One of the frustrating elements of USA Network’s early 1990s late-night television show Swamp Thing is that it often seems as though the writers don’t really understand what kind of show they’re writing for. Sometimes it’s an ecological fable, sometimes a beauty and the beast story, a monster movie, a ghost story, a story of revenge, a Twilight Zone thing, a meditation on the mind and from where evil comes (I mean, seriously, I’m not even being facetious – sometimes this show really examines the origins of human evil) and so on. And, frankly, there’s nothing wrong with the show being any combination of these things, but they’re so rarely put together in the right combinations.
BUT THIS TIME THEY GOT IT RIGHT! “Hide In The Night” is pretty much the apex, to date, of what Swamp Thing can be at its awful best. Owing to the budget and the two-and-a-half years of theme-establishing which precedes this episode, there’s always going to be a high level of camp and Wiseau-esque narrative to Swamp Thing. This episode is no exception, to be sure. But, beyond those likable limitations, it finally feels like they balanced all of the elements of the series in one nice package. And that package is Graham!
|"You ever dance with the swamp monster in the pale moonlight? Well have you?"|
Graham lucks into this episode’s lead role by dint of the absence of Anton Arcane. The episode opens on the chaotic scene inside Arcane’s personal laboratory. Alarms are sounding, crazy 90s juice bar venue lighting covers the whole place, and there are panicky Un-Men hanging out! Un-Men! We ain’t seen those Un-guys in forever! I even recognize the one guy with the pig head from the makeup test polaroids in that episode with the guy who used to be a bird, back in season one!
|"Ladies and gentlemen ... it's HEART! ::cue "Barracuda"::|
Through the lens of Arcane’s surprisingly gentle and sweet new assistant, Stella (Robin O’Dell, first seen in The Handyman), we learn what’s happened: During an experiment to grant himself raw physical power, Arcane vanishes, sending his Un-Men into a panic. Graham thinks Stella has something to do with the matter (stay tuned for why), and he hauls her off to figure out his next steps. A cruel guard stays behind to torment the Un-Men for a while, which is what they’re largely good for. For this, he receives – a beat-down from Un-Arcane! Anton Arcane turned himself into a cool mutant! Yay!
|Big ups to makeup, they went above and beyond.|
This gives the show something it’s never been able to do before – have Arcane fight Swamp Thing on even footing. While Chapman’s prosthetics are a lot less bulky than Durock’s, he does seem to have some trouble moving around in them. No training, one supposes. He’s great at the facial expressions, though.
Whatever the case, a physical knock-down drag-out between the series’ primary protagonist and antagonist has been long in coming, and actually provides a good catharsis – even though we’re not resolving the whole series yet. But the important part is that it taps something emotional in the viewer, because this episode – is about love.
|Sparks fly as Stella fills the Un-Men's paws with generous lashings of Mutant Chow.|
Graham and Stella search for Arcane, but they both have ulterior motives. Graham believes that Stella arranged the ‘accident’ which turned Arcane into a monster, so as to drive Graham out of his heart and leave only room for Stella. Scurrilous Stella! What a schemer! And Graham lets her know in no uncertain terms that he’s onto her.
Stella, for her part, just wants to talk about how Arcane tried to fuck her once and she didn’t let him and he got angry but he hired her anyway? It actually sounds like a major red flag. But also, she wants to tell Graham that she l-o-o-o-oves him. This is unfortunate, because Graham only loves Arcane, with all of his heart and soul. I am not kidding. He has a moving monologue about it, actually, and his eternal fear of being replaced and discarded.
|"My desires are ... unconventional." "So show me."|
Stella gets through to Graham, but unfortunately only right before she’s abducted by Un-Arcane. Un-ton Arcane. I’ll go with that one.
To rescue her, Graham teams up with Swamp Thing. Seems like Arcane might die if he doesn’t get a special antidote, which Swamp Thing is preparing as Graham – his eyes opened and his soul fully awake for the first time as he receives the only unconditional love he’s ever encountered in his whole life – suggests maybe they ought to just let Anton Arcane die maybe?
|"Whatcha thinking about? Swamp Stuff?"|
This episode is one hundred percent a Graham showcase, this is Kevin Quigley’s proudest moment. On the show, anyway, I’m sure he has kids or something.
During the final boss battle between Swamp Thing and Un-Ton Arcane, Stella is snuffed. Graham, the only individual in the whole gang to be carrying a bunch of cure-Doctor-Arcane-juice in a tank on his back, is torn. He hovers over Stella’s body, wracked in grief. He reluctantly gears up what looks like a knockoff Ghostbusters pack and sprays his former boss with baby powder or something turning him human again.
AND THEN GRAHAM PULLS A GUN ON ARCANE. This is like if Robin pulled a gun on Batman, which is a thing I say knowing full well that it has probably happened a thousand times in assorted comics and films. Okay, it’s more like Costello pulling a gun on Abbot, which I am also sure has happened, only in reality.
|Who ya gonna call? Graham's Bucket!|
Despite Arcane’s disinterest and lack of regret, Graham ultimately caves and lowers the weapon. Walking away defeated, Graham has nonetheless wrapped up an arc that’s been building all through the third season. I have renewed hopes about the finale.
One thing I forgot to mention: There’s a scene where Stella has gotten through to Graham, and they’re excitedly working together in the lab. There’s a whole thing about Graham adopting a pseudonym, or something, and it goes like this, more or less. Stella calls him “Graham…”
He replies “Call me Doctor.”
“Doctor Graham” she says
“No,” he corrects her, “Just … Doctor.”
And then it’s never referenced again. I have no idea what the plan was for that, or if it was just a really weak Doctor Who joke? I got nothing. I’m willing to forgive it because this was such a great episode to come back to after the hiatus …
|Although I'm fairly certain that he's fucking the car in this shot.|