Saturday, 1 June 2019

Swamp Thing Pilot Review: "Solid Opening to DC Universe's Next Big Thing"



Swamp Thing is the latest show to come out of DC’s online streaming service DC Universe. Given word leaked out just before the promotional run started that its first season episode order had been cut? Many were left fearing the worst.



The show debuted on Friday and had an impressive opening. Directed by Len Wiseman and written by Mark Verheiden & Gary Dauberman, the hour long episode brought Abby Arcane (excellently played by Crystal Reed) back to her hometown of Marais to investigate what on earth is going on that’s making so many people sick.

Usually pilot episodes are all about setting up the story, the location, giving us a feel for the mythology, and a sprinkle of character development so that as the series continues, we have a reason to root for the characters we’re watching on screen. Last week I watched the first episode of The Society and whilst it was a good episode, it also felt a little slow and boring in places with things not getting interesting until the final few minutes.

Swamp Things first episode goes somewhat against the grain. It opens with a crew in a small boat exploring the swamp and quickly winding up dead. We’re soon introduced to Abby at work with the CDC abroad and persuading a young boy to let them help him and his sister, before she’s called to Marais for said investigation into what’s making people sick after a young girl collapses in class.

Mythology is slowly dropped across the hour only where it needs to be. Abby and Maria Sutherland (played by Virginia Madsen) meet once during the pilot and it’s a brief enough meeting to let us know Maria & Abby aren’t friends. Abby later confesses in a moment of reminiscing to Alec Holland that she killed Maria’s daughter when she was younger, but doesn’t elaborate on that and Alec doesn’t expect her to. Their primary mission, the thing that brings them together in the first place, is finding out what exactly is going on with the swamp so they can find a cure and stop people getting sick.

The answer to that is of course something biological mixing and reacting with the waste being dumped into the swamp, causing some kind of horrifying, chemical reaction.

I have an extremely low tolerance for horror. Jump scares very much make me jump, scariest movies I’ve watched are Jeepers Creepers, and I do my upmost to avoid anything relating to The Walking Dead because even the zombie makeup looks scary. Watching a show where things go bump in the night, exploring a house where a body is found all swampified and said body later comes to life as the swamp attempts to take over the lab? Safe to say this isn’t a show I’ll be watching at night!
A show like this requires an excellent cast to bring it to life and draw viewers into something they wouldn’t normally watch. Dylan O’Brien ended up being Teen Wolf’s breakout star, but from watching the show during its earlier more glorious days, I’ve known Crystal Reed had the capabilities to easily lead the line. Granted it was only the first episode but I was still mightily impressed with how she’s taken on Abby’s character. She’s helped by Andy Bean alongside her as Alec Holland who becomes the titular character after someone tries to kill him. The two of them have a good enough chemistry in the pilot that is sure to be strengthened as the series progresses. Virginia Madsen will probably be known to people thanks to her role on Designated Survivor, whilst I saw her in the short lived CBS drama American Gothic which deserved better than it got. She plays super bitch flawlessly whilst being careful to make sure the character doesn’t come across as too cold.

Coming in at an hour long there was a danger that parts of the episode would feel slow or boring, but thankfully Swamp Thing is one show that actually utilizes its runtime well. No scene goes on too long, enough information is dropped throughout the pilot to give us enough information to follow the plot as it looks to expand, and we follow Alec’s journey as the swamp thing. The only criticism I can probably offer on this episode is it was extremely dark. That might’ve been the point to fit in with the horror vibe that the show is clearly going with, but at times it was difficult to follow along with the swamp side of the action as I could barely see the characters and actions on screen.

You can catch episode two of the Swamp Thing next Friday on DC Universe