There’s a strange darkness lurking in the swamps and woods outside Marias. It’s been hinted at by Swamp Thing and Madame Xanadu, and prepared for by the enigmatic Phantom Stranger, but we know very little about it. Complications of a more physical sort abound in “The Price You Pay,” including a mad scientist, rent-a-thugs, and some conspiracy complications. It’s a bad time to be in Marias, but I’m not sure when a good time would be, judging by the history we’ve seen so far.
After a quick flashback to an earlier conversation with Abby, Swamp Thing finds a small animal stuck in a trap. Going to help, he triggers a bigger one, and learns he’s not alone. A couple of people who clearly have no idea what they’re up against try and capture Swampy, as Woodrue requested of Avery Sunderland last episode, which goes poorly for everyone. Swamp Thing is injured and drugged, while the gun-thugs flee for their lives after being wounded. Taking a few more steps down the mad scientist road, Woodrue is doing something that looks questionable with some hospital supplies.
Elsewhere, Liz and Abby are sitting by Daniel’s bed. He was hurt worse than I’d have thought; usually, getting knocked out by a blow to the head is next to nothing on an action show, but he’s apparently in a coma. Realism rears it’s ugly head, I guess. Liz tells Abby more about the attack, and our young scientist is stunned and horrified. Having heard enough, she goes immediately to go confront Avery. In the bed and unnoticed, Daniel has a flashback shedding some light on his mysterious bargain, and a visit from a certain Stranger. Abby finds Avery, who is having some issues with Maria’s medication and does a tactically unwise straight up accusation. As seems to be his pattern, Avery goes from charming good ol’ boy to oozing threats throughout the conversation.
Not done having a bad day, Abby gets pulled aside by Liz. The mercenaries from the opening scene are in the hospital now, and the “monster” they’re raving about sounds very familiar. Abby is convinced Alec wouldn’t do something like that without reason, and goes to check on him. Since Maria and Suzy both took this episode off, we have to get our family drama elsewhere. Matt comes by his mother’s office to drop off a report on Maria’s strange night last time, and they end up having an in-depth, emotionally charged discussion. Turns out they’ve both been keeping secrets, and good ol’ Avery has his little fingers in everywhere. It’s a rough scene on both characters, and I was surprised by some of what’s revealed there. Points to the writers.
With some skullduggery and a suspicious blue change to something, Daniel’s condition changes rapidly. In flashback, we see more of his movie career and bargain, and then he wakes up, definitely not looking great and startling Liz. All the commotion attracts Dr. Woodrue, who just “happens” to be outside in the hall, and clearly knows more about what’s going on than he’s telling. He’s a bit less smug when Daniel, delirious and in immense pain, pushes his way out of the room. Out in the swamps, Abby catches up with Swamp Thing and they talk about the “hunters” from earlier, the green, and the voices guiding Alec down a new path. I guess the bond they clearly share must help them find each other, since it’s not like he has an address out there. Third moss-covered tree on the right, by the big gator… Hearing voices coming, Swampy pulls a neat vanishing trick that I think hints at one of his comic book powers.
If nothing else, you have to say Avery puts in long hours as the town’s evil would-be overlord. It’s already late at night, and he drops by the Woodrue’s place, not happy about being called over there. After Avery establishing he’s the alpha again, and Woodrue dropping hints about funding, the not-so-good doctor shares his news about Cassidy’s miraculous “recovery.” Avery is intrigued, but lays down some rules for Woodrue about what’s next. Also putting in a long day, Deputy Matt Cable is following up on the hunters’ reports of a monster. He and his partner split up because clearly neither one of them has ever seen a horror movie. Cable finds Abby, Swamp Thing, and learns a few things he has some real trouble comprehending, not that I blame him. He agrees to keep some secrets, and lies to his partner.
All is not well in the Woodrue house, as Jason and Caroline have a talk. She’s not happy about what he’s doing, and, while they both know why he’s pushing this issue, they don’t talk about it directly, which made sense for the scene. With a warning to her husband, she goes back to bed. Liz catches up with Daniel at his shop/home, and he’s clearly not getting better. We see a hint of what’s going on that they both miss, and she realizes he might be too hot to handle. He lurches off, talking vaguely about going to see Woodrue, and Liz reluctantly calls the police. I think she’s one of the ones left who is still thinking in normal terms, despite some of what she’s learned.
The decidedly unwell Daniel turns up at the Woodrue house, scaring the hell out of Caroline. I’m not quite sure how he knew where they were staying, but I guess it’s a small town and all that. Daniel writhes in pain and Woodrue seems completely fascinated and pleased. Empathy is not high on that man’s list of attributes. After yelling, pleading, accusations, and some definitive action from an unexpected direction, Daniel is eventually subdued as the police roll up. Someone played a pivotal role in the scene whose presence is unexplained. Out in the wilds, Matt and Abby talk a bit more. He’s more accepting of the oddness than you’d expect, but I think she’s missing what his motives are, especially with the last look he gives her.
Awash in emotions after his eventful day, Matt returns to the station and pays a call on his mother. Strapped to his bed after his unauthorized outing, Daniel is out cold again. Xanadu comes to see him, talking about things yet to come and generally not being very uplifting. He’s probably just as glad he slept through this visit. She does her best to help him, and doesn’t seem to have the same issue Liz did touching him before. The episode wraps with Swamp Thing and Abby meeting up at Alec’s old lab. They talk about the changes he’s going through, how he wants to help her, and he gets a few memories of before, so we get to see his dog again. As an aside, since Daniel was caring for the dog, I have no idea what’s up with him, but I suspect we’ll only see him in flashbacks from here out, if then. At the very end, he demonstrates a new ability that surprises both of them.
What I liked: The developments with Daniel were interesting. I’d be more excited about them if we weren’t halfway through the season and not getting another one. The hunters at the start failed, but they did as good a job as they could setting up when they didn’t know what they were getting into. The revelations with the family Cable were surprising but made sense. Woodrue is falling into the mad scientist cliché on a few levels, but Kevin Durand is doing a great job with the role. It was interesting, seeing how Daniel’s deal came about and who was involved.
What I didn’t: I’m not sure about some of what happened in the scene between Jason Woodrue and Daniel. I have some grave concerns about Matt Cable, and, if he’s doing what he seems to be, it’s a kind of trite motivation, really.
I’m continuing to enjoy this series a lot. It’s a nicely built bit of one of the DC Universes. I’ll give this a high 3.5 out of 5. Damn shame we lost the show over things that had nothing to do with the actual production.