Previously, on DC Universe’s Swamp Thing, Dr. Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed) and Swamp Thing (Derek Mears) were able to stop the dark parasite possessing people and forcing them to see their worst nightmares, thus causing them to lash out violently to otherwise safe surroundings. Episode five, “Drive All Night,” picks up with Maria (Virginia Madsen) and Avery (Will Patton) Sunderland, who in the last episode took in Susie Coyle (Elle Graham), the young girl who lost her father and had the virus infecting many in the town.
Avery thanks Maria for finally funding Dr. Woodrue’s (Kevin Durand) research on the swamp. As Avery Sunderland and Sherriff Lucilia Cable (Jennifer Beals) continue their affair, which was previously only hinted at, both Maria and Susie see the warped and zombified projection of Shawna Sunderland (Given Sharp), the Sunderland’s dead daughter.
Shawna’s presence and the design of the, now dead, character isn’t particularly frightening but the music of the episode does a good job building tension as Maria and Susie interact her a lot more than we have seen in previous episodes where Maria saw her figure in windows and her mirror. This episode, her presence is more real and it is hard to discern if she is still a figment of Maria’s imagination, especially considering Susie’s strange connection to the Swamp and now Shawna.
And as Susie’s connection to the Swamp and those who died in it begin to grow in “Drive All Night,” so does Swamp Thing’s. As Swamp Thing grapples with the destruction and death within the swamp, we are introduced to the Phantom Stranger (Macon Blair). The character’s introduction features one of the few moments in the show that has a piece of licensed music, “In Dreams” by Rob Orbison.
The change in music is incredibly noticeable since music with lyrics at this point hasn’t really been used unlike in other DC comic book shows. Previously, I criticized Titans use of licensed music but unlike then, the music swells into the scene slowly, creating a dream-like state which is fitting for the Phantom Stranger’s introduction.
Within DC Comics, the Phantom Stranger has unspecified paranormal origins and is usually seen battling occult forces. In “Drive All Night,” isn’t scared of Swamp Thing and instead treats his transformation from Alec Holland (Andy Bean) to the creature he is now as a natural part of life, liking it to a child growing into an adult.
On the other side of town, another seemingly supernatural character, Daniel Cassidy (Ian Ziering), also known as the Blue Devil, attempt to leave Marias, hoping to have successfully completed the mission that has kept him trapped there for years. While unsuccessful, the moment does offer us more insight into the strange deal Cassidy made with some supernatural entity, who is hinted to be the devil.
In addition to Cassidy and now the Phantom Stranger, the swamp is also treated as a supernatural character and at this point, it is unclear whether it is good or evil. However, one of the most compelling parts of the show is that the swamp isn’t the only villain. Woodrue’s involvement in Abby’s research, on behalf of Avery, continues to be suspicious. Not only does he speak down to Abby, but he also always seems to know more than he lets on, which is understandable considering his involvement with the virus.
Both him and Avery prove once again this episode they are willing to do anything to cover up their tracks and shift the blame for their involvement and the potential creation of the virus onto just about anyone else. And while everyone, including the swamp, seem to have their own motivations, everything intertwines beautifully.
“Drive All Night” also gives us more insight into Abby’s history with the Sunderlands and their daughter. Abby’s visit to Susie at the Sunderland’s house is uneasy and as shots pivot back and forth between the present and flashbacks of Abby with Shawna, it becomes clear, without going into spoilers, something is very wrong.
Unlike previous episodes, “Drive All Night” saves its horror elements for the tail end of the episode instead of starting the tension in the beginning and throughout. And while I initially missed the horror elements, they were clearly worth the wait and their placement in the episode is thoughtful.
Overall, “Drive All Night” is an excellent episode that moves the story along and begins tying up threads first created or hinted at within the pilot. From Shawna’s death and apparently resurrection to Alec’s attempted murder, mysterious are finally starting to unravel as Liz Tremayne (Maria Sten), Abby, and Sherrif Cable begin to understand all that lies in Marias and its swamp. The back stories of each character and how it intertwines with the ongoing issues of the swamp are what sets Swamp Thing apart. As the season goes on, Swamp Thing‘s cancellation becomes more and more upsetting.
Swamp Thing is streaming now on the DC Universe and episode six drops July 5, 2019.
Swamp Thing, Episode 5 - Drive All Night
Overall, “Drive All Night” is an excellent episode that moves the story along and begins tying up threads first created or hinted at within the pilot.