Welcome back Swamp Dwellers for one more time. This is it. This is the end. There will not be any more after this. In this ending there were lots of endings, so let’s take a look at a few.
1. And they lived happily ever after. The end.
Some of the endings were happy, I guess. About as happy as you would get in a show like this. By the end of “The Anatomy Lesson”, Avery Sunderland had committed his wife, Maria, into the local asylum to get her out of his way. Maria is not taking her imprisonment well, though. She refuses her medications and is again beset by spiritual hallucinations. The paranormal attacks are interrupted by the appearance of Madame Xanadu who tells Maria that she opened a way into the Darkness when she sought out Shawna. Xanadu says there is nothing she can do about the Darkness, but she can help Maria be at ease. This is accomplished by giving her a vision where she is with a happy and living Shawna. So in some fashion, Maria is getting a personal happy ending, albeit in very sad circumstances.
It is a shame that this is the end given for a character like Maria Sunderland, who I appreciated waaay back in the first episode and couldn’t wait to see her continued interactions with Abby. We got a couple more spats between them and even a little reconciliation, but it was a relationship with much potential that was not met.
Both Swamp Thing and Abby also have a reasonably happy ending. After Swamp Thing’s encounter with the Conclave mercenaries in the Swamp, he ends up talking to a mental projection of Alec Holland and decides that he would better off disappearing into the Swamp alone. This changes when Abby goes back to Holland’s lab and they have a final conversation together. She says that she still believes Holland exists inside Swamp Thing and that she will always be there to support him against the still-growing Darkness. This ending suggests that Abby is planning to move back to Marais and aid Swamp Thing. This leads to a pan out from the laboratory and the closing credits.
Even Daniel Cassidy gets a reasonably happening ending. Last episode, he finally answered his destiny and became the Blue Devil which allowed him to save Liz and Abby from the Conclave mercs. He believes that it is now necessary to go out into the world and find out what he is supposed to do with his new powers. We saw before that a force kept him trapped in Marais, but this time as he speeds over the town line he is allowed to escape and is free!
2. These violent delights have violent ends
Following Swamp Thing’s escape from the Conclave/Sunderland facility, Nathan Ellery decides that it is time to bring in the serious muscle, including a surprise appearance by Jake Busey as the leader of the mercenaries. Their mission is to bring back whatever they can of Swamp Thing. The target in question already knows that the soldiers are coming though, so he has time to prepare. Some of those preparations involve sprouting really cool wooden armor spikes on his shoulders. Needless to say, the soldiers themselves are not prepared for what they are about to encounter. Swamp Thing draws them into a trap, encircles them with aggressive vines (that sound like angry snakes for some reason-why do vines always sound like angry snakes?), and then physically attacks them causing them to flee. We later see Swamp Thing catching Ellery and warns him and the Conclave away from Marais and the Swamp. And that is the ignominious end of that plot line.
This bit gave us some more action than we are used to seeing in Swamp Thing. It particularly stands out compared to the more contemplative horror tone the show started off with. I see it mainly as a quick way for the writers to tie off the ends of the Conclave.
3. Game over man! Game over!
In the same vein as the violent ends, a few of the characters end up having some pretty bad ends, in particular the Cables. Sheriff Lucilia overplayed her hand with Avery Sunderland, allowing him to escape from her attempted murder. It seems that Sunderland was willing to let that go once he had come back into his power in Marais. But then she had to go and refuse him access to his son, hunky deputy Matt. I think that was the last straw. After Lucilia seemed convinced that Matt was recovering well, she heads home on his urging. Sunderland is waiting in her car and drives his hunting knife through her seat, back, and chest. He finishes her off by locking her in the sheriff’s car trunk and sinking it in the Swamp.Continued below
Her son, hunky deputy Matt (who did not die last episode), also seems to meet a grim end in the post-credits coda. For some reason, after being discharged from the hospital, Matt goes back to the Sheriff’s office to pick up some things. When he gets there the whole place has been torn up by something and strangely overgrown with plants. Investigating, he finds another deputy dead with wooden spikes piercing his body. Looking around more he finds someone, or should I say something else. Dr. Woodrue, having consumed pieces of Swamp Thing earlier, has become a giant plant-like creature with homicidal tendencies. The camera pans away as Matt screams. I do not think his end was very clean.
On an end note, Avery Sunderland’s last scene does not bode well for him but also calls back to the very start of the series. After sending Lucilia to the bottom the Swamp, he gets back into his car (I’ll admit I was rather confused at how he got both his car and the Sheriff’s car to the Swamp at the same time) and begins coughing. Eventually he coughs up some sort of plant matter in his hand and we’re left assuming that he has contracted the Green Flu.
4. Loose Ends
Swamp Thing originally was planned to be thirteen episodes long and after they began shooting the order was reduced to ten. And then it was cancelled. The writers tried their best, but it is reasonable to expect that there are some loose ends left hanging (and the episode is rather cheekily titled “Loose Ends”). The first major loose end is Dr. Jason Woodrue. As I mentioned earlier, he ends up ingesting part of the organs harvested from Swamp Thing in an attempt to cure his wife (who did not die last episode either). The mutagens in those organs cause him to transform and finally become a version of The Floronic Man – a plant/human hybrid that seems much like Swamp Thing, but does not have the connection to the Green. When we last see woody Woodrue, he is about to attack and presumably kill Matt Cable and we have no idea what he’s going to do after that (beyond trying to find and “rescue” his wife).
Another major loose end left hanging is the Conclave. We saw through the second half of the season that the Conclave had entwined its vines into many places, including the CDC. Swamp Thing manages to frighten off Nathan Ellery, but it’s hard to believe that such an insidious organization would leave it just there. Another mystery that we will never find the answer to.
Finally there is the Darkness. It had been positioned as a great supernatural evil threatening Marais. It was raising specters from the dead and exposing fear-inducing infections (remember that episode?). I think we are supposed to take heart that Abby and Swamp Thing are resolved to stand firm together against the Darkness, but it still leaves all the questions.
Then there are the other smaller loose ends. Whatever happened to Liz’s investigation in Sunderland’s debts? What of the hints about the network of fishermen her girlfriend was running? Even this episode had its dropped plot lines. Near the beginning, Abby declares that she is going to investigate this Conclave thing by talking to Maria, which gets sidetracked by Liz telling her Maria was committed by Sunderland (let’s stop to appreciate the fact that the facility allows both Madame Xanadu and Abby access to Maria’s room and they’re not locked in). What was the Phantom Stranger’s plan for Cassidy and Swamp Thing?
What about Abigail Arcane’s past? We barely find out anything about why she was raised by the Sunderlands. Her father is a preeminent villain in the Swamp Thing canon, but he merely showed up here as a nightmare image. What was so important about Abby that poor Cassidy was trapped in Marais for eight years?
So here we are. The last thought on the last episode. I figured it would be a good opportunity to look at the show as a whole and to consider what might have been.
I feel that Swamp Thing started off pretty strong. It was a slow start, to be sure, focused on building a world for the viewer and spending time with its characters. I am a big fan of TV shows that take their time with their exposition so that when the shit hits the fan later on, the outcome does not appear out of thin air and the viewer is more invested in it. As a complete Swamp Thing neophyte, I think that the show did a good job introducing its range of characters that I could understand, even if I had never read the source materials. As the show progressed and I spent some time researching more, I also grew to appreciate the way the show adapted key elements from the comics – it made it comforting for long time fans while also softening the entrance for newcomers. I was impressed at the range of characters the show reached out and pulled into its plot from all over the dark corners of the DC Comics world and at its apparent devotion to diversity in its cast. It’s hard to achieve a good balance like that. Even throwaway episodes like “The Darkness on the Edge of Town” are welcome diversions… if the show has the time.Continued below
And that’s where we get to the crux of the issue: Swamp Thing really was not given the time it needed to grow as planned. As mentioned earlier, its original thirteen episode order was cut to ten episodes and it was rumored that a three season arc was planned with it ultimately leading to a Justice League Dark spinoff series. Thinking about how the show could have run 30-40 episodes really makes some of the early production decisions make sense. We’re lucky that the showrunners had enough time to even give us the conclusions we got.
I’ve spent some time thinking about what could have been different if Swamp Thing had been originally pitched as a ten episode limited series (I’m a huge fan of the limited series idea because they usually allow for a complete narrative arc). I probably would have left the pilot the same since it worked as a great introduction to Marais and the early conflicts and ended with Holland’s death, so Swamp Thing would be able to show up next episode. I would likely have cut out a lot of the supernatural elements, focusing more on ecological factors like deforestation and pollution. Woodrue would have been introduced and become the Floronic Man sooner to give Swamp Thing a physically equal foe. Sunderland would have been the Big Bad, with maybe a hint of the Conclave in a finale post-credit scene to hint of the larger world outside Marais.
So that’s maybe what I would have done within the show’s current constraints. But what if the show had continued? I want to throw that question out to all of you Swamp Walkers. What would you have liked to see happen if DC Universe had continued Swamp Thing to the rumored 3 seasons? What characters would you have liked to see show up? What favorite arcs from the comics should have been included? What do you think the grand plan for everything should have been?
Thanks everyone for coming along on this Swampy ride with me each week. I am honestly going to miss this show and even more going to regret its lost potential. Hopefully DC figures out another way to bring Swamp Thing to new audiences. Until then he will just be a figure in the fog watching over all of planet Earth.