REVIEW BY Dave Whiteman
Jennika is the fifth turtle!🐢
Having escaped from Dr. Woodrue’s lab with the help of Abby and Liz, Swamp Thing is trying to come to terms with the truth that he is not Alec Holland. In fact, he is a sentient plant possessing the memories of Holland, created by the mutagen in the swamp. While Swamp Thing and Abby barely get a moment’s peace, a group of mercenaries (led by Shaw, played by Jake Busey!) and hired by Ellery are sent to retrieve Swamp Thing.
Meanwhile, after Jason’s wife Caroline overdosed on her medication, she remains mute and defenseless due to “locked-in syndrome”. Jason is preparing to treat her with what he harvested from Swamp Thing, namely his heart and organs. He will duct tape her to a chair and force-feed her pieces of his organs (trying hard not to make a Vegan joke!). But of course, like any mad scientist he tries it on himself first!
Matt Cable is in the hospital after his drunk driving accident, Sheriff Lucilla goes to visit him and runs into Avery, who tries in vain to offer her a fresh-start with him. Maria is still in the psychiatric hospital and Avery’s business deal with the Conclave has fallen through. Swamp Thing faces the mercenaries during the night. Abby goes to Woodrue’s house and discovers what he is doing to Caroline, in the hope of stopping it before it’s too late!
Without giving away any spoilers for the show, the revelation made about Swamp Thing’s existence in the last episode,was really no surprise to many people. For those fans that have been following the story of Swamp Thing, particularly Alan Moore’s “Saga of the Swamp Thing” in the 1980’s and 90’s. But for those that are new to the story, the show gave away that fact quite early in the promotional material featuring Swamp Thing carrying a decomposed body. While many had much speculation of what this meant, even DC’s own “DC Daily” talk show had their own predictions. But to me, (and I hope many others) it was plainly obvious from the beginning.
Ironically the final episode is titled “Loose Ends” which doesn’t even begin to address many of the loose ends in the show’s story, especially of their ancillary characters like Daniel/Blue Demon, Matt Cable, and Madame Xanadu. It would have been nice to have seen other characters within the realm of DC Comics’ extensive supernatural and mystical characters. Cameos from John Constantine and the Spectre, could have been a much-needed addition to the show. I would have loved to have seen one of my favorite characters as well, Etrigan the Demon, who appeared in many “Swamp Thing” comics.
The show most likely gets its name from issue #20 of “Saga of the Swamp Thing” (January, 1984) which was also the first issue that Alan Moore wrote. The best twist (and acting) comes from Dr. Jason Woodrue (played by Kevin Durand), who brings a sort of gravitas to the role with just the right amount of dark humor and even some sympathy to the character. His ultimate fate is worthy of his comic book counterpart.
While this is the final episode of Swamp Thing, it is unfortunately also the series finale as well. As I had mentioned in my review of Episode 2, there had been many rumors surrounding the cancellation of the series, involving everything from budget and production issues, to problems with a grant issued by the state of North Carolina, and DC Universe’s streaming service shutting down. But so far, no official reason has been given for the show’s cancellation. The “Swamp Thing” series had such promise to be a provocative and effective series. Unlike any other DC Comic dramas such as” Arrow” or “Flash”, and the streaming service building up its catalog with the likes of “Doom Patrol” has already been renewed for Season 2.
I will say one good thing. I was not wholly disappointed with the ending of the show, as it did bring Swamp Thing and Abby together again and even left it open for some hope of continuation. With an exciting post-credit stinger (No Spoiler!), and paying some service to Blue Devil fans in the episode as well.
Fans like me have a few things to look forward to, but perhaps not from the DC Universe streaming service. While it does provide a lot of content, including many TV shows, cartoons, movies and comic books, I feel that it will be short-lived, and may even be taken over by Warner Media’s own service coming soon. Not to mention the new “Pennyworth” series on EPIX, the upcoming “Watchmen” series on HBO and the highly anticipated Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series from Netflix. Until then, Swamp Thing will have to return to the swamp, hoping not to be lost in its murky depths of the DC Universe.
“Love is the flower of life, and blossoms unexpectedly and without law, and must be plucked where it is found, and enjoyed for the brief hour of its duration.” – D. H. Lawrence.
After Swamp Thing was frozen and captured by Sunderland’s mercenaries, they take his body to Sunderland’s old concrete factory where he has Dr. Woodrue set up with a laboratory to study him. Meanwhile, Daniel is still in the hospital under restraint when the “studio man” comes to visit him and brings his Blue Devil mask. He also shows Daniel a vision of Abby and Liz getting shot by Sunderland’s mercenaries and leaves him little choice to try and save them to prevent the vision from coming true. Now that Dr. Woodrue has Swamp Thing, he lets him thaw out a little and begins to forcefully vivisect him and remove his organs. During the process, Swamp Thing awakens to the realization that Woodrue is dissecting him, but due to green spectrum lights, he is unable to regenerate and is at the mercy of the cruel doctor.
Now that Avery Sunderland is “back from the dead” he confronts Maria about her plans to take over his company with the Conclave, and has her committed to a psychiatric hospital. Having told Liz (and several others) about Alec, Abby and Liz discover where Sunderland is keeping him. But while Dr. Woodrue continues to analyze Swamp Thing’s body, he makes a surprising discovery about what Alec has really become.
This episode is by far the closest adaptation to the “Swamp Thing” comic book the show has presented, particularly Alan Moore’s 1984 story, also called “The Anatomy Lesson,” in ‘Saga of the Swamp Thing’ #21. For fans and readers of the original Swamp Thing, this issue marked a turning point in what would become Alan Moore’s seminal story arc. After taking over the series from writer Martin Pasko with issue #20, in which Sunderland (then a General) arranges to have Jason Woodrue (already a supervillain known as the Floronic Man, where he is instructed to examine the remains of the Swamp Thing after having been shot and thought to be dead.
Without spoiling the show or the comic reveal, know that this confirmed the changes that were made in volume 2 of “Saga of the Swamp Thing” which began in 1982 with the retelling of his origin, which also coincided with the release of the low-budget 1982 movie directed by Wes Craven (before making “A Nightmare on Elm Street”). As Swamp Thing has gone through several incarnations, including the New 52 storyline in 2011. This also shows that the series is following the comics closer to the comics than any previous series or movies have before, with some slight character changes.
“The Anatomy Lesson” is both the most intense and revealing episode in this short series, and with only one episode left, it’s hard to speculate where the show will leave off or if there will be any possibility of continuation or appearances in any other DC Universe show or movie in the future. I will be awaiting next week’s season/series finale with bittersweet anticipation.
Before Sheriff Lucilia and Deputy Matt Cable attempt to kill Avery and dump his body in the swamp, Avery made a last-ditch effort to stall by telling Matt that he was his father, although it proved unsuccessful, Avery managed to stab Matt in the chest before jumping in the swamp, but not before getting shot. Afterwards Lucilia took Matt to the Sunderland’s home and reveals that Maria and Lucilia had been plotting together all along. Now struggling to survive, Avery tries to make his way out of the swamp, all the while he is being watched.
Now that Abby has finally left Marais and made it to the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia, and reunites with Harlan, then she gets one of her colleagues to analyze the sample of The Rot and she is confronted by her superior who is not pleased with her results. Meanwhile, as Avery stumbles through the swamp, he begins to hallucinate and see Lucilia, but it turns out to be something else. Later that night he sees himself as a boy while out in the woods with his father and relives his father’s death, but then he finally encounters Swamp Thing standing over him. While Abby confides in Harlan about her experiences in the swamp, Avery has been taken to Alec’s lab in the swamp where he helps him to heal and to answer a few questions.
This episode begins a downhill slope tot the end with only 2 episodes to go as the supposed antagonist, Avery Sunderland, finally faces Swamp Thing, but with a confusing twist. Even though Avery is responsible for Alec’s murder, it still seems as though Swamp Thing doesn’t know it and he is convinced when Avery offers to help him be human again. Of course when Avery shows up at Dr. Woodrue’s door, we know that he desperately wants to study him, either dead or alive, to discover the origin of the mutagen. Without spoiling anything, this episode has probably the best cliffhanger ending aside from the first episode, which leaves me impatiently awaiting the next episode.
After Alec Holland’s human form has returned temporarily, thanks to some hallucinogenic spores, Abby finds it easier to talk with him about what’s been happening in the swamp. As Alec shows her the complexities of his new world and his powers, he introduces her to The Green, an elemental force that connects all life on Earth, as well as The Rot, a.k.a. “The Darkness”, which thrives on death. But when he takes her deep into the swamp to see the damage the Rot has done, she insists on taking a sample, despite his warning, and is attacked by a black tendril and infected.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Cable and Avery Sunderland go off into the swamp to deal with the situation after learning that Alec Holland is still alive, Maria Sunderland uses a dinner party for her guests Dr. Jason Woodrue and his wife, and the mysterious Nathan Ellery of the mysterious Conclave, to seize an opportunity.
While this may be the last time we see Andy Bean as Alec, it is a nice opportunity for Abby to finally get some closure. It is rewarding to finally see The Green as Swamp Thing sees it, and he finally gets to demonstrate more of his powers, everything from summoning plants to create fruit, to helping Abby to heal from her infection. The drama and intrigue intensify as well with the troubled relationship between Avery and Sheriff Lucilia Cable, whose son Matt was hired by Avery to kill Alec, as they take a boat to the swamp to search for Alec. And we get to see a whole new side of Maria Sunderland, as she has come from the brink of insanity to become a calm and composed schemer, equal only to Avery.
While there is mention of Daniel’s condition after Woodrue experimented on him, both he and Madame Xanadu are absent from this episode. And with only three episodes to go in this first (and only) season, there seems very little time for the plot to be resolved, with everything from The Green vs. The Rot, finding justice for the murder of Alec as well as the Conclave’s agenda, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Since Dr. Woodrue needs a live specimen to study, Avery sends two hunters into the swamp to capture Swamp Thing. Although unsuccessful, the hunters end up injured in the hospital where Dr. Woodrue has been experimenting with a bio-regenerative mutagen. And now that Daniel is in a coma, Abby confronts Avery about all his dirty deeds.
In this episode, we get to learn more about the backstory of Daniel Cassidy and his former career as a Hollywood stuntman and also how he got the role of the “Blue Devil.” We also delve a little more into the Marais sheriff’s department, who Sheriff Lucilla Cable and her son Matt have also been involved in the corruption that surrounds the town. But when Dr. Woodrue introduces a mutagen from Abby’s sample into Daniel’s bloodstream, it causes some unexpected side effects. While we feel some sympathy for Dr. Woodrue’s wife and her condition, the method in which he produces results is questionable as he essentially uses Daniel as a human test subject and awakens something dark and fiery within him.
It seems unfortunate however that Swamp Thing has become more of a background character (literally, since he spends most of his time hiding behind trees) in this series as we seem to spend more time with our human characters and the events that surround the swamp. While the swamp itself remains a central focal point to the show, all of the evil that befalls the citizens of Marais seem to come from the swamp. On the plus side, this episode does finally gives us some surprising revelations about Matt Cable.
I must comment on the direction of the show, while Swamp Thing himself hasn’t been on screen that much, he is a much more subtle and darker aspect to the show than he has been, particularly in relation to the campy 1990’s series. While the fate of the Swamp Thing has already been sealed, I hope the final 4 episodes will prove satisfying.
As the “Darkness” in the swamp continues to grow, the ghost of Shawna Sunderland has now possessed the body of little Susie Coyle. However it appears as though Maria has no problem with it and is glad to have her daughter back (sort of), and wants her and her mother to be together forever. And while Swamp Thing struggles to come to terms with his transformation, he realizes he is able to form a link with the trees in the swamp through “the Green” and see their memories with the help of a mysterious unnamed stranger. Dr. Jason Woodrue shares his findings with Avery Sunderland and reveals he is close to discovering something, but Abbie is getting in his way. Meanwhile, Daniel Cassidy tries to leave Marais and he is unable to do so, due to some supernatural force which burns his arm.
This episode goes even deeper into the supernatural powers that the swamp continues to manifest in different and sometimes confusing ways. While the swamp and the regenerative formula did give Alec Holland his life back as Swamp Thing, it seems as though everyone involved is cursed in some way. And it looks as if it has been going on for some time now as we see what really happened between Abbie and Shawna those 15 years ago.
I was looking forward to this episode with the tease from DC Universe in its synopsis:
“Swamp Thing struggles to come to terms with his transformation with the help of a Phantom Stranger”
With that, fans of the darker side of the DC Universe like me will be reminded of a very important character known as the Phantom Stranger who has been around since the 1950s. Sadly while it does suggest that the character is like the Phantom Stranger (played by Macon Blair), he appears as an ordinary resident of the bayou. While the Phantom Stranger possesses many magical abilities, I don’t recall shape changing to be one of them? When Swamp Thing asks him who he is, he merely replies that he is “…just a passing stranger, maybe a phantom from a dream, trying to help you understand the things you already know.” Along with many other cryptic answers he does introduce Swamp Thing to “the Green” the elemental force that connects all the plants on Earth.
While I was somewhat disappointed that he didn’t appear like the traditional Phantom Stranger or we might even get a glimpse of him, it never happened. The last time a supernatural character had a cameo like this was in the Constantine TV series where we got to see Jim Corrgian/the Spectre in episode 5. On a side note we may get another Constantine TV show. As far as Swamp Thing goes, the possessed child scenario was especially creepy and brings Abbie’s tragic past to a head.
After 165 issues have been published by Dark Horse Comics, the critically acclaimed series “Usagi Yojimbo” is being released by IDW Publishing this month. When it was announced in February of this year, some were surprised, but since IDW also currently publishes the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” series, it seems only fitting that they share the same publisher. While Usagi Yojimbo inhabits a different universe as the TMNT, they have appeared together in many comic over the years as well as several times in the TMNT animated series. For those unaware of the rōnin rabbit, the title “Usagi Yojimbo” essentially means rabbit bodyguard (Yōjinbō) in Japanese. Created by Japanese-American cartoonist Masahiko ‘Stan’ Sakai in 1984, the series features the anthropomorphic swordsman, Miyamoto Usagi, who was based on the famous samurai Miyamoto Musashi. Having been published by many companies over the years including Fantagraphics and Mirage Studios, it seems as if the bunny has found a new home.
Beginning with this new three-part story arc “Bunraku”, Usagi continues his wandering of an anthropomorphized Japan during the Edo period on his warrior’s journey, when he comes upon an unusual puppet drama (bunraku) performance, where the puppets (Ningyō) seem strangely lifelike. After Usagi introduces himself to the blind narrator (tayu) and praises the performance while sharing a cup of tea, he later comes across fellow samurai Sasuké (aka the demon queller) where he informs him of evil demons (nukekubi) disguised as townsfolk residing in the town. Later, there is a brief afterword where we see that one of the puppets is not what they appear to be.
The “Usagi Yojimbo” comics have always been a favorite of mine for years, having first discovered his character (and action figure!) in the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” animated series in 1989, not to mention my growing love for samurai movies (Akira Kurosawa) and anime (Rurouni Kenshin). The comic are a perfect combination of comic fantasy, Japanese culture, folklore and history, not to mention many stories involving supernatural creatures (yokai) and demons. And this latest story is no exception, with its fun combination of a samurai drama and the “Puppet Master” horror movies.
Written, drawn and lettered by Stan Sakai, with colors by Tom Luth (“Groo the Wanderer”), this begins a new chapter in the 35 year epic of Usagi Yojimbo, while many of the comics over the years have been in black-and-white, like many independent comics, there have been a few color specials over the years. According to IDW, this new monthly comic book will be published in full color and IDW will curate a fully-colored graphic novel library of the complete Usagi Yojimbo saga.
If you are a newcomer to the Usagi story, this is a great starting point for new fans, or older fans like myself as a fresh start. For those who desire to catch up on the story, the last 32 volumes are available to read and Volume 33 will be available next month. This milestone first issue also includes a main cover by Stan Sakai, plus variants by Daniel Warren Johnson, Kevin Eastman and Walt Simonson.
After Swamp Thing revealed himself to Susie Coyle while saving her and killing her pursuer by ripping him apart, she told Abbie that he said that his name was Alec, which shocks her. The episode begins with a bizarre dream sequence of Alec seeing himself and Munson who he killed and he feels guilty for it. While Abbie wrestles with the new revelation that Alec could be alive, another CDC doctor arrives at the hospital to take over, but her friend Harlan contracts the disease as well. As we are introduced to the eccentric Dr. Woodrue, we also learn that his wife is suffering from some form of Alzheimer’s. Then when Abbie goes to Alec’s lab to try and learn more about what he found, she is confronted by the reanimated corpse of Munson, as well as Swamp Thing in person who saves her. After her encounter with Swamp Thing, he gives her the idea about the nature of the mysterious disease that is plaguing Marais. Later we get to learn more about Avery’s plans for Marais and his not-so-noble intentions regarding the swamp.
This episode really ramps up the horror elements as we see Munson’s body being swarmed and reanimated by insects, as well as Maria seeing visions of her dead daughter Shawna speaking to her from beyond the grave. The dark and supernatural elements harken back to the iconic days of writer Alan Moore’s stint on “Swamp Thing” during the 1980s. The ‘bug zombie’ is truly terrifying in this episode and the fight between it and Swamp Thing is especially exciting. As the title suggests, we also get to hear Swamp Thing speak as he protects Abbie from the ‘bug zombie’ and uses his newfound abilities to “release” Munson’s soul/spirit from the control of the disgusting insects.
After the pilot of “Swamp Thing” the latest streaming show from DC Universe shows much promise as they delve into a darker and more horror-oriented drama, but unfortunately as I will address later in the review. This show, while hopeful is fated to be short-lived.
Following the alleged death of Alec Holland in the swamp at the hands of an unknown assailant, Dr. Abby Arcane and the Marais sheriff’s department conduct a search for his remains. While Susie Coyle remains in the hospital, two more cases of the illness have been reported. And while the Swamp Thing emerges from the swamp and struggles to understand what has happened to him, Susie has an episode and seems to be somehow connected to the creature. And later, while Abby searches for clues as to what Alec was working on, she reluctantly approaches Avery Sunderland, who she hopes can provide her access to his lab. But when Susie goes missing from the hospital, Abby and Matt Cable follow her trail into the swamp, where she encounters a human monster as well as the Swamp Thing. Now as the plot thickens, the mysteries of the plant accelerant formula and Alec Holland’s fate are revealed.
As the second episode begins we finally get a fairly good look at the Swap Thing, and he is most impressive. No more B-grade rubber suits or overly campy performances, this is the Swamp Thing as he was meant to be. The costume, along with prosthetics and CGI effects are very realistic and add an otherworldliness to him that is very believable.
Also with this episode we are introduced to two new characters who will no doubt become an integral part to the story. One being the blind mystic Madame Xanadu (played by Jeryl Prescott), whose character has been a part of the DC comics magical world with characters such as the Spectre and Phantom Stranger since 1978. Also introduced is the botanist Dr. Jason Woodrue (played by Kevin Durand), who, without spoiling anything about his character, DC Comics fans will instantly recognize but who was previously but limitedly played by John Glover in Batman & Robin (1997). There’s even an appearance by Dan Cassidy (played by Ian Ziering) who fans will also know by another name, as the ‘Blue Devil’ but in a much different incarnation.
Overall, this show is slowly building up characters and backstories, but also doing a great job of adding both supernatural thrills and suspense that fans will come to expect. There is a particular two very horrifying scenes where Madame Xanadu tries a voodoo-like séance with Maria Sunderland (Virginia Madsen) and we also get to see a fairly bloody display of Swamp Thing’s powers in the climax of the episode.
On another note, before the airing of this episode, viewers received some shocking news that may have come to soon and which also may bring detriment to the future of the show and its continued audience. On June 4th, rumors spread on the internet that the new “Swamp Thing” series was in fact Cancelled! As more details emerged, the company announced that after filming had ended on the first season, that there will be no second season, due to a combination of production troubles, corporate bureaucracy, and money, along with the uncertain future of the DC Universe streaming service with the upcoming AT&T’s Warner Media streaming service. Before “Swamp Thing” emerged from the swamp it seems as if his fate was sealed with a $100 billion deal. Much like 2014’s “Constantine” TV show on NBC, which was also canceled after one season. The character of John Constantine (perfectly played by Matt Ryan) was able to live on in CW’s “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.” While it seems DC has always had a problem with their darker heroes, their more mainstream characters such as Green Arrow, Flash and Supergirl, have prospered on the CW Television Network. As for the other original shows on DC Universe like “Titans and “Doom Patrol,” their futures seem just as uncertain. I for one will continue to watch and review “Swamp Thing” for the next 8 episodes and hope that soon, after the fans on the internet have spoken, “Swamp Thing” will return!