Five Thoughts on Swamp Thing’s “He Speaks”

By | October 21st, 2020
Posted in Television | % Comments

To coincide with the airing of Swamp Thing on the CW, we are re-broadcasting our reviews of the series from its original airing on the DC Universe platform. If there are any differences in the episodes aired on the CW (edits for time or content, for example), those changes will not be reflected in our reviews.

Time to look at the third episode of Swamp Thing on DC Universe, “He Speaks”. Fill up the fuel tanks on your swamp boat and let’s get to the recapping.

1. The Haunting of Swamp House

The Swamp is definitely a haunted place and the ghosts are starting to get restless. We have two significant ghosts in this episode: Shawna Sunderland and Munson, Sunderland’s hired thug that was killed by Swamp Thing last episode. Both of them are able to interact with the physical world with Shawna cracking a mirror in her old house, and Munson becoming some sort of insect zombie. We are still not quite clear on Shawna’s motivations, though she is able to drive a wedge between her parents and push Maria just a little closer to the edge of… something. Munson’s goals are clear though, he is seeking vengeance on Swamp Thing for killing him, and nearly gets Abby in the process. Swamp Thing seems to be able to deal with Munson pretty handily, first taking a couple of punches and then forcing the insect zombie thing to the ground. Surprisingly he pauses and instead of administering a beat down, he issues a command almost tenderly for Munson to be released, at which point the insect zombie collapses into a puddle of goo. This whole sequence is wonderfully shot with a red flare light adding a unique accent to the lighting. I particularly enjoy that they kept the scene reasonably well lit with little ambiguity in the action and blocking.

2. Conflicts

The fight between Swamp Thing and Munson hints at one of the deeper mysteries in the series: what forces are at play in the Swamp? The ghosts seem connected to some sort of dark force, as was referenced by Madame Xanadu to Maria in the last episode. Is this force that Swamp Thing spoke to when he commanded the release of Munson’s spirit? And then is the Swamp itself in opposition to this dark force, and created Swamp Thing as its avatar in the battle? I think it is definitely too early yet to have a clear picture of the battleground, but some of the fog of war is clearing a bit for the viewers.

There are also other smaller conflicts cropping up through the episode. Abby’s authority in treating the Green Flu is challenged on two separate fronts. The CDC, concerned about the lack of progress, has sent a supervisor, Dr. Eli Troost, to meddle in the treatments of Abby’s patients. Avery Sunderland has also exerted his pressure on the hospital and gotten Dr. Woodrue access to the morgue and records about the Green Flu. When Abby confronts him in the morgue over the body of poor Eddie Coyle, he has the temerity to test her and seems to find her lacking on the sociopath scale. Abby just seems exasperated as she doesn’t have time to deal with somewhat crazy eggheads while people are dying; I expect that we will see more sparks fly between them as the season progresses.

Cracks also start showing as the Sunderland’s facade of power is coming under siege from various directions, and Avery starts raising the stakes – but more on that in a little bit.

3. Affairs of the Heart

In “He Speaks”, Swamp Thing continues to play its twisty game of hearts. Abby’s feelings continue to be pulled into two directions between the hunky deputy Matt and the equally hunky (albeit very differently) Swamp Thing. Crystal Reed does a great showing her emotions when she is skimming through Alec’s notebook and comes across a Post-It with her name and number and when she finds the whiskey bottle they shared in the first episode. Later on, when she is talking to Swamp Thing, she promises that she is going to try and find away to free Alec from inside whatever he has become. This all becomes complicated when Abby stops by the bar for a drink and Matt comes to join her. The jukebox begins playing Natalie Merchant’s “Kind and Generous” and Abby laughs at it as a joke. Then Matt reminds her it was the song that played at the prom when he did not have the nerve to ask her dance. This time he does, so the two go out for a spin on the dance floor. Unbeknownst to them, Swamp Thing is watching from… well… the Swamp. He growls and then disappears when Abby seems to sense his presence. The love triangle plot is still rolling along!

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We also learn about another love connection in a slightly connected direction to the above. Sheriff Lucilia Cable (mother to the hunky deputy) goes out to talk with Avery Sunderland and we discover that there is a little illicit history between the two of them. No wonder Sunderland seems to have a lock on this town – he’s rich, controls the job supply, is buddies with the mayor, and he has been having a fling with the local law enforcement. Clearly this affair has been going on for quite some time, likely starting around the time of Shawna’s death, when Maria Sunderland withdrew into herself. Lucilia is wisely a bit skittish when she suspects that Mrs. Sunderland may still be in the house and ultimately leaves before anything gets too serious. She is observed leaving by Maria, and ghost Shawna drives the jealously wedge deeper when she appears in the mirror to speak to her mother. This does not bode well for Avery and his relationship with Maria.

For a completely different look at a relationship, we also get to see a little more interplay between Dr. Woodrue and his wife, Dr. Woodrue. We learn that Caroline seems to be suffering from some sort of degenerative neural disease that affects her memory. While up to this point Dr. Woodrue has come across as arrogant, sociopathic, and more than a little villainous; this scene opens him up to the viewer as someone to be empathized with (maybe). A search for a cure to his wife’s illness is a strong motivation for Woodrue’s research and may explain why he is working with Sunderland. It was just a small scene, but I felt it did a lot to enhance our perspective of these characters.

The only relationship that seems to be doing really well is Liz and her shrimping paramour Margaux. They’re really sweet together, but I keep fearing for their safety.

4. Investigations

There is a whole slew of investigations going on in this show at this time. There is Abby and the CDC trying to figure out the Green Flu, and now Dr. Woodrue is sticking his obnoxiously large brain into that.This investigation takes Abby back to Alec’s lab in the Swamp to try and find any sort of data that she can use to solve the mystery illness and help her patients. While she was looking around she dig under his bed and I half expected her to find his stash of adult magazines (hey, it seemed he was alone out at the lab for a long time), but she actually finds his notebook. Hopefully that will help her mission.

Then there is the Sheriff’s department that is investigating the explosion and Alec Holland’s death/disappearance, although progress is not very good there and Sheriff Cable is about ready to declare the whole thing as an accidental death. Her son, besotted with Abby, does not think this is the right path, but he really can’t argue against his superior officer and mother. Sheriff Cable does go out to Avery Sunderland to ask him about Alec Holland, but she gets just about as far as Abby did last episode. Which is to say a brick wall, especially when Sunderland starts putting the moves on her.

Sunderland has got to be feeling the pressure though, since Holland’s death/disappearance keeps coming back to his doorstep and it’s not the only set of questions coming his way. Liz, Abby’s journalist friend, has been sniffing around his financial situation. She finally managed to corner the manager at the Marais Savings & Loan and asked him pointedly about giving Sunderland personal loans off the book. This wafts up to Sunderland as the manager comes to his home (at dinner time, so you know it’s serious!) and says that the bank’s board is breathing down his neck and will find out about the fraudulent loans. We discover that Sunderland is deep deep in debt and needs a success from whatever he is doing in the swamp, or his house of cards will come tumbling down.

5. Desperation

Sunderland definitely sees the writing on the wall as pressures mount against him from various directions. After being confronted by the banker regarding the fraudulent loans, he goes to Maria to beg for more money to help stay afloat. But remember she watched as Lucilia drove off earlier? And she has had dead Shawna whispering in her ear sowing discord. So she cuts him off which just ramps up his stress and desperation. It is enough for him to go to the banker’s house and beat him to death with a golf club. At the end Liz comes knocking on the banker’s door seeking the information on Sunderland’s finances she demanded earlier and he spies her through the door. This definitely makes me fear for her safety as Sunderland is already in a killing mood.

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Abby also succumbs to desperation when her partner, Harlan falls ill to the Green Flue (see dude, should have worn your mask). All the patients, including Harlan, begin to have a serious medical response to the aggressive antibiotic regimen prescribed by the invading Dr. Troost. Instead of beating Troost with a golf club, Abby acts like the cool responsible doctor she is (usually) and makes an intuitive leap based on something Swamp Thing told her earlier: the infection is fighting back against the treatments. I’m not really sure how it works since I’m not a doctor, but she gives Harlan an injection of immuno-suppressants and he returns to a stable condition. Dr. Troost, not being a complete idiot, realizes that she is on to something and orders the same treatment through the hospital.

Stray Thoughts

– At the very end, Daniel Cassidy, the video store guy that rented a room to Alec, is visited by Madame Xanadu and obviously they know each other. It seems that Cassidy has been sent to Marais eight years prior for some undisclosed purpose and really wants to leave. Xanadu has been doing readings for him all this time, with no change until now.

– I kind of feel like I need some points taken off my geek card as I just realized that the head doctor at the Marais hospital is played by Tim Russ who of course was Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager. Good to see him again.

– I was a bit confused about the appearance of Munson as an insect zombie because when we first see the insects appearing on the body parts at the very beginning, I thought that was something Swamp Thing was doing to dispose of the body. It took me a bit to connect the dots when the insect zombie showed up later to kill a poacher and then attack Abby.

That’s about it for this week. *vanishes back into the murky Swamp*

//TAGS | Swamp Thing

Frank Skornia

Frank is a longtime fan of science fiction and fantasy, enjoying a wide range of material across the spectrum of media. He is also an avid gamer, enjoying video games, board games, and RPGs of all sorts. Frank is also a really big fan of Godzilla. You can find him on Twitter at @FSkornia.


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