I’ve been enjoying this series for a few different reasons, from what I find to be decent writing to some interesting twists on the main characters to adding a few I never thought I’d see in live action (Blue Devil, Madame Xanadu). “Drive All Night” throws some light on Abby Arcane’s tragic past, showed some of the mysticism that is usually part of Swampy’s story, and featured the first appearance in live action of another obscure character who is a favorite of mine.
The episode starts on a briefly bright note, which we know isn’t going to last. Avery Sunderland is apparently away on business, and calls home to check in on Maria. Maria is very happy to have young Suzy in their home, and Avery again keeps dropping hints about her “helping” him. Maria sees and hears a few jarring things, makes up some excuses, and gets off the phone. She goes to see what’s going on, and we see what kind of “business” Avery is on. Maria goes to check on Suzy and gets several horror movie tropes as she tries to comfort the young girl. This leads to a visitor that Maria is thrilled about that can’t be a good thing for anyone else. For such a strong character, Maria spends a lot of time as someone else’s pawn.
In the swamps, the transformed Alec Holland wanders in his new, much more green form, and finds some things from his old life. He gets a flashback of his recent past as Alec, then some much more disturbing visions of dead bodies and very active plant life. Shaking free of that, a stranger in a boat cruises along and starts talking with Swamp Thing, who is hidden in the trees. The stranger coaxes him out, and is not at all taken aback by his strange appearance. The newcomer offers some very philosophical insights, and Swamp Thing is left confused about who this man is and what’s going on. Dan Cassidy has apparently had enough of Marias as he hurriedly tosses things in his car and floors it out of town. He stops at the town border, pleading with some kind of unseen forces, and then gets out of his car and stretches his hand carefully across the line. Whatever bargain he made has clearly not been fulfilled, as is demonstrated conclusively and painfully. As he dejectedly heads back to town, we get a hint about what’s coming for him.
Avery’s “business” trip involves the sheriff and her being very out of uniform. She’s shaken by the events of last episode, and apparently looking for some kind of reassurance or human contact, which I guess he notionally qualifies as. They talk about lines in their arrangement that shouldn’t be crossed, and then she gets a call and runs her mouth way too much. I’ll give her this much, at least, I don’t think she knows how much trouble she’s causing for other people by talking about things she shouldn’t be. Abagail studies her sample from Swamp Thing, and speculates out loud about some very unscientific things. Creepy Jason Woodrue hears her, mocks her, and presses for more detail about the sample. He asks a lot of pointed questions that are too close to home, and Abby is more than happy to get a call that requires her presence somewhere else.
Delroy gets to work to open up and gets a surprise. Avery has made himself at home in the kitchen, initially claiming a craving for turtle soup that he’s bloodily preparing. Of course, that’s not why he’s there, and the meandering conversation eventually leads to not-too-subtle threats from Avery about Liz’s current investigation for the paper. I’m a bit surprised the local rich guy doesn’t own the newspaper like he seems to everything else (Delroy’s place, for example), but I’ve already mentioned he’s not great at the criminal mastermind bit. Liz comes in during this, and is very displeased. Sending her father off to deal with contractors (last episode was really rough on the place), she trades barbs with Avery until he leaves. Woodrue, too smart for anyone’s good, gets one of the locals to take him out to Alec’s abandoned lab. He makes a few discoveries that are probably not going to do anything to help the situation.
Swampy continues his conversation with the mysterious visitor, who pretty much tells comics fans who he is in a roundabout way. The man offers some insights into what Alec’s been seeing, and offers him a few simple suggestions. Swamp Thing tries out his new ability, sees something disturbing, and comes out of it alone and concerned. Responding to the call she got earlier, Abby goes to the Sunderlands, which is brave of her all things considered. She’s met at the door by Maria, and they have a disjointed conversation where they’re actually talking about slightly different things, and I’m not sure either one of them knows it. Abby goes upstairs to see Suzy, and gets clues building from subtle to undeniable that all is not well. Shaken, Abby goes downstairs to confront Maria. Abby is surprised by some things Maria says, including a mention of Xanadu, and then leaves, thoroughly rattled. Maria has a conversation with a visitor that gives us the hints of what’s about to come. Outside, Abagail has a conversation with Xanadu herself, who has suddenly appeared from nowhere, and they watch Maria drive past with Suzy in the car.
The sheriff goes to follow up on some of Liz’s findings and finds a local ne’er-do-well who doesn’t know when to quit. He talks himself into a lot more trouble than he was going to have, and we see a side of Sheriff Lucilia Cable we haven’t seen before. There’s a lot of darkness in and around Marias. Abagail and Xanadu drive after Maria and Suzy, and we hear more of their mutual past and the current situation. The more I hear about Abby’s past here, the more I don’t blame her for leaving and am surprised she’s back at all.
Maria goes where she’s directed, and we’re deep in classic horror movie territory now. She’s seeing things that are plainly impossible, contradicting themselves right in front of her, but she’s either too far in denial or under the spell of what’s happening for her to notice. Abagail and Xanadu get to where Maria left her car, which is a familiar spot. Abagail is starting to figure out what’s going on when someone comes running out of the wilderness and gives the scientist detailed information. Leaving the new arrival with Xanadu, Abby races off, and shows that she’s certainly not lacking in courage. There’s an ugly scene between Abby and Maria, and it gets worse as it goes. Just when all seems lost, Swamp Thing arrives, making a last minute rescue. He also shares his new gift, and lets Abby see something very important about a major event in her past. Whatever is wrong around Marias, it goes back farther than Alec Holland’s arrival, that’s for sure. Abby is stunned by what Swamp Thing shows her, and he retreats into the trees as Matt Cable arrives.
Things take a turn out at Delroy’s. Liz bumps into Dan at the bar, who is not happy and showing some wear and tear from his earlier encounter. He’s drunk and in a bad mood, but not belligerent or obnoxious about it. He asks Liz about her past, and we hear more about her life before the series started. Out in the parking lot, Liz encounters more of the “small town run by bad man” movie than the horror one we’ve been in so far this episode. It’s an ugly scene that’s familiar from many, many tv shows and movies. The attempt to break things up lands another character in serious trouble.
The episode ends out at the hospital. Maria’s been brought in after her mishaps in the wilds, and Avery comes in, apparently genuinely concerned about her. He’s a bit tired after his long day of continuing his affair and threatening people. Demanding to see his wife, he gets brought towards her, but lets himself get sidetracked by a very insistent Jason Woodrue. They talk about the future and refer to a few things we’ve heard about in passing. His delay doesn’t go unnoticed, and the show actually ends on a long look that says a lot between Maria and Avery.
What I liked: I was thrilled to see the stranger show up, and I guessed right about who he was, at least according to IMDB. Not that they were exactly subtle about it. I’m very intrigued by whatever is going on with Dan Cassidy. The horror story that was the main plot of the episode was a bit cliched at points, but overall well done and drew on the eerie surroundings of the town. I’m very interested in what Abby learned at the end.
What I didn’t: With the amount of stuff he has going on, I’m amazed Avery hasn’t fallen apart yet. He’s well past too many irons in the fire. It’s no wonder he’s dropping the ball on a few points. His visit to Delory’s was very cliché, and, if he was behind what happened in the parking lot, he didn’t really give them much time to decide after that earlier visit.
I enjoyed the episode. Swamp Thing usually has a gothic horror feel to the character, and this is very in tune with that. I’ll give this a low 4 out of 5.