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It is regrettable that Swamp Thing was not renewed by DC Universe before the second episode aired. More to the point, it is regrettable that the show was not renewed, period. The second episode of Swamp Thing is a strong expansion of the pilot. Of course, it presents a great deal to chew on.

The Story so Far

There are two major plot-threads to track during this episode.

We had to brighten this shot a bit, but hell yes

Abby and Alec

Reeling from the apparent death of Alec Holland, Dr. Abby Arcane continues her CDC work in Marais. The illness from the swamp is still spreading. Local police have also tied up a solid source of information by turning Alec’s lab into a crime scene.

She finds comfort with Liz Tremane and meets Liz’s partner, Margeaux. Abby and Liz then seek out potential leads for Alec’s information. Abby visits Avery Sunderland (Will Patton) in an attempt to gain access to the lab he funded for Alec’s research. Avery ultimately refuses to grant the CDC access to the research as it is all proprietary. However, he and Abby find some form of reconnection regarding the death of Avery’s daughter, Shawna.

Abby and Liz later make their way to the room that Alec rented from Daniel Cassidy (Ian Zierling). Cassidy is a former actor and video-store owner. Abby finds some video logs from Alec and watches them for evidence. Ultimately, she finds herself missing him. During this time, she learns that Susie has fled the hospital into the swamps.

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Susie has a mysterious connection to the Swamp Thing and seeks him out in the swamp. However, she accidentally witnesses a game officer being murdered by two men hired to retrieve the mutagen dispersal devices. Fleeing from the particularly malicious of the pair, she is rescued by the Swamp Thing in a particularly brutal sequence.

Abby tracks down Susie who is with the Swamp Thing. On a boat with Matt Cable, Susie reveals to Abby that the Swamp Thing is frightened and alone. She also says his name is Alec.

A Family of Secrets

Regarding the Sunderlands, Maria (Virginia Madsen) consults Madame Xanadu (Jeryl Prescott) about the pain of losing her daughter. Maria has been dealing with it for years. Trying to help, Xanadu uses her powers to bring comfort. Yet, the balance of good and evil has shifted in the swamp. Xanadu warns Maria to move on from her pain. She does not, however. At the end of the episode, she is seen with a manifestation of the long-dead Shawna, in her bedroom.

Jason Woodrue (Kevin Durand)

Avery, meanwhile, is using his power in town to clean up the mess that came with the mutagen research. Concerned the research is responsible for the illnesses, he summons two of his consultants. These two are Caroline and Jason Woodrue (Selina Anduze and Kevin Durand). He tasks them, the inventors of the accelerant, to determine if the accelerant is at fault for the local illnesses.

What Stood Out

Swamp Thing’s second episode is a strong follow-up to the pilot that continues what works about the show. The show is all in when it comes to the mutilation and mutation of bodies both to and around the Swamp Thing. One particularly grizzly sequence features a psychic connection between Susie and the Swamp Thing. In shock and pain, he tears away chunks of his form, which Susie feels. Each tear is visceral and has amazing Foley work.

Relationships between characters are also developing at a solid pace, even as new characters are introduced. The scene between Abby and Avery is excellent and provides a genuine bit of catharsis with some menace. This week features Abby working with officer Matt Cable who is still very much nursing a flame for her, even after she left Marais. Naturally, there is some tension there that does not manifest at the most appropriate time.

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The key relationship that develops here is, oddly enough, Abby and Alec. Abby doesn’t quite know how she felt about the rogue scientist, but the scene where she watches his video logs is incredibly sweet. It makes for a good way to keep Andy Bean on the show, even as Derek Mears takes over as the Swamp Thing.

The death of the man who was chasing after Susie is also incredibly gross and satisfying. With any luck, the show will be able to keep up that intensity throughout the remainder of the series.

Final Verdict on Swamp Thing

“Worlds Apart” serves to wrap up the basic narrative of the pilot episode in a very satisfying way. It also establishes the new normal of the show with the Swamp Thing quickly being introduced into the action as a violent and mysterious force. The show is also not being weighted down by questionably written relationship drama and instead, these characters are proving to be quite compelling.

The show is still quite dark, visually, and that could be a problem in the long run. We’ll see.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Deep Roots

Two particularly significant DC Comics connections appear this week in the form of Daniel Cassidy, also known as the Blue Devil. Jason Woodrue, also known as the Floronic Man, also makes his first appearance. How far the show is willing to go with their storylines remains to be seen, however. We are likely not going to see an empowered Daniel Cassidy, though wrapping up the season with the origins of the Floronic Man would make a lot of sense.

What a fun moment

The show also presents a much different, more voodoo-oriented take on Madame Xanadu. They have also made her blind as well. Her scene with Maria Sunderland was a real treat, so this should be a great interpretation of the character, despite being outside of the comics wheelhouse.

Please continue to join us each week for the remaining episodes of DC Universe’s Swamp Thing.

David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

Movies n TV

The Boys, Beware the Jabberwock, My Son

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We’ve reached episode five of The Boys. And after the last episode’s emotional bombshells, this one had some much-needed levity.

And then a whole bunch more emotional trauma.

The story

We begin this episode with Homelander and Ryan in a meeting regarding a new teenage show. But Ryan doesn’t want to be on a show. He wants to be an actual hero. He wants to do real good and help people. And Homelander, fresh from his therapeutic killing spree, is in a mood to support his son.

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Antony Starr and Cameron Crovetti in The Boys.

For now.

Meanwhile, The Boys are searching for a virus that can kill sups. The last time we saw this virus, it was in the hands of Neuman. They borrow Stan Edgar from jail and go to the lovely family farm upstate.

There, they discover that Neuman’s been testing temp V on farm animals. And it works as well on them as it does on hamsters. Soon the boys find themselves batting killer sheep, chickens and bulls. Hilarity and blood ensues.

What worked

The first thing we have to talk about is the superpowered animals. This was such a fantastic, hilarious situation. I especially loved the flying homicidal sheep. They were hilarious, unexpected, and incredibly gory. One just doesn’t expect to see a sheep covered in blood and guts. But it was delightful.

Karl Urban in The Boys.

The main pull of this episode, though, is the evolving relationship between Homelander and Ryan.

Homelander realizes that he doesn’t want Ryan to be brought up the same way he was. He wants his son to be happy.

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He isn’t trying to be a better person though, and I think that’s important to remember. He loves his son, and he wants his son to be happy. And if being an actual hero and actually helping people will make Ryan happy right now, then that’s what Homelander is going to do.

Except that, since he doesn’t care about people, he is really bad at being a good person. Which is what led to a director getting beaten to death by his assistant.

I’m not saying this beatdown wasn’t cathartic. I’m just saying that it was maybe not something a good person would endorse.

I honestly think this new desire to be an actual hero is going to make Homelander more dangerous. If such a thing is possible.

What didn’t work

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Of course, this episode wasn’t perfect. It brought to light a weakness that’s been irritating me this whole season. And that is the storyline with Hugh Senior.

What are we doing here?

While Hughie’s dad’s health issues are sad, and the sudden reintroduction of his mother is interesting, it has nothing to do with the rest of the season. Every other storyline blends and ties together. You can’t pull one string without all of them coming unraveled.

But not this story. So far, this storyline could be removed entirely and the whole rest of the season would remain pristine. All this storyline seems to have done is to have popped our main character out of the main storyline altogether.

Hughie’s absence is a deficit. I would have loved to see him freak out over the killer chickens. But I also would have liked to see him work with Neuman. I would have liked him to be there to defend Butcher. I would have liked to see him interacting with any other characters at all.

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At this point, no character is purely good or purely bad. And I think that’s important. I’m invested in the story of every single character. And with three episodes left in the season, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

By the way, if you like my writing you can get my short story, Man In The Woods, on Smashwords and Amazon.

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The Boys, Wisdom of the Ages

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Episode four of The Boys was possibly the darkest episode of the series so far. And I am aware that this alone is an intimidating prospect.

It should be.

The story

Our story in this episode mainly consists of the single most dickish action I have ever seen anyone perform. Sage and Firecracker set up a four-hour show outside Starlight House, to talk about how horrible of a person Annie is.

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Four hours.

Valorie Curry and Susan Heyward in The Boys.

Annie gets everyone out of the building safely but then decides to watch the entire Anti-Annie show. And it is horrific.

The real horror show of this episode, though, is Homelander’s little adventure. After a fight with Ryan, he’s decided to visit his childhood home. Or, at least the place in which he grew up. Because he was raised more like a science experiment than a child.

I don’t think we’ve seen so far exactly what Homelander went through. The horrors he faced as a small child. Things no one should ever have to experience.

Things that the rest of his world will now have to pay for.

What worked

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If you’re paying attention to politics, this episode got way too real. The absolute hypocrisy of our current political situation was on display with superpowers. I especially liked (and by that I mean was enraged by) Firecracker saying that accidentally blinding someone at age thirteen was worse than being an adult and assaulting a minor. Those two things are not the same, and one of them is obviously worse.

Another thing that I appreciated in this episode was the new, and horrific, information we got about Homelander’s childhood.

Do I maybe feel bad for Homelander now? After seeing the dismal and dark little world he was raised in, yeah, I do. That is a monstrous way to treat a child. It’s no wonder he ended up how he is. Even the milk fetish makes more sense. And I am not any more cajoled by the fact that these people were just doing their jobs than Homelander was. That has never been an honest or adequate justification.

This, of course, doesn’t justify the horrors he’s inflicted. It just makes it easier to see how he got to where he is.

Antony Starr in The Boys.

The best fiction inspires strong emotions. It makes us feel things for people who are not real and feel passionate about events that did not happen. It does this by showing us glimmers of real people and real events within these bags of bones and false narratives. And it is because of this that The Boys is succeeding. It’s taking very real moments we are all living through, and embedding them into a fictional narrative. And that’s always going to be more impactful than just burning someone alive.

What didn’t work

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I only had one complaint about this episode. But it did bother me.

When Firecracker’s show starts, Annie makes a point of getting all the kids out of Starlight House to safety. That’s good. But then she sits down with her friends to watch the show.

Why would you watch a four-hour-long live show about why you are a terrible person?

I get asking someone else to watch it and take notes, because in a position like that you need to know what the opposition is saying about you. But for Annie to just watch that unfiltered was asking for trouble. And it’s exactly the sort of trouble that Annie ended up in.

In conclusion, this episode was almost too real. It had my blood boiling. It had me yelling at the TV. And that’s exactly what I want a good story to do.

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We’re halfway through the season now, and I think we’d all better buckle up for what’s coming.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

By the way, if you like my writing you can get my short story, Man In The Woods, on Smashwords and Amazon.

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House of Dragon: S2E3 – Family Feud for Dummies

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In this great episode, we see something we have yet to see in any of the GoT/HoD shows–a dysfunctional family. Wait. I meant, SSDD.

We start out with two people fighting. Why? Why not. I guess they have a blood feud for ages. I mean AGGGGGESSSSSSS. So, of course, we don’t know anything about them what-so-fuck-ever.

Basically, the scene is two girls slapping each other and then one gets an arrow to the knee. The end.

Dead hookers, Kings Hand, and a War Plan

Next up, we have two dead twins, but enough about my sex life. In the show, there are two dead uhhh twins (note to self: deeper holes for twins). Alas poor ermrmm….let’s call them the Ging Twins. We hardly knew. ye.

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Ohhhhh I love this part where a knight that’s fucking the queen and got Poor Sir Ging killed is being late to his first day of class. Naughty Naughty. The rest of the scene is like ‘oh new peeps in white, something something, King is Big Warrior!’. So, this is what it would be like if Joffrey got laid? Hmmmmm….

Daemon arrives at Harrenhal–buyers remorse incoming

Daemon apparently wanted to take over something so he took over a shit hole. It’s almost suspenseful. Almost. I think it would be better to have drug the scene out more to give a sense of how Daemon was thinking about taking this big stronghold but slowly finding out it’s just a ghetto of shit.

For all the grief I give HoD for rehashing old tropes/plots from GoT, this is the one connection that makes sense so far. I like the exploration of a place we hear about in GoT but never got to see much into it. The connection is a way of doing exposition for a series we cared about. This is the first time it really feels like a prequel and not just a stand alone ‘shit pile’ they put the skin of GoT on.

We also get to see something of a character development for Daemon. This is something I really. hope others get a chance to get–characters. Maybe this is just the actor putting everything on his timey-wimey shoulders. Maybe that’s what the real turn for the character is–Matt Smith just going ‘fuck it’ and hitting for the fences.

Rhaenyra’s Diplomatic Mission, Some Politics, and Ser Cole Gets Jiggy Wit It

So like even though you fucked my dad and like made sure I wasn’t queen and then like started a war and like your bastards killed my son and like, you know, maybe we can be friends and end this war?

I heard this part of the scene was ad-lib. The writers had just this for direction: Think of the stupidest thing you can think of for your character to say and just go with it! Oh, and if you can tie in a previous episode of a better show into it–even better!

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While that happens, political people are like ‘lets use a dragon. The show is called house of dragon, not house of weird random call backs to the future happenings of GoT’. Speaking of GoT, remember when the small council meetings were interesting? Like you wanted to know the twists and turns of it? You know why those were better? Because you gave a shit about the characters who made up the council. Even when the Queen remakes her council after her dad’s death, we still cared. We didn’t know them as well, but we cared because we knew the people they replaced were better for the job. So we had an interest in ‘how doth they fucketh this up’.

Here is more like…well, put it this way. Take pictures of the people on both councils. Then cut them into single head shots. Now, shuffle. Can you name the person? Hell, can you even name which side that person is on? That’s my point.

Oh and Cole goes off with the queen’s brother to attack something. A dragon happens. They go awwwhwhwhwhwhwhw!! Then run away like little girls.

Change your whores more than you change your undies

So pirate eye blondie is caught by king blondie using the same whore as he did before. Guess this is what rich kids count as shame.

Oh and surprise to nobody–the Queen admits that maybe Rhaenyra should have been ruler, but shit happens so it’s like too far gone stop now. Let’s have everyone kill each other and that way the gods will decide who the king really meant to give the throne to when he said, ‘I want my daughter Rhaenyra to be ruler’.

Final Comments and rating

It’s starting to pick up, but it seems that every time that it does pick up the writers go ‘fuck it’ and swerve directly into the ditch.

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I don’t think the lack of action is a problem in this series. I think taking things slower in places and cutting down the cast to a manageable number (or at least give them a different look/name type so we can tell them apart) might be the thing needed to bring this show into a better footing. Will it ever be GoT? No. Sadly, I think it’s trying so hard to connect to GoT plots that it waters itself down. Instead of giving us a fascinating look at an older time, we get a constant reminder of just how much we miss GoT. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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