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Episode Breakdown: SMALLVILLE Season Eight (2008-2009)

Major cast changes again; with Lana Lang and Lex Luthor gone the show goes through with some major developments and heads towards with some fresh ideas that rely on parts of the Superman mythos. But without Superman. 

Odyssey
There’s a great sense of forward momentum for the show; even if it’s so far away from its original premise now. There’s a sense of excitement as Clark himself says he needs to move on, needing to shake off what he was holding on to and try new things. The previous two seasons had hit quite a lot of stalemates and without Lex and Lana the show is trying new dynamics. Hartley gets more to do and provides a new kind of friendship Clark hasn’t really had before; the rapport of Welling and Durance is also great. The show slowly is transitioning into a show that should really be called Metropolis; but as long as you start to see it as a Superman show without Superman, then we’re all ok. The character of Tess is there to provide a long-term antagonist, but she doesn’t really make much of an impression yet. We don’t know much about her, and she doesn’t have the iconic future of Lex that the audience is aware of. The fact she only really interacts with Lois harms her role too.

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Smallville (2001-2011) – The WB/The CW

Plastique
Business as usual for Smallville as the plot features a meteor-infected youth on the wrong-side-of-the-tracks; there’s LuthorCorp involved and characters learning more about each other. Clark and Tess meet, and he saves her (naturally) whilst she immediately knows a lot about Clark already. I can see why she’s there, but it’s a bit of a shame we didn’t get someone who we knew or had already seen — but the writing team probably didn’t prepare for Rosenbaum leaving. The plot unfolds as a more modern Lois and Clark in places, with the two of them solving a mystery that actually does some good. I’ve always liked how the two of them bounce off each other and the new focus on Clark’s job at the Daily Planet allows for this to become a more central focus for the show. Any chance for more Lois is ok with me!

Toxic
Again, the added foreknowledge of what Arrow would do with Oliver Queen’s backstory overshadows the brief glimpse we get of Oliver’s story. In the show’s defense, he’s not the main character here – but it does shoehorn in a pre-existing relationship with Tess. What’s intriguing is that the show is trying to be morally gray with her, a nod back to how Clark was with Lex – she’s less antagonistic. I’m not sure that the show knows what it wants to do with her.

Instinct
Disposable filler that rehashes Jimmy/Chloe issues that we’ve seen before in regards to her feelings for Clark. We’ve all seen her move on – despite the nice little callback to the letter from season two. Clark and Lois are entertaining – if their relationship suddenly seems like it’s rushed a little. I do like the dynamic in that it’s suggesting that Lois is the pursuer and Clark is oblivious. It’s a nice change from him moping over Lana.

Committed
The heavy-handed nature of the plot is Smallville at its old tricks in using forced situations to reveal character information. These being revelations on Jimmy and conclusive evidence that Lois has feelings for Clark. There have been subtle hints before, but this does feel like a gigantic leap for Lois. I don’t know if I’m especially bothered by it in the long-term due to the fact that it’s just more entertaining than Clark/Lana. Also: thinking about its early seasons – the show is such a structurally different beast now, it’s growing into a more sci-fi Lois and Clark by the episode.

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Smallville (2001-2011) – The WB/The CW

Prey
If I remember, the fact that Davis was Doomsday was advertised well in advance; which was met with confusion as the character was someone that Clark was due to be killed by in the comics. But the show still slow drips the mystery of Davis, and I’m not sure if watching it before has connected the dots or if the show is really hinting it was Davis. I can’t tell. But the episode is quite frustrating because of Clark’s gung-ho proactive attitude and his instant accusations of the Isis members. I get he wants to help people, but again this is the show starting to be a Superman show but making Clark looks really bad for not accepting the advice that he’s been given. Welling also doesn’t have much chemistry with Sam Witwer, meaning that any moment between the two of them doesn’t really spell any tension – and thus make the episode a bit boring.

Identity
Smallville has always had an issue where plot dictates character over anything else, and its treatment of Jimmy here is almost insulting. Sometimes portrayed as the comic relief, Ashmore has always managed to make him seem more than capable, so Clark comes across as being an absolute dick to Jimmy. So it’s also a little bit of a stretch to see him immediately fall for the ruse that Oliver and Clark set-up. That said, the image of the figure with the red cape was quite exciting, and so is Clark beginning to see the idea of being a symbol for people to look up to. What’s not as interesting is the idea that people are looking for “a blur”, but it’s at a point that perhaps Clark doesn’t want to be out there much yet. There’s some muddled motivation here.

Bloodline
A bit of mish-mash of ideas, as it’s an excuse to get Kara back; and to have Lois throw Clark out of a window. And reveal some stuff about Davis. More arc-heavy than perhaps you’d realise going into it, we do have some information about Davis revealed – but it doesn’t half feel clumsy and not really exciting. The show pulls out its trick of not wanting to cast a character by using another one and manages to make Tess seem to know far-too-much about stuff. It’s nowhere near as bad as the mess of season six, or as bad as the seventh – but so far the season’s arc hasn’t been exciting in the least. Davis just doesn’t intrigue.

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Smallville (2001-2011) – The WB/The CW

Abyss
Significant development for Chloe as the Kryptonian download that was injected into her head means she starts losing memories. Aside from the question of exactly how much she’ll remember and function as a human being due to so many memories linked to Clark and everything beyond that; it’s a good little episode showcasing their friendship. There’s a lot between the two of them, and Clark’s decision makes sense. The episode actually is quite strong and gives Welling something decent to do that pushes his acting abilities for a change.

Bride
Wow, an episode that single-handedly shows the dichotomy of Smallville of the past and the current as to how Clark interacts with Lois and Lana. I’ve mentioned it before but Welling feels better when he’s opposite Durance. With Kreuk back, the character’s history and how awkward they feel together drain all excitement and chemistry from the room. The episode itself is set-up, and this is the major turning point of the season but it does have that multiple-episode arc feel to it and the developments are quite exciting. Genuinely because Davis is hardly in it in his human form; and that the final shot of “Lex” is actually chilling.

Legion
There’s a strange sense of “wait, what?” here. There are three heroes from the 31st century with some awful dialogue in which they seem to shoehorn in every Superman reference imageable; yet are very quickly to determine that they should kill Chloe. At least Clark manages to stand firm — oh wait, he needs to be told what to do by Lana. I’m assuming you can hear my sigh from here. In a season in which Clark’s been showing more proactive and independent thinking; it’s annoying to see him revert a little. But hey, this is the season where it’s obvious it’s influencing the modern day DCTV Universe – and Barry Allen in The Flash is used to stopping and asking for help at the wrong moments. Swings and roundabouts. The show is continuing to drag out the inevitable by showing us what we already know: Lana and Clark won’t last. It’s not good TV.

Bulletproof
Corrupt police officers and vigilantism abound as the series takes on the idea of doing the right thing and being in a position to do it. It’s another repeated issue, but there’s something refreshing about Clark going undercover and witnessing what the police force do day-in-day-out. It’s nice to see Clark develop those ideals about what good humans can, and that Clark is influencing those to do even better. It’s a theme that echoes throughout Superman’s story throughout the ages: and this is another element in which the series could show a unique spin to the mythology. Street level heroism is in play, and it’s contrasted nicely with Oliver’s sense of justice and the morality that’s in play. What’s not as interesting is (guess) Lana immediately telling Tess that she’s been a spy for Lex in his strange recovery centre. But the stuff in regards to the police force is actually pretty good to see and cancels that bit out. In that respect it’s like a good episode of the mid-point of the show’s run.

Power
Oh, the migraines are coming back. Memories of what happened were blocked out; it was around this time I started to fall out of love with the show. Lana with a vendetta has always been unbelievable, but contriving the circumstances to give Lana her own superpowers with the aid of a super suit is hilariously bad. There’s ret-conning of Lana’s season seven exit (okay, not a ret-con but unnecessary) and inconsistent characterisation in Lana again as she doesn’t seem as determined as she should have been. But there’s just a massive pedestal that the writing staff always seem to want to put Lana on, that it feels ridiculous that they even went there to give Lana her own superpowers to match Clark. But this is for the next episode…

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Smallville (2001-2011) – The WB/The CW

Requiem
Right. This is the episode that got me off Smallville, only to return at the start of season ten. There is just so much here that feels like a betrayal of all the work that the show seems to have been doing before Lana came back. The happiness is short-lived again, but it feels as if Clark can only be with someone if they’re his physical equal – and now Lana has a super suit skin graft it’s like “oh we can be together” which just doesn’t feel right at all. The inclusion of a Rosenbaum-less Lex feels cheesy and brings the show back down to the darker horrid lows of season six; where Lana becomes a puppet and fuel to their rivalry. Until Lex dies. They kill off Lex. Not before Lex’s killing blow of having Lana absorb enough kryptonite so that Clark can’t be in the same room with her.

What this inevitably does is mythologise Clark and Lana and make them doomed lovers that are kept apart by external forces, never to be happy. It means Lois is Clark’s consolation prize that will have to do because he can’t be with Lana. Which isn’t what the show initially set out to be and the fact they’ve been building up Lois’s feelings for Clark means that they have been aware of Clark and Lois romantic tension for a while. Lana should’ve drifted away from Clark’s life and gained her own destiny away from all of this after being treated badly by Clark and Clark should’ve realised that Lana is just not compatible with him. He even mentions that without Lana in his life he’s gotten more proactive — proactivity a trait that’s apparent in Lois. It’s why they’re a much greater fit for each other but Smallville seems to not want to let the Clark/Lana relationship to have a natural end, and must force them apart. It doesn’t sit well. Not at all.

Infamous
Okay, so after the lull of the Lana episodes, and as predictable as the fact there will be some time rewinding being done; the episode feels like there’s a shot of life in this. Again, Clark is learning the hard way about the need to have a civilian identity and the inevitable backlash he doesn’t foresee; and whilst it feels like he makes a massive blunder; you can appreciate his logic going into this. I think it’s one part him wanting to be an inspiration for people but also for him to finally be free to be himself. The return of Linda Lake is welcome, even if her end is a little uncalled for. But I do like how the Lois and Clark relationship is going, and Durance goes for the feels at the end. I can get my Clark/Lois ship on.

Turbulence
Arc development time, with Jimmy seeing Davis for what he is and Chloe doing a “Clark” and not believing those closest to them. It’s a bit frustrating and Davis isn’t really that menacing — anytime we’ve seen Doomsday they can’t cover up that he/it looks…naff. In the other major plotline, Tess tries to learn more about Clark by orchestrating a plane crash. It’s a big gamble but it’s also a little bit stupid. What if she’s wrong? Tess’s role in the show is still a little up in the air; she seems duplicitous – but her relationship with Clark isn’t as layered in as Clark was with Lex. The show doesn’t feel like she’s supposed to be an outright villain as Lex morphed into. She’s a wildcard meant to take on the Lex role, but the show doesn’t seem to give her the screen time needed to make her an essential part of the ensemble.

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Smallville (2001-2011) – The WB/The CW

Hex
Mixing magic, an established DC character and a body swap episode all into one… it’s actually quite entertaining. Durance plays Chloe and leads her to a drastic new course for the character that’s oddly fitting. The romance is oddly not over-played as usual and it’s funny when it wants to be.

Eternal
The one where we see a lot of retcon. There’s a lot of retcon–I’ll be surprised but the show actively brings back Davis’ origins and ties it into the pilot episode of the show, the caves and Veritas. It starts off okay, with a huge foot on the acceleration; even if Clark’s gung-ho attitude for the murders comes out of nowhere. There’s examples of characters learning too much from too little, though. Clark and Davis’ relationship still feels like it’s been underdeveloped at the moment, and Clark appealing to him doesn’t have any weight to it. If anything, the episode does begin to introduce some interesting aspects with Tess in that she clearly knows Clark’s secret and is a potential ally but the show still doesn’t really know what they want to do with her apart from being a poor woman’s Lex Luthor.

Stilletto
On the surface, the idea of Lois faking a superhero is very laughable and eye-rolling; but the episode does hint towards the Superman/Lois dynamic of the future. Or present – as it’s actually happening now. As it goes on, it turns into a mildly entertaining diversion from whatever the hell is going on with Chloe, who is covering for a murdering monster, and a drug-addicted Jimmy. Which is just confusing.

Beast
The Chloe/Davis relationship has strange inverse echoes of Lex and Lana from the sixth season but Chloe’s motivations are really unclear and puzzling. Considering everything that happens; and the whole about–to-kill-Oliver-and-Jimmy thing; this just doesn’t feel like it’s consistently in character for her. Particularly when Clark’s plan isn’t one of killing Davis.

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Smallville (2001-2011) – The WB/The CW

Injustice
Okay, so the show does a pretty good job of using its own habit of inconsistent characterisation to set-up a twist. I’d written off the change in character as another off-screen development but I didn’t see the Ava twist coming. I’ve always liked when Clark’s ideals come into conflict with others and him butting heads with Oliver and Tess is not that bad to watch. Tess’s actions is a nice twist and adds some intriguing complications to how Clark will deal with Davis/Doomsday. As set-up goes, it’s not going an admittedly bad job considering Chloe and Davis aren’t really in it. The introduction of Kandor (another post-Superman implication done early) is an interesting direction to go in.

Doomsday
Smallville finales are curious beasts; often rising with action and tension and bringing forth a cliffhanger that both resolves and opens the next season’s arc. Doomsday is weird in that it seems to be focused on doing both of these in succession. There’s some great stuff here – with the very very quick Clark/Doomsday fight looking really good; with some money thrown at it. But then the episode slows right down to a grinding halt, and the “death of Superman” arc is adapted to end with the metaphorical death of “Clark Kent”. The scene between Clark and Chloe to establish this is long, drawn out and doesn’t really feel like it’s as exciting as what came before it. The death of Jimmy is shocking, if inevitably feeling like a cop-out that the writers wanted to do and added a throwaway little brother who is actually the “real Jimmy Olsen”. The final shot is exciting however, as it suggests that Zod is back…

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Episode Breakdown: SMALLVILLE Season Eight (2008-2009)
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