Three episodes in, Swamp Thing is shaping up to be exactly the creepy, crawly, comic-book kooky horror series we all hoped it would be. If you’re not caught up yet, make sure to check out my episode recaps for Episode One, “Pilot,” and Episode Two, “Worlds Apart.” Just like the series itself, these recaps are in chronological order, and you don’t want to get confused hopping in mid-story. So check those out now, we’ll be right here when you return.
Alright, if you’re all caught up (and still reading despite the show’s tragically premature cancellation), let’s dive into Episode Three, appropriately titled “He Speaks.”
We begin in a swamp which, of course, probably doesn’t shock you. But this swamp isn’t the one outside Marais, Louisiana. No, this swamp is deeper, thicker, more surreal. It’s a swamp all on its own, without the rest of the world to surround it. It’s a swamp somewhere between life and death, as we can tell by the first person we see walking in it. That’s Alec Holland, in human form. Another figure steps out of the shadows, and though Alec doesn’t know him, we recognize this shady character as the would-be murderer of Susie Coyle, who Swamp Thing gruesomely killed in the last episode. “You murdered me!” screams the restless soul, pinning Alec down to the ground, “I’m coming back for you!” Suddenly we return to a different swamp, the real one, and Swamp Thing watches as the murderer’s dismembered body is enveloped by a sudden swarm of insects. On Swamp Thing‘s face we can see a weary, troubled look. He knows something bad is coming.
Next we return to Liz Tremayne‘s house, where Abby Arcane is going over what she saw the night before. She tells Liz about her second sighting of the Swamp Thing, and about Susie Coyle‘s reveal that behind the moss and vines of Swamp Thing is Alec Holland‘s conscious. It’s a lot for Liz to process, but before they can talk about it further, the CDC calls Abby back to the town hospital. A new supervisor has taken over the epidemic response after what they view as local interference, in the form of Avery Sunderland‘s hired biologist, Jason Woodrue. Annoyed, Abby interrogates Jason herself, as Jason examines Mr. Coyle‘s infected, dead body from the first episode with a cold and almost malicious attitude. Meanwhile, Liz does some interrogating herself, questioning the man behind Avery Sunderland‘s finances, accountant Gordon Haas. Much to Liz‘s chagrin, Gordon won’t tell her anything.
At the sheriff’s office in town, Matt Cable and his mother Lucilia discuss the carnage on the swamp. Lucilia chides Matt over the choice to bring Abby along with him to look for Susie, saying he’s letting his affections for Abby cloud his judgement. Matt responds that, had Abby not been there, Susie might not have made it out. As the officers discuss them, the two closest people to the Swamp Thing catch up at the hospital. After some more cryptic messages from Susie about the monster, Abby heads to her office to speak with Harlan. Horror spreads across her face as she sees him for the first time in a few days; Harlan has fallen victim to the epidemic.
Now, Abby’s battle to find a cure is more important than ever, but she knows she can’t do much without the research in Alec’s lab. Disregarding the law, Abby decides to break into Alec’s lab, which is officially still a crime scene. To do so, she borrows Marco’s boat and heads deep into the swamp. But what she doesn’t know is that the local law is the least of her worries. As Abby is traveling into the marshlands, another searcher in the area comes upon a deadly and unexplainable phenomenon. This searcher is an average hunter who, while looking for a deer, stumbles across the body of the man Swamp Thing eviscerated. But now, the murderer’s body is controlled by a swarm of pestilential insects, which DC Comics fans will recognize as the evil entity, The Rot. The Rot gruesomely consumes the hunter and turns to follow his next intended victim: Abby Arcane.
Back in town, we catch up with Jason and Caroline Woodrue. They discuss the effects of the biological accelerant, and we find out that there’s more at stake for the couple than we once believed. Caroline Woodrue, it turns out, is plagued by a degenerative brain disease. Hope for her cure lies in the success of the accelerant’s experiments, and furthermore, from Avery Sunderland’s money. As the Woodrues assure each other that they’ll succeed, we head over to the Sunderlands themselves. They have a tense and quiet dinner together, and what little the talk about is Maria’s return to her old habits. Just then, there’s a knock on the door. It’s Gordon Haas with bad news. He’s sick of covering for the fact that Avery is deep, deep in debt. He gives Avery 24 hours to get his affairs in order before he quits. Meanwhile, Abby Arcane has found Alec’s lab. She reads through his research as, unnoticed, a horde of bugs begin to seep into the building.
Later at the Sunderlands‘, Lucilia questions Avery about Alec’s disappearance, in an effort to close the book on the case for good. Avery answers her questions amiably and, when she’s finished, begins to treat her like an old friend. In fact, like something more. Avery clearly tries to rekindle a past affair the two had but, knowing his tricks, Lucilia refuses and leaves. Upstairs, Maria watches Lucilia’s car pull out. Then, as she looks into a mirror across the room, Shawna’s ghost reappears in the corner. She tortured her mother with cruel, pointed questions about her father’s loyalty, even questioning his motives for “keeping her around.” Maria begs her to stop and the ghoul disappears, leaving just a crack in the mirror where she had been.
Once again we return to Abby in Alec’s lab, and now, the swarm of bugs has become an infestation. Abby’s concentration finally breaks as cockroaches run over her feet and legs, and when she turns to see what’s going on, The Rot smashes through the window behind her. It stalks toward her but, luckily, another figure arrives on the scene, smashing through the floorboards from below. (The only thing on this show less respected than the laws of nature is property.) It’s at this moment that the titular creature, as the title of the episode implies, speaks its first words as Swamp Thing. “Leave her,” he says.
Swamp Thing and The Rot battle briefly, but we soon learn that Swamp Thing’s power is much, much greater. He commands The Rot to release the soul of the murderer and, as soon as the words are spoken, The Rot responds. Heaps of bugs scatter away as the natural corpse of the murder dissolves into a black, foul puddle. Now, Abby and Swamp Thing are alone, and she finally gets the answer she’s looking for. Swamp Thing looks at her with human, caring eyes and speaks her name, confirming to her that this, indeed, is Alec Holland.
Abby tries to get more out of the creature and it brings back memories to the reborn monster. Now, Swamp Thing must process his dual identity as a supernatural creature and one with a human soul, and he looks to Abby for answers. “What am I?” he asks. “A good man,” says Abby. One that will figure out why this is happening to him, and what this does was is that’s fighting Marais. “Not fighting,” says the Swamp Thing, “Fighting back.” Suddenly, it all becomes clear to Abby. She rushes back to the hospital, having devised a way to save everyone in town.
At the hospital, she shoves her way past the new CDC supervisor and security. She finds Harlan in his room, his vitals dropping to a dangerous degree. Abby barks out orders to the presiding nurses, telling them to pull the antibiotics that have been trying to kill off the disease in Harlan‘s system. The CDC supervisor tries to get her thrown out of the hospital but, just as security appears in the room, Harlan‘s vitals stabilize. He wakes up. Abby‘s found a cure. Later, Abby talks with Susie, who has also completely stabilized. She tells her that it’s because of their mutual friend that things seem to be getting better. Susie smiles and rests.
But all is not well in Marais. Back at the Sunderlands‘, we find a tense situation brewing between the unhappy couple. Avery has attempted to ask Maria for more money, and we learn exactly what Shawna‘s ghost was hinting at earlier: It’s Maria‘s side of the family that’s been bankrolling Avery‘s swamp experiments all these years. Avery pleads with Maria, saying that he and the Woodrues are close to a breakthrough. But it’s not getting through to her. Maria leaves the room defiantly, cutting Avery off from both her life and her bank account.
That night, Abby and Matt have a celebratory drink at Delroy’s Roadhouse. They reminisce about the town for a while, and all of a sudden, a familiar song comes over the juke. It’s one that played at Matt and Abby‘s prom, and Matt asks Abby to dance, saying he’s been working up the courage since they were in high school. Laughing at his cheesiness, Abby agrees to dance. And though things are bright and carefree inside, outside Delroy’s the Swamp Thing looks on heartbroken. Already, Alec deeply misses his humanity, and any chance he might’ve had with Abby. Elsewhere on the swamp, Marco has found the remnants of Alec‘s boat, complete with bullet holes. She calls Liz, who is on her way to Gordon Haas‘s place. Unbeknownst to her, she’s not the only one.
But before we learn more about Liz, we take a detour back to a spot we haven’t been in a while: Daniel Cassidy‘s video store. There, Daniel enters having returned from a beer run, and is shocked to discover Madame Xanadu sitting on his couch. However, it’s clear that Xanadu is no stranger to Daniel. In fact, it appears Daniel has a secret past that he’s been hiding this whole time. Dan is no has-been movie star, he’s been trapped in Marais by some mystic force. Someone, or something, has a mission for him there. Xanadu reads Daniel‘s tarot cards, and they give the impression that something is changing for the Blue Devil. What that is, he can’t be sure. But he has an idea that it has something to do with Abby Arcane…
Finally, we find ourselves in the home of Gordon Haas. Gordon is just getting home now, and it doesn’t take long to discover he’s not alone. Gordon grabs a golf club from near his door and heads into his dark house, where he finds the person who’s been there waiting for him. It’s Avery. Gordon angrily tells Avery to get out as Avery begs him once again to help with his finances. When Gordon refuses again, Avery‘s tone becomes more aggressive and sinister. But Gordon won’t take that. He tells Avery to leave, or he’ll be forced to reveal everything he knows about the businessman, including his connection to a mysterious group called “the Conclave.” Avery attacks Gordon then, snatching the golfclub from his hand and striking him down with it. Gordon mutters a plea for Avery to spare him but it’s too late. Avery has made his decision to murder his former accountant. Outside, Liz Tremayne knocks on Gordon‘s door for what’s probably the fiftieth time, seeking the truth. No one answers.
Once again, Swamp Thing shows all the promise of being a really satisfying supernatural drama. Several characters had their true natures revealed, from the somewhat expected cruelty of Avery to the genuinely surprising depth of Daniel Cassidy. And for everything it explained, this episode brought something unexplained that was just as tantalizing. My only critique for this episode is that it is a lot of information all at once, as you can probably tell from the super long recap.
Still, even though there were times I felt whiplash between major plot points, Swamp Thing once again delivered a spooky, true-to-source material experience. In my opinion, we also got the highlight of the show so far in this episode, which was the confrontation between The Rot and Swamp Thing, two exquisitely designed, practical effects creatures. Hopefully we see more of those genius visuals layered on top of mysterious storytelling in the future.
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