Swamp Thing: Brilliant Disguise


Tiptoe… through the tulips… 

The darkness is gathering around Marias, and the new champion is still trying to figure out what he can do. Last time, there were some surprising revelations, and a few of the ones that had been presented as good guys seem a lot more questionable now. There are more surprises coming in “Brilliant Disguise.”

Taking off where last episode stopped, Abby is confronted with a vision of Alec as he used to be, courtesy of hallucinogenic spores. Both of them are pleased by the new development. Trying to play good host, Alec offers Abby a snack, and then finds out his newfound powers have it covered. He tries to explain what’s going on, but he doesn’t have a firm grasp on “the Green,” which is the source of his powers. Dawn breaks, and he offers more explanations about his own abilities, and what’s happening in the swamps. Lacking powers but certainly not courage, Abby insists on accompanying him out into the wilds to get a sample of what’s happening. Her devotion to science is impressive, if a bit naïve at this point. Following up on his own story, Matt Cable is considering new options, although if he wanted to work on that interrupted, the bar at Delroy’s wasn’t a great choice. He and Liz talk around what’s going on with Alec and Abby. It’s a little like watching blind man’s bluff.

Things are evidently a lot better at the Sunderland home. Maria is cooking up a storm and smiling, getting ready for Avery’s big meeting with the mysterious Conclave that night. Avery is pleased at the change, and it looks like a little slice of domestic heaven. It doesn’t last, of course, the interruption taking the form of Sheriff Cable, who needs a few moments with Avery. We get the feeling Maria has more going on than she’s letting on as she watches them go to Avery’s study. As soon as they get there, his tirade about her coming without calling gets cut off by her slamming him to the wall and telling him she knows about his corrupting her son. Considering we’ve seen her kill to protect Matt not that long ago, Avery should really be taking this situation a lot more seriously. After some arguing, the sheriff convinces him to come with her and finish off Alec Holland, who Avery isn’t pleased to learn is still alive. If he only knew… They leave, a very irked looking Maria remaining behind.

Alec escorts Abby on a tour of the world of the Green, which is very impressive. At the edge, the Rot makes an appearance. Alec urges caution, and Abby ignores him, to no surprise at all. Trying to get ready for the dinner/presentation that night, Jason Woodrue gets an unexpected visitor. Avery may have been called away, but Maria is going to make sure the meeting goes ahead, and her resolve and breadth of knowledge catches the arrogant scientist by surprise. She leaves him confused in her wake as she goes back home.

Having a lot less fun than Alec and Abby, Sheriff Cable and Avery are hunting for Alec with some impressive ordnance. The two are not happy with each other, tearing away with words as they move through the wildlands. Avery is all self-justification, and Cable has some decent denial going. In a different part of the wilderness, Abby pushes her luck and things start going badly when she gets injured. The Woodrues get ready for dinner, and Caroline still wants to get back to where they came from, possibly making her the smartest character on the show. Focused on what he wants, Jason won’t hear of leaving.

Things take a turn with Avery and Lucilia. There are betrayals and counterplots and the two of them deserve each other. One of them thought ahead enough to arrange backup, which means the other is going to have a rough night. Eventually, Matt Cable drags Avery away, Lucilia having some very legitimate concerns about leaving evidence behind. The writers on the show did some deep digging to find Nathan Ellery, a minor character from DC Comics who is the Conclave representative that Maria ends up dealing with. Once again back in Alec’s lab, Abby is taking a turn for the worse. They come up an idea to help her, but it doesn’t work, and her symptoms intensify. It’s a bad night to be out and about, really.

Really not enjoying his night, Avery comes around, tied in the bottom of the boat driven by Lucilia, Matt standing guard with a big gun. Avery is a survivor, and manages to reveal a few big surprises I didn’t see coming. Using the shock following his revelation, Avery makes good use of a hidden weapon and does his best to get away from the homicidal family. His success is mostly due to Lucilia improbably missing a few shots from ridiculously close range. With things getting worse, Alec tries something desperate to save Abby’s life, and it’s not a fun experience for either of them. Ellery is annoyed that Avery is a no show for his own meeting, but Maria impresses the man a lot with her research and thoroughness. The lady can put on a show, and a meal.

Desperate measures have succeeded, and Abby is on the mend. She and Alec get a touching scene that does mirror their mutual path in the comics. Jason is in a good mood after the dinner, until he gets a vivid reminder of why he’s so determined to make this work. The Sheriff and Matt get back to at least the outskirts of civilization, where there’s a car waiting. Maria enjoys her own kind of afterglow from the meeting, going over paperwork with a smile. Her pleased reverie is interrupted by a loud knocking, and she gets some unexpected guests who reveal some big surprises, or at least I didn’t see them coming. Maria may have made a temporary alliance of necessity, but there’s no doubt that they’re not exactly friends.

The wrap up scenes are mostly building for future episodes. Alec and Abby have very different ideas about what comes next, and he’s coming to accept his destiny, which doesn’t sit well with the scientist. Once again, people are so determined to protect each other that they’re making their lives a lot harder than they have to be. Having made a decision, Abby shares it with us through a phone call to Liz. The last scene sort of brings to mind the Black Knight of Monty Python fame, although not as entertainingly silly.

What I liked: The season has been a slow build to get to the big bad, which I guess is the Rot, but it’s worked. I don’t feel like they’ve been padding in time. There were a lot of surprises this episode, but none of them felt like random add-ons, they all made sense when considered in context of the story so far. I’m glad Alec is accepting the need for what’s happening to him, but I also understand Abby not being able to really buy into the mystic aspects of what’s happening. The set up against Avery Sunderland was masterful.

What I didn’t: They’ve gotten me very interested in several of the side characters, and I missed Dan Cassidy, Xanadu, and the Phantom Stranger. I get you don’t want to kill off a villain too early in a big story, but I’m not sure I buy either Avery’s survival or Lucilia’s repeated misses.

I’m really enjoying this story and the way they are telling it. I’ll give this episode a 4 out of 5.