DC’s Swamp Thing
Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”
Directed by Len Wiseman
Written by Gary Dauberman & Mark Verheiden
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Worlds Apart” – click here
We open on— you guessed it— a swamp!
Men in a boat are trying to follow a signal. They hone in on a “drop point” where they drop boxes into the water. When they’re done, their boat won’t start. Something shakes it, then starts spinning it around. One of the men’s pulled into the water. He surfaces, bloody and confused. He tries to get back to the boat, only to be hauled under again. All around, vines are growing, moving, twisting. The men try using dynamite. An explosion almost elicits a scream from the vines. So then shit gets serious— vines tear one of the men apart. The last guy crawls to the shore. More vines are waiting.
48 hours later. Little Susie Coyle (Elle Graham) isn’t well in class. Her nose is bleeding, and she coughs up something green, like wet moss. She stumbles around, her vision blurring, before passing out on the floor. What’s the connection between her and the men in the boat?
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Dr. Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed) is working on a mission for the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. She’s smart, compassionate, and isn’t afraid of risking herself for the sake of others. She gets a call about a situation in America. Soon, she’s back in Louisiana with her colleague Harlan Edwards (Leonardo Nam). Like a potentially volatile situation isn’t bad enough, Abby’s from Marais. Coming home, after a long time, isn’t quite a breeze.
At the hospital, Abby suits up and goes to see Susie— their “Patient Zero“— in quarantine. The girl’s very ill. She keeps coughing up leafy greens. (Is her dad the man who escaped the swamp earlier?) Abby also meets Alec Holland (Andy Bean), though doesn’t get his name, neither does she learn who he is before a nurse shoos him out of the hospital.
Abby goes to the Coyle home. She meets Matt Cable (Henderson Wade) there, whom she knows from back in the day. Her old pal’s a cop now. He accompanies her inside, looking for the little girl’s dad, Eddie (John Bishop). Doesn’t seem to be anybody home. Only sludgy vines growing across the walls. Matt and Abby hear noise coming from a bedroom. They open the door to see Holland “collecting a sample.” He points them to Mr. Coyle in the bathroom, his corpse attached to the sink by vines.
We find out Alec’s been hired by Avery Sunderland (Will Patton)— a “very important man” in Marais. He’s stunned by what he’s found and wants to show Dr. Arcane. He plays on her clearly empathetic nature. They head out to Sunderland’s lab. Alec tells Abby of a possibly “new strand” of mutagen. Something out there’s growing. It ain’t only vines. Alec also provides a demonstration that nearly gets out of hand.
At a town hall meeting, citizens are scared about what’s going on in their town. Sunderland tries to tell everyone to calm down. Most don’t care about what a wealthy man has to say compared to their own woes. Avery tries to tell them his research will be “the answer” for their town’s problems. Is he a bourgeois capitalist? Or a genuine man? We’ll see. He doesn’t want to freak out the town, whereas Alec’s convinced a full-blown epidemic could erupt if they aren’t careful.
Abby does an autopsy on Mr. Coyle at the morgue. She’s joined by Alec, who examines a sample from the corpse. The body tears open. Vines twist from the open cavity. The body sits up. Vines stretch everywhere. They grab Abby, pulling her util Alec gets her free. Susie wakes, as if connected to her father. She comes down and sees him, fainting. Abby grabs the girl and makes a run for it, leaving Alec to fend for himself. He gets hold of rubbing alcohol and uses it to light the vine monster on fire.
In the aftermath, Abby and Alec head out on the swamp for a drink. She has business there, too. She runs into Liz Tremaye (Maria Sten), another old face. Liz tells her someone’s been hiring boats to go into the swamp at night. Nobody knows why, or who it is hiring them. Lots of “mosquitoes and gossip” in Marais. They’re interrupted by Maria (Virginia Madsen), wife of Avery. She’s got history with Dr. Arcane— something troubling we only see in a brief glimpse. Maria’s not pleased to see Abby back. It’s got to do with the Sunderlands’ daughter, Shawna (Given Sharp).
Later, Abby and Alec are back on the swamp. They come upon the boat gnarled in vines. They find a bag with a laptop inside. Alec pulls free one of the boxes. Inside is an “underwater release mechanism” with syringes attached. Alec and Abby take it back to the Sunderland lab to examine. While they wait for the results of a test, they talk and get to know one another better. She Googled him before. She saw he fabricated results in an experiment. He wound up disgraced, with few options left. We hear about Abby’s trouble, too. Seems she and Shawna were inseparable as kids. Right before graduating she accidentally killed her friend. Whoa.
The syringe holds the same stuff Alec found accelerating the swamp growth. On top of that, the laptop shows drop points where other boxes were dumped. Holland plans to take them out of the swamp so nobody else will get sick. Out on the water, Alec stops at one of the points. Another boat turns up and a man shoots Alec in the chest, blowing up his boat. Holland gets himself into the swamp before he’s part of the explosion.
But there are dangerous things in the swamp.
Alec pulls himself near shore. Vines wrap him up and pull him below. They sink into his skin, running through him like veins. Abby’s heard the noise. She goes looking and finds the boat in fiery pieces. Vines pull her into the swamp. She swims to flee their grasp. She runs ashore. There she meets Swamp Thing (Derek Mears) before running off in terror.
Fan-fucking-tastic. Father Gore’s not huge on superheroes. Swamp Thing is one of them, though. This was a stellar first episode. It’s going to be great to watch what DC does here, because this could lead to some excellent stuff, as opposed to the not-so-excellent things DC’s put out in the past. Lots of things to enjoy, particularly the performances, and, of course, the look of Derek Mears as Swamp Thing.
“Worlds Apart” is next time.