SWAMP THING S01E01 “Pilot” review

Swamp Thing (DC Universe)

Swamp Thing debuts new episodes every Friday on the DC Universe streaming service.

Swamp Thing stars Crystal Reed, Andy Bean, Derek Mears, Jennifer Beals, Henderson Wade, Will Patton, Virginia Madsen, Jeryl Prescott, Henderson Wade and Kevin Durand.

Synopsis

Something unnatural is happening in the swamps outside Marais, Louisiana. When a mysterious illness strikes the town, CDC investigator (and former Marais native) Abby Arcane is sent to investigate.

Trailer

Review

Swamp Thing, the third entry in to the live-action DC Universe… well… universe finally arrives on mobile devices, streaming boxes and consoles across North America today.

The James Wan/Len Wiseman masterminded series is setting itself up to take the world of DC Comics in a new direction following on the from the wacky Doom Patrol.

But does it live up to the hype?

In a word: yes. In two words: emphatic yes!

From its opening scene Swamp Thing makes it incredibly clear that it won’t be taking any prisoners. A murky aesthetic perfectly sets the tone for the episode, inky greens and dark hues merge across the screen and enhance the darkness that the show is trying to embrace.

Even before we’ve reached the storyline the series has already cemented that it’s going to be a Stranger Things inspired masterpiece. I was instantly impressed by the scope of the series opening minutes.

Where Titans amped up its grittiness and Doom Patrol pushed its humour, Swamp Thing immediately aims for something much more cinematic. Pedro Luque (Don’t Breathe) was an excellent choice as cinematographer as sets feel sprawling and at the drop of a hat can suddenly feel stark and claustrophobic.

Through the visuals Luque is able to make the swamp feel like as much of a character as the human cast and that needs to be applauded.

Getting down to business the show wastes no time in introducing its character. Of course there’s plenty of pilot tropes. We meet Abby (Crystal Reed) whilst working on a CDC mission in the Congo. She wastes no time in jumping head first in to a dangerous situation so that as an audience we know she’s going to be one for getting in to trouble over the next ten episodes.

Crystal Reed easily carries the episode. Having seen her in Teen Wolf and more recently in Gotham I was intrigued by her casting. Any concerns that she may not have the chops to carry the show were gone within seconds. There’s a warmth to her which makes Abby likeable even as she is giving orders to her team or showing vulnerability in her scenes with Alec.

Tying her to the Sutherland family through the death of Shawna helps add some human drama to the series. If this episode is anything to go by then there’s going to be plenty of swamp action to behold so we’re going to need some more familiar territory to help the series feel grounded.

It will be interesting to see how Swamp Thing weaves Andy Bean in to further episodes as Alec Holland. He’s a highlight of this episode and his chemistry with Reed is excellent. The two bring scenes to life with easy and they are incredibly sparky.

I hope we’re able to learn more about Holland through flashbacks leading up to his “death” and transformation.

He too is able to show a vulnerability which makes his cocky character likeable. There are heroic qualities to Holland which we only just scratch the surface of here. I would not have argued with an opening season of Holland leading up to his transformation but then I suppose that wouldn’t be Swamp Thing.

We only get to see a brief glimpse of the titular monster in this episode. But what we do see is impressive. The practical effects of the costume are hugely impressive in an age where many creatures like this would end up entirely CGI creations. A huge round of applause to the special makeup effects team of Rob Hinderstein and Scott Holbert for what they have been able to create here.

As for the CGI effects in Swamp Thing they seemed equally impressive in the screener copy we were provided. The vines of the swamp creep around set pieces fully integrated. At no point in watching this episode did I feel like I was watching special effects, everything in the environments feels natural and that means the team has done their job.

The sequence in the morgue with the body of Eddie Coyle is possibly my favourite moment in any DCTV show ever. It’s creepy, it’s a little scary (but not jumpy) and incredibly well executed. I’ve gone back to watch this sequence alone a number of times now because it’s just that cool. If the series can keep up this type of set piece for all ten episodes then it will far and beyond become my favourite of the DC Universe shows.

When the opening titles played for the first time I found myself humming Brian Tyler’s theme tune to 2017’s Power Rangers. So I was not at all surprised when the end credits informed me the score was written by none other than Brian Tyler.

He does an excellent job of accompanying the overall visual aesthetic of the show. His score really amps up the creepy nature of Swamp Thing and easily had the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. This is another show which is going to need a standalone soundtrack release.

Aside from the fact the episode had to come to an end there was absolutely nothing not to like here. Excellent production, excellent casting and excellent storytelling.

Verdict

Swamp Thing is another monstrous triumph for DC Universe. An incredible aesthetic and brilliant storytelling set the scene for what could be a fantastic horror series proving huge versatility in the brand. A perfect pilot.

10/10


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About Neil Vagg 3165 Articles
Neil is the GYCO Editorial Chief. He has a BA in Film & Tv and an MA in Scriptwriting; he currently works 9-5 as an office manager and 5-9 as a reviewer/web designer. He has been subscribing to comics for around nine years but has been reading them as long as he can remember. Favourite comics: Batman; Nightwing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and All New X-Men Favourite films: Batman (any apart from & Robin); Star Trek Generations, Underworld, Beetlejuice Favourite TV shows: Fringe; Buffy, Arrow, TBBT, Being Human UK and Star Trek TNG