(Hey there Swampettes, if you’re not caught up yet on NOFS’s recaps of Swamp Thing, go to the Swamp Thing recap page to see them all in order. The recaps are in chronological order, so don’t miss out on any sexy, swampy goodness from previous episodes!)
When last we left Avery Sunderland, he had made the transition into full-on villain by murdering his accountant, Gordon Haas. Now, we track with him as he drives out to the swamplands, to dispose of Haas‘s body. Cut in between scenes of Avery burning and burying his old accountant are scenes of Avery growing up. His father, it seems, always considered the boy weak, which see exemplified in a flashback where young Avery refuses to butcher a helpless alligator. In the present day, we can tell by Avery‘s face that he is still deeply affected by his father’s taunting. For all the wealth and power he’s amassed, Avery in many ways is still that little boy, desperately trying to prove himself to his father.
Across the swamp, two get-rich-quick schemers search for prize lumber to sell. They come across a valuable tree and, checking to make sure they haven’t been followed, begin to cut it down. But as one of the men chainsaws the trunk, the other is hit by a small falling object from the branches. This man, Todd, examines the item and sees it’s an old hotel room key. Then, more debris falls from above, and Todd is revolted to learn that it’s human teeth. Todd reels for only a second, and then the owner of those teeth drops on top of him. It’s an old, rotted corpse, and before Todd can summon his buddy to help get it off, the corpse’s teeth dig into Todd‘s arm. Todd and his friend ditch the site, and moments later, Swamp Thing arrives to examine the corpse. If we couldn’t already tell before, the look on Swamp Thing‘s face confirms that something is wrong with this dead body.
The next day, we follow Todd into his real nine-to-five, at Delroy’s Roadhouse. Delroy Tremayne and his daughter Liz greet Todd and ask why he’s a little late. Todd responds that he was up late after an incident in the swamp last night, but promises them he’s “never going back there again.” Todd begins his daily responsibilities. But as Todd gets underway with washing the dishes, his scratch from the corpse’s teeth begins to really bug him. All of a sudden, Todd begins to hallucinate. In his vision, a massive snake crawls up his arm. Todd is so terrified that he takes one of the knives in Delroy‘s kitchen and, in probably the most disturbing moment of Swamp Thing yet, begins to slash away at the imaginary snake on his arm. Blood sprays across the kitchen as Liz and Delroy look on, careful not to approach lest they bet hurt. Finally, Todd throws down the knife and, in a desperate attempt to rid himself of the snake, plunges his hand into the garbage disposal and flips it on. Liz and Delroy finally manage to pull Todd out but Todd resists slightly, scratching Delroy across the back of the neck. HIs hand mangled beyond recognition, Todd drops to the floor and dies of blood loss.
Meanwhile, Abby Arcane and Swamp Thing are speaking at length for the first time. Now that the epidemic seems to have broken, the CDC has left Marais, but Abby still wants to stay behind and help Alec. In order to study what’s changed him, Abby asks for a sample of his DNA, which Swamp Thing provides by producing a vine from the swamp itself. Abby takes the sample back to the lab, where she bumps into Jason Woodrue. Woodrue rudely interrupts her work when he sees the curious nature of the plant she’s studying, asking her if it’s from the swamp. Abby reluctantly tells him more (leaving out Swamp Thing, of course) and Woodrue requests to use his biological expertise to study what he assumes is a strange plant sample. Abby agrees, on the condition that he not tell his boss, Avery Sunderland, about his findings. This isn’t ready to leak to the rest of the world, she states, and Woodrue remarks, “Why would I give a damn about the rest of the world?”
As Abby leaves her lab, Dan Cassidy approaches her. You’ll recall from the last episode that Dan believes Abby to be part of the strange destiny keeping him in Marais, so it won’t surprise you that he tries to learn more about her. However, Abby cuts their conversation short before he can find out much, then heads to check on Susie Coyle. Susie is feeling much better having overcome the worst of the epidemic. Briefly, she mentions Swamp Thing again, but as Abby ties to talk to her about the creature, Avery Sunderland shows up. He makes a grand gesture, inviting everyone at the hospital to a party at his estate, where they’ll celebrate the end of the epidemic. As he’s doing that, Maria awkwardly approaches Abby and asks that she be allowed to sit with Susie. Abby allows her and leaves, but before she goes, she bumps into Avery. They have a tense discussion in which Avery inquires why Abby is still in Marais (if, after all, the epidemic is ended). When Abby gives him an evasive answer, he invites her to the party, pretending everything is good between them.
Back at Delroy’s, the police department takes away the body of Todd. Liz and Delroy give the cops all the info they have, but ultimately come up short. They have no idea why Todd would do what he did. Abby arrives, and just in the nick of time. Delroy’s scratch starts bothering him terribly and he begins to hallucinate, imagining a horrible group of masked killers and the corpse of his mother. Delroy grabs a shotgun to “defend himself” and obliterates his bar. Thankfully, Sheriff Lucilia Cable is there to tackle him, knocking the gun away. Abby, meanwhile, has a sedative from her medical bag she uses to put Delroy under. Delroy finally stops panicking, but not before giving Lucilia a quick, almost unnoticeable scratch on her neck.
Later that night, Avery and Maria prepare for the party they’re throwing, and Maria talks about her experience with Susie. Maria pities her, having lost the only parent she had when Mr. Coyle died. Avery agrees, and we get a glimpse into his past as Avery talks about losing his own father when he was younger. He apologizes to Maria, and the couple reconciles after their fight from the previous episode. Meanwhile, at the hospital, Delroy wakes. We get a glimpse into his past as well as he tells Liz and Abby what he saw during his hallucination. It was a group of thugs from his childhood, who broke into his home, killed his mother, and vanished without a trace. To this day, his memory of them haunts him. Once his story is over, Abby asks him why he thinks the hallucinations happened, and Liz and Delroy tell her about Todd. Whatever happened to him started in the swamp, they say, and Abby figures she should consult Alec for answers.
At the swamp, Abby finds the hotel room key, the body Todd found, and the Swamp Thing, who has been examining the mummified corpse. By stumbling upon the body, says Alec/Swamp Thing, Todd unleashed a “darkness” into Marais, one that attaches itself to a host, making them live their worst nightmares. The darkness, he explains, was passed on through a physical injury. Abby suddenly remembers Delroy scratching Lucilia at the bar, and rushes back into town to help her.
At the Sunderlands‘ party, Maria and Avery find Susie Coyle and ask her to eat with them. Elsewhere, Dan Cassidy wanders around alone, until he bumps into Madame Xanadu. The blind psychic warns Dan of upcoming troubles, troubles that seem to be the reason that the Blue Devil has been in Marais all this time. Across town, Abby picks up Liz in her car. Abby has asked Liz to do some digging into the hotel room key that came with the cursed body, and Liz has uncovered a terrifying story of Marais’s past. According to town records, a World War One veteran staying in Marais caused a town crisis in the 1930s. Apparently, he had visions of his time in the trenches, and in his rage, killed several people. His “madness” seems to spread to others, until finally, one infected man disappeared. That infected man was staying in a local hotel, room 211, and when he disappeared, the town never saw the “madness” again.
Abby makes her way to the Sunderlands‘ party, where that madness has already taken hold of Lucilia Cable. In her nightmare vision, she saw a man stab her son, Matt, and now, Lucilia has her gun drawn, ready to gun down Matt‘s imaginary attacker. Abby arrives but is too far from Lucilia to intervene, and it looks like someone is about to get hurt. Fortunately, Dan Cassidy appears out of nowhere, tackling Lucilia and sending the gun skittering away. Abby then approaches Lucilia. When she reaches out a hand to help the sheriff, Lucilia fights back, scratching Abby and passing the darkness along to her. Now, Abby‘s got to get back to the swamp before anything bad happens.
But the curious disease Lucilia passes to on to her works quickly. Once she arrives at the swamp, Abby is greeted by a nightmare from her past, a strange, faceless man who claims to have known her long ago. Suddenly, Abby is a little girl again, and this faceless thing before her taunts her before picking her up by the throat and choking her. But in reality, the thing before her is Swamp Thing, not holding her by the throat, but gently cradling her as she beats him and, eventually, scratches him. The darkness makes its way to the Swamp Thing, who stumbles away from Abby. He finds and lays his hands on the dead body from the beginning of the episode, and as vines stretch out from his fingertips, releases the darkness back into its original host. Swamp Thing explains to a recovering Abby that this was the man from the ’30s, who purposely lost himself in the swamp to protect those he loved from the disease. Vines rise up from the marsh and gently, kindly, carry the body back into the murk.
We briefly return to the Sunderlands‘, where Maria and Avery discuss the potential of adopting Susie. Avery says he cares for the child, which is why he’s keeping the Woodrues in Marais to continue studying the epidemic. Plus, says Avery, it’s nice having a child back in their home. Outside, Susie‘s legal guardian waits under cover of night for a meeting with Avery. Avery appears and hands him a check for a substantial amount of money, and the man, Lee Coyle, asks why Avery wants to adopt her. It turns out, it’s not fatherly affection that’s bonding him to Susie. Jason Woodrue needs to continue his work on the virus, Avery explains, and for that, he’ll need a test subject.
Finally, we find ourselves back in the swamp, where Abby explains to Swamp Thing what she saw in her infected state, a nightmare from her childhood that started just after her mother died. When Abby asks Swamp Thing how he knew what to do to end the darkness, he replies that “the trees and plants are talking to me.” Abby asks him why all of this is happening, and Swamp Thing tells her that something has shifted the balance of life and death in Marais. All of the horrific, supernatural occurrences are going on because the natural order is out of alignment. “I’m scared for you, Abby,” says the creature. “This is only the beginning.”
In a show that already does horror really well, I thought “Darkness on the Edge of Town” especially shines. The dark disease that drove this episode was rooted in fear, and the creators behind Episode Four did not squander that opportunity. I reeled watching Todd slice up his own arm, and adding the plot element of past darkness in Marais was an excellent Derry, Maine-style touch. However, I did think that this episode was lacking as a continuation of the overall story. Shawna‘s ghost, which seemed to be a huge plot point in the previous episode, didn’t show up at all, nor did the Sunderlands‘ marital problems that lead to her coming back. Also, no one seems concerned that Gordon Haas has disappeared, but to be fair, Marais citizens have a lot to worry about right now. All in all, I guess I just wanted more answers from this episode than we got, but that’s just in regards to the overarching story. As a standalone episode, “Darkness on the Edge of Town” might have been the best-made episode yet.
We’ll be back soon with more recaps as the Swamp Thing saga continues on DC Universe. Until then, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for even more delightfully disturbing horror recaps. And for all your horror movie news, reviews, and interviews, keep lurking at Nightmare on Film Street.