DC Universe’s Swamp Thing couldn’t have launched at a better time. The streaming service, mired in praise for its first few original offerings, branched into a sub-genre that lies on the tip of many tongues currently thanks to James Gunn’s Brightburn: superhero horror. The series ditches the colorful atmosphere and characters of Titans and Doom Patrol in favor of bleak shadows and stomach-churning visuals. The Alan Moore influence is evident in each frame, positioning Alec Holland’s fall and rise as the titular character as a grotesque transformation. The swamp itself is arguably more frightening than the monsters it spawns. But don’t be surprised if humanity is revealed to be the true villain in the long run. The Sunderlands definitely seem like they have something up their sleeve. But they don’t know that the environment has a new defender.
Dr. Abby Arcane is revered within her field. She is one of the CDC’s top forces in combating viral outbreaks. Her work has taken her all over the world, but an urgent message received at her Congo base camp calls her to the one place she avoids at all costs: home. Specifically Marias, Louisiana, her small hometown on the banks of the bayou. She’s there to treat a young girl named Susie. She coughed up black gunk and collapsed during class two days after her father went missing. The ailment has spread to at least four other people in town ahead of Abby’s arrival, stumping all involved, including Abby. She meets Alec, the only man who seems to have some idea about what is going on, briefly before he is kicked out of the hospital.
Work isn’t the only stressing byproduct of Abby’s return. Crossing the bridge into town sparks memories of her friend’s death on the bridge. She does her best to not let the visions cloud her mind during business hours. A goopy piece of vegetation found on Susie’s pillow sparks her interest, leading her to case Susie’s home. She meets her childhood friend-turned-cop Matt and the two search the house. They find nothing but neglected dishes and veg-goop smeared walls. A scratching noise draws them to the bedroom, but the source turns out to be Alec. Matt tries to detain him, but there’s a more pressing find than Alec. Abby turns to find Susie’s father dead, petrified with vines bursting from body and mouth. Susie’s father was one of three men attacked by the swamp days before.
Alec convinces Abby that they should work together, revealing himself to be a biologist hired by local Mr. moneybanks Avery Sunderland. She agrees to go to his swampside lab after securing Susie’s father’s body for examination. Alec’s work is focused on a new mutagen discovered in the swamp’s waters. It looks much like the material Susie coughed up and accelerates biological cell growth. Abby identifies a possible connection between the mutagen and the outbreak before heading back to the hospital’s lab.
Alec heads over to a town meeting to warn Avery about the mutagen’s possible role, but Avery ignores his concerns. Keeping the town calm is most important to him. Especially when compared to the concerns of a scientist that he no longer employs.
He joins Abby at the hospital as the autopsy gets underway. Alec confirms that the plant samples from Susie’s father react to the mutagen as vines begin to rip the body apart. Alec saves Abby from the tendrils as Susie collapses at the sight of her father’s current state. Abby rushes her to safety and resuscitates her as Alec sets the creature on fire, killing it.
Abby and Alec calm their nerves by meeting a reporter, Abby’s old friend Liz, at a bar. Liz relays rumors of someone hiring boats to go into the swamp at night for unknown reasons. Susie’s father was one of them and his boat hasn’t been seen since leaving for Skeeter Cove in the middle of the night..
The meeting is cut short when Avery’s wife, Maria, arrives demanding a private audience with Abby. She clearly isn’t happy to see Abby back in town. It turns out that Abby’s nightmare from the bridge relates to Maria’s daughter, Shawna. Maria tears into Abby, blaming her for her alcoholism, near-divorce and personal torment. All of this spawns from Abby’s relationship with Shawna. Maria understands why Abby is there but commands her to leave Marias as soon as Susie is the least bit better. Marais is no longer home for Abby.
Born On The Bayou
Alec and Abby set a course for Skeeter Cove, quickly stumbling upon Susie’s father’s boat encased in a giant twirl of roots along with a dead body. They recover a laptop and metal box from the boat. Further inspection reveals the box to be an underwater release device packed with chemicals. They bring their haul back to Alec’s lab and settle in for a much needed respite while tests run.
It’s time for some hard truths between the two. Alec asks Abby about her relationship with Maria, leading Abby to admit that Maria is the reason she doesn’t come back to Marais. Abby spills the beans about her knowledge of Alec’s disgraced past. He has a track record for fudging results to serve his motivations but has no regrets. Joy is in discovery, not fame. Alec’s attitude inspires Abby to tell him about her friendship with Shawna. She’s cut off by the printer, ending the conversation by stating that she killed Shawna without divulging any details.
The results show that the chemicals in the box are a highly potent version of the mutagen. Whoever has been hiring boats has been doing so to release volatile forms of the compound into the town’s lifeblood. Alec rushes to recover boxes from different locations listed on the laptop while Abby preps samples to return to the hospital. He never makes it back. A figure cloaked in darkness fires two shells into Alec and destroys his boat. Alec somehow survives but collapses as the swamp envelopes him. Abby sees the explosion from Alec’s lab and rushes to the scene. A flurry of vines capsize her boat and she flees to the swamp’s shore. The vines suddenly subside as a transformed Alec rises from the water. Abby flees at the sight of the monster, leaving Alec alone to cope with what he has become.
What do you think about Swamp Thing season 1 episode 1? Let us know in the comment section below!