“Yeah, we couldn’t get Batman. So we got Batman-lite…”
The general gist of a Smallville opener is one of excitement and establishment; as Clark’s sojourn into the Phantom Zone sees several inmates escaping – presumably the season will be trying to collect these. We have our first glimpse of James Olsen (played by one of the Ashmore’s – the other appearing as a freak of the week at least twice before) and also Zod. As cool as it is, and the shot of Clark and Lex/Zod twirling around in the air is very impressive – Rosenbaum really doesn’t do much to make Zod any…good. He’s very robotic, cliched and doesn’t have any life to him as a character whatsoever; something we know Rosenbaum is capable of. The less said about the fact that Zod seems to want to sleep with Lana to make him an heir the better….
Of all the powers they didn’t want to focus on an episode on, the super-breathe was at the bottom of the list. The episode doesn’t reach the heights of Red from season two, and the Lex-abduction plot feels clichéd. At least the plot does follow from events in the premiere. Now Clark has an ability to knocking people several miles without physical contact. Well done! Also, we’re introduced to Oliver Queen – who isn’t revealed to be the Green Arrow yet. Retrospectively watching this after Arrow has debuted makes Oliver’s introduction a lot more interesting than it was that many years ago. This was before The Green Arrow was in the mainstream at the level he was now. Oliver is now in the public consciousness as Amell, but Hartley is completely different from Amell in every way. I can’t remember anything of Oliver in Smallville now, so I look forward to seeing what happens with him.
The Zoners are introduced as Clark learns that some prisoners escaped the Phantom Zone. Meanwhile, Lex and Lana get closer as Lana worries about losing her “identity”. There’s something unwittingly meta about this as that’s what happening to her. It’s what’s happened to her. The Lex/Clark scene is very much all about Lana and that’s the role that she’s playing in this episode – the MacGuffin to fuel the Clark/Lex relationship. The Oliver stuff is weird – as the show relies on foreknowledge of the character to paint out weirdly. He was seen as a villainous figure at the end of the last episode, and here a charitable businessman. Let’s put aside the stupid decision for him to wear a Robin Hood costume – that was a way cheesy in-joke.
We get our first look at the Green Arrow in Smallville and how immediately he both clashes and works alongside Clark. This is the point where you can tell the show has given up on bringing in Bruce Wayne and Batman and so tries to have a vigilante turn up; even if the show doesn’t use that word. The episode is technically an arc one; as it allows for the Clark/Oliver relationship to start – but help seed the ideals of heroism in Clark. Particularly as Lois seems intrigued by Oliver as she should do alongside Clark. Although this may start to be the season in which the suspension of disbelief of Clark not donning the costume yet begins to kick in. In Lana/Lex-land, Lex tests Lois in trying to test her loyalties and sees her usual morality slipping. The show feels so detached from everything else when they have their little bubble and it’s the same from season five – it just doesn’t feel right.
We venture into Oliver/Lex territory here as ghosts arrive to kill their old school acquaintances and we learn a little about their history with each other. Oliver’s remorse being channeled into seeking redemption is a stark if unsubtle, contrast to Lex’s anger that is constantly bubbling underneath. Clark’s role is very much on the sidelines to gather information towards the season arc of the Zoners but he still has the chance to have a scene where he awkwardly talks to Lex about Lana. Again. Reunion does inadvertently raise an interesting concept: how could the writers do more with the Clark/Lex relationship without resorting to using Lana as a tool? There’s something more about the Oliver/Lex history that may have been better served by making it somehow more about Clark and Lex, but hey: what’s past is past.
Season 6’s arc kicks in with the first full arc episode that continues the story of the escaped Zoners and repairing of the Fortress of Solitude and Clark embracing his Kryptonian heritage. The episode also sees the return of Raya…to die. Which, to be fair, is a bit of a cop-out. Clark could do with an ally he can relate to. Or at least give the audience some investment in before they kill them off to help Clark’s development. This is like Alicia again – but at least she had a little longer to have history with Clark. A big element of the show is the seeds of doubt with Lex and Lana and the secrets between them. As great as Lex was in his scene with Jimmy, the scenes with Lana are just incredibly uncomfortable. Lana just doesn’t fit with the characteristic of devious and it doesn’t sell as convincing in the slightest. Even Rosenbaum looks like he’s not enjoying himself.
The modern DC-verse owes a lot to Smallville, and watching this back whilst Arrow exists is very interesting. Not because of the characters involved, but the fact that they are starting to generate a comic book show with a teenage audience backdrop. The story is about Oliver trying to improve himself, but the episode doesn’t really try to play on this and instead is trying to use it to focus on character dynamics. That said, the story brings the focus back on Clark and Lex – so perhaps it’s focus is in the best interests of the show. But villainous Lex is so great, and the moment he shoots Oliver is quite shocking. It also leaves the Clark/Oliver relationship open-ended and not as friendly as you’d expect it to. The montage at the Kent house is unintentionally hilarious due to Lionel’s presence though.
Oh yeah, the pregnancy. The episode has a very weird structure to it: there’s the main A-plot in which Lex gets kidnapped and the B-plot of Clark chasing a Zoner and getting saved by what is clearly Martian Manhunter. That’s really all the Clark story was meant to do and it’s probably the better portion of the episode as we still get the most awkward and stifled developments in the Lana/Lex thing.
Clark fights for the little guy again, and it’s completely in character and to see him fight for an illegal immigrant is great to see. It does bring him into conflict with his mother, briefly, but it does show Clark with some agency. The Clark/Lana at the end of the episode even shows a moment of this same agency until he gets cut down from Lana annoyingly. The Lana descent continues to be cringe-worthy but Lex being all villainous is just a sight to see. That final walk and reveal of 33.1 is ace.
The Lana/Lex/Tori Spelling plot about gossip and the whole marriage is complete poo, as the show continues to try and sell a love triangle that it clearly needs to drag out but doesn’t really invested in itself. However, the subplot of the episode is much better as Clark poses as The Green Arrow the try and ward off a determined Lois trying to prove that Oliver is Green Arrow. It leads to Clark and Lois’s first kiss, and the show demonstrates that it’s aware of their future. At least Clark attempts to show some agency with Lana before she turns everything back on him again. Ugghhh.
Now, this is ace. Lex in pure villain mode, no Lana and the comic sensibilities all kick in. The whole Flash/Impulse thing doesn’t really bother me as such, as the episode is still a lot of fun to watch. Bringing back previous characters is great; even if Arthur and Victor don’t really feel as if they get that much to do. But the team-up episode works really well, if only for the fact that we’re now starting to feel the show is trying to stall Clark adapting the identity of Superman. Knowing how many seasons we have left: it’s going to be bumpy. But even Oliver has told Clark face-to-face that he doesn’t feel as if Clark’s doing anything and no matter what, the show can’t convince that Clark wouldn’t have thought about becoming Superman already.
Clark wakes up in a mental hospital in a premise that is very similar to Normal Again from Buffy’s sixth season. There are times where Welling surprises me, and this is one of those episodes. The more satisfying elements incorporate the Clark/Chloe friendship and nail the dynamic between them as one of the show’s main good points. Again, and I’m really starting to get as sick of saying this on a Teague-style level: Lex and Lana. Clark admitting his has feeling is another step backwards – and that scene at the end was just trite.
The Clark/Lois relationship so far in the show has been genuinely great. The interplay between Welling and Durance has been perfect and they’re a delight to watch. The subtle hints and nods have kicked into major Smallville non-subtle as Lois gets hit with a red-Kryptonite love spell and sends Clark into Kal-mode. As much as Welling looks like he’s having fun, the show wheels out the Red-K when it’s an easy way to shake up some character dynamics (for them to lose most of the impact in two-to-three episodes). The most exciting aspect of the episode is Lana starting to find more clues towards Clark’s “secret”; but it’s negated by the re-dragging of their relationship. The show also still is mining the Clark/Chloe thing well beyond its sell-by date and it further dulls the episode.
Ahh, more stalkers. The twist is telegraphed from the get-go and the climax is so by-the-numbers and on auto-pilot it’s ridiculous. There’s not really much else to go on with this episode, and any Lex/Clark tension is all based on using Lana as a prize. Not great. Not great at all.
Showing why Alison Mack is one of the best things Smallville has, Freak is a Chloe-centric episode that has a phenomenal development for Chloe as a character as we learn that she’s not been infected by Kryptonite. Her powers haven’t really surfaced yet but it helps deliver a new mystery for the show to develop. In terms of what it means for the show, it means that Chloe has something more unique about her and she can move from the Lois Lane type that she was initially supposed to be as Lois becomes a more prominent character. It also gives an interesting new spin on the Clark/Chloe relationship as it means that Chloe has a secret and powers that she doesn’t know about, and worries if she’s going to turn mad like everyone else. The show doesn’t explicitly mention Chloe’s mother at this point, but it’s an interesting angle to go down.
As much as it’s been hard to watch, there are some good character moments for Lex. His speech about moving cars is brilliant stuff – as is the twisted relationship with Lionel. The episode tries to do something intriguing with its structure, and it does allow for some pay-off (admittedly I did like how Lana set Chloe up bar awful dialogue). But the fancy editing doesn’t really apply to what is poor, inconsistent characterisation. Not only with Lana suddenly wanting to go back to Clark, but Lionel going back to scheming-bastard again for no reason. It doesn’t add up. This Lana/Lex arc continues to drag down the season and it makes Clark mopier than usual.
Man, that marriage is The Jason of season six. The underground fighting ring is a tried and tested genre trope that pretty much any science fiction show apparently has to do. The stunt casting of Kane uses his strengths (literally) and the episode does get slight mileage of Clark having no choice but to kill Titan. The presence of Lois is practically non-existent and does nothing to serve a weak a-story except to have Durance show up in red leather and titillate the audience.
More focus on Chloe is a good thing in my book, and the long-running thread involving her mother’s mental health is finally paid off. Moira, played by Wonder Woman’s Lynda Carter, can control meteor freaks and is controlling Chloe after her catatonic state is cured temporarily. It’s touching in places, even if it makes no sense from what we’ve been told about Chloe’s mum (there’s a lot of continuity errors with that backstory). But it allows for some great scenes in which Rosenbaum goes full Lex Luthor and threatens Chloe’s life and acts like the big man around campus. It’s thrilling.
The inevitable confrontation between Clark and Lex hashing out their differences… and it’s mainly Lana. Yawn. But the undercurrent of Clark still trying to save Lex, and feeling guilty about whether he’s responsible is a nice coda to the episode. It’s a nice nod back to the start of the show, and also helps plot them on the path to their destined future. There’s also the Lana plot, which means less Lex/Lana romantic funtime, still just feels so detached from the other characters and from whom we know/knew Lana to be.
I can’t decide whether this is fun or not. It’s a welcome fun distraction for a dark, serious, season but there doesn’t feel like there’s much time spent in Jimmy’s fantasy world for the scenario to fully get fleshed out. It’s all tying together with the main arc of Lex and Lana again; but it at least gives Jimmy a chance to run in the spotlight for once. As fun as bumbling-glasses-Clark is, and the cast trying to have some fun; you then get scenes of Chloe and Lana talking about Clark’s “weakness” and it just brings back familiar annoyances with the show. People talking about relationships or “things” as tangible macguffins. The word “secret” is now “weakness” and the side-stepping of Lana around Clark’s true nature is just dragging. Again.
I’ve lost track at how many projects LuthorCorp/Lex/Lionel has had so far that it’s verging on the ridiculous; but the spin on the usual story involves giving Lois a personal connection to the villain this week. It’s nice they try to do it, but at this point it feels as if the show is recycling itself with this type of story.
Smallville finales are usually good; and this is one of the better episodes of the season — but not the better finales as a whole. The action is typically escalating; and the cliffhanger reveal of the creation of Bizarro is exciting – but you still have to wade through the seasonal macguffin of Lana Lang to get to the better stuff. The inclusion of Lana and her “death” (which is so awfully staged it’s ridiculous) is laughable. The scene where Clark tells her his “secret” is supposed to be a massive pay-off to everything the two of them have been through but instead feels so lifeless and dull that it’s a case of “is that it?” But the show is still seeding other moments of change as Martha moves to Washington and Chloe’s tears resurrect the dead. Normal Smallville stuff.
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