"Brilliant Disguise" – Swamp Thing S01E07 Review

First of all, am I missing some hidden or not-so-hidden meaning in the title of "Brilliant Disguise"? Yes, Abby hallucinates Swamp Thing as Alec so a) Andy Bean can have more screen time, and b) Crystal Reed can have someone a bit more emotive and... well, human, to act against. And I suppose Swamp Thing appearing as Alec is a "disguise". But a disguise implies secrecy last time I checked. Abby and Alec realize what's going on right away.

Virginia Madsen, Swamp Thing S01E07

There are a couple of sneaky alliances going on, but I wouldn't call them "disguises". Maria is more sinister than she's let on, but it's been pretty obvious to the viewer (well, this viewer) she's got a few evil screws loose.

So what the "brilliant disguise", is, I have no idea.

As for the episode itself, it's basically the flip-side of last week's "The Price You Pay". That episode focused on Daniel and Xanadu and Jason and the Phantom Night Fisherman. The main characters showed up, but they didn't get a lot of play. "Brilliant Disguise" advanced the plot on the main characters. What the overall plot or plots are, I don't know. But things did happen.

As noted, thanks to the flower that grew in Swamp Thing's hand which emitted spores which induced hallucinations, Abby sees Swamp Thing as Alec. After summoning a fruit tree to feed her, Alec takes Abby to see the Rot. She gets stung by a Rot-wielding tree trunk, and it invades her body. Alec uses his Swamp Thing Green powers to fight back the Rot infection.

Crystal Reed, Andy Bean, Swamp Thing S01E07

Once Abby is cured, the spores wear off and Alec tells Abby it's too dangerous for her in the swamp so she should leave. She drives out of Marais with a sample of the Rot, heading for the CDC in Atlanta to run some tests.

On the Sutherland front, Avery is preparing to meet with a member of the Conclave. I thought previous episodes had established Avery was already working with the Conclave, but here's he's trying to get them to invest in him and Jason's serum. Maria is in a cheerier mood and is focused on making pecan pie. As are writers Andrew Peston and Rob Fresco. They must really like pecan pie, because we'll hear and see a lot of it.

Lucilia shows up to tell Avery he's corrupting her son, and she wants him with her when she disposes of Alec who Matt has revealed is still alive. Avery puts two and two together and comes up with "zebra", and goes with her without any suspicions. Turns out it's a setup, and Matt knocks Avery out. They take Avery out in a boat to dump him, but he gets free, grabs a knife that is taped to the bulkhead for some reason, stabs Matt, gets shot by Lucilia, and leaps overboard.

Lucilia takes Matt to the Sutherland manor, and we find out Lucilia and Maria were working together to eliminate Avery. Maria still doesn't like Lucilia, and tells her to clean up the blood and get out.

Michael Beach, Swamp Thing S01E07

Before that, Maria meet with Nathan Ellery, the Conclave rep. Who is played by HITG Michael Beach, who is no stranger to DC projects having voiced Mr. Terrific in Justice League Unlimited among other roles. He is originally contemptuous of the whole Sutherland project and Marais. But Jason and his wife Caroline show up to have dinner, and Jason shows Nathan his prospectus on the serum, and Nathan's eyes light up. He eats a couple of bites of Maria's pecan pie, compliments her on it, and we find out later the Conclave is financing Jason's work with the Sutherland Corp. This makes Maria happy, because it's her name on the paperwork rather than Avery's.

Jason isn't happy, because Caroline loses more of her memory after the dinner.

At the end, Avery climbs out of the swamp and moans and groans as the rain pelts him. Oh, and on the boat earlier, Avery told Matt he's his illegitimate father. Since we don't know who the legitimate father is, this doesn't mean much. It does distract Matt long enough for Avery to plant the knife in him, and later Lucilia and Matt argue about it a bit.

Maria Sten, Swamp Thing S01E07

Stuff happened this episode. We find out Avery is Matt's father. Maria regains control of her money and gets the Conclave to invest in Jason's formula. Alec tells us the Rot is bad and he's probably some kind of chosen warrior of the Green intended to fight the Rot. Liz doesn't do much of anything. Xanadu and Daniel don't appear.

But we're on episode 7 and it's still not clear where the show is going. Probably that's because the show was cancelled and its episode order was cut from 13 to 10. But even with six episodes rather than three, it's hard to see how the creative team could have wrapped everything up to end a season. It's still not clear what Sutherland and/or Avery have to do with the Rot. Or what Maria's daughter has to do with the Rot. Or what Daniel/Blue Devil has to do with the Rot. Or what Xanadu has to do with anything.

"Brilliant Disguise" does give us some bonding between Abby and Alec. Which is good, because we haven't seen a lot of it so far. If there was any doubt, "Brilliant Disguise" cements the idea Abby and Alec are in wuv, and she wants to help him. It's also why the pace of the season seems off. They rushed to turn Alec into Swamp Thing at the end of the first episode. But now we're on the seventh episode and they are just now getting into giving us a strong connection between Abby and Alec. And lollygagging around on all the other plot elements.

Will Patton, Swamp Thing S01E07

The Rot could choose Avery as its avatar, much as the Green has chosen Alec. Why not? The Rot failed with Munson, and it apparently failed with Shawna. What is was trying to do with Shawna, assuming it was involved with Shawna, who knows? Shawna seemed more like a drowned corpse-ghost than a Rot avatar, and it's difficult to believe the Sutherlands didn't have her body found and interred. So it's not like Shawna's body would just be floating in the river waiting for the Rot to take it.

Now it looks like we'll get Avery as the Rot's avatar. But... there's still Jason in the wings. In the comics he becomes the Floronic Man and eventually becomes a nemesis/ally to Swamp Thing. Jason's origin is already radically different than his comic book origin, which involved a plant dimension, originally appearing human, and a stint in the Secret Society of Super Villains. But he could test his version of the restorative on himself and turn into the brown-barked, leaf-mopped bad guy he is in the comics. Just in time for the season finale, which will also be the series finale. People have heard Swamp Thing is cancelled, right?

Turning Avery into the Rot avatar to fight Swamp Thing for an end-of-season showdown could work. Although a battle between the avatars of life and death on the small-screen doesn't seem very promising. How Daniel and Xanadu and Phantom Stranger participate in all of this is left to the imagination. But the pieces are very far apart. We've barely seen Avery and Alec together: there doesn't seem to be much enmity between them despite Avery having Alec killed. Having two big impersonal forces sending their avatars to fight each other, when the avatars don't have a hero/villain relationship, seems kind of vague.

Crystal Reed, Swamp Thing S01E07

Abby is heading for Atlanta. She'll certainly be back next episode because Crystal Reed is the lead star. But they've got to take some episode time next week to bring her back. There's the Conclave, but they're just now buying into the whole Sutherland/restorative formula thing. So the Green doesn't have a reason to dislike them, either.

The biggest hate-hate relationship is Maria and the Cables versus Avery. But that's playing out as Dallas-level soap operatics. If he comes back as the Rot Avatar, Avery no doubt wants to settle a few scores with Maria and Lucilia. But then Swamp Thing will end up protecting them, and they don't seem to deserve protecting. The Rot seems to have a hate-on against Abby, but we've yet to find out why.

Overall, it's all very impersonal. DC already did that with Doom Patrol, where Mr. Nobody hated Niles Caulder but we were never given a reason why. Now we've got Swamp Thing, where Alec/Swamp Thing is supposed to fight the Rot but has no reason to do so. The Green doesn't seem to be influencing him to fight the Rot, and he has no reason to do so on his own except it's threatening Abby. But why is it attacking Abby? And if it is trying to kill her, why is it so erratic about it? Swamp Thing doesn't guard her 24/7, and it doesn't seem like the Green cares about her.

Admiral Whiskers, Ezekiel, Doom Patrol s01e15

So Swamp Thing is all very vague on the super-type hero and villain front. Granted, that was a problem sometimes in the comics. But in the comics, the writers and artists could pull off "big" forces like the Parliament of Trees and the Bruja and the Rot. Either the creative team doesn't want to do that, or doesn't think it can so it's not going to try. You'd think Doom Patrol would have taught them going big can work. Literally, with the case of Ezekiel and Admiral Whiskers. But that show had the Decreator and the Dry Bachelors and Danny the Street, too. Swamp Thing needs someone who can bring the visions of Alan Moore and Rick Vietch to life, the way the Doom Patrol creative team did with Grant Morrison.

Since it doesn't, we basically get a serious 2019-style TV drama that's otherwise a remake of the 90s Swamp Thing. A guy in a green plant suit running around the swamp, occasionally doing plant-related stuff, speaking profoundly, and dealing with relatively small menaces. We deserve better.


But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think?

Written by Gislef on Jul 13, 2019

Comments

Gislef posted a month ago

Who knows what all the legal and financial shenanigans are. DC wants to get into streaming original material via its DC Universe Channel, and so we got Titans and Doom Patrol and Swamp Thing and Stargirl and Young Justice. Marvel is doing the same thing with their soon-to-be streaming channel. Some people keep talking about the superhero renaissance, but the "big" network channels don't seem interested in investing the time and resources. Except for The CW, but supposedly even the ratings on their shows like The Flash and Supergirl are falling off. And the Marvel Netflix stuff has disappeared, as much because of Marvel's attempts at streaming as because of ratings.

One thing I've noticed about comic book fans is that they don't seem interested in material based on their comic books. I've followed comic book role-playing games, for instance... and the DC and Marvel-based games have come and then gone after a few years. There's also the fact that writing just ain't TV. Trying to capture a Geoff Johns or Alan Moore or Grant Morrison is difficult. And a lot of time what they do doesn't translate to the small screen. The Doom Patrol people were lucky to "get" Morrison. But I wouldn't say the Titans people captured George Perez and Marv Wolfman. Or that the Swamp Thing team has captured Moore and Veitch. And do those creative minds really appeal to the general mass of TV viewers? I'll be the first to admit, while I grok Morrison and his Doom Patrol, most viewers probably think it's weird and incomprehensible. And... it is.

Developing superhero shows also takes time. The CW gave Arrow and Flash and DC's Legends of Tomorrow time to mature. Marvel has spent decades developing its MCU. And yet DC cancels Swamp Thing barely after it's out of the gate.

And finally... yes, some sci-fi and superhero stuff has made it on TV. But for every X-Files or Twin Peaks or Lost, there are a dozen shows that tried to get in on whatever made those shows popular and failed. Whether it's matter of real-world timing or some weird magic, who knows? I wouldn't consider Heroes superior to the CW stable of stuff. But it's more high-profile and brought in bigger ratings. Why? Who knows? Heroes Reborn couldn't recapture the "magic", and it was by a number of the same creative people. Sometimes time just moves on. IMO, if DC Universe Channel had premiered 5-10 years ago, and DC and Warner threw some of the same creative juices and money at it that Marvel & Disney throw at the Marvel movie stuff, it could have been something. Now it just seems like a too-late Johnny.

And sometimes I think the comic book folks just aren't trying. Viewers will flock to quality shows. I just don't think Titans and Swamp Thing (and realistically, Doom Patrol) are that great. I like 'em because I like comics books. But most viewers... eh. Those shows aren't on the level of Lost or X-Files. Heck, Lost and X-Files weren't usually on the level of Lost and X-Files. We keep seeing the same 10-15 writer names on Flash episodes, so what do you expect? For whatever reasons, the comic book companies and their corporate buddies don't want to dedicate the same effort and creativity that gave us Simpsons or South Park or Archer.

danharr posted a month ago

Perhaps I'm just not hip enough but I had no ideal about these web channels. Could the platform be a reason for these shows failures? I've seen much more standard scifi make it on tv and cable.

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