If You See Swamp Thing, Say Swamp Thing
Season Two / Episode Eighteen : Fear Itself
In which Swamp Thing gets to go to Universal Studios Orlando for a fun vacation, complete with harrowing mind-trip!
Jacob Whitkin shows up in this episode playing the role of "Mr.Mephisto," some sort of supernatural horror host type character who's tormenting Swamp Thing for somewhat ambiguous reasons -- at first! By which I mean "No, not only at first, the whole time, really, for little effect."
|"Welcome to Geriatric Hot Topic"|
In any case, Whitkin immediately reminded be of Gideon, the freak show operator from the first season. This is largely because, as it turns out, it is the same guy. Also, Whitkin was the unseen voice of General Sunderland, meaning that he's appeared on this show more than anyone except the central cast, albeit in three different roles. The spirit of USA's Swamp Thing right here, y'all.
What the spirit of USA's Swamp Thing is doing right now is magically tormenting the show's hero with visions and hallucinations. Horrified and confused by the fact that the swamp is turning its back on him -- literally, they literally have bushes and vines turn their backs on him in this episode, it's dumb as hell -- Swamp Thing is also panicked having discovered Will's abandoned campsite. The elder Kipp boy is missing, which I'd be excited about except they keep teasing that he'll get murdered and I've learned not to trust any longer.
|This is the show's very inexpensive method of showing the swamp being 'angry.'|
So, with Swampy suffering seasonal affective disorder and Will missing, he's easy pickings for the Machiavellian mysticism of Mister Muh-phee-sto, a velvet suit-jacketed horror host type who is, frankly, a pretty seamless introduction into the series. As Swamp Thing has been turning more and more into a stock horror show with Swamp Thing himself acting like the catalyst for the plot, having a legit, giggling horror host makes perfect sense. It's even quite a delight to have Whitkin speak directly to the camera as we come back from commercial breaks.
Also, he takes Swamp Thing to Universal Studios! Starting with a tour around the Psycho house and then over to Embryo Books, all that's missing is a photo opportunity with the guy who plays Conan.
In these places, Swamp Thing is confronted with comically-outsized mobs of angry citizens, and finds himself cornered in a dirty alley by cops. "Don't be afraid," he tells them, "I am a man, like you" and then he hucks a garbage can at him. Swamp Thing's been watching the news.
|He's very devoted to his swamp mother.|
In the Psycho house is where most of the action takes place, with Swamp Thing finding that Tressa has hooked up with Arcane, who seals the deal with the most poorly phrased compliment I've ever heard: "What a clever woman it is that you are" he tells her. Even Chapman couldn't make that work, and he's like the best thing about the show week-in and week-out.
Arcane's Fuck Fantasy fades, which is a shame because I miss Chapman and Durock interacting. What it fades into is a bereft Will having just heard that Jim is dead. This is a step up from not even knowing that he was alive in the first place, but it leads Will to tell Swamp Thing "The world doesn't need me!" I'll hold him to that.
|"I ... I-i ... I-i ... will always love you --- ou ou --- "|
Anyway anyway anyway. I've padded out a lot of the content for this episode because, really, there isn't that much. They keep rehashing the same sentiments in different ways with different characters, and it all eventually wraps up with the audience learning -- not to its surprise, really -- that Mephisto is actually a GOOD dude, and he's using his magic powers to make Swamp Thing's friends all call him a dick FOR GOOD!
We discover that Mephisto is actually a centuries-old sideshow performer whose antics are telling terrifying stories and also he has a drawing of himself with a different Swamp Thing, and it looks like they got it done at a caricature booth in the park. After walking right through Swamp Thing like a hedge, Mephisto explains that the fear in Swampy's heart is poisoning the swamp, and that he needs to let it go to save the environment. Some metaphor at work here, if you don't look too close. Also, if the swamp set up this shitshow, then Swamp Thing needs to slug the swamp in the arm.
|Oh look, a romaine heart.|
The short version here is that this is basically The Anatomy Lesson but for television, and Mephisto seems to be some sort of goth Santa version of Alan Moore, maybe? It's a real tough guess, and also I wish they'd waited until now to film this so Swamp Thing got to go to the Harry Potter thing and could get sorted and shit. "Yore a wizard, Swamp Thing!" Tell me that doesn't have potential.
|"So, do you have any hobbies? Do you like to roller skate?"|