Wednesday, May 2, 2018


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 ...

In my heart, I want to get this entire entry written in fifteen minutes, inasmuch as the episode was so bad that it fails to warrant any effort beyond that. Counterpoint: It's one of the most unusually-shot and bizarrely-staged episodes in the series' entirety and I should at least mention that it ends with everyone in the same shot like a junior high school production of Our Town.

I wasn't super paying attention to the opening of the episode, which led me to believe that we were starting out in the Victorian era. What I'd caught was Celia (Laura Hicks) and Robert (Jeff Breslauer) dressed in nominally Victorian outfits and visiting a bookseller (Kristian Truelsen) who was dressed like a bartender in an old time saloon and also I thought he might also be Stephen Stucker from Airplane BUT WAS NOT. What I'd missed was all the signifiers that we were in the present day like cars and shit. ANYWAY.

We eventually learn these people are 200 years old but dress like they're 100 years old. 

Just to describe the whole plot: Celia and Robert were once given an elixir of eternal youth, but the elixir's running out. So Robert has become obsessed with finding the Fountain of Youth, and Celia's become obsessed by being really put out by the whole thing, which we know because she has mastered the long-suffering eyeroll.

Besides finding the fountain to be located in the middle of the Universal Studios backlot, Robert and Celia accidentally alert Arcane to their quest. It's frequently mentioned that Arcane is working on finding some sort of scientific solution to mortality, although it always sort of feels like a surprise when he mentions it. In any case, the bookseller is in Arcane's employ ... for reasons I must consider, later. What are the odds that someone would come into some obscure old bookshop with clues to the location of the Fountain of Youth? Arcane really spreads out his gambles...

The cobra hood on Swamp Thing's neck deserves its own credit.

 Robert and Claire try to hire Will for a swamp tour, but he can sense that they're nuts and so he disinvites himself from the adventure. Will is showing tremendous canniness, BUT I think he might have just refused the call to his heroic journey. Sorry Will, you gotta keep piloting your fart boat in the shit lake. Enjoy!

Disappointed and bickering, Robert and Claire return to their hotel room to find Graham wrecking it! He leaps out the window and fires a gun to scare off a pursuing Robert. This is all done so clumsily that I assume there must have been a stuntperson's strike at the time.

"Let me just ... I'll just ... No, let me do it, I need to learn ..."

Claire is freaked out by Robert's obsessiveness, and so joins Will for a tea party (?) and to beg him for help in finding Robert, who has rushed out into the swamp. It's at this point that I must mention how stodgily shot this whole thing is. It feels like a dramatic segment on Texaco Star Theater. With the writer having come from soap operas and the director having few credits to his name, it's coming off like a filmed stage play...

Swamp Thing finally gets some lines, having observed that Robert's aura gives off a glow one normally associates with long-lived objects like trees and very very old people. Swamp Thing is clearly high.

But that obvious stoner bullshit comes with some hard truths, too. Knowing the story of the elixir and the alchemist who presented it to Robert and Claire, Swamp Thing explains to Claire why Robert appears to be aging and she doesn't: It's not that his mania is doing something to the chemical or that the elixir is failing him, it's that the elixir is powered by love. And Robert doesn't love Claire any more. Oh shit. Oh dang. Swamp Thing you have known Claire for all of two minutes it is not cool to come down on her with cruel realities like that.

At some point around here, by the way, Robert redeems himself in my eyes by pulling a gun on Will, the ultimate redemptive act. Will is saved by Swamp Thing bursting into the shack where Will is being held at gunpoint and, um ... getting murdered. Durock throws Garrison down so hard, the FUCK he was awake to finish filming this episode. There is no mattress soft or thick enough to keep Will alive. He is dead. RIP Will. Any Will sightings from this point on are like Paul McCartney sightings after Magical Mystery Tour.

That flinch is supposed to be because of the gun but I'm pretty sure it's because Durock is a huge oaf.

At the end of the episode, we learn that the Fountain of Youth is real, but that Arcane (despite blaming Graham) poisoned it with runoff from one of his evil experiments. Wracked with guilt and the realization of his inevitable death, Robert chugs a bunch of the poison water and dies in what we like to call "The Ol' Reverse Romeo and Juliet."

And then everybody walks off. The final shot involves the camera jumping back twenty feet and us being able to see all the actors sort of just standing there, until Arcane and Graham sneak off to the side. It is legitimately the weirdest thing this show has ever presented to me, and I choose to remind you of ::gestures indistinctly at every episode of the show preceding this::

This blurry, so: Swampy standing on the left, Will and Claire holding Robert's corpse in the middle, Arcane helping Graham sneak off on the right.


John said...

"Let me just ... I'll just ... No, let me do it, I need to learn ..." I laughed out loud at this. Brilliant.

James Conder said...

Browsed the pictures before I read the article. I swear I thought Robert would turn out to be a Force Ghost.

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