Swamp Thing: Darkness On The Edge of Town


I told you I wasn’t going to talk about Flashdance! 


The first and only season of Swamp Thing is progressing well, and I’m getting increasingly intrigued by some of the subplots. The cast is good, the stories are making sense so far, and the effects are good. I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I will again, but I don’t quite get why this was cancelled the way it was. For Abby and the others, there’s certainly “Darkness on the Edge of Town.”

As seems to be one of their favorite places, the episode begins somewhere out in the swamps at night. Maybe they’re saving money on sets by being in darkness among trees all the time. At any rate, Avery Sunderland is dealing with Gordon the luckless banker’s body. On the one hand, disposal in the wilds isn’t a bad way to get rid of a body. On the other, burning it in a hole while it’s wrapped in plastic seems counterproductive at best. I’m not sure Avery has the master criminal thing down. As he smokes a cigar and watches the flames, he has a flashback to some time with his father when Avery was a child. It’s not a fond recollection of good times. Elsewhere, two guys are out with flashlights and a chainsaw (what could possibly go wrong there?), trying to find some old growth timber to illegally harvest. They find the trees, and then a lot more, and their new discovery sends them running back to town. I’d have run, too. Just after they run off, Swamp Thing lumbers by, and can tell something isn’t right with what they found. There’s just no end of small criminal enterprises in and around Marias, it seems. I’m surprised the Sheriff isn’t a lot busier.

At Delroy’s, The Only Bar In Town ™, the younger of the would-be wood thieves shows up late for work. His name is Todd, and he’s thoroughly rattled by his nocturnal experiences. He goes into the kitchen, getting some mild teasing from Liz and Delroy for being late. He starts in on the dishes, but is having some issues that go from odd to seriously not right to dangerous, and he reacts to them swiftly and violently, before the Tremaynes’ horrified eyes, but things don’t really come to an end until we see that whatever was plaguing Todd has more than likely gotten to Delroy now. As an aside, I’ve worked in restaurant kitchens before, and there’s generally not a lot of dishes to do in the morning, because if you let that level of stuff sit around overnight, you both draw insects and worse, and it’s a lot harder to get them clean.

Still in the swamps, but now in daylight at least, Abby searches for Alec, calling out his name and that she’s here to help him. Finally, she gets some unmistakable signs of his presence, and is guided to him. She’s at least starting to get used to his appearance as Swamp Thing. She tells him she’s here to help and won’t let him go through this alone, and he cooperates with her simple request. After mutual promises of information exchange, he warns her of dangers in the swamp before striding off. Back at the hospital, Abby studies a new acquisition and is completely puzzled. The ever-creepy Jason Woodrue looks over her shoulder and haughtily tells her she has to have made a mistake. They have an entertaining argument where Woodrue goes from dismissive to curious to fascinated, and they agree to work on this new find together, confirming my suspicion that Abby has bad judgement. One of her demands is that he shares results with her before the rest of the world; his response about the rest of the world tells you a lot about the man.

Taking a break from the science and her unwanted lab partner, Abby goes upstairs, where she finds Daniel Cassidy giving out balloons to kids. She’s surprised, and he explains the kids like it “when the Blue Devil makes the rounds,” so I guess his movie did decently, or local celebrity is just weird. Or both. He asks if they’ve met before Marias, but seems more puzzled than hitting on her, and she gets that, but says she’d remember. After Abby leaves, Daniel is clearly confused and talking to himself. Her next stop is Lil’ Suzy’s room, where the girl has drawn a decent picture of the Swamp Thing, impressing Abby. They talk for a bit, and then the Sunderlands pop up, supposedly happy that the disease is under control, and invite everyone to city hall for a crawfish boil that night. After the applause, Maria stops by Suzy’s room and essentially shoos Abby out. Avery stops Abby as she’s leaving and asks a lot of questions about the arrangements for Suzy, casting some aspersions on the rest of the Coyle family. The scene ends with Abby being paged to the phone, to deal with the mess at…

Delroy’s is likely going to be closed for a while, as the Sheriff deals with the aftermath of Todd’s incident. They’re going to need a hell of a cleanup crew. The Tremaynes are cooperative, but don’t really have an idea what actually happened. Sheriff Cable’s mood isn’t improved any when Abby shows up in response to Liz’s phone call. Liz is sharp enough to have made the connection between whatever happened to Todd and his non-specific incident out in the wilds the night before. As the women discuss the odd happenings, Delroy starts having some problems similar to what Todd was going through, and definitely pushes back the time frame on when they can reopen the place. He’s finally subdued by the combination of Abby and Sheriff Cable who, to her credit, was well within her rights and regulations to just shoot the man but took some extra risk to subdue him. And, of course, whatever the mystery issue is looks to have been passed on to the Sheriff. Won’t that be fun? Avery and Maria are getting ready for the party, and again, there’s plainly a lot of strain in that relationship. Avery hits all the right notes as a skilled manipulator, leading Maria towards something he wants, under cover of reflecting about his childhood and the bad memories Abby’s return has stirred up in Maria.

Abby and Liz are at Delroy’s bedside as he wakes up suddenly, worried that he hurt someone. It sounds like he has at least some vague memories of what happened, and he talks about a dark incident from his past. Abby gets some answers on exactly where Todd was the previous night, and goes to investigate. I have to say, her character being retconned as a CDC doctor gives her a lot of decent reasons to poke around in all this strangeness going on. I did notice that, as Abby arrives at her new spot, no one ever ties up boats on this show when they get where they’re going. I grant it’s not thrilling tv to watch that, but anyone who has spent time on boats will tell you if you don’t do that, they drift off, no matter how calm the night seems to be. Eventually, she finds what Todd discovered the night before, which honestly seems unlikely in the woods at night. Swamp Thing finds her here, and gives some vague warnings about what’s going on. From all this, Abby somehow figures out the Sheriff might have been exposed, and races back to town, because I guess phones aren’t a thing out here? Maybe there’s no signal.

At the crawfish boil, Avery gives a general pep talk and asks Maria how he did afterwards. Her answer is more cutting than complimentary. Suzy is there, and Avery drops a few more hints, guiding Maria where he wants her to go, but subtly. Out in a back hallway, Daniel runs across Xanadu, and is clearly frustrated at whatever is going on. Xanadu has some cryptically ominous comments to make about the future of the town, and lets us in on a bit more of Daniel’s past. The man is clearly looking for some reassurance, and doesn’t get what he’s looking for. I guess he and Avery are in the same boat.

Somewhere else in town, at what appears to be a random street corner, Abby picks up Liz. As she screeches off, Liz shares the results of some local history she’s been going through after some of what Abby found. There’s definitely a connection to poor Todd here. At the party, the infestation or whatever you care to call it gets to Sheriff Cable, and she goes on a really bad trip. It could have easily turned tragic, but she gets at least delayed by the just-in-time Abby, and then tackled by Daniel. I don’t know what’s going on with the man, but he’s certainly brave. Abby eventually ends up as host to the traveling darkness, and runs away, determined to bring it back to the swamp where it belongs. She undergoes her own nightmares before Swamp Thing finds her, helps her, and gets the darkness back where it belongs. Abby witnesses the aftermath, which definitely isn’t going to fit neatly into a CDC report. When she asks how he knows so much about what’s going on, Swamp Thing’s answer is more odd than helpful.

At the Sunderland place, Avery drops a few more breadcrumbs to lead Maria where he wants her, as his wife is pleased by a new houseguest. He goes out to his dock and shows how far he’s taking manipulating the situation, but also that he’s not great at covering his tracks. It’s an interesting recurring thing that I really hope is a choice by the writers and not sloppy scripting. The show ends with a quiet scene between Abby and the Swamp Thing, as she talks about what she went through and what’s happening with him. Considering how much he’s been through already, it’s not reassuring when he tells her that he’s scared on her behalf. Clearly, something ugly is coming, as opposed to the lovely things that we’ve seen so far.

What I liked: I’m very intrigued by what’s happening with Dan Cassidy. I’m guessing this will eventually lead to his comic book superhero career. Abby has a lot of guts and determination, and she’s willing to take chances and risks to do what’s right, which makes you a hero in my book, whether or not you have a costume and codename. The Sheriff impressed me this episode, which I think is the first time I’ve liked her. Avery is an interesting mix of slick and foolish. Xanadu and her pronouncements of coming doom is also making me wonder what she’s not telling.

What I didn’t: I mentioned not tying up the boats. It’s a small detail, but it’s annoying once you catch it. Abby frequently neglects the most basic protections that anyone from CDC should be taking. Again, nitpicking, but irksome once noticed.

I’m still enjoying this show, and it’s a damn shame some mistake in the North Carolina government (the latest story) led to an early cancellation.