REVIEW BY MATT MORRISON
Not A Dream! Not A Hoax! Harley Quinn And Joker Team Up To Save Gotham City!
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.
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.
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