There is really only one way to put it. The new tv version of Swamp Thing gets everything wrong with the characters, and in doing so, get everything right with the series.
Tone is most important thing here, and the mood is set from the first few minutes. This is a dark series, both visually and emotionally, and far more like American Horror Story than a superhero show. There are some grisly deaths, and gruesome visuals, all of which evoke the Swamp Thing comic at its best.
In some ways this is all very familiar. Any reader will instantly recognize the names of the characters. But none of them are quite what they have been in the series.
Alec Holland (Andy Bean) is still a scientist, but not working on a bio-resortative formula, and has no wife. Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed) is not only an American doctor, but a local, although she left Marais, Georgia year earlier. Yes, Marais, Georgia. No Houma, Louisiana in this series.
Matt Cable (Henderson Wade) is a policeman instead of a government agent. Liz Tremayne (Maria Sten) is still a reporter, but on a much smaller scale, not one with published books to her name. Avery Sunderland (Will Patton) bears some resemblance to General Sunderland, though again on a smaller scale. His wife, Maria (Virginia Madsen) has her own issues with Abby, events in the past that mar any possible relationship in the present.
True, this episode is the origin story, and that plays out with the key elements intact. A murder, an explosion, a fire, and the swamps. But even this has been tinkered with.
Normally, this kind of variance from the source material would be the sign of a poor adaptation, but that is not the case here. The story has been re-thought, that much is clear, but in such a way as to bring out much of the feeling from the better runs on the book. The first episode was gripping and shocking.
And the simple fact that this is not a by-the-book adaptation means that viewers, no matter how familiar they are with the comics, will have no idea exactly where this is going. That’s a real plus in my eyes.
I am fairly certain that Madame Xanadu will also be a recurring character in this series. An elderly black woman makes a cameo, and is called Xanadu. Add to that the tarot cards floating in the opening sequence, and I’m pretty sure that’s who she is.
True this is only the first issue, and anything could happen as the series goes on. But the sheer quality of the last two DC streaming service shows, Titans and Doom Patrol, lead me to believe that this is going to be another winner.
Crystal Reed, who played Sofia Falcone on Gotham, does a great job as Abby, and the episode built a good friendship between her and Alec before things all go wrong.
I was also really impressed with Virginia Madsen. She gets only one significant scene in this episode, but it’s a very powerful one, which does not bode well for Abby.
Most of the supporting cast just got brief introductions, including Leonado Lam, who plays a completely new character, Harlan, who works alongside Abby with the Centre for Disease Control.
An unusual ailment affecting a child who lives near the swamp, and the horrific murders of some fishermen, are the sparks that set the story off, and lead to the creation of Swamp Thing, who makes his mucky debut as the episode ends.
There is no rubber suit in this one. We don’t get to see Swamp Thing very clearly, but what we do see is impressive.
In fact everything is impressive about this series, and I can hardly wait for the second episode.