Swamp Thing‘s fourth episode, “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” picks up immediately after the previous episode as Sunderland (Will Patton) is burning the body of Gordon Haas (Matt Burke), the bank employee giving Avery off the books loans to fund his research on the swamp.
Similar to previous episodes, “Darkness on the Edge of Town” starts the tension early as two men find a corpse in the swamp, with one of the men,Todd (Andrew Yackel), getting cut in the process. Even with the darkness of night, it is easy to see the grotesque features on the rotting body.
After being cut by the corpse’s teeth when it fell on him, Todd begins to hallucinate, harming himself in the process. The scenes around this are disturbing and the body horror, like Todd mutilating his own arm by cutting into it with a knife, is executed well especially considering this show is streaming on the DC Universe. Additionally, the CGI used during Todd’s hallucinations is incredibly well done and never takes the viewer out of the moment. CGI on television is hard to perfect because of budget issues.
Abby (Crystal Reed) meets with Alec, Swamp Thing (Derek Mears), again outside of Delroy’s, where Todd mutilated himself, and asks for a tissue sample in hopes of figuring out what exactly has happened. Right as Abby thinks she has gotten a grasp on the disease, Todd’s strange, dangerous, and seemingly contagious behavior, leaves more questions than answers. What the swamp is truly capable of?
The hallucinatory scenes cut fragments of reality into the hallucinations. The tension built is palpable and often uncomfortable. Swamp Thing does a fantastic job of showing high-energy and hostile situations in a way that never feels campy. This is all complimented by the use of body horror that while gory, is never over-the-top.
That being said, Swamp Thing’s design is very different from the rest of the body horror show in “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” His branches move in a creepy and disturbing but deeply beautiful way. I previously praised his character design in the show and this episode is no different. The brilliant design also fits well within the plot.
Swamp Thing’s branches move like tentacles on an octopus giving his plant-like features mobility, a point that is aptly brought up by Abby and Jason Woodrue (Kevin Durand) later on. While I don’t know enough about biology to debunk the probably false science of the show, the explanation that Swamp Thing’s tissue make-up is that of a plant cell but organized like an animal cell is fascinating. Comic book science has never been accurate but it is fun nonetheless.
Woodrue’s insistence to work on the sample given to Abby by Swamp Thing of his own tissues and let Abby turn over her work since he is more experienced in botany makes sense. That being said, it is still extremely suspicious considering his involvement with Sutherland. Durand plays Woodrue well. He is an extremely intelligent but egotistical character.
In the scenes with Abby, he often speaks over her and discredits her work until he has proved it correct himself. This is, unfortunately, a scene most women know well. But despite that, the moment isn’t overly cringy and the show’s representation of strong female characters in both Abby and Liz Tremayne (Maria Sten) make up for any awkward or uncomfortable writing.
These women are always portrayed as intelligent and in control of their own narrative. My only issue with Abby’s character is that more often than not, despite being a doctor, forgoes wearing proper protective equipment both at the hospital and in the swamp. If you are tracking down a disease that still does not have a solid answer for how it’s transmitted, I’m sure you would wear a mask, gloves, and maybe some long sleeves.
In addition to adding to Woodrue’s narrative, “Darkness on the Edge of Town” finally gives us more insight on the Blue Devil aka Daniel Cassidy, played by an extremely charismatic Ian Ziering. Previously, Daniel got a different card reading than usual from Madame Xanadu (Jeryl Prescott). Cassidy was an actor playing the monstrous role of Blue Devil but has been since inexplicably stuck in Marais, Louisiana.
Another extremely intriguing character on the show is the swamp itself. In “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” Avery mentions again that he lost his father to the swamp, similar to how Susie lost hers. The swamp has a supernatural aura to it within the context of the show as both Swamp Thing and Madame Xanadu claim to sense growing darkness within it.
A lot of the tension and darkness of the show is built through the episode’s score. A lot of television scores are forgotten but Swamp Thing‘s music is where the show truly feels like a comic book series. The score is moody with deep notes that are reminiscent of Swamp Thing himself, reminiscent of the Batman: Arkham games.
Each week I continue to be more and more saddened by the cancellation of this show because it is so good. My only issue with this episode, which is an issue I have had with the show previously, is that Abby could solve a lot of her problems by wearing proper protective equipment and following lab procedures but that is honestly just a nitpick.
Overall, “Darkness on the Edge of Town” is a haunting and beautiful episode that excels in creating tension. But in addition to that tension is also moves the narrative forward by opening up more questions within the story, while also being emotional impactful. Most notably, the scenes with Abby and Swamp Thing continue to be ripe with chemistry.
Swamp Thing is streaming now on the DC Universe and episode five drops June 28, 2019.
Rating: 9/10 ancient viruses