This episode of Swamp Thing is our first real opportunity to see an average episode. Last week’s outing was good. However, it had to address the fallout of the pilot episode. It needed to resolve some of those immediate threads. That out of the way, this week was another solid outing for Swamp Thing.
The Story So Far
There is a lot to track this week; way beyond the main narrative threads of Abby, Alec, and the Sunderlands.
Abby, Alec, and Swamp Thing
Abby, having been involved with the rescue of Susie the night before is too concerned to celebrate. Susie’s implication that the creature in the swamp is Alec is alarming, unsettling, and surprisingly accepted by Abby. Her friend Liz is also surprisingly accepting of this potential fate of Alec Holland. There is little time for the pair to dwell, however. The illness that has ravaged the town is getting worse.
Abby arrives at the hospital to learn that the CDC has sent in a superior from Atlanta. She also learns that Harlan, her investigative partner, has also contracted the Marais sickness. Desperate for answers to the issue of the disease and the fate of Alec, Abby sets out for Alec’s lab. Liz asks Margeaux to keep an eye out at Skeeter Cove for any evidence of the fate of Alec Holland.
The episode opened with a scene where Alec found himself wandering a swamp. He encounters the man that Swamp Thing murdered recently in protecting Susie. The man warns him that he will be coming back for Alec. In the real world, Swamp Thing wanders away from his remains. As he leaves, swarms of insects converge and the remains and reanimate it.
Conflict at the Lab
At the lab of Alec Holland, Abby searches for notes but is interrupted by invading insects. This culminates with the insect-reanimated corpse of the man who Swamp Thing killed arriving. Swamp Thing soon arrives, warning the zombie to leave Abby alone, before settling the matter in a destructive fight. Swamp Thing, however, sees the zombie is suffering and manages to release him. She realizes that Swamp Thing is Alec, but has no way to help him.
She returns to the hospital, armed with knowledge from Swamp Thing that the illness is fighting back. This is because of the increased antibiotics. She manages to save the currently ill from a hasty death by reducing the treatment.
At the bar, later, she shares a dance with Matt Cable as Swamp Thing watches from a distance.
The tenuous alliance between Avery and Maria Sunderland fractures further this week as financial pressures and a haunting exacerbate the current problems.
Avery finds himself trying to right the ship of his swamp research investments. He is confronted by his loan source, however. It turns out that Avery is underwater on a series of off-the-books loans from the bank. His partner in crime, Gordon Haas, is getting cold feet from Liz Tremaine’s investigation. After a tense confrontation at the Sunderland residence at dinner, Haas departs and Avery begins to spiral. During questioning by Sheriff Lucilia Cable he tries to rekindle a romance with her while Maria is in the house. Later, under the guise of wanting to help Maria deal with her pain, he tries to press her for a loan of her family’s money. She ends up cutting him off.
Cornered and angry, Avery waits for Gordon at the man’s house. The confrontation becomes violent and Avery murders Gordon in a bathtub with a golf club. During the dispassionate clean-up of the crime-scene, Liz arrives at Gordon’s house to talk to him. Avery does not answer the door, but he does notice Liz.
Maria, meanwhile, continues her downward spiral as the spirit of Shawna continues to haunt her and discusses Avery’s infidelities. Is Shawna truly a ghost? Or is this a manifestation of guilt and a sign of Maria’s awareness of Avery’s indiscretions?
Strange Voodoo and Slipping Memories
Margeaux, out at Skeeter Cove, discovers the first major clue to the fate of Alec Holland; she finds part of the boat, filled with bullet holes. This direct evidence of murder will certainly change the trajectory of the case. Early Sheriff Lucilia Cable had plans to close it.
Lucilia, introduced in the last episode, continues to illustrate the small-town conflict of interests that appear with the police as she finds herself again speaking ill of Abby to her son. her later encounter with Avery, referencing a past history of infidelity with him, also proves problematic.
Jason Woodrue makes a less than charming introduction to Abby Arcane conducting an autopsy of the remains of Eddie Coyle. His arrogance and disconnect from the human element of the disease do not endear him to Dr. Arcane. Later on, though, Woodrue is revealed to have his own trauma as he discusses his findings with his wife, Caroline. In a heartbreaking moment, Caroline forgets that she had taken her medication already, a sign of the escalation of early-onset Alzheimers.
The most curious development for the surrounding characters, however, involves Nimue Xanadu and Daniel Cassidy. Daniel has apparently been stuck in Marais for years and has had the same, repeated tarot readings from Xanadu. The reading depicts “the fool,” “the hanged man,” and “the wheel.” However, something has begun to change the fate of Daniel, as his new reading is identical, only with “the wheel” reversed. Just what has kept Daniel in Marais and what has changed for him now?
What Stood Out
For an episode the was so densely packed with storylines, the developments were handled well and did not feel too crowded. The presence of increasing concern from the CDC makes a lot of sense and will certainly keep the pressure on Abby.
The insect-filled zombie of the murderer was incredibly gross and creepy and served as a great “monster of the week” that introduced a number of questions about the nature of the swamp.
Derek Mears, as the Swamp Thing, did a fantastic job in a role that, in lesser hands, is little more than a lumbering brute. Mears’ voice is fantastic and the body language of the Swamp Thing really sells the pain and struggle Alec is facing in this new form. Additionally, being able to see Andy Bean as Alec in the “green” this week served as an excellent reminder of the humanity present within the Swamp Thing when it comes to guilt and trauma.
The Final Verdict on Swamp Thing
“He Speaks” was an excellent outing for a show that is quickly becoming the best adaptation of Swamp Thing in a live-action form. With any luck, the remaining seven episodes will not be the last of this swamp-scum covered gem of a series.
That being said, the show, visually, is still incredibly dark. This likely will not change for the rest of the season, so we’ll just need to accept it for now.
(4.5 / 5)
The big comic connection this week, beyond the strange meeting between Xanadu and Cassidy, is the reference to the Conclave. We’re not going to dive too deep into that, though. Let’s see how all this plays out over the next batch of episodes.
Instead, let us look at the implications of the nature of Alec’s/Swamp Thing’s existence. Just as they had a connection to Susie Coyle due to the illness, there too was some form of connection between them and Susie’s attempted murderer. The implication for comic fans, here, should be that this is “the Green” in action taking in the essence and memories of those who are absorbed by the natural world. It could be something in line with Alan Moore’s stunning retcon of the character when he took over the comics.
Secondly, the nature of the zombification through insects may be hinting at the New 52 concept of “the Rot.” We’ll see in the coming weeks about that.