Swamp Thing Season 1 Review
Two episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
Even as a diehard DC fan, I must confess that I was somewhat surprised when I first learned that Swamp Thing would be among the first shows to premiere on the DC Universe streaming service. After all, this character has mostly been a cult favorite for much of his publishing history, though a surge in pop culture notoriety did occur back in the early 1990’s.
If you’re old enough to remember, then you should recall when Swampy was fresh off two feature films and couple TV shows starring him were developed. One was a bizarre anthology-style live action series, while the other was animated – and had a goofy theme song to boot (it was “Swamp Thing,” sung to the tune of “Wild Thing”). Naturally, a toy line spawned from the latter, which was much appreciated by a seven-year-old Eric Joseph.
In the time since, I’ve kept the character at arm’s length because Batman and various other superheroes have captured my interest on a greater level, but my admiration for Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson’s brainchild has never died. As such, I went into the latest effort highly curious to see how it could be pulled off.
Without a doubt, securing some big names behind the camera certainly helped. Though James Wan (Aquaman, The Conjuring) serves as executive producer only, putting his name on this does afford it a certain seal of quality. And if you’re wondering why there’s excellent cinematography and thick atmosphere from the get-go, it’s probably because Len Wiseman (Underworld, Total Recall) directed the first two episodes.
Make no mistake, this is most certainly a work of horror if we’re to slap a genre label on it. For the Vertigo readers amongst you, that should come as good news – especially if you didn’t dig the aforementioned live action series from a couple decades ago. DC Universe has become known for mature, no holds barred programming, and this is no exception. Graphic violence is to be witnessed, but don’t expect nearly as many F-bombs as Doom Patrol would fire off in any given episode.
Something I think you should know going in is to expect a slow burn. If you guessed the pilot episode would serve as an origin story, then you assumed correctly because you’re going to acquaint yourself with Alec Holland (Andy Bean) for the bulk of that installment. Honestly, it may be more accurate to describe Abby Arcane (played by Gotham alum Crystal Reed) as the central character because she’s given top billing and guides us through this world in a sense. Furthermore, she manages to steal each scene she’s in.
Basically, Abby, an employee of the Centers for Disease Control, is brought back to the town of Marais thanks to a strange medical mystery. It’s there she meets the enigmatic Holland as they bond over getting to the bottom of this case – with hints they could be something more than just colleagues.
If you know how the tale normally goes, then you’re aware of how they aren’t fated to get too cozy before Alec’s tragic accident/origin. I’m going to stop right there as not to spoil the newbies, but you shouldn’t pick this up thinking it’s a rom-com. Still, you’re free to write all the dirty fan fiction your heart desires.
What’s kind of funny about this situation is that despite watching a plant guy walking around and the incorporation of supernatural elements, it feels like the most grounded and realistic DC Universe show to date. That sounds contradictory, sure, but you’ll know what I mean once you see it in context.
In my view, it’s the second episode where this series really hits its stride. I’m saying that because, if you don’t care much for the pilot, then you should still stick around a little longer. Really, I sincerely believe the story finds its footing with the second chapter, and manages to give us an idea of what this Swamp Thing truly has in store.
Though I’m not at liberty to say much about the second installment, know that’s when you’ll see more of the creature itself. I’m very much delighted that Derek Mears was cast as the Avatar of the Green, having already seen him as Jason Voorhees in 2009’s Friday the 13th and as the Predator in, well, Predators. He’s a natural fit for a gig such as this, bringing great presence along with him. Plus, he happens to be a comic book geek in real life, so I’m sure he was loving every minute on set.
Before I get out of here, I have to be completely honest in saying that Swamp Thing hasn’t exactly enthralled me in the same way that Titans did, nor does it possess the majesty of the batshit crazy Doom Patrol. Regardless, my gut tells me this bad boy will really go places. With the works of Alan Moore, Nancy A. Collins and Scott Snyder at the disposal of the writing team, there’s no reason why the show can’t achieve greatness.
At this point, you’ve probably gathered that I’m conflicted and impressed at the same time. Perhaps you’ll feel the same way once you arrive at the same checkpoint in this new Swamp Thing saga as I. Face it: DC Universe has yet to disappoint, so I’m all in.
Though it gets off to somewhat of a slow start, DC Universe's Swamp Thing may yet achieve the same greatness of its comic book counterpart.