Friday, July 26, 2019

Swamp Thing Ep.#9 Review The Anatomy Lesson

Swamp Thing
DC Universe
Season 1, Episode 9
“The Anatomy Lesson”



After finishing the penultimate episode of Swamp Thing, I was filled with mixed emotions. On one hand, it has great visual effects and much to my surprise, Swamp Thing gets plenty of screen time. On the other, The Anatomy Lesson is a time tested classic, and when it came to adapting the source material, it appears the writers arrived at class claiming the dog ate their homework.

When translating a story of this magnitude to film, the original content must be treated with respect. Not so say changes can't be made, it's inevitable, but one must tread carefully. Much like the skeleton of Alec Holland that Swamp Thing delivers from the bayou, this take on The Anatomy Lesson merely picks at the bones of the tale that inspired it.

Before the series started, I had concerns about the inclusion of Blue Devil and Xanadu to the cast. There are so many layers to explore within Swamp Thing and Abby's relationship alone, establishing the key players for a potential Justice League Dark spinoff would be too distracting. Until now, the pacing involved in regards to integrating these characters has been pretty good. Even the Phantom Stranger whom I don't believe received a fitting debut has subtly proven to be an effective ringmaster.

Swamp Thing -- Ep. 109 -- "The Anatomy Lesson" 

I did mention "until now" because Blue Devil is given an integral part to play in this version of The Anatomy Lesson which is completely unnecessary. Sure, I understand the big transformation from Dan Cassidy to Blue Devil also occurred, but it really should've happened three episodes ago. Saving it for such an authoritative chapter is downright annoying.

The resolution of the Avery/Maria rift appears to have been affected by the episode order being cut from thirteen to ten. Avery's revenge is far too convenient. With Maria growing to be such a formidable presence on the show, it's difficult to accept the outcome. Could there be more to come during the finale? Of course, but should this be the conclusion, going out with a whimper wasn't a wise choice. Unlike Blue Devil, the Sunderland's saga is worth watching.

 

The original Anatomy Lesson was told 35 years ago in the pages of Swamp Thing Vol.2 #21, courtesy of writer Alan Moore. It contained a shocking twist that altered the continuity of Swamp Thing and cemented the issue as one of the greatest stories to ever see print. That's a lot to live up to. Thankfully, the television series kept that element intact. They certainly took a different path to get there, yet the reveal is so good, it's nearly impossible to screw up. A new generation of fans will be scraping their jaws off the floor and that's amazing.

While I have my grievances with how everything played out, there are some really nice touches here. The autopsy scenes are quite horrific. Not only visually, but psychologically as well. The majority of the acting performances were strong per usual, and we finally have a Swamp Thing centric installment to sink our teeth into. The overall quality we've come to expect from the series remains, making it extremely watchable, warts and all.

Did The Anatomy Lesson meet my expectations? Heck no, nor was it the best episode of Swamp Thing to date, which should have been a slam dunk. Next time we see Swamp Thing and company may be the last for a long while. I sincerely hope an epic finale is put on the table.

7 Tubers out of 10

-David Schultz

Originally published on: https://thegww.com/swamp-thing-01x09-review/

Swamp Thing Episode 8 Review


Swamp Thing
DC Universe
Season 1, Episode 8

“Long Walk Home”



Let me get this out of the way right off the bat. Swamp Thing doesn’t fully appear in this episode until the 21-minute mark. I usually save his bits for last as he’s barely on the show that bears his name. A complaint that’s common on social media and many reviews, including my own.

It’s a fair gripe to have. In my case, I’ve been wowed so much by the supporting cast’s acting performance that I decided to overlook the glaring absence of Swamp Thing and instead, focus on the story unfolding onscreen. Overall it’s been very good, but not without a few bumps in the road; sadly Long Walk Home makes residence in the scrap heap.

The primary reason I was disappointed in this episode was it felt so uneven. The first half just drags along. I’ll give it credit for providing a fair amount of backstory, especially with Avery Sunderland (Will Patton). Struggling for survival, Avery takes a miserable trip down memory lane in the form of visions. He’s stated previously, along with his daughter, the swamp killed his father. Here we see just how that happened and as much as Avery hates the swamp, it may actually despise him even more. It’s hard to dislike any moment where Will Patton is the main focus because he’s exceptional in this role. Unfortunately, during all this, we are subjected to a scene that may have the worst visual effects of the series thus far. That turned out to be a big turn off.

Abby (Crystal Reed) has returned to the CDC in Atlanta where we get a nice guest appearance from Adrienne Barbeau who plays her boss Dr. Palomer. She proves to be a difficult woman to work for, as it’s later revealed she serves Nathan Ellery (Michael Beach) of the Conclave. Despite being a small part, it’s great to see a nod to the original Wes Craven film by casting Barbeau, who was the first person to portray Abby Arcane.
The problem here seems to be, while the acting is good, the pace is slow. For the most part, just toggling between Avery and Abby. There are other threads interjected into the show, namely Matt Cable’s own daddy issues, but it was shallow, not enough there to make it interesting. With the titular monster MIA and no jump scares waiting around the corner, the minutiae begins to wear you down. The back end, however, has the goodies we’ve been waiting for.

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Swamp Thing steps in to save Avery and with that, falls victim to false promises. Or are they? Just when you think being double-crossed has made Avery soft, Jason Woodrue (Kevin Durand) plays devil’s advocate, returning Avery to his villainous ways. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, especially when you wave a fortune in front of his face.

Swamp Thing’s action sequence isn’t long but allows for his powers to be on display. Great to get a taste of that albeit only in a little dose. The hardcore fan base will be happy with the show’s ending, as it signals an adaptation of a comic book classic The Anatomy Lesson. Originally told by Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, and John Totleben in Swamp Thing Volume 2 #21, the story is one, if not the most, important chapters of Swamp Thing lore. This is exciting news, just be prepared for Swampy spending the majority of the next episode on ice.

So while this installment started out dull, it set the table and ended with a bang. As it’s been with my experience, whenever Swamp Thing sinks, he rises once again to tear my heart out. Next week is the perfect opportunity to do just that.

6.5 Tubers out of 10

-David Schultz

Originally published on: https://thegww.com/swamp-thing-01x08-review/

Swamp Thing Episode 7 Review


Swamp Thing
DC Universe
Season 1, Episode 7

“Brilliant Disguise”


 

Continuing from the previous episode, Swamp Thing has produced a spore that allows Abby (Crystal Reed) to hallucinate and view him as Alec Holland (Andy Bean). For the uninitiated, this ia a trick used in the comics through the use of tubers he grows from his body, albeit in the case of Swampy and Abby, for ahem… lovemaking. While the results appeared uneven at times, seeing the concept translated onscreen is quite enjoyable. I’m glad they decided to use that as a storytelling tactic prior to the series conclusion.
The reunion leads Alec and Abby to the Rot, a force that’s been addressed previously on the show. The Rot is in constant battle with the source of Swamp Thing’s powers, the Green. Yet another cool nod to the source material (there will be more), but Abby has danced with darkness one too many times and during their trip visiting the Rot’s domain in the swamp, she becomes infected by it.
The true meat to be had here has nothing to do with the stars, but rather the supporting cast. There are some outstanding acting performances and subplots that consistently bring the goods. The trio of Avery Sunderland (Will Patton), his wife Maria (Virginia Madsen) and Lucilia Cable (Jennifer Beals) are an absolute tour de force that could crack your television screen.

Swamp Thing -- Ep. 107 -- "Brilliant Disguise" 

Beals and Patton are paired up after she throws a serious wrinkle into Avery’s plans to host his benefactor, Nathan Ellery of the Conclave (told you more comic connections were coming). Avery’s goal is to secure the funds Jason Woodrue (Kevin Durand) needs to finish his research. Rather than arriving at dinner on time, Avery ends up in a serious quagmire. The acting supplants the somewhat predictable outcome to his troubles and accentuates the suspense. Waiter, can I get more of that onscreen chemistry, please? Thank you.
Speaking of interesting wrinkles, the script is fully stocked. It starts with Avery, Lucilia and even her son Matt Cable (Henderson Wade) joins the fun, but doesn’t stop there. For example, it’s been established that Woodrue wants to cure his wife of her Alzheimer’s disease, due to his odd demeanor suspicions are bound to be raised. Namely, what does Woodrue truly love the most, his spouse or science?

Swamp Thing -- Ep. 107 -- “Brilliant Disguise” 
While the episode title Brilliant Disguise obviously is a reference to Alec and Abby’s adventure, it may actually, and appropriately, be a metaphor for Maria’s character arc. We’ve seen her emotional status take many forms. There have been flashes of strength, but overall she’s been suffering from grief. To the point, it made her delusional, nearly following the ghost of her daughter Shawna (Given Sharp) to early death in the murky depths. Not…any…more.

Maria flexes her muscles and we witness how she’s not someone to be reckoned with. Empowerment is one heck of a drug, which makes you wonder. Was she always waiting in the weeds ready to strike, or was losing Shawna for good the straw that broke her back? Either way, it’s a powerful performance to watch. Madsen knocks the role out of the park and into oncoming traffic. Which coincidentally, is where one may end up should they cross Maria Sunderland.

Yet again, there isn’t much Swamp Thing physically to be seen. Understandably frustrating for some I’m sure, except there’s poetry at play and it shouldn’t be dismissed. While Abby saw him as Alec again for a brief time, he remained in the body of a monster. No matter what transformations or trials lie ahead Alec accepts his fate, but he’s unwilling to let go of at least one human characteristic, his heart.

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Lastly, still in the source material and speculative vein, I must also note this installment ends with a severely wounded Avery letting out blood-curdling scream. What terrifies him so? Could be pain I suppose. My inner fan, however, cried out Anton Arcane! I know, with three episodes left, this isn’t the time to have such hopes. But think about it for a second, how perfect would it be that Brilliant Disguise gave birth to the greatest charlatan Swamp Thing has ever faced? Hmm…

8.5 Tubers out of 10

-David Schultz

Originally published at: https://thegww.com/swamp-thing-01x07-review/

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Swamp Thing Episode 6 REVIEW

 Originally Published at:
https://thegww.com/swamp-thing-01x0…iew-spoiler-free/

Swamp Thing
DC Universe
Season 1, Episode 6
“The Price You Pay”




This installment of Swamp Thing has a lot going for it. Fans should enjoy the pacing, which effortlessly weaves together plot points and provides a pleasant amount of answers. With only four episodes left (including this one) and the show being cut down from 13 episodes to 10, I started to worry the cramming would begin. While there is a fair amount to digest, the storytelling remains smooth.

 

Overall the acting continues to be very good. There are some cracks in the armor that I'll get to momentarily, but the majority of the cast has the ability to steal the show. Crystal Reed as Abby is an absolute star in the making, Kevin Durand turns the creepy up to eleven as Jason Woodrue, and Will Patton's portrayal of Avery Sunderland is absolutely brilliant. Maria Sten's performance as Liz Tremayne has been given room to grow, and the results are positive. Liz was a key character in the comics, and while this is a far different take, much like everything else, Sten has been highly entertaining. Speaking of which, Jennifer Beals is killing it as Lucilla Cable. She's provided with depth and delivers each and every time. Standout material that I can't get enough of.

That's all well and good, but what's wrong with this episode? The other shoe had to drop sometime, and I have some complaints. Let's start with Blue Devil.

If you're anything like me, you consider superhero fare on the CW mostly poor. Yeah, I'm spoiled. We all are. The genre has been dominating our screens steadily for over a decade. So a show that would have blown my mind before the boom, can't quite stack up now. Not that I'm damning a product simply because it's on network television. You see, slapping a cape on a daytime soap caliber product is the CW's bread and butter. No offense to any of the actors on those programs, we all have to make a living. I just don't have to watch it.

Swamp Thing -- Ep. 106 

Ian Ziering thus far has been decent playing the cursed Dan Cassidy. Here, however, it felt as if I was thrust into one of those aforementioned CW cut-rate creations. I did like the involvement of the Phantom Stranger in flashbacks and the clue drops, but other than that...oh  boy, it was tough to watch. The visuals that are normally strong also looked better suited for a lower tier of television. There isn't much time left before the show's conclusion, hopefully they turn that story arc around.

We've finally reached the point in the review where we talk, well, about Swamp Thing. This is not a case of saving the best for last, but rather the least gets saved for later. I recently read a critique on social media where someone stated this Swamp Thing show shares similarities with the 90's series because he's firmly placed in the peripheral. I can't argue with that, nor could anyone else, and it's been an ongoing gripe of mine.

Swamp Thing -- Ep. 106 -- “The Price You Pay” 

Much like a bait and switch, it feels like we are given crazy-good Swampy action to start the episode as compensation for his MIA status the remainder of the program. I'd be willing to guess and could be wrong as I didn't actually time it, Swamp Thing is onscreen more here than ever before. He's also used purposefully which is key, especially if he's just going to stand around.  And guess what! Swampy lets out a mighty roar...again. Looks cool enough I suppose, yet I'm curious to know who decided that needed to be his signature move.

If you couldn't tell by now, I have a love/hate relationship with this chapter. Some elements are so good that I can't take my eyes off them, deserving high marks. But alas, the standard of quality on Swamp Thing had been set, and Blue Devil dragged down The Price You Pay.

7 Tubers out of 10

-David Schultz

Swamp Thing Episode 4 REVIEW





Originally published at: 
https://thegww.com/swamp-thing-01x04-review/

Swamp Thing
DC Universe
Season 1, Episode 4
Darkness on the Edge of Town


                Swamp Thing -- Ep. 104 -- “Darkness on the Edge of Town”

Over the course of watching the first four episodes of Swamp Thing, it's become fairly obvious mirroring is a key storytelling element. Flashbacks pair with events unfolding in the present, and similar circumstances shared by characters are a nice tease while we wait for the dots to connect. This being said, I'm still fairly surprised, and quite pleased to say, "Darkness on the Edge of Town" could share roots with the original Swamp Thing television series from the 90s.

With the sick townsfolk in Marais showing significant signs of improvement, a new affliction arises within the bayou. Dark forces lay dormant for only so long, and while the effects start more subtle than the swamp flu, the results make for a hallucinogenic horror-fest. Worst nightmares realized as bad trips just might cause you to have a sleepless night.

Abby receives a key piece of data from Alec in the form of a tissue sample. While studying the cell anomaly that makes up Swamp Thing's monstrous form, an arrogant Jason Woodrue offers her assistance with the analysis. Abby agrees to an uneasy alliance with the mad scientist, which is equally frustrating and intriguing. It's one of those times you want to yell at your screen, as if you could influence her decision, but also can't wait to see what his intentions are with this breakthrough she shouldn't have handed over.

                   Swamp Thing -- Ep. 104 -- “Darkness on the Edge of Town” 

The Sunderland's sights are set on the recently orphaned, and now healthy Susie Coyle. It's made clear early in the episode that they intend on taking her into their care, yet it avoids becoming a boring plot point thanks to the individual motives behind the decision. For Maria, Susie would serve as a surrogate daughter, filling a void left in her heart and home since Shawna passed away. Avery however, views her as a science experiment.
Heads up comic book fans, when it's Abby's turn to dance with her inner demons, your heart may explode with joy...or terror. Any way you decide to slice it, be prepared to speculate on what an Arcane family reunion might look like.

                  Swamp Thing -- Ep. 104 -- “Darkness on the Edge of Town” 

I noted "Darkness on the Edge of Town" feels like it pays tribute to its 90s predecessor. The reason for this is, while multiple threads add depth to be discovered down the road, there's a clear resolution to the threat posed here. The story is properly bookended, and I love that. The majority of episodes from the previous series were stand-alone tales. Sometimes, it's enjoyable to have the ability to watch something without being bogged down by what came before. Nowadays we stream, binge and never miss a beat. But back when the original aired and you forgot to set your VCR for when you weren't home, better luck next week buddy.

Breaking news, Derek Mears plays one hell of a Swamp Thing. One of my gripes thus far is how little we've seen of the title character. He's still not hogging the screen by any stretch, but what we do see is fantastic. Mears emotes well through the makeup and allows the man inside the monster to shine. I found myself getting lost in the facial expressions on display, and just how amazing Swamp Thing looks.

This is my favorite episode thus far. Swamp Thing didn't get any action sequences, but they weren't required. He perfectly serves his purpose in a well-rounded script. Stunning visuals, spooky bits are spectacular, and the acting performances have an emotional edge. Think I got myself a nasty case of swamp scratch fever, and I like it!
8.5 Tubers out of 10
-David Schultz

Friday, June 14, 2019

Swamp Thing Episode Three Review



Originally published at: https://thegww.com/swamp-thing-01x03-review/

Swamp Thing
DC Universe
Season 1, Episode 3 "He Speaks"

By now we've all heard the news of Swamp Thing's premature cancellation, and as of this writing, the rumors still swirl as to what caused the axe to fall. At a time like this, a eulogy feels more appropriate than reviewing the most recent episode. So it was difficult to resist the urge of typing a "Swamp Thing, we hardly got the chance to know ya!" sendoff piece. You see, that would be terribly boring and rather than focus on what's to come, I'd rather concentrate on what we currently have.


In reality, even with the bad news, we still have the chance to finish the season and there is plenty of monster mayhem to enjoy before it's time to say goodbye. It's okay to whistle past the graveyard in this case. Although, I must admit this outing makes pulling the plug a little less painful.

Hold on now. Before you go sending some Louisiana gris gris my way, hear me out.  Episode three of Swamp Thing is good, not great.

This installment showcases the supporting cast, and it handles that responsibility from multiple angles very well.  In a scene where Jason Woodrue examines the corpse of Eddie Coyle, he comes off as a condescending, creepy jerk. A mutated heart that Woodrue uses to test Abby's abilities as a scientist serves as a metaphor for what could be his true motive. It's a nice touch considering, later on, he and his wife Caroline share a tender, and telling moment.

Maria Sunderland's role is also quite intriguing. Her backstory is built around the debilitating loss of her daughter Shawna. Abby's return to Marais has stirred up her feelings of grief, relegating her to sympathetic character status. Here she finds strength in a most unusual ally that makes you wonder if she has found her voice, or completely lost her mind.

Liz Tremayne hits up one of her sources searching for answers, Matt Cable tries to create a love connection, and more light is shed on Avery Sunderland's sordid affairs. All three are staples from the source material, and each individual plot thread is played out well. It's especially nice to see Liz and Matt fleshed out more. They felt like small pieces of the puzzle during the first two episodes.

On the other hand, while those appearances were enjoyable, a brief bit with Dan Cassidy and Xanadu nearly gets ruined by a product placement for beer.  I know, I know. Gotta pay the bills, but it was off-putting.

Notice I haven't mentioned Swamp Thing yet? While getting a good look at him right out of the gate, he still isn't given ample screen time on a show bearing his name. Andy Bean returns as Alec Holland, adding more murkiness to Swamp Thing's purpose. Still unsure of who or what he truly is, a dream sequence is used to set up yet another frustrated roar.

But hey, this episode is titled "He Speaks" right? So this is it! Finally, we get our star a turn on center stage and hear that signature speech pattern. Well, yes in a way,  but it won't illicit the ghastly goosebumps you may have dreamed of.

The action that sets up Swampy's first words is also lackluster. When Abby Arcane investigates what's left of Alec's lab, a new type of infection, independent of the swamp flu, shows it's ugly face. Swamp Thing engages in what I would describe as a shoving match with the menace, handling the situation quite easily. The combination of saving the day and connecting with Abby should have more of an impact. After witnessing the evisceration that befalls Swamp Thing's enemies, this outcome will elicit a few yawns.

All of the visual and horror components we've become accustomed to with the series are still intact. Fair warning though, if you're the kind of person who enjoys a snack before watching a show, skip it. It'll take some serious intestinal fortitude to stomach the opening sequence. Go ahead and save those nachos for when Swamp Thing is over.

Fans of the comics should be pleased with a nod to the Rot, an elemental kingdom with the ability to control decay featured during the New 52, and going much further back, a nice little Conclave namedrop. The latter will also make fans ears perk up, especially with whom it's directed at.

"He Speaks" falls just shy of meeting the standard set by the previous set of episodes. Mainly because the Swamp Thing we get didn't do enough. I can accept a slow burn, but when our hero gets his chances, make them count. The previously prominent wow factor took a wrong turn and wilted. You know what though? Everyone is allowed an off day, even if they're not fully human, so I'll give the big green guy a muck-encrusted mulligan.

⭐6.5 Tubers out of 10⭐

-David Schultz

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Swamp Thing Episode 2 Review SPOILER FREE


Originally published on the GWW.


While watching Episode Two of Swamp Thing, one thing is apparent; The show is out to create a truly diverse environment for the audience to enjoy. From the dimly lit bayou implying danger at night to sets that make you feel like you’re smack dab in the middle of a remote, Louisiana lifestyle. The mood is perfectly captured scene to scene.
That being said, don’t believe it’s only about the atmosphere. There is some wonderful character building at play here. Crystal Reed continues to impress as Abby Arcane, plus the script grants deeper dives into the supporting cast from the previous installment. Susie (Elle Graham), Matt Cable (Henderson Wade), Liz Tremayne (Maria Sten) and Madame Xanadu (Jeryl Prescott) all continue to develop quite nicely and naturally. Xanadu’s emergence also proves to be quite impactful. Not only is her look enough to chill you to the core, but she is also deeply rooted in Maria Sunderland’s downward spiral of grief.

Will Patton’s portrayal of Avery Sunderland is downright excellent. Each appearance is a highlight. One scene, in particular, explores the emotional scars reopened with Abby’s return to her hometown after a 14 year, self-imposed exile, exposing what a true master manipulator he is. Not long after, we receive hints at the sinister villain he’s bound to become. Patton’s performance is so good in fact, I implore the writers not to bother with a faithful adaptation of Alan Moore’s classic Swamp Thing story, the Anatomy Lesson. More on comic continuity a little later.

Episode Two ushers in some new faces to the cast with Sheriff Cable (Jennifer Beals), Jason Woodrue (Kevin Durand) and Dan Cassidy aka the Blue Devil (Ian Ziering). To be perfectly honest,the whole idea of including Blue Devil in the series rubbed me the wrong way when it was announced. I worried the series would turn into a bloated superhero ensemble rather than focus on the most important players, Swamp Thing and Abby. While I’m not ditching my concerns entirely as we are only two episodes in, seeing how Blue Devil was implemented here and Ziering’s charming performance put me at ease.

The final act is a full immersion into a perfectly paced slasher film. Edge of your seat suspense, with the right amount of action and gore. Swamp Thing is also finally allowed his time to shine. While not given much screen time overall, I will say what we do get of Swamp Thing is nothing short of fantastic. This episode gives us a better look at our hero and doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. The design is absolutely spot on. Some may argue in this day and age going full CGI makes the most sense, but mixing an actor in a body suit (Derek Mears) with modern effects has proven to be the smart choice. All we need now is more of him.

And oh, the last bit of dialogue during the show will send tingles down your spine, provided you still have one after witnessing what happens to Swamp Thing’s enemies.

Finally, as I mentioned in my review of the pilot, fans of the source material need to adjust their expectations on what is being translated to the television show. You’ll be immediately struck by the location changing from Houma to Marais, yet they maintain that Holland has a dog per Swamp Thing volume 1 from the 70s. These examples are only scratching the surface as some alterations may seriously tempt you to pull your hair out.

First off, please don’t do that. Speaking for guys with a Kojak sheen, we can only dream about having the beautiful locks you’re about to yank on. Secondly, it opens up speculation avenues for those who are well read in Swamp Thing lore. Something that’s struck me over the course of the last two episodes is how Susie resembles Karen Clancy from the 1982 Swamp Thing relaunch. Did the writers have her in mind while scripting the series? Probably not, but I’ve ultimately decided that it’s much more fun to enhance my viewing experience with theories than trash it for lack of loyalty.
It’s safe to say, Swamp Thing officially has me hooked.  If you enjoy visually stunning, character-driven, gothic horror, feel free to grab some popcorn and pull up a stump. We’re in for one heck of a show.

7.5 Tubers out of 10

-David Schultz