Avery’s lost in the swamp, but he’s not alone. Things are ramping up for the big finale in this week’s episode of Swamp Thing.
After last week’s struggle against the Cables, Avery is stranded and badly injured. The opening scenes of this episode are shot in a really interesting way, with the edges blurred out and the different angles edited together in a disorienting fashion. It perfectly brings us in on how desperate Avery must feel in this situation. Will Patton is great in these scenes, muttering to himself and keeping himself focused on moving forward and marking his path. He’s clearly scared and out of it, but there’s a determination beneath it all that speaks volumes about Patton’s take on Avery Sunderland.
It was interesting to finally see why Avery is so preoccupied with the swamp. Knowing the lore of the comics, the manner in which his father is killed may raise some eyebrows. I can’t help but wonder if that would have led to something even more fantastical if the show had received another season.
The only part of these opening sequences in the swamp that didn’t quite work for me was a particular scare involving Avery’s vision of Lucilia Cable. The visuals were neat, but the CGI was a little wonky, which is surprising when you consider how solid the effects have been across the board all season.
For instance, going back to the vision of Avery’s father’s death, the fiery effects work incredibly well. Some of the fire may in fact be a computer-generated effect, but it appears to be mixed with practical flames. The result is a very impressive moment, as the actor doesn’t appear to be wearing a bulky flame-resistant suit, something that you see in many such stunts that can take you out of the scene. It’s a somewhat small touch, but it adds to authenticity of Avery’s vision and therefore, the horror is more palpable.
This episode also addressed an issue I brought up last week: the absence of Abby’s friend Harlan Edwards, who was seemingly forgotten after he went back to the CDC. In fact, the episode addresses this by showing how Harlan has similarly felt forgotten, and there’s a tenderness to Leonardo Nam’s performance in this episode that shows there’s more to Harlan besides a bit of sass and a big brain.
In a fun nod to the original 1982 film adaptation, horror and sci-fi icon Adrienne Barbeau guest stars as Dr. Palomar, a scientist at the CDC who leads Abby into her first real confrontation with the Conclave. Barbeau doesn’t get much to do in this episode beyond acting stern and gaslighting Abby in regards to her research, but it’s always a pleasure to see her pop up in something. It’s also just a nice treat for fans of Swampy’s previous cinematic outings.
Speaking of Swamp Thing himself, Derek Mears absolutely crushes in this episode. He has probably more dialogue in this episode than he’s had all season and he completely sells Swamp Thing’s silent fury. I’ve mentioned this before, but it cannot be overstated how impressive it is that Mears can emote to such a degree through all of the makeup and prosthetics. This is not only a testament to the abilities of the effects team, but to the actor as well. Fans have likely been looking forward to a confrontation between Alec and Avery all season long, and they won’t be disappointed. There’s a palpable rage that Alec appears to barely be able to contain throughout these scenes.
The final showdown is shot in a really interesting fashion, keeping Avery in the foreground and Swamp Thing’s fight with the Conclave’s mercenaries in the back. The choice to obscure a lot of the action lends to the idea that Alec has become, quite literally, a force of nature. There’s a real frantic and chaotic feel to the whole battle.
The only drawback here is that the excitement of these scenes led to parts of the episode feeling oddly paced. The show doesn’t have to be all action, of course, but there’s such a powerful sense of momentum to the Avery/Swamp Thing storyline that it occasionally felt like the show was grinding to a halt during the other B-plots, resulting in a bit of a jerky sense of pace to some of it.
Despite this, “Long Walk Home” was one of the most exciting episodes yet and it sets the stage for an adaptation of one of the all-time great issues of Swamp Thing. Join me next week as we learn a little bit more about our hero in “The Anatomy Lesson.”