From the effective opening scene showing just how dangerous these swamps can be to a few other instances of biological frights there’s a nice creepy vibe to enjoy throughout. However, when things stray from leads Crystal Reed & Andy Bean investigating the bizarre swampy horrors into uninteresting backstory of some locals or the town’s mysteries I become wary of where Swamp Thing will focus its energy going forward. As far as pilot episodes go, though, this one’s a respectable effort (especially considering the behind-the-scenes strife) so I’d give installment two a shot.
Something’s not right in the town of Marais, Louisiana. Several residents have come down with an unknown sickness and others are missing/presumed dead as CDC investigator Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed) arrives in her hometown to assess the situation along with colleague Harlan Edwards (Leonardo Nam). Abby realizes they’re not the only ones looking into the town’s troubles when she crosses paths with Alec Holland (Andy Bean), a scientist hired to look into things by local big shots Avery (Will Patton) and Maria Sunderland (Virginia Madsen). Abby shares a tragic past with the Sunderlands she’d rather avoid revisiting so she does her best to get to the bottom of things via old buddies Matt (Henderson Wade)–now a cop–and Liz (Maria Sten), who forever has an ear to the ground. The more Abby & Alec discover the more things prove beyond what either are prepared to deal with…
Crystal Reed’s Abby & Andy Bean’s Alec prove to be solid scene partners as they bond via banter, shared experiences, and sordid pasts. There’s a bit of will they/won’t they flirting (as is required, I guess?), but nothing overwhelming. Whenever the two of them are busy with Swamp Thing related business there’s a sense of forward-momentum, purpose, and at the very least an amusing chemistry. Unfortunately, a little too much of the pilot focuses on secondary character drama for my tastes. In particular, all the stuff with the Sunderlands feels like unnecessarily mysterious padding to fill out the rest of a TV season as it can’t be all swamp things all the time. There’s also a local bar with a few characters who’ll surely become more relevant in following episodes, but who knows if “relevant” will ever be “interesting.” Fingers crossed!
As for that behind-the-scenes strife I mentioned, before finding a kind of second life on the CW Swamp Thing previously existed on another network when it was unceremoniously cancelled for budgetary reasons. It’s clearly been cut down from something more TV-MA with the various blurred & silenced mouths as people curse and several odd edits spread across the runtime. Those things aren’t deal breakers, by any means, but they’re definitely noticeable and likely last the whole season.
Swamp Thing has respectable leads in Reed & Bean, a well-realized setting of boggy darkness, creepy and gross visuals, and a nicely horrific tone. I know all 10 episodes have been out for a year already, but as its new form will be airing on the CW for the next few months I’ll pretend otherwise. So, as long as those creatively responsible remain focused on the leads, the tone, the setting, and Swamp Thing itself this could be a pretty enjoyable show.
7 out of 10 Swamp Things