Superman on Television
Lois & Clark: Episode Reviews
Season 2 - Episode 15: "Return of the Prankster"Reviewed by: Rob Ó Conchúir
Originally Aired: February 26, 1995
Directed by Philip Sgriccia
Written by Grant Rosenberg
Bronson Pinchot as Kyle Griffin/The Prankster
Cliff De Young as Agent Navarro
Harold Gould as Edwin Griffin
Allen Lulu as Mike Carney
Rick Overton as Victor
John Pleshette as Dr. Emil Hamilton
Sal Viscuso as Bobby Bigmouth
Lois returns to her apartment with some groceries, to find that it has been ransacked. Kyle Griffin, the Prankster has returned and uses a special weapon that he flashes in her eyes, rendering her completely paralyzed for a short amount of time. He leaves her with a photo of himself to remind her that he's back.
Lois is set to interview the President, but this assignment is in jeopardy due to the security risk provided by the Prankster. The Secret Service contacts Lois, in an effort to ensure that the situation is under control.
Kyle Griffin's father Edward Griffin, infiltrates the Metropolis Department of Light and Power, disguised as an absent-minded painter. From here, the Prankster steals an important component to increase the power for his freeze-ray.
Jimmy agrees to let Lois stay over at his apartment while the Prankster is at large. Meanwhile, the Prankster takes control of the light and power at the Daily Planet, turning it off and on again just to entertain himself.
Lois confronts Griffin at the Department of Light and Power, discovering that Griffin led her here as a means to trap Superman, who follows Lois. Griffin's weapon fails to work against the Man of Steel. Superman is about to capture the Prankster and his assistant Victor, but Griffin reminds Superman that Lois is in danger, and Superman is forced to allow the villains to flee. Superman rescues Lois just as the boiler she is tied to explodes.
Lois asks the news team what would be the one question they would ask the President, to which they have a variety of humorous responses.
Clark walks into the Daily Planet and finds the entire newsroom frozen by Griffin's weapon. Griffin has removed Lois' clothes leaving her in her underwear while Jimmy is wearing Lois' dress.
Lois and Clark visit Professor Hamilton who informs them that Griffin's weapon could be rendered ineffectual by specialized contact lenses.
After successfully hacking into Lois' computer, Griffin finds a file that reveals the secrets of Dr. Farraday's device that previously rendered Superman blind. Using this information, Griffin develops a way to modify his weapon so that it will work against Superman. He then uses a voice-modulator to impersonate a White House officer and set another trap for Lois and Superman, luring them to a Penthouse at Lakeside Towers.
When Lois arrives, the Prankster freezes her once again. When Superman follows, Griffin explains the modifications he has made to his weapon and uses it against Superman, before tipping him over the side of the building. Luckily Superman regains consciousness just in time to save Lois who has been thrown over the side of the building by the Prankster.
The Prankster, Victor and Edward Griffin attempt to kidnap the President, but to their surprise, Superman is in the Presidential limousine, equipped with contact lenses developed by Hamilton. Superman stops the Prankster and destroys his freeze-ray.
Lois asks the President what position he would play in a major-league baseball team - the question recommended to her by Clark.
Review Rating - 1 (out of 5): This may actually be the worst-written, least-effective episode of "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" in the entire series thus far. It pains me to say that this is the beginning of the weaker second-half of the series.
The original 'Prankster' episode was a welcome surprise - an effective villain with ties to the source material, with an interesting and original motivation played surprisingly well by a competent actor. Here, the character (while still played with charm and menace by Bronson Pinchot) is too hammy and all of his scenes are played for juvenile laughs. His sidekick Victor (who I compared to Otis in the original episode) is embarrassingly childish to the point of being unwatchable.
The episode is rife with poor writing and unbelievable incompetence on the part of the protagonists, simply for the sake of stretching out the run time of the episode. Every single time Superman encounters the Prankster in this episode, he has the opportunity to defeat him using one of his super powers, and every single time, he just stands there allowing Kyle Griffin to gleefully reveal the nature of his ever-changing plan ("I'm going to kill Lois! I'm going to kill Superman! I'm going to take over the city! I'm going to kidnap the President!").
The first time Superman meets Kyle Griffin in this episode is in the a-typical Lois-in-peril scene. Griffin reminds Superman that Lois is in trouble and that Superman can either save her or capture him. This isn't true though. Superman has SUPERHUMAN SPEED... he can easily save Lois and neutralize Griffin and Victor at the same time (even if this is the 'powered-down' John Byrne version of Superman). Later on, Superman exhibits a similar brain-fart when he stands in front of Griffin once again, while the Prankster happily shows him the freeze-weapon that has allowed him to run rampant through the city, taking control of the city's power supply and almost killing several people. Instead of quickly disabling the device with his heat vision (something we saw Supes do IN THE PREVIOUS EPISODE), Superman arrogantly boasts about how Griffin's weapon doesn't work on him (which of course this time it does). It's shamefully weak writing, the likes of which I'd accept from the George Reeves show (where incidents such as these happened all the time) given that it was a more primitive era of television (not to mention a more primitive era of Superman comics), but it's unacceptably apathetic on the part of the writers when ridiculous inconsistencies such as these crop up in "Lois & Clark", "Smallville" or any of the modern animated series.
Lois gets a moment of bone-headedness as well. After Superman saves her, he's just about to fly back up to the top of the tower to defeat Griffin when Lois (for reasons that make sense to the writers alone) reminds him that he has no way to defeat Griffin, given that his freeze-weapon now works on the Man of Steel. Once again, Lois is forgetting the fact that Superman could destroy Griffin's contraption in twelve different ways before Griffin had time to pick it up, but...the episode needed a third act. I might point out as well that Superman is not the only form of law enforcement in Metropolis (supposedly the most 'crime-free' city in the United States - apparently no one's aware of the huge, scandalous white-collar-criminal-coordinated catastrophes that have required the repeated intervention of an alien from space for the past TWO YEARS)... what's to stop an armed SWAT team from incapacitating two funny little men with a stun-device?
The other great big offense committed by this episode is probably a little bit more obscure to other fans, but it bothered the heck out of me. Lois, Clark and Perry White work for "The Daily Planet", an acclaimed, accomplished, decorated newspaper dedicated to the truth and to reporting relevant current affairs and important issues pertaining to society. Perry White has repeatedly expressed a disdain for lower-rent tabloid newspapers throughout the series. In this episode however, when asked by Lois what question they'd ask the President of the United States (the most powerful man on planet Earth, more so than Superman), they give mundane, trivial answers about baseball and Elvis. While I acknowledge that most fans of Superman are more interested in high-concept adventure and don't really care about the true nature of journalism, as an actual journalism graduate myself, this is ridiculous and shocking behavior to hear from two characters who are supposed to be decorated newspapermen. Their answers are all flash and no substance - a problem that permeates today in a lot of actual American journalism. Nonsense.
In terms of acting or character moments, there's really nothing to report about this episode. Lois and Clark's complicated relationship is given a brief consideration when Clark suggests that she stay at his apartment, but that's really just dressing to hide the fact that this is a great big filler episode. The 'odd-couple' scenario between Jimmy and Lois as the latter deals with the trivial annoyances of living with a young 20-something is superficially amusing, but like many similar sub-plots that have occurred this season, it's ultimately forgettable.
Special-effects wise, we do get one interesting green-scene sequence of Superman flying Lois to safety while a factory explodes in the background. This was used predominantly in Seasons Three and Four in the opening credits. It's effective enough, although it's nowhere near as iconic as the similar effect of Clark saving Jimmy and Lois in the Pilot episode. Beyond that, there's nothing really. Superman (finally) uses his heat-vision towards the end of the episode on Griffin's device, but there's no special effect - just sound effects. This is possibly an error caused by using an unfinished print of the episode in the DVD collection (this would happen again in Season Four), but it's just another glaring misstep in the presentation of this episode.
The only other interesting thing worth mentioning about this awful episode is that you can see Dean Cain's nipples through the Superman suit in a couple of scenes (maybe it was cold that day?). This is particularly amusing given that this episode premiered in 1995, a couple of months prior to "Batman Forever" (infamous for the addition of nipples to the Batsuit).
Next week, at last we get a bit of movement in "Lucky Leon".
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