Tuesday, November 1, 2016


With superhero television programs blowing up in the last few years, recaps of superhero television shows have become all the internet rage. Other sites, however, are hobbled by the need to cover shows which have been "recently broadcast" or which are "any good at all." But who covers the uncoverable? That's why Gone&Forgotten chooses to cover the 1991-1993 USA Network live-action Swamp Thing television series in a feature I like to call "Swamp Thing About Space Dude" or...

If You See Swamp Thing, Say Swamp Thing
A man-shaped heap of pencil shavings and coffee grounds does the hard work you're too delicate to handle. 
Season One / Episode Eight : Tremors of the Heart

In which everyone gets the shakes.

This episode was a real feather in the collective caps of the writer's room, I'm sure. Someone pitched a story about an earthquake, and somebody else pitched a story about Arcane getting his horn on, and then everything got real quiet as they tried to figure out what you would call a story containing such apparent contradictions. "How about..." spoke up one timid, uncertain voice from the back of the room, "Tremors ... of the Heart!" Confetti, balloons, and congratulations to that writer who grew up to be Hillary Clinton, 45th president of the United States of America, or close enough. Dreams do come true.

In any case, the basic premise of the episode is that Arcane taps into the center of the Earth in order to cause an Earthquake Machine, which is a thing Wile E.Coyote used to have, I think. Its called The Magma Pulse Generator which, coincidentally, is what they used to call me when I sang the blues.

A pivotal scene from Stanley Kubrick's 2001.

The artificial earthquakes are having the effect of draining the swamp and rapidly eroding the coastline. Luckily, this is a work of fiction and such a thing could certainly never happen in the real-world Louisiana (knock on wood and also don't read any newspaper from the last twenty years). Endangering the swamp means that Swamp Thing is on the case, which leads Durock to utter one of the least illuminating lines in this show's often utterly opaque history: "This is not a normal movement of the Earth. Something is forcing it to move!" Thanks Swamp Thing.

Meanwhile, Arcane is doing the things he does best: sassin' and creepin'. He starts off with giving General Sunderland, his unseen employer, the royal business over what appears to be a TRS-80 (maybe Arcane is one of the Whiz Kids all grown up). It's always entertaining to watch Chapman turn on the sneer, but he's doing it to a guy whose voice sounds a little like if a Simon game could talk, so it somehow always seems like he's losing.

Arcane's all-girl engineering squad, a sort-of Hill's Angels but with Popular Science subscriptions.

Running the day-to-day administration of the Magma Pulse Generator is SANDAHL BERGMAN! And she's still kind of super hot! And also she kind of still can't act, but I forgive her, because she was Valeria in Conan the Barbarian and that movie is pure perfection. Please keep in mind that I have watched at least half of the episodes of Swamp Thing at this point, and my taste in entertainment should rightly be considered suspect.

Bergman's Sienna is a tough, no-nonsense, strong-willed lady villain-type who runs a legion of all-female engineers, overseeing the Earthquake machine. The gyno-gineers never really focus in the plot or get anything like a closeup, so you can forget that part of your Fantasy File. If this were a 1960's beach romp, the Earthquake Machine would be an excuse to watch boobs jiggle in extreme closeup.

It's "Desk Set" but with knives.

Arcane and Sienna have a Sam-and-Diane kind of relationship, except they're also murderers and want to destroy the world. Hot. Sienna also proves to be the only woman in existence who responds positively to Arcane's creep vibes, or at least she's seriously down to bone. Please pretend I said that in a classier way.

Meanwhile, back in the Kipp side of the show, a turgid and pointless scene between Tressa, Doc and Will reveals a shocking reality of the show. I think -- and this is just speculation on my part -- that the writers intended that the Kipp family (and Doc and Abigail) should be some sort of One Tree Hill-style domestic/romantic light drama. There's really no other explanation as to why so much time is given over to the secondary characters and their incredibly uneventful, dull-as-dishwater lives, except that the writers thought they were building a very 90s sort of Fox/CW drama out of their scenes.

"So ... why are we even part of this thing, again? No wrong answers, guys, we're just brainstorming here..."

This is a pretty good premise for a show, really. An interminable 90s-era talker surrounding a core group of characters whose inane antics are periodically interrupted by monsters, earthquakes, and battles of ancient eldritch magic. This is a very good idea for a show, but that is not what this show is. This is not that show.

What DOES work on Swamp Thing is the interaction between Durock as Swamp Thing and Chapman as Arcane, which makes it exceptionally puzzling that the second season seems to want to split them up as much as possible. They have a scene here where Swamp Thing just sort of wanders around a patch of mud for five minutes, saying nothing. Not to cast aspersions, but I wonder if he was high.

Spomone left a flaming bag of poop on the Kipps' front doorstep and Abigail adopted it, probably. 

What passes for the second act of this episode is Swamp Thing is once again incapable of leaving the swamp without his powers -- nay, his very life! -- fading out. This hasn't been a problem for a while, but it's back now -- and doesn't really factor into anything. He basically gets back to the swamp before too much time passes. So. Thanks for mentioning it.

On Arcane's side, he's busy trying to get all Red Shoes Diary on Sienna. They do end up dry-humping on a dinner table which, you know, thank you for that USA Network's 90s-era Swamp Thing television series, it was unwatchable. Arcane does have a very charming speech to his frozen wife Tatiana before his tries to stick his schlong up Sienna. "I have to bone, my sweet,"he says. "I have got to get my wick slicked up." Those were his exact words. I swear.

C'mon guys, we have to eat there.
Earthquakes are now popping up willy-nilly in the swamp, which results in Tressa being trapped under a rotting pier and in danger of drowning. That's the good news. The bad news is that Abbie comes to save her, and that means these two idiots have to yell and cry and spit water for an inordinate amount of time. These episodes only run about 22 minutes, and I'm positive that the scenes of Abbie and Tressa frustratingly not-drowning goes on for forty-seven hours.

This is like the trash compactor scene in Star Wars except I'm rooting for the trash compactor.
So, where were we? Oh yeah, Sienna turns out to be an assassin and saboteur, on the payroll of Arcane's scientific rival Jason Woodrue. She also tries to blow up the Magma Pulse Generator, although it's Swamp Thing who takes care of that. Then there's a shirtless knife fight and Sienna dies and I dunno.

Oh, and it ends with Swamp  Thing sinking below the swamp water and reminding us, via voiceover, that he needs sunlight to live. Then he disappears beneath the sunless waves. Swamp Thing RIP, "He never listened to his own voiceover." A fitting eulogy.

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