Wednesday, September 6, 2017


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 ...

Well into the third season, the creators of Swamp Thing finally decide that it's ridiculous to have Tressa Kipp be the only living creature in Houma, Louisiana, who is not only unaware that Dr.Alec Holland was transformed into some sort of monster dwelling in the swamp, but also that there was a swamp monster in the first place.

Mazel Tov! It's long overdue, particularly as there was no compelling reason for Tressa not to know about the naked bag of lawn trimmings who's been providing replacement dad advice for her two sons, one of whom is deceased/enslaved now and the other experiencing the even worse fate of being Will Kipp. This wasn't one of those sitcoms where the kids adopt a robot and have to hide it from mom, or something. This isn't E.T., although Dick Durock as Swamp Thing does look like E.T. if he were made of celery and creatine. Tressa not knowing about the existence of Swamp Thing never enhanced the drama or tension of the story, and it never really complicated any of the plots. It's not like Swamp Thing can fly down to Brazil to rescue Jim Kipp from a South American work camp -- he damn near died going into an attic. It was a conceit which never paid off.

The opening shot is a boot crushing a flower (read: a weed, actually), which is A METAPHOR!

The one down side to this change in the status quo is that there's no really compelling reason to fill her in on the matter, either. Knowing doesn't substantively change her relationship with any of the other players and, in fact, she ends up greeting Swamp Thing with the same sort of cloying, indifferent intensity with which she deals with everyone else. Well, it's early. Also, I sort-of laid the ground work here for explaining how this is a Carrell Myers-heavy episode, so brace yourself. She's all over this one.

However, first we have to deal with The Army! The army ... of Mercenaries, that is! Arcane has hired a bunch of trigger-happy stuntmen from the Universal Studios Waterworld Stunt Show cast, and sent them into the swamp with express instructions to ventilate Swamp Thing. He's gonna look like lattice-cut french fries after this.

I think this is Swamp Thing's Wrestlemania entrance.

Shooting Swamp Thing doesn't do much, of course, but Arcane has planned for that. A chemical he is pumping into the swamp is counteracting the biome's ability to connect with Swamp Thing, and to provide him with his power. So a mortally wounded Swamp Thing, dripping Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles playset ooze behind him like a gutshot cast member from You Can't Do That On Television, runs to the one person who can help him: a lady who isn't home.

Rushing to the boathouse laboratory of Dr.Ann Fisk (typically played by Janet Julian), Swamp Thing finds that she's not home. This leads to my favorite scene in the episode, wherein a bereft and panicked Swamp Thing keeps yelling Ann's name from outside the boathouse, like a production of Streetcar Named Desire set at a hydroponic weed farm.

Ah, swamp scat.

Evidently, Swamp Thing has a spare key. Letting himself in, he climbs into the Altered States chamber which he and Ann had previously built, and which looks like if submarines had tanning parlors. There, he transforms himself back into his human self (played once again by Patrick Neal Quinn, who's got the looks but I'm not sure about the acting*), despite the fact that he's still filled with green mash like some sort of walking Juicero. Am I overdoing the references? I'm a regular Denny O'Miller over here ...

*I always want to be fair about this criticism. Even if they were great actors, look at the scripts. And even if the scripts were great, look at the premise. It takes certain types of temperaments to find a handhold in a show like this ...

Now cosmetically human, at the very least, a weakened Alec Holland wanders into the swamp and collapses by a country road. This is because turning into a human being didn't actually heal his wounds. That was a good plan, Swamp Thing! Now when you die, you'll be eaten by scavengers instead of herbivores!

"Just fifteen minutes and I'll be ready for Summer!"

Meanwhile, the top mercenary guy, Donnelly, (Steve DuMouchel) just can't find it in his heart to get along with our boy Graham (Kevin Quigley). Now, Graham's been growing by leaps and bounds since about halfway through the second season (which, you might recall, owing to the berserk running orders of this show, might actually have all been intended to be shown in the third season. Whatever. I don't care). Anyway, he outshines himself by showing a certain wisdom and vulnerability when he warns Donnelly that, tacitly, if he underestimates his prey, then Swamp Thing will kill them all. Damn Graham.

Donnelly, for his part, can't stand hawaiian shirts and Jack Nicholson impressions, so he launches on a petulant laundry list of how many people he's killed and also that he did a very good job about it. Mercenaries seem very sensitive.

They give such a shit about everything.

Back at the country road, Tressa finds Holland dying on the side of the road, nonetheless obeying his mumbled requests about "no hospitals!" To Tressa's credit, she also picks up that Arcane is somehow responsible for this poor man's injuries, so she obeys his wishes and treats him at home.

There, the delirious Holland starts spilling all his swampy secrets, encouraging Tressa to check out the boathouse where he keeps his scrapbooks and craft projects. She finds photos, articles, and general evidence that Holland is the tragic, human form of an incredibly powerful swamp monster. She takes this in stride because she also finds a tape recorder wherein Swamp Thing says very nice things about the Kipps. One kind word, guys. Moves mountains.

"Officers claimed that their bodycams had mysteriously malfunctioned ..."

Arcane and his men raid the boathouse and take Tressa captive, which leads to a series of backs-and-forths (that could very likely not be how the plural works in this case), first with Arcane and then with Graham. Now, Graham plays it over the top, and Tressa makes the mistake of trying to keep up, leading to this small selection of facial contortions and oh so very many more*

*If just for this scene alone, I'd recommend checking out this episode. You also get to see a mercenary do a barrel roll through a closed window in the Kipp household, and then all his partners come in by the front door. "Unnecessary, Gary, this is somebody's home!"

I know this is a long recap already, but bear with me on this tangent, if you'd be so kind. A show like Swamp Thing requires actors of a certain perspective -- Durock pulls off his performance by remaining stoic and arch, Chapman goes the opposite way, crafting Arcane as a character for whom no rules apply and providing a performance to match.

I don't know what Carrell Myers is capable of outside of this show, but I strongly suspect that she realized the above paragraph as some sort of truth. Unfortunately, the lesson she took from it was to try to be as camp as Arcane and ... that's not necessarily something you can generate for the sake of a performance. You have to commit, as they say. And she does not, but it explains why there's so much conscious gurning from her in almost every scene wherein she has to act across from anyone.

"God, these are filthy. I won't have magazines like this in my boathouse!"

Anyway. Holland returns to the swamp before Arcane's men can find him recuperating in Tressa's bedroom, slowly losing his human form as he goes. While he still can't access his full suite of powers, he is able to do that thing where he snakes his dick into a room, using it to untie the ropes which bound Tressa. God, I hope that's all it did.

Tressa bolts, finding the comically large pipe which is clearly just shooting pool water into the swamp and which apparently is destroying Swamp Thing's connection to nature and its store of power. Turning a huge wheel which is clearly just stuck about three, maybe four inches into the ground, Tressa shuts off the chemical flow and Swamp Thing then hulks out and murders a whole bunch of people.

What the fuck, does this thing provide chocolate to Willie Wonka's fucking candy factory?

He beats the fuck out of a bunch of guys, shoots lightning at more of them, feeds almost all of them to alligators and just breaks and humiliates Donnelly.  I hadn't really thought about it, but I think I'm okay with Swamp Thing being a hero and still murdering people. Maybe I'm failing to mature in my old age.

In the final scene, Tressa and Swamp Thing meet more-or-less for the first time, or at least the first time that Swamp Thing wasn't watching her from behind some bush. She places a hand upon his cheek, he gently holds the hand against her cheek, three-second clips of adult contemporary music play over the remainder of this K-Tel Soft Rock Hits compilation commercial, and we're out. And does it matter that Tressa knows about Swamp Thing now? Probably not. Hooray! The more things change ...

"Oh .... it's gross."

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