Swamp Thing on DC Universe: A brilliant TV series undercut by a premature death

Swamp Thing on DC Universe
Derek Mears as Swamp Thing. Pic credit: DC Universe

Titans season 2 is coming to the DC Universe streaming service, and that makes it a perfect time to see why getting involved in these series can be a dangerous prospect for fans of long-term TV series.

Swamp Thing was one of the most recent additions to the DC Universe and ended up being one of the best shows they have aired to date — until the final episode.

There will be spoilers that follow for Swamp Thing season 1 on DC Universe.

Background of Swamp Thing

The DC Comics creative team of Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson created Swamp Thing in 1971. He remained a fringe character but caught the attention of some very prominent people over the following decade.

Horror maestro Wes Craven directed a movie based on the character in 1982 following his success with The Last House of the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. This film arrived was two years before Craven invented Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street.

There was one sequel.

Following the Craven movie, DC Comics knew they had something big here. They handed the reigns of the Swamp Thing comic books over to Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Batman: The Killing Joke, From Hell).

As you can see from that list of titles, Moore was arguably one of the most influential writers in DC Comics in the 80s

He reinvigorated the Swamp Thing, and the title became a huge part of the Vertigo imprint at DC Comics, an adult-oriented comic book line.

When DC Universe announced its streaming service, Swamp Thing was one of the first properties it announced.

Swamp Thing and Abby Arcane
Swamp Thing and Abby Arcane. Pic credit: DC Universe

Swamp Thing on DC Universe

DC hired Mark Verheiden (Falling Skies) and Gary Dauberman (Annabelle) to write and develop the Swamp Thing show for DC Universe streaming. James Wan (Aquaman) produced it.

As expected with the men in charge, Swamp Thing ended up as a horror series, as it should have been.

Parts of the character’s story changed, and for the most part, it was for the better.

Abby Arcane came back to her hometown of Marais, Louisiana, to investigate a life-threatening epidemic that might have something to do with the swamps around the town.

The problem is that she fled the town when she became an adult because she blamed herself for the death of her best friend before their high school graduation.

While there, she meets a man named Alec Holland (Andy Bean), who was hired by a local businessman named Avery Sunderland (Will Patton). He is a biologist hired to study the swamps and help figure out a way to make it worthwhile to help the residents of Marais.

His wife, Maria (Virginia Madsen), blames Abby for the death of their daughter, making her homecoming less than enthusiastic.

The cast of the show is routinely great.

Jennifer Beals stars as the local sheriff Lucilia Cable, a woman who has a history with Avery. Henderson Wade is her son Matt, also a police officer in Marais.

Maria Stein is Liz Tremayne, a local news journalist and a childhood friend of Abby.

Ian Ziering is surprisingly excellent as Daniel Cassidy, who in DC Comics, is the Blue Devil. Other characters making appearances from the comics include Madame Xanadu (Jeryl Prescott) and the Phantom Stranger (Macon Blair).

To top things off, Jason Woodrue is part of the cast, portrayed by the always great Kevin Durand (The Strain, Legion). As fans of the comics know, this is the alter ego of the villain known as The Floronic Man.

Swamp Thing on DC Universe
Swamp Thing on DC Universe. Pic credit: DC Universe

Swamp Thing on DC Universe review

Through the first nine episodes, Swamp Thing builds a fantastic world with nuanced and flawed characters and a terrifying and disturbing story.

Alec Holland, while investigating some men who might be damaging the swamp’s ecosystem, finds himself the target of a murder scheme by Avery Sunderland.

However, after an attempt on his life, The Swamp Thing (Derek Mears) rises out of the waters.

Abby Arcane got to know Alec while the two were investigating an epidemic that saw people coming down with a disease that possibly came from the swamp. After he went missing, Abby searches for her friend and finds the Swamp Thing.

From this point, things start to develop as Avery brings in the brilliant Jason Woodrue to help learn more about the swamp and eventually the Swamp Thing himself.

The marvel here is that Jason is a man who wants nothing more than to help his wife, who has late-stage dementia. He believes, when he learns of the regenerative traits of the Swamp Thing, that it holds a secret that can cure his wife, so he goes along with Avery’s plans.

There are also some subplots involving Avery’s past and currently clandestine relationship with the local sheriff Lucilia.

Maria is haunted by visions of her dead daughter thanks to Madame Xanadu, who opened up a portal to the other side. Meanwhile, a former stunt man named Daniel is tied to the town, unable to leave until he fulfills his destiny.

Honestly, from the acting to the pacing of the first nine episodes, Swamp Thing was one of the best things on TV.

Then, the final episode arrived, and the entire series imploded on itself.

Jason Woodrue on Swamp Thing
Kevin Durand as Jason Woodrue on Swamp Thing. Pic credit: DC Universe

The downfall of Swamp Thing on DC Universe

Fans knew the problems the show would face from the start of the season.

The Hollywood Reporter revealed in April that Warner Media reduced the 13-episode order for Swamp Thing to 10 due to “creative differences.” How this happened after the show started filming is mindboggling.

Then, the word came that the problems were budgetary, but this caused the show’s creators to cut off three of the episodes, meaning they had to rush the conclusion.

Then, after the first episode aired, DC Universe announced they canceled Swamp Thing. They allowed the first season to play out but said there would be no second season and only 10 first season episodes.

The fact that the cancelation came before DC Universe even saw reviews or fan reaction was a discouraging sign for future shows on the streaming service.

The final episode was a tragic example of what these cuts meant to the overall success of Swamp Thing.

“We were on [episode] 10 when we got the call, going like, ‘Yeah, so we’re getting cut to 10 from 13,'” Derek Mears told Collider. “We’re like, ‘What?!’ Also reading the script for 11 going, ‘No!’ … I’m very proud of what we did, but also very saddened by the almost the sense of lack of respect.”

Virginia Madsen was open with her disgust as well.

“I don’t get it. None of us do. There seems to be enough blame going around so I’m not going to talk about that. And frankly, my opinion will not be heard or make a difference to anyone we like to call ‘The Suits,'” Madsen wrote. “I encourage you to keep watching the rest of Swamp Thing because we all worked very hard to make it the best Thing ever. Also, it’s awesome.”

Madsen is right about that. Swamp Thing was “awesome,” up until that final episode.

Here is the problem with the finale of the DC Universe series.

Swamp Thing and Abby Arcane got a fitting ending together, even though it felt rushed. Maria got an even better ending, and it was tied up the best.

However, the plotline with Avery and Lucilia just rushed in and ended. When the episode came to an end, it seemed there needed to be more to that ending. Something seemed missing.

Matt’s ending was a complete cheat. With his entire story being his desire to get out of Marais and dealing with his mom, his end was terrible. The show did Matt Cable a giant disservice with his rushed ending.

Daniel was a great character, and the introduction of the Blue Devil was incredible, and then he left. Just like that, he was gone, and that was another area that seemed entirely too rushed.

Finally, there was the stinger after the credits that showed the Florinic Man arrive and then it ended. The show was over.

There is so much more story that needs told. What happened to Jason’s wife? What happened with Avery after his final confrontation with Lucilia? What happened to Daniel and is that really it for him?

Swamp Thing was so perfectly built and executed and then that ending did nothing but leave an empty feeling.

Swamp Thing deserves an audience because it was a great story. Just be prepared for a hugely disappointing ending. Don’t blame the showrunners either, as this one falls directly on the doorstep of Warner Media and DC Universe streaming.

Swamp Thing’s entire first season is available to stream now on DC Universe.

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