where his endless wandering will lead him next?

Ian Ziering is on fire this week, as we learn a little more about why Dan Cassidy is in Marais and why he just can’t bring himself to leave. His destiny is drawing ever closer and we get a glimpse of what his future looks like too.

Seeds Of Doom

Kevin Durand’s Jason Woodrue is getting ever closer to discovering Abby and Alec’s secret, and his ties to Sunderland will soon bear deadly fruit. I have no doubt that he’ll get to the root of the problem and we’ll be seeing him branch out in new and deadly ways.

Sunderland himself has a brush with the law, but not in ways anyone would have ever expected. The Sheriff finds herself at the business end of a shotgun and shows just how far a mother will go to protect her child. The parallels between her and Maria Sunderland are highlighted in new and intriguing ways this week.

Conclusion

Halfway through the season, this series is proving to be a televisual tour de force. We get pure horror, real, human emotion and drama plus supernatural shenanigans aplenty. Derek Mears and Andy Bean deliver both sides of Alec Holland admirably and Crystal Reed is consistently excellent. I love the scares, I love the characters and every episode leaves me wanting more.

Swamp Thing – S1 Ep4 – Darkness On The Edge Of Town Review

Director: Carol Banker

Writers: Erin Maher and Kay Reindl

Starring: Crystal Reed, Virginia Madsen, Will Patton, Derek Mears, Andy Bean, Henderson Wade, Maria Sten, Jeryl Prescott, Jennifer Beals, Elle Graham, Ian Ziering, Selena Anduze, Al Mitchell, Steve Wilcox and Given Sharp.

They say that there is nothing to fear, but fear itself… but this episode of Swamp Thing is terrifying. The story revolves around fear, and what could be more scary than not being able to trust the evidence of our own eyes? This episode has real bite and, when compared to the three great instalments that came before, it really is up to scratch.

Scary Monsters And Super Freaks

There’s no denying that poor old Abby has seen her fair share of horror in this series, but as a doctor whose career revolves around the threat in this episode could be her greatest nightmare. As always Crystal Reed delivers an outstanding performance. What’s different in this episode, though, is that we begin to see the development of her relationship with Alec/Swamp Thing. It’s a testament to the character of Abigail Arcane that she can see past Swampy’s scary exterior to the soul of the man inside.

Once again Derek Mears acts his socks off, through the mounds of shrubbery and prosthetics he’s buried beneath. He conveys real strength and manages to balance it with vulnerability. Consider how hard it must be to convey any emotions through makeup that makes you unrecognisable. We don’t even really see the man’s face, or even his real eyes. Outstanding.

On Screen Magic

This episode looks and feels like a movie. The direction and production values are way above those of your average TV show. I think that this could be the best produced show since Game Of Thrones.

The calibre of the writing, the level of acting, and the stellar cast don’t hurt either.

Whilst the main plot, quite rightly, revolves around Abby and Alec, the sub-plots running through the show are all addressed in this episode. It was great seeing Dan Cassidy and Madame Xanadu again; a man with a mission he doesn’t understand and a woman, to whom the future is usually so clear, completely blinded – not just physically – but now psychically as well. They say that our remaining senses are sharpened by the loss of one, but to someone who can scry the future, suddenly losing her second sight must be crushing.

Danny’s future is also unclear, and he’s stuck on the horns of a devilish dilemma. Is Abby the one who will lead him to his true destiny, or is he just going to end up feeling blue?

Do You Get Cable?

I was really happy when I saw that Matt Cable was going to have a presence in this show. This character is a mainstay of the Swamp Thing franchise and the DC Comics Vertigo universe. His past relationship with Abby, his future relationship, both with his former love and Swamp Thing himself, is a true tale of heroism in the comics. I wonder how much of it we’ll get to see play out in the remaining six episodes, because in the original source material this man’s future is the stuff of Dreams.

Jennifer Beals has always been a great actress, so I was happy when I heard that she’d been cast in this show. Her performance in this episode, when compared to how tough and grizzled she’s been in previous chapters, shows her range and her skill. Don’t mess with a momma!

Conclusion

I was dreading the end of Doom Patrol, but Swamp Thing, just like it’s predecessor, is producing quality episode after quality episode. “Darkness On The Edge Of Town” delivers horror, suspense, heart and character development. Not only do we get a standalone tale of terror, but the ongoing storyline has fuel added to its fire. We also get to learn a little more about Abby’s past and what, or who, it is that she fears.

The only downside of reviewing TV shows is the long wait between episodes. Yes, I know that very few people, if any, even get to see this great programme in the U.K. and that even fewer see them before they even air, like I do. When T.V. is this good I’m the kind of person who wants to load up the next instalment ASAP, so it’s gonna be a long seven days.

Swamp Thing – S1 Ep3 – He Speaks Review

Director: Deran Sarafian

Writer: Rob Fresco

Starring: Crystal Reed, Virginia Madsen, Will Patton, Derek Mears, Andy Bean, Henderson Wade, Maria Sten, Jeryl Prescott, Elle Graham, Ian Ziering, Leonardo Lam, Kevin Durand, Tim Russ and Given Sharp.

Though we now know that this show has officially been cancelled, I’m going to continue to watch and review it purely on the basis of what has made it to screen. Swamp Thing, three episodes in, is still one of the most ambitious pieces of T.V. that I’ve ever seen and ranks amongst the greatest horror shows ever made. The fear is real, both psychologically and in terms of both physical and supernatural terror.

The exorbitant costs of making the show, only made worse by tax rebates which had initially been promised being reneged on, seem to be the main reason for the cancellation. What I will say, though, is that every penny shows up on screen. The visual effects, both digital and practical, are on a par with those of many blockbuster movies. In fact, some of the effects in this show are better than some I’ve seen on the big screen.

This Guy’s Starting To Bug Me

Many of my favourite images and ideas from the best Swamp Thing comics are appearing in this terrific show. Perhaps favourite isn’t the right word, maybe I should’ve said creepiest, most terrifying and nightmare inducing instead. If you thought the the creeping vines from the pilot episode were messed up, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

The lighting, direction and cinematography on this show are all beyond excellent. Every shot, every camera angle and piece of composition adds to the sense of claustrophobia and vertigo. The brilliant part of all of it is that sometimes the horror comes from the acts of the human characters, not the dark magic or supernatural elements or creatures. The whole idea of Swamp Thing, who very much looks like a monster, but has the heart of a hero, while someone who we have seen act kindly, almost lovingly, towards Abby, is in fact a monster on the inside is an extremely clever piece of storytelling.

I’ve said it many times before, but perhaps human beings are the greatest monsters of them all.

Arcane Alchemy

This show’s greatest strength is it’s cast. Will Patton as Avery Sunderland and Virginia Madsen as his long-suffering wife Maria, are both brilliant. Secrets about their relationship came to light this week that turned my perspective of their dynamic on its head.

Both Andy Bean and Derek Mears also perform brilliantly as both sides of the Alec Holland/Swamp thing coin. Mears’ ability to emote from beneath layers of prosthetics is absolutely incredible.

The MVP of this episode (in fact she’s the backbone of the whole series) is Crystal Reed. I’ve always rated her as an actress, but the range she exhibits in her performances on Swamp Thing make all her previous work pale by comparison. She exudes strength, warmth, passion, intelligence, empathy and fear in this episode alone. I was a fan of hers coming in, and I’m an even bigger one now.

Conclusion

While I am truly saddened by the news that we’ll only be getting 10 episodes of this incredible show, if every instalment matches up to the calibre of the first three episodes, then Swamp Thing will be remembered for decades to come.

Two of my favorite programmes, Firefly and Constantine, also only ran for one season each, yet they’re both regarded as cult classics. Firefly ended up receiving a full length movie, Serenity. Matt Ryan’s Constantine has gone on to appear in animated movies, a spin-off CW Seed show and has even joined DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow.

I’m hopeful that this show won’t be the last time we’ll be seeing Swamp Thing on screen.

Swamp Thing – S1 Ep2 – Worlds Apart Review

Director: Len Wiseman

Writers: Mark Verheiden and Doris Egan

Starring: Crystal Reed, Virginia Madsen, Andy Bean, Derek Mears, Henderson Wade, Maria Sten, Jeryl Prescott, Will Patton, Elle Graham, Ian Ziering, Leonardo Nam and Given Sharp.

After the frenetic pace of the pilot episode, a rare thing in television, Swamp Thing episode 2 slows things right down, continues to flesh out the characters and further develop the story. Don’t get me wrong, the episode is still great, but takes a much more measured approach than its predecessor.

It’s Alive!

Whenever the title character of any movie or TV show isn’t a human being T.V. producers and fans tend to get a little bit scared. After the catalogue of horrors that previous attempts at bringing Swamp Thing to life delivered I was, understandably, worried. I am very happy to have been proven wrong.

Derek Mears’ makeup and prosthetics are astonishing, he really looks as if the roots, leaves, vines and branches are part of, or growing out of him. I have to applaud the actor, because walking around made up like that must be hot, sweaty, unpleasant and uncomfortable.

I must respect his acting ability too. He doesn’t say a word in this episode, yet his emotions are clear throughout. The makeup artists have done a hell of a job in creating prosthetics that allow Mears to express himself. When he’s in pain, we know it, when he’s scared we feel it and when he’s angry… run.

Revisiting Holland

I’m a longstanding comics reader and Swamp Thing fan, so I know the links between all the characters. I realise however, that many people will be coming into this show fresh. Let me say that the ending of last week’s episode, whilst shocking, spells the beginning of Alec and Abby’s story, not the end.

Andy Bean plays a likeable Alec Holland and his appearance in this episode was a welcome one. The very last line of the show, however, will level the playing field between newbies and old veterans.

I’ve always admired Crystal reed as an actress and she just seems to be getting better and better. The character of Abby Arcane is a complex one and Reed delivers rich, layered and emotional performances.

The Devil’s In The Detail

Die-hard comics fans will be smiling from ear to ear again whilst watching this episode. Not only do we get more time with Madame Xanadu, we meet Jason Woodrue and are introduced to Dan Cassidy too. Beverly Hills 90210 alumni Ian Ziering is an example of inspired casting. I cannot wait to see his story develop.

Introduced as an actor/stuntman who owns a video store in the show, Ziering embodies the Daniel Cassidy that I’ve been a fan of for decades. He’s cheeky, cocky and a handsome devil.

Let Me Tell You A Story

The way that writer Mark Verheiden, a comic-book and T.V. veteran is weaving his tale is impressing the heck out of me. He’s making links and connecting different characters from the comics, while building an all-new, well structured and cohesive television universe of his own.

Director Len Wiseman continues to show his skills as a storyteller. Not only does he have an incredible eye for detail, but his use of light and darkness is stunning. There are moments in this episode which evoked Aliens and Romero’s Living Dead movies. I don’t think that I could give any horror director higher praise than that.

Conclusion

This show, just two episodes in, is rapidly becoming a firm favorite. Acting, production and direction are all of an incredibly high standard. The story feels like a nightmare inside of a nightmare and we learn that Swamp Thing may not be the only thing that has awoken in these marshlands.

I’m in for the long-haul.

Swamp Thing – S1 Ep1 Review

Director: Len Wiseman

Writers: Gary Dauberman and Mark Verheiden

Starring: Crystal Reed, Virginia Madsen, Andy Bean, Derek Mears, Henderson Wade, Maria Sten, Jeryl Prescott, Will Patton, Elle Graham, Leonardo Nam, Given Sharp, Tim Russ, Tom Proctor, Gregdan Williams, John Bishop and R.J. Syler

I was initially going to write a little intro to the character of Swamp Thing, just to give new readers/fans some context. That endeavour actually turned into a mini thesis, which you can now read elsewhere on this very site… if you decide that you actually want to. I would even say that, having now seen this incredible pilot episode, you don’t have to. At all.

The episode stands up on it’s own as something fresh, vibrant and new. Much like Swampy himself.

Director Len Wiseman, and writers Gary Dauberman and Mark Verheiden, have created a brand new story that, quite honestly, deserves to be viewed totally on its own merits. Yes, it’s that good. I am actually jealous of viewers who will be tuning in knowing nothing about this character or this world. The Swamp Thing pilot has been so well crafted, that I know fans will be rooting out (sorry) the source material for themselves, in very near future.

Let’s Get Creative

Screen adaptations over the years have varied widely in quality. For every Dark Knight there’s a Batman & Robin, and for every Man Of Steel there’s a Superman IV (just my opinion, folks. Please don’t send Deathstroke after me).

There have already been two Swamp Thing movies, a live-action TV show and an animated series. I don’t even want to think about those, let alone write about them.

Because of what came before I was initially very apprehensive about Warner revisiting this character for their DC Universe streaming service. Then I started hearing names like Len Wiseman (the Underworld franchise, Sleepy Hollow, Lucifer) James Wan (Insidious I & II, The Conjuring I & II, Aquaman) and Mark Verheiden (great indie comics: The American, Predator, Aliens, Evil Dead, DC’s Action Comics Weekly and 9 epsiodes of the superb Battlestar Galactica) as writers, producers and directors, being linked to the show.

These names, and their respective resumes, inspired confidence.

Of course, before all this I watched and loved Titans, the first half of the long awaited third season of Young Justice, and the bat crap crazy Doom Patrol. With Swamp Thing, I honestly feel that Warner and the DC Universe service are batting a hundred.

Roots Of The Swamp Thing

This episode has gone right back to the initial premise of the character. This is totally, unequivocally, 100% a horror show. Granted, the initial comics run by the wonderful Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson (may they rest forever in the green) was stifled by the Comics Code Authority, but it was chock full of patchwork men, werewolves and monsters.

There’s no denying that the legendary run written by Alan Moore (and those who followed him; notably Rick Veitch, Nancy A. Collins and Scott Snyder) gave us true horror, both psychological and physical.

The first episode of Swamp Thing gathers elements from all that has gone before, but delivers it in a brand new way. Anyone can come into this show clean and love it. Of course, long standing fans will get a thrill out of hearing names like Matt Cable, Liz Tremayne and Avery Sunderland, but everyone else can get the holy heck scared out of them without any foreknowledge whatsoever.

The threat and the effects were incredible. I got the same feelings of gut churning terror that I felt watching John Carpenter’s The Thing, or Ridley Scott’s original Alien. People who know me, and how much I revere those films, will know that this is high praise indeed.

Performance. Art.

I have to stand up and applaud the writing and acting in this episode. I’ve loved everything I’ve ever seen Crystal Reed do. Allison Argent was one of my favourite Teen Wolf characters, and I thought that Crystal’s dark, layered performances as Sofia Falcone in Gotham were fantastic.

From her first scene in this pilot she embodied everything I’ve always loved about Abby Arcane. Her kind giving nature, and her solid – but warm – inner strength. The dialogue and acting shone, and I’m already invested in this character.

Andy Bean was a wonderful Alec Holland too. An imperfect, affable, yet noble and lovably intelligent goofball. Everything I wanted.

Fans of the comics may balk slightly at some of the changes made to the histories of these characters, or the complete omission of Linda Holland, but I applaud them. The changes made have removed many constraints that would have stifled the narrative and impeded the flow of the story.

Conclusion

Pilot episodes can sometimes be plodding, scene setting, slow and meandering. This one was a full throttle horror fest. The music chilled me to the marrow, and the way that most of the action was shot from below, looking up, made it feel as if the cameramen were filming action of the Earth, as seen from hell.

Cinematography, lighting, editing, pace and structure were nigh on perfect. The characters were real, their secrets have been hinted at, and my interest has been piqued. Yes, I’m invested and cannot wait for the thrills and scares yet to come.

Give me more.

H