Julien Neaves – Editor
Streaming service DC Universe has been doing pretty well with the quality of its adult live action fare, namely series like Titans, Doom Patrol and superhero horror series Swamp Thing. And the latter, based on the eponymous humanoid/plant elemental anti-hero created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson in 1971, is just plain fantastic. The series features Swamp Thing (Derek Mears, who played Jason Voorhees in the 2009 Friday the 13th reboot) teaming up with CDC investigator Abby Arcane (Gotham’s Crystal Reed) to battle foes human and inhuman in the town of Marais, Louisiana.
Sadly the show was cancelled after its excellent first season and for reasons that remain unclear. Thankfully the first season is strong enough to stand on its own and we’re going to have a spoiler-free look at it right now. What? No time like the present. Here’s Swamp Thing season one (and hopefully not the one and only) in four slices:
Slice 1 – Gorgeous Green
Let’s start with Swamp Thing himself as the look of this iconic character would have made or broken the show. Thankfully old swampy butt looks dang good. The suit is fantastically, intricately detailed with all the weird vines and other flora, the crimson red eyes are lively and animated, and the size and presence feel just right. If they told me they had plucked the character from the comic book page I would have believed them.
And kudos to Mears for his wonderful portrayal of this haunted, tragic character and also Andy Bean (It Chapter Two), who plays his human alter ego Dr Alec Holland with loads of charm and wit. The special effects demonstrating Swamp Thing’s plant-based powers are also very well done.
Slice 2 – Red and Deadly
Speaking of Swampy’s powers they are used to do some nice and some not-so-nice things in the show. And by not-so-nice I mean gloriously gore-filled violence. This show earns its mature rating and then some. There are also some plant-based infections and other terrible things that come from the swamp that will make you go “oh my god what the hell is that?!”
Swamp Thing is not just dark in visuals but in tone, plot, every darn thing. While a superhero horror series it dives more deeply into the horror side with its macabre creatures, grotesque imagery and even jump scares, that old favourite. One of my favourite horror sub-genres is monster/creature so I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the series. And I am sure our horror head Sommerleigh would just eat this show up. Well not literally because this show can get quite disgusting.
Slice 3 – Gold Stars
The series’ ensemble cast do well to bring this gothic world to life. Reed’s Abby Arcane is sharp and incisive though at times a bit naive. Her chemistry with both human Alec and inhuman Swamp Thing takes root deeply and holds firm. Think of Beauty and the Beast but with more plants and body horror.
The standouts, however, are the show’s veteran actors namely Will Patton (Remember the Titans, Armageddon) as amoral, power-hungry businessman Avery Sunderland, Virginia Madsen (Frasier, American Gothic) as his troubled wife Maria, and Ms Flashdance herself Jennifer Beals as the driven sheriff Lucilia Cable. Also putting in some great work is Kevin Durand (Lost, Smokin’ Aces) as kooky scientist Jason Woodrue and Ian Ziering (Beverly Hills, 90210, Sharknado franchise) who brings a lot of energy as actor Daniel Cassidy (if you want to spoil yourself you can Google both of their comic alter egos).
Slice 4 – Hearts of Darkness
The series was originally 13 episodes but was cut down to 10 reportedly due to some creative differences between DC Universe and parent company WarnerMedia. We do have a couple of plot lines that seem to wrap up just a tad too quickly and this may be the reason. Another symptom of this may be the multiple supernatural conflicts (these feel very The X-Files and give the serialised show an almost episodic feel) that pop up and then kind of fade away. This may be the show’s greatest weakness but it is major enough to be show-breaking.
The main plot of Swamp Thing discovering his abilities and his world, and his relationship with Abby is the core of the series and this is executed with a lot of heart, good pacing and timing. And unlike some other superhero shows (cough cough Iron Fist cough cough) the major subplots are all very interesting, well-developed and kept me engaged from start to finish. So if you are looking for a superhero horror series that is more horror than superhero, like loads of gore and supernatural creepiness, and you enjoy a town filled with morally gray characters and overflowing with secrets, then Swamp Thing will definitely your boat.
Score: 8 out of 10
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Julien Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. Also loves promoting Caribbean film, creating board games and is an aspiring author. Says things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Can also be found talking about TV and movie stuff on Instagram as redmanwriter and on Facebook at Movieville