DC’s Swamp Thing Episode 4 premiered this week exclusively on the DC Universe online service, and the show took a dark turn in a chapter aptly titled, “Darkness At The Edge of Town.” Swamp Thing may only be around for one 10-episode season, but Episode 4 was the best example of what this show can be week in and week out. It was a “monster of the week” story that had some hints to the greater mythology of the show, but focused more on one adversary.
Swamp Thing Episode 4, “Darkness at the Edge of Town,” opened with a couple of guys out in the swamp at night — which has been a mainstay story device all season — who are looking for cypress trees to cut down to sell the wood. As one man takes a chainsaw to one tree, something drops onto the other, Burritt Sunderland (Steve Wilcox), from Spanish moss-covered boughs and branches — a corpse. The exposed teeth of the corpse scrape Burritt’s arm as he “catches” the body, and that begins a mysterious new problem for the residents of Marais, Louisiana.
As the two men run off, Swamp Thing (Derek Mears) approaches the corpse and uses his tendrils to find out what happened to it. The intrusion causes the Guardian of the Green to turn black before he’s able to pull back in time.
The scrape becomes infected of sorts, and when Burritt goes to work the next day at Delroy’s, he begins hallucinating that a venomous snake is attacking him. To kill the imaginary snake, he shoves his hand down a garbage disposal and, well, let’s just hope he’s ambidextrous. Before he does that, though, Burritt scratches Delroy (Al Mitchell), Liz Tremaine’s (Maria Sten) father, during a scuffle.
Abby (Crystal Reed) offers to help investigate why Burritt went mad, even though the CDC has basically wrapped up its swamp flu treatment, and she witnesses Delroy go berserk, and he, in turn, scratches Sheriff Lucilia Cable (Jennifer Beals). The deadly telephone game continues in Swamp Thing Episode 4.
While this is going on, Avery Sunderland (Will Patton) has a plan to use little Susie Coyle (Elle Graham) to get Maria (Virginia Madsen) to give him the money he needs to fund Woodrue’s (Kevin Durand) research. Sunderland effectively buys Susie off her uncle and lets her move into the manor. Maria has a “new” daughter, and Avery uses that and the threat of the swamp flu returning to get more money. Avery is a master manipulator, and to see it roll out in action was kind of cool.
In the second side story, Daniel Cassidy (Ian Ziering) and Madame Xanadu (Jeryl Prescott) discuss Daniel’s own mysterious curse (what is it with Marais and curses?!) and what his card reading meant from Swamp Thing Episode 3. Xanadu advises that Daniel must help Abby to break the curse so he can leave town, so he sets off to find and protect the CDC doctor.
Abby seeks out Alec in the swamp for help, and he tells her what he learned about the dark curse and how it is transferred from person to person. This “darkness” causes the infected to go murderously insane, and one person ended the cycle years ago by going out into the swamp and killing themselves before it could be passed again. The person’s corpse is what infected Burritt.
Sunderland decides to throw a crawfish boil party to celebrate the end of the swamp flu for the whole town, and Sheriff Lucilia has her freak out. She begins to imagine her son, Matt Cable (Henderson Wade), getting killed at the party. Abby show up in time to prevent Lucilia from shooting up the townsfolk, Daniel assists to help “protect” Abby, but she still gets her turn with the darkness after the sheriff attacks her. This party was a neat, convenient way for all the storylines in Swamp Thing Episode 4 to come together.
Abby runs to the swamp for Alec/Swamp Thing’s help before the darkness overtakes her and Swamp Thing takes the darkness into himself and them quickly puts it back into the original corpse. Then he commands the swamp to swallow the corpse, forever sealing away the dark curse.
“Darkness at the Edge of Town” is very much a “monster of the week” episode. The script by Erin Maher and Kay Reindl does a great job of spinning a tale that encompasses all of the principal characters. It also introduces a formula where Abby solves mysteries in town, and goes to Swamp Thing/Alec in the swamp for guidance when she needs help. Let’s face it, Swamp Thing, as a character, is limited in what he can do, and this is how he can be a hero until the real big bads start to show up for him to fight.
The show has done a great job in four episodes of world building, and the roles of the characters get more and more defined with each chapter. Swamp Thing Episode 4 was a solid entry, and did wonders for many of the characters. The series is transitioning from the swamp flu epidemic into the evil machinations of the Sunderland Corporation, which will be the antagonist for the rest of the season. Strap in, folks. It’s going to get interesting.
Come back next week when we review Swamp Thing Episode 5, “Drive All Night.” Swamp Thing is available now exclusively on the DC Universe online service. New episodes premiere each week on Fridays.
All images courtesy of Warner Bros. TV.