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We join the Swamp Thing in Episode 6: ‘The Price You Pay’, as he lurches through the marsh he calls home. After sensing movement nearby, Swamp Thing finds a curiously trapped, still living rabbit, which we can tell pretty easily is meant as bait. All of a sudden, hunters pump the Swamp Thing full of tranquilizer darts. Presumably, these are the hunters that Jason Woodrue hired to catch Swamp Thing on Avery Sunderland‘s command. Of course, things don’t go well for the hunters, who flee upon realizing the strength and invulnerability of the monster they’ve encountered. Furious at the attackers, Swamp Thing uses nearby trees to launch deadly projectile splinters into the hunters’ flesh. They hop on their boat and drive off as the darts tear into them, and Swamp Thing, calming his rage, makes a quick getaway.
“…even at its weakest Swamp Thing has continued to mystify and surprise me.”
Back in Marais, Jason Woodrue is causing even more trouble for our heroes. He is in the local hospital, switching out an IV bag with his own, presumably one full of some mad biogenetic chemical. At another part of the hospital, Abby Arcane and Liz Tremayne attend Dan Cassidy. Remember, Dan “helped” Liz fend off some attackers sent by Avery last episode, and the injury he sustained put him in a coma. The doctor in Dan‘s room tells Liz and Abby that there’s almost no brain function left in Dan, but as they’re speaking, we see Dan‘s eyes move behind the lids. Suddenly we are transported to Dan‘s earliest memories of being in Marais, when he was still a stuntman for the movie Blue Devil. The experience is a bad one, and Dan feels his talent is being wasted on set. Out of the blue, a “studio guy” approaches Dan and asks what he’d be willing to give to have a better role in the film. We recognize this “studio guy” as the Phantom Stranger.
We return to the hospital in present day, where Liz and Abby have a tense discussion about the previous night’s events. When Liz says she’s going to back off investigating Avery, before anyone else ends up like Dan, Abby storms out of the room. She finds Avery himself soon after, since he’s checking on Maria. Avery all but admits his guilt in Dan‘s attack, but protests that everything he does, he does because he loves Marais. Abby says that she’ll keep trying to expose him and Avery is genuinely sad. He tells her that whatever happens, he’ll always care about her. Abby leaves and is found by Liz, who has urgent news. Two hunters just showed up to the hospital, raving about a swamp monster.
Meanwhile, a furious conversation is going on between daughter and son at the Marais Sheriff’s office. Lucillia Cable tells Matt that she knows he was the one who tried to kill Alec Holland, and who blew up his boat to cover his tracks. She also knows that it was all on the order of Avery Sunderland. When Lucillia rages at Matt for going in with a man as evil as Avery, Matt responds by saying that he had to: Avery has decades of blackmail on Lucillia. As Lucillia killed Remy DuBois to protect Matt in the previous episode, so Matt has been protecting his mother this whole time. A deputy interrupts their discussion to tell them about the swamp hunters and their encounter with some kind of beast. Lucillia orders Matt to look into it.
Back at the hospital, an unwitting nurse switches out Dan‘s empty IV bag with the one Woodrue tampered with. Once again, we go into Dan‘s mind and experience his time as an actor. The Phantom Stranger says that he can give Dan a bigger role in Blue Devil if he agrees to stay in Marais after they’re done filming. Dan happily agrees and suddenly, word comes down from the studio execs. They’ve gotten sick of the original star of Blue Devil and have been impressed with Dan‘s talent. They’re swapping him into the lead role. Dan looks around to thank his mysterious helper, but the Stranger has disappeared. Back in the present, Dan wakes up feverishly, with Woodrue‘s chemicals racing through his veins. Liz, who was waiting by his comatose body, touches Dan‘s arms and draws back. He’s literally burning up. Suddenly, Jason Woodrue is there as well. Dan panics and escapes out of his hospital room, mumbling about the deal he made that’s kept him in Marais. He gets past Liz, Woodrue, and hospital security, escaping into the night.
Across town, Abby meets up with Swamp Thing to ask about the hunters. Swamp Thing is ashamed of hurting them; he sees himself as a monster now. But Abby isn’t giving up on him. When she asks more about what’s going on with him, Swamp Thing begins to tell her about the Green. All of a sudden, a police boat arrives. Swamp Thing flees and we cut to the house where Jason Woodrue is staying. There, Woodrue is telling Avery about seeing Dan up and about, and we learn what was in the IV bag. It turns out that it was the biological accelerant that Jason had been experimenting with in the swamp. Dan‘s emergence from his coma is proof of how valuable it can be, says Jason. Avery is pleased, but wants more. He orders a full report on Woodrue‘s findings to be ready in the morning.
Now we’re back in the swamp, where it was Matt Cable who interrupted Swamp Thing and Abby‘s discussion. Swamp Thing at first perceives Matt as a threat, but Abby stops the two from fighting. She explains to Matt that Swamp Thing is actually Alec Holland, and Matt‘s face goes pale. Here is the man he tried to kill, transformed into a hulking, terrifying beast. Luckily for Matt, Swamp Thing doesn’t remember the night on the boat. Instead, he just remembers Matt as a person who helped Abby after Maria Sunderland tried to drown her. Abby begs Matt not to report what he’s found back to the other people on the police boat, and he doesn’t.
Back at the Woodrues‘, Caroline finds Jason working at his desk. She begs Jason to leave, to not throw his lot in with a man like Avery Sunderland. We briefly cut back to Dan Cassidy‘s apartment, where Liz has found the former Blue Devil, now visibly steaming and glowing blue. Dan leaves to seek out Jason Woodrue, and when he gets to the Woodrue‘s residence, pleads with the scientist to help. Jason tries to calm him but Dan‘s panic only grows, making him hotter and more dangerous. The situation isn’t helped when Avery Sunderland shows up wielding a shotgun. He’s about to reluctantly fire upon Dan when all of a sudden Caroline shows up with a sedative. She puts Dan down, perhaps saving his life, perhaps saving Avery and Jason‘s.
Abby and Swamp Thing continue their discussion on the Green, thinking that Matt will keep their secret. But in a brief scene at the Sheriff’s department, we see that Matt is going to tell his mother about what he knows. Now we’re back in the hospital, where Madame Xanadu approaches a sedated Dan Cassidy. She speaks to him gently, and says that, although she knows he doesn’t want to be trapped in Marais, and although his destiny seems grim, she has started to care about him. She lays her hands on Dan and a strange magic begins to heal him, stopping the internally burning blue flame that’s been plaguing him.
“…I adore the character of the Phantom Stranger, so seeing him on the show again was great [and] I’ll be happy to have learned more about the Blue Devil.”
Finally, we’re once again with Abby and Swamp Thing, who have made it back to the lab Alec Holland used before the swamp transformed him. Swamp Thing tells Abby of a grim future awaiting him, saying that in order to do what he must do and understand the green, he may have to give up what’s left of his humanity. Suddenly, a curious flower emerges from Swamp Thing‘s hand. It releases a green, misty spore that both Swamp Thing and Abby inhale. Abby‘s face changes radically and the camera pans to her point of view. Standing before her is Alec Holland, in his completely human form.
It took me a moment to realize why I liked “The Price You Pay” less than every other Swamp Thing episode so far. After all, I adore the character of the Phantom Stranger, so seeing him on the show again was great. Plus, I’m really enjoying what the series is doing with Dan Cassidy/Blue Devil. I loved that it introduced him as this oblivious oaf, then revealed him to be a kind of reverse-Faust, a naturally selfish character whose soul is bound to the greater good. However, after analyzing it over the weekend, I realized that the Blue Devil subplot was too much of this episode. I was interested in his backstory for sure, but it felt as though this episode slowed down the rest of the story to tell me it. That said, even at its weakest Swamp Thing has continued to mystify and surprise me. I have a feeling things will get back on track next episode, and even though it was done awkwardly, I’ll be happy to have learned more about the Blue Devil.
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