Swamp Thing series premiere recap: Pilot

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Swamp Thing–Ep.101–“Pilot”–Photo Credit: Brownie Harris / 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved

DC Universe’s Swamp Thing premiered on the streaming service Friday. It was heavy on exposition, light on Swamp Thing. We’ve got the recap.

If you’ve seen any of the trailers for Swamp Thing, you’ve seen the first five minutes of the pilot episode. The series premiere was written by Gary Dauberman (IT) and Mark Verheiden (Ash vs Evil Dead). It was directed by Len Wiseman (Lucifer). This is a dream team of horror contemporaries that had a lot of fans looking forward to what DC Universe was going to do with Swamp Thing. That’s what makes the pilot so disappointing to me.

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Dauberman’s IT screenplay had some of the most realistic adolescent dialogue in any genre of movie in the last ten years. Verheiden wrote the “Family” episode of Ash vs Evil Dead. It was the season three premiere and introduced Ash Williams’ (Bruce Campbell) daughter Brandy Barr (Arielle Carver-O’Neill). In a script with a lot of moving parts, the episode was funny, scary, and set the arc for the season.

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None of that happens in Swamp Thing. Each scene features characters walking around and functioning like an old school RPG. A character walks up to another character. That character explains who they are, why they are important to the other character, and their connection to the story. No lie. This happens repeatedly throughout the pilot.

In the opening scene of Swamp Thing, CDC operative Harlan Edwards (Leonardo Nam) is in the Republic of Congo and strapped in a HAZMAT suit. I love Nam on West World and I was excited to see him here. But, I wasn’t too impressed to see a kid protecting his sister from Nam with a machete. I get it. It’s a brother being protective of his kid sister. Still.

Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed) walks in to the tent where Harlan is fending off the machete strikes. (Each one seems to connect with Harlan, but, they don’t. Wonky effects there.) Harlan protests, but Abby removes her HAZMAT mask and offers the hand of a white savior to the child, who almost instantly takes it and follows her out of the tent with his sister.

A couple of things here. Abby does speak the French or Kituba of the area, which makes convincing the kids a lot easier than Harlan’s loud gesturing from within a space suit. Why wouldn’t you send her in first? I know. It’s not as cool. But we shouldn’t be questioning that while the show is happening. It takes you out of the moment, which is highly contrived to begin with.

Also, the child is suffering from hemorrhagic fever. That can be extremely contagious and lethal. In the scene, Abby throws the clothes she was wearing into a trash can fire. So, whatever the kid has is super contagious. Abby exposed herself for a long time. But her and Harlan laugh it off with a promise for her to take all of the tests. What?!