If you’ve not seen episode 1 of the new Swamp Thing series, you may be disappointed to find that the following contains various spoilers.
The Swamp Thing series premiered last Friday (5/31) and I’ve watched it a half dozen times to take in all its glory. The first episode is a thrilling, new take on Swamp Thing sure to leave some fans scratching their heads, and others on the edge of their seats. All the pieces are there, however they fit together differently than you’re use to.
The title sequence is beautifully produced and telling of what’s to come. The amazing design and motion graphics blend maps of Louisiana with elements of human anatomy, alluding to earth and human merging together to represent Swamp Thing. The sequence also alludes to the fate of the Sunderland daughter (who we see briefly in the episode) on the bridge.
Various visuals depict the town being turned upside down, underwater and overcome by natural elements. Fire burns atop the swamp water while skulls settle below. Telephone poles lean at various angles as if a hurricane hit. A police car slowly sinks away from the surface of the water. A sign reading, “Leaving Marais y’all come back” sinks into the murky depths as it breaks apart in three pieces (Marais being the name of the town that is used in place of Houma, Louisiana).
Alec Holland’s swamp lab falls, breaking apart. Madame Xanadu’s hands reveal a deck of Tarot cards. “L’Empereur” and “La Morte” are the cards easiest to identify. What looks like a woman’s putrified, decayed arm, wrapped in ivy, drips a thick, dark, liquid that looks like blood. The title sequence alludes to a grave future for the small town of Marais, Louisiana. Death and destruction are on the way and Swamp Thing will be in the thick of it.
Friend and Swamp Thing Correspondent, Randi passed along this great tarot reading for “La Morte” from Wikipedia. It’s spot on for what Alec is going through.
The app, Labyrinthos is the source for the following “L’Empereur“ card reading.
It may be worth noting that the town, Marais is French for, Swamp. This may be due to the town being on a Swamp, or perhaps the town is one with the swamp. Maybe the show creators wanted more of a French sounding town to create a stronger connection with New Orleans? Regardless, t’s an interesting choice when Houma sounds just fine as is.
The episode begins with a familiar scene. Much like the film, The Return of Swamp Thing, a group of men have ventured into the dark, sinister swamp to meet their fate. The three men in this episode have far more nefarious plans. From the start of the episode, I couldn’t help but to compare it to the USA series from 1991. For those who remember the wackiness in episode one from that series, this is a breath of fresh air.
Right out of the gate the show depicts the swamp as a vengeful entity. The swamp has been poisoned and polluted by a biological growth accelerant, giving it aggressive, sentient powers. There’s no limit to the strength it possesses, and lately it’s been violent toward those who harm it. The kicker is, Swamp Thing isn’t even in the episode yet.
In contrast, the original Swamp Thing origin in comics (1971), we learned that Alec was turned into a monster with help from his bio-restorative formula. From there, we begin the long journey of learning his capabilities and strengths. It’s my assumption that in changing the Swamp Thing origin story in the tv show, writers present the all-powerful and vengeful nature/swamp to get viewers used to what Swamp Thing will be capable of. It also positions the viewer to wonder, “will this Swamp Thing be as violent and angry as the vegetation he spawned from?” Perhaps to help expedite origin exposition in the tv show, the destruction that Swamp Thing will be capable of is quickly introduced. This different take on the origin allows the viewer to be thrown into the scenario, more fitting for the overt horror style the show presents. It’s an engaging, alternative introduction for our favorite muck-monster.
A few VHS tapes can be seen in Alec Holland’s lab toward the end of the episode. The tapes are, The Matrix and City of Angels. For those familiar with the two movies can draw parallels and some foreshadowing for Alec/Swamp Thing. In the Matrix, Neo sees behind the curtain of reality and in City of Angels, Nicholas Cage plays a guardian angel over the woman he loves.
Regarding key characters:
First and foremost, the Swamp is the main character. It thrills and dominates the episode. It serves as the lifeblood for the town of Marais. Due to the biological growth accelerant, the swamp is bent on punishing anyone that hurts it. The Sunderlands appear to have as strong of a presence, if not greater, than the CDC who’s descended upon Marais, Louisiana. The CDC is called into town as a group of residents have turned up infected by an unknown poison. The threat is dire enough to assign CDC scientist Abby Arcane back to her hometown of Marais to assist in the matter. Alec Holland is on the scene-a Sunderland Corp scientist who’s been asked by Avery Sunderland himself, to stop searching for the cause of the poisonous outbreak. As it goes, the determined, charismatic Alec Holland ignores the request and aissists Abby Arcane. Matt Cable makes a brief appearance. We find out he’s an old friend of Abby’s and is a police officer of four years in Marais. He’s tasked with assisting in the case. Madam Xanadu and Liz Tremayne round out the classic character appearances. The two make brief appearances while Abby and Alec search for information at the local bar.
I’m really looking forward to finding out who shot Alec. My theory is: the dog in Alec’s lab (much like the dog from the ST #1 origin story from 1971) has a mic in its collar allowing Avery Sunderland to listen in on Alec at all times. BUT I don’t think Avery shot him. I think Woodrue is working for Sunderland, pulling the strings and making the biological growth accelerant formula. Who enjoys toying with nature more than Woodrue? (I know. But, poison Ivy won’t be showing up in this show). Perhaps they’ll spin that off into the “Anatomy Lesson” style of story and Woodrue can explain to Alec why he is the way he is! Stay tuned.