The Legends' latest mission leads them to Camp Ogawa - an American summer camp in the 1995, where the children are disappearing mysteriously amid reports of a swamp monster. As John, Sara, Ava and Ray go undercover as counselors, Zari and Rory are tasked with babysitting the team's new Fugitive prisoner - the shapeshifter called Charlie - and try to form a bond with her.
The movie Wet Hot American Summer (title and summer camp setting) as well as the entire genre of summer camp comedies; the genre of slasher horror films, particularly Friday The 13th (summer camp setting), the Swamp Thing comics and movies and the "Kid Stuff" episode of Justice League Unlimited.
Zari seems to forget that Gideon should be able to let her out of the cell through a verbal command, after Charlie locks her up with the manual controls.
Caity Lotz hasn't been given much chance to show the cheerful woman whose laughter inspired the name Canary among the League of Assassins. This episode, however, gives her that chance and she nails it, capturing the essence of Black Canary from the comics and her knack with kids.
The two child actors playing young Sara and young Ava are a delight and look dead on perfect.
The direction perfectly captures the feel of a classic horror movie and a summer camp comedy - often at the same time!
Trivia Of Tomorrow
The movie Swamp Thaaaang and its title monster are a reference to the classic DC Comics swamp monster/avatar of nature Swamp Thing.
Strangely enough, despite being one of DC Comics more obscure heroes, Swamp Thing is one of its most heavily adapted into other media. Horror icon Wes Craven made a live-action Swamp Thing movie in 1982. A more humorous sequel spawned in 1989, helmed by comedic horror master Jim Wynorski. A live-action Swamp Thing TV series ran for three seasons on the USA Network from 1990 to 1993. There was also a short-lived, five-episode Swamp Thing animated series.
It should be noted that John Constantine first appeared in the comics as a supporting character during Alan Moore's now legendary run on Saga of The Swamp Thing.
In the episode, John makes reference to knowing a Swamp Thing, but notes that Maine is too far north for him. In the comics, Swamp Thing made his home in the bayous of Louisiana.
The Netflix entry for Swamp Thaaaang says that its director is a man named David Geddes. In our world, David Geddes is a noted Canadian director and cinematographer, who has directed several episodes of Legends of Tomorrow. He has also been the cinematographer on a number of horror movies and television series, including Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil and Halloween: Resurrection.
The idea of using magic to turn the heroes into kids was also utilized in the Justice League Unlimited episode "Kids Stuff." This was necessary for the Justice League to overcome a spell cast by Mordred, son of Morgan LeFay, that send every adult on Earth to another dimension.
Ava wants snipers on the ridge-line, spotters on the ground and an exfil site for when they bag the creature. Johm, surprisingly, agrees with this assessment, and suggests a protection spell around the same perimeter.
John uses salt to make a protective circle around the camp.
John is capable of hypnotizing people.
John can brew a potion that can temporarily turn a person into a child. He gives it to Sara so she can infiltrate the girls in her cabin. It turns out that he had never used the potion himself or tested it on another human.
John has a scrying ritual he can use to find missing people, but it works better if he doesn't have someone talking to him while he's working it.
John has a field guide of sorts to magical creatures - what Ray describes as a magical Audubon guide.
A Shtriga is a vampiric witch from Albanian folklore who feeds on the life force of children and babies. They shed their skins after feeding, leaving behind a blood-soaked shed like a snake. Shtriga feed on their prey over several days. While most commonly taking the form of mean old women, Shtrigas could look like anyone and there are male and female Shtrigas.
According to John, witches in general hate cayenne pepper.
John has a spell that creates a will-o-the-wisp that can be used to track a person. It requires blood, fire and a piece of clothing from the person to be tracked.
John knows a spell that can channel the life force from a Shtriga back into her victims. It requires a specific incantation, a crystal and a conduit.
John also has the ability to channel his own life force into another person.
Ava: Summer camp? As in bug-bites, bunk-beds and mean girls?
Sara: No. Summer camp as in campfires, sing-a-longs and friendship bracelets!
(John is grumbling, attempting to tie his red tie around camp counselor Polo shirt.)
John: Oh, they may take my coat, but you will never take my -
(Sara yanks the cigarette out of John's mouth.)
Sara: Nope. And lose the tie.
John: Oh, you have got to be kidding me.
(Sara shakes her head.)
John: (pulling his tie off) Fine! One time! But it's only for the kids!
Boy: Last night, Zack said something about meeting someone in the woods.
John: Where in the woods, exactly?
Boy: A baseball field. Only... there is no baseball field out there.
John: Well, that's alright. Keep digging.
Boy: He kept talking about making it to first base with a girl. But who plays baseball in the dark?
(John rolls his eyes.)
Charlie: Bloke like you doesn't strike me as a jailer. I believe we're more alike than you think. You look like you've been on the inside.
Mick: That's right.
Charlie: And how do you sleep at night? Hanging out with these jailer mates of yours?
Ray: Look at us! A pair of magical detectives!
John: Oh, and I was beginning to think you were all-right and you went and said that.
Ava: I'd like to thank you for giving me real childhood memories. To be honest, these memories have been kind of awful...mostly awkward... but totally awesome.
Sara: I mean, it wouldn't be childhood without all of the above.
Ava: I'm happy it was with you. And considering all the trouble those kids went through for a kiss, I'm guessing no childhood would be complete without one.
(Sara takes Ava's hands. The two lean in as the lights start flashing and John's spell breaks. When they fade, the two are adults again, still kissing each other gently.)
Sara loves horror movies and watched them obsessively as a kid, yet never saw Swamp Thaaaang.
The Swamp Thang movies added one A into the word Thang for every film in the franchise. Hence, Swamp Thaaaang, was the fourth movie in the series. The AV Club gave it a D-Minus rating.
Sara has fond memories of summer camp.
Ava does not know what pinkie-swearing means.
Ava thinks The Legends are holding Charlie to question her about the prison she was trapped in. The truth is they felt that she didn't deserve to be sent to Hell and that none of them could pass judgement on her.
Ray also loved summer camp and was called Kid Counselor. He thought it was a complement.
John says that he used to know a Swamp Thing, but that Maine was far too north for him.
The director of Camp Ogawa is an embittered older woman named Paula Cooper.
Her right-hand man is a cheerful young man named Chad Stephens.
Ray made his own lanyard for his counselor badge.
In addition to the 21 required merit badges to become an Eagle Scout, Ray got certification in nuclear science and dentistry
Sara gives her special skills as martial arts, but notes that she prefers knives and swords.
John forms a salt-circle around the camp to keep the swamp monster out.
Sara was Color Captain of her camp the summer after her 8th grade year. She claims to have stuck it to a girl named Suzy Smith and the Green Team.
Two of the campers - Zack and Lenise - leave the safe area to make out in the woods and are taken by the monster. Later, a girl named Meredith and a boy named Randall disappear.
Director Cooper doesn't care much about the missing kids.
Ray tries to win over the boys and get them to answer his question with a trust exercise. John gets them to agree to being hypnotized.
Sara tries to win over the girls with girl-talk and hair braiding. Ava treats them like a drill sergeant treats her charges at boot camp.
One of the girls tells Ava that there's a legend about a lake beast - a boy who was drowned as a result of a prank gone wrong, who returns every year to kill other campers as revenge. She says he can be summoned by going to the end of the dock and saying his name three times. This turns out to be the set-up for a prank by the girls, to knock Ava into the lake.
Ray keeps a bird-watching journal.
Mick says he acquired a taste for hooch after spending some time in a Siberian gulag. This may be related to The Legends' mission in F322, where Leonard Snart briefly left his proper place in time to help The Flash with a mission while the rest of the team were doing something in Siberia in 1892. Or it could be a reference to 106, where Mick was briefly locked up in a Soviet prison.
Charlie says that she felt like she was locked up for 500 years. She says that her cell was a battleground full of creatures from your worst nightmares - many of whom she got to know far better than she liked. She says it was dismal, dark and like nothing on Earth.
Ava keeps a picture of the actors who pretended to be her parents on her desk at work, in a bid to seem normal, despite her status as a clone from the future meaning she has no context for how kids act, despite having been given implanted memories of a childhood.
Mick says that he and Snart spent some time serving in a super-max together.
John tells Ray that people who fight demons can't be trusted, including himself, but especially Nora Darhk. He makes reference to having a friend like Ray who was honestly good and letting him down.
Ava steals ice cream and pepper from the mess hall.
The girls in their cabin finally tell Ava and Sara about a camp tradition where the girls and boys take turns each night, going out to the woods to get their first kiss. They have to follow a trail marked by a rope tied to the flagpole that leads to the meeting spot.
Charlie reveals that the Shtriga she was locked up with was a handsome young bloke rather than an ugly old woman.
Chad Stephens.is revealed to be the Shtriga. He is killed by Sara and Ava, after John and Ray drain the life-force from him.
John transfers part of his own life force into the one boy too far gone for his ritual to save.
Charlie agrees to help The Legends with tracking down her more dangerous cell-mates.
John's body rejects Gideon's treatment.
Ray says he thinks Nora might be able to save John, but he has no idea how to find her.
Nora Darhk is revealed to be working at a Renaissance Festival playing a witch.
Washington DC - 2018
Camp Ogawa, Maine - 1995
The Bottom Line
A solid episode, whose only real flaw is not giving Zari much to do and pretty much having her vanish from the story after she gets locked up. Otherwise, it establishes a perfect balance of comedy and drama, perfectly nailing the characters. I'm particularly glad to see a cheerful Sara (she's called The Canary for a reason) and a John Constantine who isn't nearly as big as a bastard as he wants to be. Still the best Arrowverse show of the 2018 fall season.