Dr. Abigail Arcane (Abby) returns to her hometown of Marais to help discover the origins of a mysterious illness plaguing the community. Meanwhile, disgraced scientist Alec Holland goes to Marais to revive his career, and his research leads him to the same mystery that Abby seeks to uncover. Both Abby and Alec agree to solve the mystery together; but before they can make any headway, Alec seemingly dies in a boat accident while exploring the Marais swamp lands. The resulting tragedy transforms Alec into the titular character, Swamp Thing.
An elemental and protector of ‘The Green’, the character of Swamp Thing was created for comic books by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson. The series takes its cue from the comics of these two comic book legends and also adds elements of the Alan Moore run in the 1980s. The result is a comic book homage that combines fantasy, horror, intrigue, and environmental advocacy with the guidance of executive producer James Wan. However, at the foreground of the series is the budding relationship of Abby and Alec, even though Alec has been transformed into the Swamp Thing.
Unlike Doom Patrol that came before it, this is a scary dark supernatural series that delves into the nature of environmentalism and exploitation. ‘Swamp Thing’ raises some serious questions on how humanity makes use of its natural resources. Too much exploitation, and the environment fights back in different ways. In the case of ‘Swamp Thing’, this can come in the form of a benign creature such as Swamp Thing (however perceived to be a threat), or true environmental horrors such as unknown diseases and phenomenon unleashed on human communities due to man’s continued disregard of the environmental repercussions. ‘Swamp Thing’ shows us just how cruel the environment can fight back if we do not listen to what it’s saying. These thematic elements of the show are quite timely considering the current sociopolitical landscape calling for more environmental awareness and preservation.
Of course, ‘Swamp Thing’ would not be so rich in story if it were not for the gamut of material available to it from the DC Vertigo incarnation of the series and beyond. The series exposes us to the supernatural landscape of DC comic book lore. There are appearances of many characters and story elements from both the Len Wein and Alan Moore era of comic books. In fact, the stories integrate quite a few other DC characters including a well-known stranger. Adding these elements creates a rich mythology that sets the tone of the series – and ‘Swamp Thing’ forces us to raise questions about our own humanity at times.
Then, there is the budding love story between Abby and Alec established in the series’ pilot episode. The initial attraction is not evident, but it grows. Before it can flourish, Alec suffers a terrible fate, and is transformed into Swamp Thing. The transformation doesn’t change Abby’s feelings towards Alec, and the same goes for Alec in his new elemental persona. The attraction blossoms into a friendship that plants the seeds for something even more. With this, ‘Swamp Thing’ reveals a relationship that is more than skin deep, and looks into the very souls of individuals. It is also a substantial metaphor for how humanity and the environment can thrive together beyond initial perceptions and apprehensions. Truly, the environment can save humanity from its own drowning folly if we let it.
All in all, ‘Swamp Thing’ is a beautifully haunting series with strong environmental advocacies mixed with its rich comic book mythology. The show reveals the horrors of exploitation and postulates ways to prevent the rape of the environment. In the end, humanity and the environment we live in have to work together to ensure a thriving and growing community that progresses to its sustainable future.