Before we begin, two quick things. First of all, we’re recapping Swamp Thing in chronological order, so if you haven’t already read the recap of Episode One, Pilot, check that out now…Welcome back, I hope you enjoyed that review of the first episode of Swamp Thing. Next order of business: they canceled Swamp Thing!
We know, it’s infuriating. Less than a week after the pilot aired, Warner Bros. has confirmed that Swamp Thing will end after season one. Still, there are a few episodes left in the comic book horror series, so Nightmare on Film Street will still be dutifully recapping these episodes for you fans. Just be aware that as I write these, I am letting out one low, sustained scream.
We begin right where Episode One left off, with the first walk of the Swamp Thing. A mutated and plantified Alec Holland escapes his own certain death, just as Abby Arcane flees from the thing he’s become. Hours later, Abby is back in the swamp with Officer Matt Cable. They search for the creature but have no luck. Swamp Thing has disappeared deep into the muck. Cable’s fellow police officers laugh at Abby’s claims of a monster, and though he doesn’t make fun of her, Matt clearly doesn’t believe her either. Not laughing but also not believing is the Sheriff of Marais, who shuts the search down entirely.
” Warner Bros. has confirmed that Swamp Thing will end after season one […] be aware that as I write these, I am letting out one low, sustained scream.”
Back at the hospital, Susie Coyle once again wakes from her epidemic-caused coma. Swamp Thing suddenly becomes psychically aware of her, and though they’re miles apart, the monster and Susie mimic each other’s motions mysteriously. Clearly, some link has been established between the two characters. Harlan, who has been back at the hospital this whole time, calms Susie down, but not before she gives him a cryptic message about the Swamp Thing. “The man in the dark” is scared, she says. “He doesn’t know what’s happening to him”. Susie begs to go into the swamp to help him, but Harlan keeps her in the hospital.
Across town at the Sunderland’s, Maria is slipping back into her old ways. Abby being back in Marais has opened a wound in her soul, and Shawna’s death is once again constantly on her mind. She lies in Shawna’s old room, in her old bed, as a worried Avery comes in to check on her. She tells him wistfully that she used to lie next to Shawna when she was young, just to hear her breath. Concerned, Avery leaves his wife alone.
As Maria mourns, Abby wakes from a horrific nightmare involving Maria‘s daughter. In it, the drowned corpse of Shawna crawls from under her bed, wraps its viney hands around her, and screams her name. Now awake, Abby takes a breath to calm herself. But the calm doesn’t last long, as a call from Harlan soon comes through her phone. Two more people have fallen victim to the epidemic, he says. They’re being housed now in the hospital. Abby gets out of bed and heads downstairs.
She’s been staying with her old pal Liz Tremayne, whose girlfriend, Marco, greets Abby as she comes downstairs. Abby catches both of them up on what’s been going on, especially the disappearance of Alec. Both agree that the best next step is to go to Alec’s lab for more info, and it’s then that Liz makes a suggestion. The best way to get access to Alec’s lab, which is now swarming with cops, is to ask the man behind Alec’s research: Avery Sunderland. Abby doesn’t like the thought of seeing him after so long, but she agrees. Abby goes alone to see Avery.
At his mansion estate, Avery greets Abby with open arms. We learn that Avery never blamed Abby for Shawna’s death, and moreover, that Abby had basically been raised by the Sunderlands. Avery speaks to Abby like a long-lost daughter, apologizing for Maria’s hatred and saying that Abby is welcome back in there house. But when Abby asks for Avery’s help in accessing Alec’s lab, Avery locks back up. The work is private, he says, and important. He doesn’t want the CDC looking at it. After a brief argument, Abby leaves, and the tension that almost dissipated between the two people is completely restored.
Maria, meanwhile, is at Delroy’s Roadhouse, looking for Madame Xanadu. When she finds her, she begs the blind psychic to reach out to the spirit world and communicate with her daughter. Xanadu begs Maria to reconsider, saying it would be better if she just moves on. But Maria won’t budge. So Xanadu uses her gift to speak beyond the vale, and almost immediately, things begin to go very wrong. Shawna’s drowned ghost appears in the room and Maria is flung backward, violently smashing against a mirror in the corner. Xanadu closes the connection and the paranormal activity stops. The two women recover from the ordeal and, at the hospital, Susie Coyle has disappeared from her room.
“…His dying breaths spread over the swamp, and unfortunately for his murderer, they awaken the Swamp Thing.”
Later, we return to Liz and Abby as they attempt to investigate what Alec’s work. Since they can’t get access to the lab, they decide to check out where Alec was staying. This is an old record and DVD shop, run by a former movie star named Daniel Cassidy. Heads up horror fans, this scene features more Easter eggs than a White House lawn in March. I caught posters for The Exorcist, The Thing, and more just in one shot. Anyway, Dan was the star of a movie called Blue Devil, which DC Comics fans will know is his alter ego in the comics. He drones on to Liz about his former stardom as Abby makes her way up to Alec’s room.
On Alec’s computer is a video journal, which details some of what Alec was working on before he disappeared. Also on the videos, Alec discusses the admiration he has for Abby. Abby finishes the videos and is suddenly interrupted by a call from Harlan. He informs her of Susie’s disappearance, And Abby immediately sets out to look for her.
Now we travel back to the Sunderland estate, where Avery is expecting guests. We gather quickly that the two people arriving, Jason and Caroline Woodrue, are brilliant scientists. In fact, they’re botanists and chemists. It doesn’t take long before we realize why they’re in Marais; Avery hired them weeks ago to test a chemical in the swamp that could lead to more exports coming out of the area. The chemical they were testing, of course, is the biological accelerant. Now, however, Avery sees that it is making people in the community sick. He charges the Woodures with fixing it, threatening to bring them with him if he goes down for sparking the epidemic. The Woodrues agree to get to work.
Back at Delroy’s, Abby has met up with Matt to look for Susie. After a tip from Harlan about Susie wanting to go into the swamp, Matt and Abby find clues that indicate Susie might have snuck aboard a swamp ranger’s boat. Before they go after it, though, the Sheriff pulls Matt aside. We learn here that the Sheriff, Lucilia Cable, is Matt’s mother, and that she’s always known about Matt’s romantic interest in Abby. Though Matt denies this, Lucilia warns him not to get too close. Abby and Matt set off to look for the ranger, and possibly Susie.
Sure enough, Susie is on the ranger’s boat now. That ranger doesn’t notice the little girl in the back of his boat. What he does notice, however, are two shady characters dumping boxes into the swamp. When the ranger confronts them, he recognizes one as a friend of his and cordially tries to give the boat a routine inspection. However, the other criminal panics. He grabs a long, hooked pole from the deck of his boat and impales the ranger in the face. The ranger drops to the floor across from Susie, blood gushing from his mouth and throat. His dying breaths spread over the swamp, and unfortunately for his murderer, they awaken the Swamp Thing.
As the two criminals argue over the choice to kill the ranger, Susie tries to sneak her way off the boat. “If the law gets their hands on those boxes,” argues the murderer, “that old man will kill us!” Their tense discussion is cut short when they hear Susie drop out of the boat and swim away. The murderer goes after her as the other criminal flees. Susie makes her way into an abandoned house in the heart of the swamp, which is both good and bad for her. On the one hand, she’s out of the water. On the other, she’s now trapped in a rotting house with a killer outside. She screams when he approaches.
“Susie’s protector has arrived.”
Those screams alert Matt and Abby, who have just found the ranger’s boat and its dead former occupant. They see the other criminal escaping and Matt decides to go after him as Abby goes after Susie. But what Abby doesn’t know is that there’s already someone on his way to save Susie, someone psychically linked with her since the beginning. Susie flees into the top floor of the abandoned house, only to be cornered by the machete-wielding murderer. He claws at Susie as she crawls across the floorboards and through broken windows. He’s almost upon her but, all of a sudden, something pulls him back.
Susie’s protector has arrived.
The murderer tries to fight off the impossible creature standing waste-deep in swamp water before him. He cruelly stabs and slashes at the monster with his knife, but the injured areas of Swamp Thing’s body simply regrow, as though they had never been cut. When Swamp Thing is finally done with the wretch, he reaches out to the powers of the swamp itself, commanding vines to wrap themselves around the criminal’s limbs and drag him away. The criminal screams as, like a stuffed doll between fighting children, he is ripped into bloody pieces, scattering skin, bone, and ligaments across the swamp. Swamp Thing attends to the traumatized Susie just as Abby arrives.
When she sees the girl, a wave of relief washes over Abby. But then, Abby once again sees Swamp Thing. She recoils immediately from the monster, grabbing Susie and fleeing from the abandoned house. Swamp Thing returns to the muck of the swamp as Abby finds Matt and starts getting Susie back to land. On the way, Susie says that the Swamp Thing isn’t a threat, he’s just scared. When Abby asks Susie if this means she spoke to the creature, Susie says yes, and that she has one other message from the hulking, plant-made beast. “He says his name is Alec,” she says.
Finally, we return once more to the Sunderlands‘, where Avery again finds Maria in Shawna‘s bed. She appears to be asleep, so he sighs and leaves her to her own misery. But as Avery leaves, we see Maria‘s eyes flutter open. Near her, we hear a sick, broken, but unmistakably human sound; someone is in bed with her. In the last shot of the episode, we see a pale and dead face and we realize: Maria is in her daughter’s bed again… listening to her breath.
There are so many reasons to be sad about Swamp Thing‘s sudden cancellation, but the worst of them is that the series is definitely getting better. Episode Two does everything Episode One did well, including effects, horror, and comic book easter eggs, but even more than that, Episode Two improved on what Episode One struggled with. Specifically, that’s the tendency to be way too expositional. Episode Two leaves more mysteries unanswered and allows characters to learn things about each other naturally, which makes it more enjoyable to watch. Though I am, like you, heartbroken that this will be the last season of Swamp Thing, I’m comfortable with saying that Episode Two proves it’s only going to get better from here.