6:45 pm EDT, June 14, 2019

‘Swamp Thing’ 1×03 ‘He Speaks’ review: There’s something rotting in Marais

Swamp Thing 1×03 introduces The Rot, increases Swamp Thing’s vocabulary, and continues the show’s streak of giving us excellent episodes.

I’ve mentioned before that I didn’t know all that much about Swamp Thing prior to watching the show — so much so that I was shocked when Alec Holland became Swamp Thing, even though that’s a pretty foundational part of the character.

So the highest compliment that I have when it comes to this show is that not only is it one of my favorite new shows thus far, but it makes me want to go and read the definitive runs of Swamp Thing just to immerse myself more in the world.

Because the world of Swamp Thing is such a lush, mysterious and fascinating place, one that draws me in week by week and makes me want more — despite the fact that it also regularly makes me hide behind a pillow or cover my mouth in shock.

This week’s episode of Swamp Thing was no exception in that regard, so let’s get onto what happened…

This week in Marais

Abby continues her quest to both figure out what happened to Alec and how to fight against this disease that has a new victim in this episode — her number one doctor pal and Nicki Minaj fan, Harlan.

She finds answers to both those questions when she runs into an undead murderer who is possessed (?) by The Rot and is subsequently saved by Swamp Thing — who she then confirms is Alec, and who gives her a clue as to what she can do to help Harlan and everyone who is currently suffering from the swamp disease.

Elsewhere in Marais, we find out that Sheriff Lucillia Cable and Avery Sunderland had an ongoing tryst, that Officer Handsome Matt Cable is still very much carrying a torch for Abby (who can blame him?), watch what will probably be Dr. Jason Woodrue’s villain origin story and learn Dan Cassidy has been waiting in Marais for eight years for someone to show up — someone who might be Abby, but is probably Swamp Thing.

By the numbers

Number of times I…

  • Jumped because I got scared: Twice. Every time dead Shawna appears, I get spooked.
  • Put my hand over my mouth in disgust: Every time The Rot-controlled Munson appeared on screen, trailing all those cockroaches. I am NOT a cockroach fan.
  • Admired the steeliness of Abby Arcane: Twice, both times in Alec’s lab. She faced down that decaying monster with steely-eyed resolve and made me fall even more in love with her.
  • Considered shipping Abby with Officer Handsome: Never, we are team #monsterfuckers ’til we die, but my goodness, is he working hard to change that.

Guess who just got 🎵murdered🎵

It was poor Gordon, of Marais Savings and Loan.

Well, technically it was Munson, employed by Avery Sunderland; Alec (kinda), formally employed by Avery Sunderland; and Gordon, fronting money illegally to Avery Sunderland.

So in case you were wondering whether or not Avery Sunderland was any kind of good character, or whether he was just a straight up villain, this episode answers affirmatively in the latter.

This episode sets him up as the primary antagonist of the series so far, as he is responsible for funding the creation of the accelerant, dumping it in the swamp and now a string of murders/attempted murder which led to a botanical transformation.

For all his proverbial mustache twirling villainy, I don’t think Avery is going to be this season’s big bad. I think his asshole decisions will lead to something much worse and far more deadly than he, and I’m guessing he’s gonna make life real hard for everyone around him in the meantime, but I don’t think he’s going to end up being our biggest worry.

Team #monsterfuckers unite

Swamp Thing in Alec's lab

Thus far, all we’ve heard from Swamp Thing himself is a few grunts, groans and quite a few growls, and while the connection between Alec/Swamp Thing is undoubtedly strong, a relationship cannot subsist on angry growls alone.

Luckily, we didn’t have to worry too long about how these two would communicate, as Swamp Thing’s vocabulary increased exponentially this episode — along with our shipper feels.

Abby decides a dark and stormy night is the perfect time to go out, alone, into the middle of a swamp where two people have been murdered so she can search Alec’s abandoned lab for any clues for how to stop the swamp disease. Abby, honey, I love you, but this is bad decision-making.

While there, she’s set upon by Munson’s The Rot-controlled body, and while she doesn’t run away screaming and projectile vomits because of all the roaches as I surely would have, she’s also not equipped to fight off a zombie murderer filled with bugs.

Luckily, Swamp Thing crashes through the floorboards to save the day and gets rid of Rot!Munson (more on this later in this recap), and then has his first verbal exchange with Abby.

I know I sang the praises of Derek Mears’ performance as Swamp Thing last episode, but I have do it again in this one as well (and will probably continue to do so as the season goes on).

Despite being monstrous and red-eyed and covered in swamp vines, Swamp Thing inspires sadness and pity rather than terror. When he reaches out to brush his hand against Abby’s cheek to pick a piece of glass out of her hair — a callback to Alec’s earlier moment with her by the stairs — reader, I felt that. In my heart and in the depths of my soul.

Abby, in pure Abby fashion, doesn’t flinch away from the creature who was once Alec Holland, but instead reminds him of who he is and puts her trust in him to help her fight the disease.

And Swamp Thing, reminded of who he was and drawing upon who he is now, gives her a key to help her battle against the infected of Marais.

It’s a short scene, but an emotional one all the same. You can see the tragedy between them, but you can also still see their connection, the trust they place in one another.

Swamp Thing may not know what he is, and Abby may not know how to help him — but you damn well know she’s going to try.

The Rot and The Blue Devil

Though I’m still not sure where the season is headed (but would sure love, oh, about three seasons to find out), I do feel like this episode gave us more clarity on all the different sides to what I’m sure will end up being a supernatural battle.

In the cold open of the episode, we see Alec Holland and Munson as they were in life, duking it out in some kind of alternate swamp dimension. Then, Munson is possessed by the flies, roaches and other creepy-crawlies of The Rot, who reek havoc on the living it happens to run into in the Swamp. And while Swamp Thing does fight against Munson initially, when he has zombie!Munson pinned, he gently commands The Rot to release Munson, which The Rot then does.

Clearly, The Rot and Swamp Thing aren’t exactly on the same side, but it looks like it’s willing to obey Swamp Thing. For now, at least.

Swamp Thing isn’t the only monster that speaks in this episode. Shawna Sunderland’s rotting corpse that only her mother, Maria, sees likewise gets quite a few jabs in — mostly directed at her father.

And while she’s not wrong, because her father sucks, you get the impression that this kind of nastiness is new and unexpected (though what is apparently not new to Maria is the fact that her dead daughter speaks to her, so I’d like some more background on that.)

That ghoul!Shawna manipulates her mother in this way in the same episode that The Rot zombie-fies Munson seems unlikely to be a coincidence, but rather that we’re starting to see the darkness in the swamp take form and manifest itself into something more deadly.

But while ghoul!Shawna and zombie!Munson are likely in cahoots, Swamp Thing and Abby don’t seem to be on their own either. The episode ends with Dan Cassidy being visited by Madame Xanadu, who not only informs us that Dan has been waiting in Marais for eight years, but that his luck will very soon change.

I don’t know much about Dan Cassidy or Blue Devil, other than he’s a superhero who is part of Swamp Thing canon, so I’m curious as to whether Dan is already Blue Devil or if that’s a transformation we’ll see later this season.

Either way, it seems like lines are being drawn and sides are being picked. My prediction? That Avery Sunderland is a red herring when it comes to the big bad of the season, and that it is actually going to be Maria Sunderland — likely controlled or manipulated by her ghoul daughter — who ends up playing a major role as the season’s major threat.

Stray thoughts and lingering questions

  • When Susie says, “Thank you so much for helping us” at the end of Abby’s visit to her in the hospital, is she talking about her and Swamp Thing or her and the swamp? Has she become part of the swamp the way Swamp Thing has?
  • Speaking of Susie, I’m still perplexed why she doesn’t have the same symptoms as the rest of the swamp sicklies and why her relative recovery/health isn’t being used as some sort of basis for finding a cure?
  • At this point, Abby must be protected from getting the illness because of her connection with Swamp Thing, but I still do wish she’d put on a mask more often when interacting with the swamp sicklies.
  • Does Lucillia’s general…dislike(?) of Abby have to do with her close association with Avery, or is there something else we’re going to find out later on this season?
  • Also, about Lucillia — was I the only one who was like, aw, no, c’mon girl, you can do better? Avery Sunderland? That man looks like he’d leave you at 2 a.m. to go pretend to clean his andirons.
  • What happened to the hunter that ran into zombie!Munson? Did zombie!Munson kill him, or is there another Rot-controlled zombie wandering the swamp with a gun?
  • Liz’s jeans + mustard long sleeve + herringbone vest outfit was really speaking to me (it was saying: THIS OUTFIT IS AMAZING).
  • 1700 words and I didn’t even get to Jason Woodrue, that’s how much there is to this show! We don’t get much of him, but we do see that his wife has what appears to be early onset Alzheimer’s and that he’s hellbent on finding a cure. Oh, Jason, I watched The Passage and I know where the quest for a cure for early onset Alzheimer’s goes: to the end of the world.

What did you think of ‘Swamp Thing’ 1×03, ‘He Speaks’?

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