Superman on Television

Smallville: Episode Reviews

Episode 6: "Hourglass"

Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

I'm amazed. I'm honestly amazed that the show is getting better. I hate television... but I love Smallville. This show is making me watch again, making me tape again, dragging me into taking my friends before the screen and imploring them to enjoy. Maybe it's fifteen years of comic books finally being elaborated upon in a real, human aspect, focusing more on idealism and real life as opposed to BIFF! BAM! and SOK!. Maybe I just want to see a hero in real life, and got my wish.

The ending killed me. I don't think I've seen a better ending on a television program. I should have seen the ending coming. "Someone close to you will die." meant the usual logical trick you see in a television program to me... it would be someone nearby, in a relative sense, or the villain. Thus, when I saw the villain bite the big one in the Kent silo, I assumed, with reason, that the prophecy had been fulfilled. I also assumed, with reason, that when Lex walked away from his future, he would not return to revisit it. Lex is a decisive, fate mocking man. When he came back, when the prophecy hit us, this knocked me out of my chair.

The futures of Clark and Lex never surprised me... we've known them from the comics for some time. Lex gets to be the bad guy, Clark the good guy. What the future foretold, however, proved in shocking, intriguing fashion the more negative, frightening aspects of both of their lives. Clark sees his essential immortality, the undeniable sadness he will face long from now when he is the last remaining human being because of his super powers. Lex sees shattered dreams of presidential idealisms that end in rains of blood. The imagery is not the kind of thing you expect TV to have the gall to show, and I applaud this.

Lana is still progressing, something that surprised me. I expected her character to stagnate as the love interest and shallow backdrop character for the hero to pine for. She's getting better. I like this. She realizes, and thus we realize that even cheerleaders can belong, justified, in the center of the Wall of Weird.

This episode avoided the pitfalls that have plagued the previous shows... the villain is not cookie-cutter. He isn't elemental in origin. He doesn't go after Lana. And more important, he's not the focus of the episode's momentum. The main characters and their choices are.

More avoided pratfalls include Clark's heroics not having any consequence-here we see saving Lex coming back to haunt him, and the driver of the semi threatening to expose Clark. I am bothered that Zoe witnessed the super-powers with no consequence, but we can assume that she will not say anything in gratitude, so the issue more or less irons itself out.

The dialogue and writing remain exemplary. I missed the repeating dialogic themes in the last two episodes, but they returned in this one, with the ending's "Are you afraid of what you might see?" Excellent work and a very tight, very disturbing story. TV doesn't move me. This show did. I'm still struck by the power of this work.

This show and the premiere are now tied for my favorite episode. If at least one show per season is like this, may the run last until Clark is geriatric. Of course, as we know now, he will be quite lonely at this point, but that's another issue that can be done well... more catharsis, more questioned idealism, but all show. And may it continue as such.

Thus, I give the show: 5 of 5.

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