REVIEW – Does Swamp Thing Sink Or Swim? (SPOILER FREE)

It's been quite a journey for DC Universe's Swamp Thing already, hasn't it?  Despite all the reports from behind the scenes, the release of the first episode is only a week away.  I got a chance to see the first episode early, and there are a lot of things that stood out to me.  Did I embrace the green?  Let's find out!

First I just wanted to say again that there will be no spoilers here, so I'll have to dance around things a bit to avoid that.  In this first episode, we see that something very wrong is happening in Marais, Louisiana.  Enter CDC investigator Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed) to return to her hometown to try and solve the puzzle of this mysterious illness.  During this investigation, she meets the very eccentric Alec Holland (Henderson Wade), but no one seems to know what he's up to.  You do get to see what's going on, what the virus is and at least some clues as to where it might have originated from.  We also get to find out why Abby hasn't been back to her hometown in a while.  There is more to Holland's past as well, which actually adds something to the dynamic between he and Arcane.  I really enjoyed the chemistry between the two of them, and Holland's character was not what I expected at all.  They both come off as smart in their own way, but it feels like they both add to one another's knowledge in a way.  While I enjoyed both characters, Crystal Reed's Arcane just captivates the screen with each scene she is in.  It's like she's playing the role of doctor, investigator and scientist all at once, not to mention the personal baggage that she is carrying.  Then you have the quirky and aloof style that Wade brings Alec Holland and they play so well off of each other.

The virus that their dealing with enough to give you some serious anxiety.  While I wouldn't necessarily classify this as horror, these images will definitely haunt you.  One thing that is tough to do with a story like this is make it feel real.  Sure it might be far fetched in the real world, but the way they explain it during the course of the investigation makes it feel like it could actually happen.  There are some horror elements, sure, but to me this seems more like a hybrid thriller and horror.  The show does steer clear of cheesy jump scares, but does a pretty good job at giving you visuals that will be difficult to get our of your head.

Speaking of the visuals, I feel like the use of practical effects here really set the tone of the show more than anything else.  You get that eerie feeling each time that they are in the swamp, and I always found myself wondering what might be lurking nearby.  Of course, the first five minutes of the show go a long way to that as well.  So if you were worried that there would be too much CG, and that it might be cheesy, you can put your fears to rest on that.  While I'm talking about realism, I also love that we got to see the reaction of the town itself to what is going on.  It's a small town, people talk, and they do not shy away from that.  As someone who has lived in small towns, the general reaction seemed very true to life.  You also have the stereotypical rich guy from the small town in Avery Sunderland (Will Patton) who you immediately suspicious of.  That could also because Patton seems to play that guy a lot in some of his other work, so maybe it's guilt by association in my case.  He plays the role so well though, and this is certainly no exception.  There might be a little more to it this time, or at least the motivations anyway, but that remains to be seen.

Overall I think that Swamp Thing accomplishes what it sets out to do in it's first episode.  You know what's happening, you know who the major players are and there is certainly enough intrigue in it all to keep you interested.  With all of the dark and creepy elements, there was also some lighthearted moments sprinkled in here and there.  I keep going back to the chemistry between Reed and Wade's characters, which was the big highlight of the episode for me.  The town itself also feels like it's always alive, whether it be the residents or the surrounding swamp.  Even the way everyone gets around this town makes you feel like you are somewhere outside of the norm.  While this show didn't blow me away like the first episode of Doom Patrol did, this adds another kind of show to the DC Universe line-up.  Just because I don't consider this true horror, doesn't mean that you won't.  I actually like the fact that there are some horror elements, plenty of drama and the constant presence of a thriller that kept me interested throughout.  All of the science is also explained, so this show doesn't feel like it's trying to go over your head.  This show keeps you present in the moment, and spends a lot of time on it's major players.  Oh and that thing you're waiting for, I love how they set the stage for that, but then almost let it happen out of nowhere.  From the eerie visuals to the strong character dynamics, I can't wait to see how things develop after this first episode.  If you're not one with the green before this, you will be!

Photo Credit: Warner Bros. TV/DC Universe)