Wednesday, August 16, 2017

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING : CHILDREN OF THE FOOL


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 used to like to call a dumb pun kind of title, but I've run out of those, so I just call it ...




Just as I'd long anticipated the episodes of  Swamp Thing which boasted the appearance of Terry Funk, and the later one which cast Kevin Nash and Giant Gonzales as Mayan ghosts, I have long been awaiting this episode. Who wants to see Wolfman Jack as the corrupt leader of a drug cult who also runs a carnival of child runaways-turned-petty thieves? Ooh, me, me, I do!

This will be a Will-intensive episode, but at least we don't start out on the series' typical lie that "Will has friends" or "Women find Will attractive and compelling." In fact, what we start out with is a beefy, anonymous teen getting manhandled at a bus stop by a gang of Sons of Anarchy cosplayers. And I don't mean in the way you have to pay for, I mean they really hand him his ass. And, again, I don't mean it in the way you have to pay for ...

"Ohhhhhh yessssss!"

From there, we proceed to the carnival, where Wolfman Jack is painted up like a cross between Paul Bearer and Svenghoulie. He's playing Hurley, the raspy-voiced owner of the carnival and, as we'll discover, oh so very much more. It's good to have interests outside of your occupation. It keeps you agile and excited about life.

Will is also at the carnival, where we find him flirting with a carny (Amanda, played by Caroline Strong) who is, frankly, out of his league. As a matter of principle, ALL carnies are out of Will's league. Their flirtation takes the form of Amanda coyly making eyes at Will so that he'll play the rigged game at the baseball-throwing booth which Amanda mans, proving that Will is the kind of guy who thinks that the stripper "really liked me. I mean, I know, but I think she really liked me!"  His response involves actually asking her to finger the ball "for luck," because Will's got real style...

See?


A tussle starts with some of the boy carnies, and Hurley has to break it up. Wolfman Jack is actually some exceptional casting for a cult leader/carnival owner. Normally, those sorts of characters are played by handsome -- if not fading -- slim actors who definitely look like the central casting idea of charismatic prophets. Wolfman Jack is obese, wears tropical shirts, and has a beard that weirdly doesn't connect with his temples. Now THAT'S a cult leader!

The day after the scuffle, Amanda finds Will in Houma and makes a gift of the incredibly tacky jacket to him, arguably as a peace offering from Hurley. Will couldn't live if his arms were covered by fabric, since he breathes through his shoulders, so he gives it to Amanda to wear, and a romance in born.

I take it back. This jacket owns.

Despite having done all of this in Mirador's Brain, the audience is treated to a fun day of dating activities with Will and his new girlfriend. They go rollerskating -- evidently for the first time in their lives, to judge by their forms -- then they go to a movie, she reads his palm by a fountain, and then they share a mixtape. And Swamp Thing watches it all from a nearby fern, the creep.

Returning to the carnival, Will is ambushed by carny Chuck (Bill Orsini), although someone calls him "Derek!" Jay Derrick plays another carny, Jeff, in this episode, so if they were accidentally shouting the actor's name instead of the character, they weren't even yelling it at the right actor.

Someone steals the tape deck out of Will's truck, and Amanda gets the blame. She insists that Hurley makes his employees steal shit, and also there's a cult they have to belong to. This sounds like late stage capitalism, I believe every word of it. Wolfman Jack even has a monologue he delivers to Will wherein he sings his praises as a really good, fair, kindly boss, when we know he's about to stage a black mass on the Universal Studios backlot.

I really can't accept how his beard doesn't connect with his temples.

Wolfman gets practically gnostic as the evil cult ceremony is staged, with a kidnapped Will as the intended sacrifice. This is no skin off my back, man, go for it. Give him the business.

While Hurley growls something about "wings of a raven, the four corners of hell," which is a heckuva signoff for the radio broadcast, Will just sweats shirtlessly in the circle of worshippers, themselves all jacked up on hallucinogens in the water. This also marks the longest amount of time Will goes shirtless before Swamp Thing shows up. I can't imagine what slowed him down. Maybe there weren't any shrubs nearby to hide behind ...

I can't imagine why he's so pissed off. He's never been so sleeveless in all his born days ...

Swamp Thing's been hiding under the water, actually, and he leaps up to save Will just as Hurley is actually starting to buy his own power. I mean, the bog monster leaping out of the swamp and claiming the sacrificial victim as his own is puh-retty black magicky. Wolfman might have something there.

Hurley plugs Swamp Thing a couple of times, which I realize happens almost never in the show. Maybe it makes it a little too Adventures of Superman. The brief conflict ends with Hurley dying as he lived -- in an exploding display of dangerous fireworks.

I know this is hard to parse, but it's Swamp Thing bleeding out.

The next day, everything is fine again, plus there's apparently an abandoned carnival on the edge of town and an ambitious soul could walk away with their own corn dog fryer. Amanda has a brief and sentimental farewell with Will, wherein lingering camera shots really drive home how Caroline Strong is way too good an actor to be on this show. She walks away without her fuck-ugly jacket, which Will thoughtlessly returns to her. I am positive she left it on purpose, Will, don't be a dick.

Get in, nerds, we're looting a carnival!

2 comments:

neofishboy said...

Weird to think of a generation entering adulthood who have no idea what a Wolfman Jack is. Even what used to be generation-bridging cultural touchstones are fading out of usefulness.

"So, like ... remember that episode of The Simpsons where Homer and Marge win a motorcycle in a dance contest at a '50s-themed diner? Well, the owner ... "

"I was two."

*sigh*

Jonathan Morris said...

Heck, there's gonna be whole generations that only know David Letterman as the bearded guy with a Netflix show.

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