Comic book shows are a dime a dozen, especially DC shows. Seriously, there are currently nine live action DC series airing, with another set to premiere soon and more still that are in production. That doesn’t even take into account animated DC shows or shows based on DC imprints, like The Boys or Lucifer. There are literal years of DC TV backlogs. Think of all the live action, web series and animated shows from years past. It’s almost impossible to run out of content.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Many people enjoy comic book content or there wouldn’t be so much of it. It’s not just DC either, think of all the upcoming Marvel shows and movies, or the reception of WandaVision on Disney+.
Most of the time, superhero series feel like a retread of each other. The characters change sometimes, but the motivations usually stay the same. They fight their rogues gallery and save the day – sometimes the world. Swamp Thing feels like something different which is why it’s such a bummer that it was cancelled after one season – after one episode in fact.
Shaking off the big city superhero stories for small town Louisiana. Swamp Thing tells the story of Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed) a CDC Doctor that must go back to her hometown of Marais, Louisiana to investigate a new, swamp-borne illness. Abby left Marais 14 years ago after the death of her friend and hasn’t been back since. When she arrives she meets Alec Holland (Andy Bean), a disgraced scientist working for Avery Sunderland (Will Patton), a local businessman and father of Abby’s late friend. Abby reunites with her friend/local journalist Liz (Maria Sten), Matt Cable (Henderson Wade) a boy who had a crush on Abby in school, turned cop, and his mother, the sheriff, Lucille (Jennifer Beals).
Things aren’t as they seem in Marais, the swamp is waking up and things are amiss in town. Rounding out the colorful townsfolk is Maria Sunderland (Virginia Madsen), Avery’s wife who blames Abby for her daughter’s death, Madame Xanadu (Jeryl Prescott) a local psychic, Dr. Woodrue (Kevin Durand), another scientist working for Avery, and his sick wife, Caroline (Selena Anduze). Also living in Marais is former actor Daniel Cassidy (Ian Ziering), who is unable to leave town due to reasons unknown. While Andy Bean may be the human version of Swamp Thing, Derek Mears plays the creature in the suit.
Swamp Thing explores a different, darker side of the DC Universe. By choosing to explore a character that hasn’t had its own adaptation in quite some time, the audience got to see a new story. Swamp Thing is a smaller story, with a smaller town and less lofty story telling. This isn’t a large scale save the world story – at least it wasn’t in it’s singular season. If you want to see a DC character with darker, gothic horror elements, you owe it to yourself to check out Swamp Thing.
The problem is Swamp Thing never even got a chance. This show was introduced as a part of the DC Universe lineup along with Titans, Doom Patrol, Stargirl and animated series Young Justice and Harley Quinn. Shows that all found new homes between Stargirl going to The CW and every other show finding a place on HBO MAX. Swamp Thing didn’t have that opportunity.
DC Universe, and Warner Bros., was bought by AT&T and rebranded into WarnerMedia. Then the show hit a few bumps. The series run was slashed from 13 episodes to 10. Which understandably frustrated the showrunners. The first episode aired and then before the second landed, the series was cancelled.
As for why it was cancelled no one really knows. The show was planned for three seasons, the sets were built for three seasons. A few reports say that money and tax issues in North Carolina led to it’s cancellation. Others said that the horror series didn’t fit with the vision that WarnerMedia had. Still, others believe that executives thought that the series wasn’t very good and cancelled it. Whatever the reason was, Swamp Thing should have been renewed.
Oh, Alec and Abby, y’all deserved so much better. Gothic romance is an underutilized genre and Swamp Thing fits the bill. Their connection is tragic and heartbreaking in the best possible way. Their first meeting is a little antagonistic, but they soon find their common ground. They work together and have a palpable chemistry. Then it’s cut short, granted that is the story of the Swamp Thing. Alec Holland is shot in the swamp and becomes the titular creature. Though Alec is no longer human, his relationship isn’t any less romantic. Abby is set on finding a cure for what is happening to Alec. This ship deserved more time. Abby and Swamp Thing/Alec had potential, they are a comic book couple. Their television counterparts should have gotten more time to fully explore their relationship.
Okay, so here is where we get into murky water. What is the difference between setting up for season two and a cliffhanger? When a show is cancelled it very rarely has the opportunity to wrap up the show. Most shows don’t get that kind of forewarning, Swamp Thing didn’t. The show was initially ordered for 13 episodes then cut to 10, which led to rewrites to try and end the season 3 episodes sooner than planned. For the most part it succeeds – only a couple of storylines seem rushed, but it doesn’t affect your enjoyment of the series.
So Swamp Thing was set up for a second season. One of the characters undergo major changes that would have made them the main villain moving forward. That villain then has a confrontation with another character that probably doesn’t survive. Another season would be moving forward with this storyline. A cliffhanger implies suspense, characters in danger and huge series altering questions. Swamp Thing doesn’t have that, it lays the foundation for another season, but doesn’t have a cliffhanger.