And so, we’ve finally reached “The Anatomy Lesson.”
Of course, by Swamp Thing‘s very nature as a television series intended to go on for a number of years, its take on the classic Saga of the Swamp Thing issue leaned less into the slowly unraveling horror of its key revelation in favor of the way the truth can be played for shock value. For those of us aware of Swamp Thing’s (Derek Mears) true nature, the major plot point in this week’s episode is merely confirmation of what we always knew. But imagine walking into the series blind and learning the truth. Where Moore, Steve Bissette and John Totleben could leave the revelation in the mouth of the Floronic Man, the television series could not allow Jason Woodrue (Kevin Durand) to be the truthsayer. In order to confirm the most horrific element of Swamp Thing as a concept, it required a body and Swamp Thing himself saying the thing we’ve been waiting to hear since Episode 2.
“Alec Holland is dead.”
The moment Moore came on to Saga of the Swamp Thing, he intended a massive revision to the character. Instead of a man covered in vegetable matter looking for a cure to his ailment, Swamp Thing became a vegetable which believed it was a man. That key distinction propelled much of Moore’s storytelling for the rest of his run on Swamp Thing and forever colored the perception of the character in readers’ imaginations. It is buried under the surface of 1989’s The Return of Swamp Thing — the character seems at peace with his condition throughout — and the 1990s USA Network television series. It is as vital an idea to the overall concept as the distinctive look Bernie Wrightson developed for Swamp Thing in 1972.
But the smartest thing the DC Universe series did was take viewers on that journey of discovery with both Abby (Crystal Reed) and Swamp Thing as their guides.
Sadly, this becomes another moment where Swamp Thing‘s premature cancellation becomes all the more tragic. From here, the show could’ve built a fantastic arc in which Swamp Thing discovers who he really is while Abby tries to figure out how she can love this creature. Hell, she’d even have to realize that she really fell in love with Swamp Thing and not Alec (Andy Bean). It would’ve set the series apart from its brethren on DC Universe and most comic book-based television. But alas …
Meanwhile, the episode also gave us the shocking first appearance of Blue Devil. He looks like a Buffy demon, but that is the right choice. Of course, Daniel’s (Ian Ziering) first action as demonic power leaves far too many questions. Why does the Phantom Stranger (Macon Blair) want Abby and Liz (Maria Sten) to live? His involvement in this situation is far more direct than should be allowed, and yet he seemingly needs both Swamp Thing and Abby to survive. Since we’ve been talking about Tefé since Episode 1, maybe he is trying to insure her eventual birth? We’ve guessed from the get go that Daniel could be a surrogate for John Constantine in that regard and it still feels like that is in play.
Also, it should be said, Liz’s introduction to the supernatural in this episode was an added value we never expected to see.
Unfortunately, we can also see the threads accelerating as the series lost its final three episodes. The showdown between Avery (Will Patton) and Maria (Virginia Madsen) felt shortchanged, as did Matt Cable’s (Henderson Wade) slide into a drunk driving incident. That said, we will not be surprised to find him possessed by Anton Arcane come the final moments of the series next week.
Which, yeah, it’s already sad to think Swamp Thing is ending. It has treated the material with such fidelity and displayed such confidence throughout its run. Its mixture of scares, laughter, and genuine dramatic hooks should’ve made it the reason to get DC Universe. Sadly, people way above the streaming service’s pay grade did not see it that way.
So, next week will be something of an elegy for Swamp Thing; something we do way too often.
Swamp Thing streams Fridays on DC Universe.