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Swamp Thing: Season 1 Premiere Review


DC Universe’s Swamp Thing makes a formidable debut, with its Southern Gothic charm, grotesque visuals, and engaging storyline centered on a small Louisiana town with a past shrouded in mystery. But it’s the stellar world building that really makes the series stand out from other DC live-action shows. Swamp Thing’s richly-layered world is headed up by Battlestar Galactica alum Mark Verheiden and IT screenwriter Gary Dauberman, who take on co-showrunner duties. Add in executive producer James Wan (The Conjuring) and director Len Wiseman (Underworld franchise) and you have the Hollywood recipe for a really good horror series.If you’re already familiar with the story of botanist Alec Holland’s (Andy Bean) transformation into the creature known as Swamp Thing, then you’ll be happy to hear that the series honors the comic book origins of its titular hero. However, it’s actually Crystal Reed’s Abby Arcane who takes center stage in the first two episodes. Abby returns to her childhood home to investigate a new virus for her bosses at the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The writers wisely use her as our gateway into this strange new world that’s filled with colorful characters like the mystic Madame Xanadu (Jeryl Prescott), and of course, Dr. Holland.

Alec is in Abby’s hometown investigating the same viral outbreak she is, but he believes it’s linked to the illegal dumping of chemicals into the local swamps. Bean’s portrayal of the determined botanist is solid – possessing just the right amount of bravado and vulnerability needed to play a character of this magnitude. Abby and Alec’s electric chemistry is straight out of a rom-com, but not in a corny kind of way, with Bean and Reed playing up the romantic potential nicely. And while their respective performances are good, it’s the supporting cast who get all the best moments in the opening hours.

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Oscar-nominee Virginia Madsen’s (Sideways) Maria Sunderland along with veteran actor Will Patton’s Avery Sunderland are the most dynamic characters so far. They just get the best dialogue to chew on. In one memorable scene, Avery is addressing the recent viral outbreak at a town hall meeting. He goes into this great monologue about how the swamp is a part of their town, and how his “daddy” died there. Patton, who is a South Carolina native, has the perfect amount of Southern charm for a role like this. Madsen, on the other hand, plays a different, but no less charismatic kind of character. Maria is Avery’s wife, so she has to look strong in public, but you can tell that there’s something not quite right with her, as if she’s still dealing with a traumatic event from her past. Madsen knows how to amp up the emotional drama when required and it’s fun to watch these two pros in action.

On a technical level, the world of Swamp Thing looks fantastic. Wiseman’s keen directorial eye knows how to make every moment spent in the swamp creepy as hell. The way the roots and branches come together to form deadly weapons is horrifying, offering up some pretty gruesome deaths. At times, the show resembles NBC’s Hannibal and the way that particular series handled its crime scenes. Many of the deaths in Swamp Thing look like tableaus, much in the same way Hannibal Lecter arranged his artistic exhibitions – disgusting, terrifying, but also hard to look away from.

Once Swamp Thing arrives, it’s all over for whoever gets in his way. Long-time stuntman and actor Derek Mears is the man inside the suit. Hats off to the team who put Swamp Thing’s suit together because it looks awesome. It’s nice to see practical effects being used here instead of a computer-generated version of the creature. And when CG is being used, it’s blended nicely with the practical effects as to not be distracting. So far, DC really knocked it out of the park with Swamp Thing. It’s just a shame that some of the supporting cast outshines our main heroes in the first few episodes, but there are still eight hours left to learn more about Alec and Abby. Time will tell.

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