Welcome back to the Swamp my friends! This week I am looking at episode two of Swamp Thing, “Worlds Apart.” I want to briefly recognize the news that DC Universe has already announced the cancellation of Swamp Thing, despite only a single episode airing at announcement time. As I would like to continue celebrating everything this show is bringing for us, I am not going to dwell much on this news for now. It likely will be something I plan to talk about when I recap the show’s finale in a few weeks time. Now don your waders and put on some extra insect repellent because it’s time to get talking.
This episode spends a good deal of time looking at how people deal with grief. Abby struggles to figure out how she feels about Alec Holland’s apparent death. She had only known him for a day (a pretty long day, but still only a day), but it was clear she had already developed some form of feelings for him. The show really pulls on our heartstrings when she finds Alec’s video log and he talks about meeting her. Though, thinking of that video log now, it does seem an odd thing for him to record when he goes out collecting the “accelerant” boxes. It seemed like the recording Abby watches was done when he he goes out to collect the boxes, but it’s unclear when that would have ended up on his goofy landlord’s computer. We also see Abby reflecting on Alec when she has a drink with Liz, her journalist friend.
Abby’s grief over Alec pales next to the grief Maria Sunderland still feels for her daughter, Shawna, who died tragically years before in some fashion we have yet to fully learn about. Obviously Abby’s return to Marais has dredged up bad feelings for Maria and she reverts to behaviors that trouble her husband. He wakes up one morning and finds that she slept in the bed in Shawna’s old room, which of course has not been touched in the intervening years. She remarks that she used to do this all the time when Shawna was alive and liked to listen to her breathe. It worth remembering this mention at the final scene of the episode where we see Maria in Shawna’s bed again, only this time with the ghostly apparition of her daughter. Maria’s grief also drives her to visit Madame Xanadu, who was the old black lady we saw briefly at the dive bar last episode. Xanadu seems to have the ability to see or communicate with spirits, a service that Maria has used before. Seeing Maria struggle with her grief goes a long way in deepening the nature of her character to the viewer. She came across as extremely adversarial in the last episode, giving Abby her walking orders to leave Marais as soon as the investigation ends. Here she seems to be human and in extreme emotional pain, even after all these years.
2. Bizarre Love Triangle
There is a really cute bit in this episode where we find out that Deputy Matt from last episode is the son of Sheriff Lucilia Cable (played by Jennifer Beals) and she calls him out on believing he has a shot with Abby as she will be leaving Marais at some point and going back to her life in Atlanta. We learn that he has carried a torch for Abby for years, and he adorably blurts this out to her when they head out into the Swamp to look for Susie Coyle. He mentions that it was the reason why he stared at her during prom because he was trying to work up the nerve to ask her dance. Abby, being Abby, was oblivious to this.
On the other leg of the triangle we have Alex Holland, also known as Swamp Thing. As I mentioned earlier, Abby definitely started developing feelings for Alec that could have progressed beyond just friendship. Just because he is a vegetation-covered avatar of the Swamp and mostly everyone thinks that he is dead is no reason to believe that he and Abby could not have some sort of relationship. Something that DC Universe‘s promo materials clearly worked to promote as seen in this teaser for the show.Continued below
It is entirely possible that the show is going to set us up with a very weird love triangle for Abby between the hunky sheriff’s deputy and the monster from the Swamp. And she will be forced to choose between the vastly different worlds – hey maybe that’s what the episode title is ultimately referring to!
3. Do you Believe in Magic?
I think this episode starts to answer the question I had last week about whether the show was going to remain fully grounded on comic book science or was it going to explore the mystical side of the universe. And that answer is yes, there will be some magic in the show’s developments. When Maria visits Madame Xanadu, a well-known magical figure in DC comics lore, to commune with the spirit of her daughter, they are both struck by some sort of supernatural or paranormal shock. Xanadu mentions that there has been a shift in “the balance between the Light and the Dark.” She speaks of some vast, dark, and powerful out in the Swamp. It’s possible that this is the genius loci of the Swamp – the spirit that is acting against those seeking to injure it and acted to transform Alec into Swamp Thing. So far, the Sunderlands have been positioned as the villains for this season, but this seems to muddy the waters as Maria and Xanadu are clearly frightened of this dark presence and see it as an evil force. It will be interesting to see what sort of posturing the writers will settle on to describe this upcoming conflict.
Little Susie Coyle’s connection to Alec is another sign of the mystical forces at hand. It seems that whatever is infecting her has linked her to the spirit in the Swamp and to Swamp Thing. There was that great scene at the start of the episode where we see this link. A confused Alec pulls and rips at the vegetation covering him, but the movements are synchronized with Susie pulling the medical sensors off herself. It was impossible to tell which of them was directing the actions, and I don’t think either character knew either. The connection between the two shows up near the end when Swamp Thing responds to Susie’s peril and saves her from Sunderland’s hired goon and when we learn that she can actually speak to Alec-as-Swamp-Thing.
4. Would you, Woodrue?
We also got introduced to the Drs. Woodrue in this episode. This pair of scientists seems like they will operate both as a source of comic relief as well progressing our knowledge of what is happening in the Swamp. Jason Woodrue is definitely one of those “smarter-than-thou-and-an-asshole-about-it” people, and his poor wife is responsible for making sure he doesn’t offend away all his funding. I’m rather looking forward to seeing him cross swords with Abby at some point, if he doesn’t get distracted providing tree care advice (I wonder whether he will have grooming tips for Swamp Thing). Woodrue was the one responsible for designing the biological accelerant being dumped in the Swamp, and Sunderland has called him to task for the townsfolk falling ill; of course he thinks this is all possible. A point in Woodrue’s favor, though, was the way he stood up to Sunderland and insisting he refers to his wife as doctor.
5. Creature Design
This episode gives us our first real look at the show’s titular hero, and I really dig it.
It has an appropriately hulking menace with a distinctive profile that I think will work well in some of the limited light environments that this show likes to use. It is also telling of the show’s confidence in its makeup and costume that they are willing to give us some really nice well-lit close-ups of the face. The design seems grounded in the realities of the show, but also hearkens back to the original comic design. He also comes across as totally alien to a human eye, which is an interesting aspect for a heroic character. This one of the things that drew me to the show, despite never having read the comics – I really like the idea of exploring the tensions that will exist about whether Marais will accept a hero that is so extremely other from them.Continued below
– Last week I complained about Abby’s lack of epidemiological safety, and of course she is not the only one. Near the start of the episode, Abby’s partner, Harlan, enters a quarantined room and the first thing he does is remove the mask he was wearing. Need I remind you that they are still dealing with an unknown illness and have no idea how it’s transmitted? In the same vein, what idiot puts a quarantined patient into a room with a window that can be opened?
– One of the things that TV shows have done really well lately is avoiding the “annoying kid” problem and Swamp Thing succeeds so far. I was really impressed with how clever Susie was in getting out to the Swamp and in her attempts to escape the goon.
– The show threw some uncertainty our way when Abby went and spoke to Sunderland. Right before she leaves, her friend Liz warns that Sunderland is a master manipulator. This led me to question the sincerity in everything he said and did in the following scene.
– I also appreciated the way the show casually introduced Liz as lesbian (Happy Pride Month!) and we found out that she cannot make good coffee.
Thanks again for joining me and always remember to wear your medical mask when you enter a quarantine area. See you all next week!