Superman on Television
Smallville: Episode Reviews
Season 10 - Episode 1: "Lazarus"Reviews:
LazarusReviewed by: Douglas Trumble
Super Short Summary: Clark ends up stabbed, powerless, and somehow not splattered on the sidewalk at Lois' feet after a 30 story plunge, has some visions/ghostly encounters of his two dads (one who's back to being kind of a dink), and then faces off against Lex-Clone 2.0 while Chloe trades herself for the Arrow, Lady Lex adopts Lex-Clone 0.5, and Lois runs off to Africa.
Welcome back super friends! The beginning of the end is here. Season 10. The final Smallville season. This is it. The gloves are off. No more long delays, no more putting big things off to keep your cash cow going. It's here. It's final and like it or not when all is said and done after this season Clark Kent will be Superman.
Season 10 is off to a fantastic start. Not perfect by any means but fantastic nonetheless.
Everything wrapped up from last season and some interesting things were put in play for the rest of this final season.
I loved the ghostly visits Clark received from his fathers in this episode. Sure I was a bit put off with Jor-El going back to tough-love guy but then Clark did almost get himself killed and I would be a bit ticked off at my kid too for not finding another way. Plus it really helped to offset the kind, fatherly encouragement from Jonathan. I really do like when they showcase the Kents as being the source of Clark's innate goodness. Not that I want Jor-El to be a jerk all the time, but the Kents give Superman a sense of humility and a moral center that is important to the character. Bringing back John Schneider as Pa Kent was a bold and very smart move. It may highlight a mistake they made writing him off the show so soon, but in a DCU where the supernatural is common place I have no problems with the spirit of Jonathan Kent stopping by the farm to put his boy straight once in a while when needed. Plus I am so very glad they didn't try and pull off some silly back from the dead thing with him. Having a vision or a spiritual visit works so much better in the grand scheme of things in my opinion.
Speaking of coming back from the dead, let me take this moment to mention what I did not like so much before going on with more positives. The idea of the Lex clones and the villain using them to prolong his life/survive death is nothing new. We've seen it in other sci-fi and even in the Superman comics so it's a valid plot point that fits the universe. I liked the idea of Lex-Clone 0.5 being taken in by Tess and am looking forward to seeing where that goes and the overall plot point is fine with me. It is a good way to bring Lex back from the dead.
I didn't even mind the adult Lex-Clone getting loose and facing off against the Blur in idea, but it did feel cheapened by the fact it wasn't Michael Rosenbaum's Lex. No offense to the fellow they cast, who I am sure worked hard, but I didn't think he acted much like Mr. Rosenbaum's Lex at all. Maybe it was the lack of resemblance but the guy was supposed to be somewhat mutated so I could roll with that. Yet Smallville has always been very good about having actors walk, talk, act consistent even when the same characters are played by different actors in certain situations. Maybe I am just missing Rosenbaum in that role and am being unfair, but I couldn't buy Lex-Clone 2.0 as our Lex and it took me out of the episode a bit. It might have been better to avoid that. Especially if they can get Michael Rosenbaum back for something later in the season. It will make this confrontation even less significant.
The only other issue I had was the scene between Clark and Lois in the Daily Planet office. Did I miss something there? What was the deal with the pen? She dropped it on the floor, made a big deal out of it, and Clark zoomed around the desk? Why? I don't know. Maybe I need to watch it again but I think I missed what was going on there.
Lois leaving to get out of Clark's way of becoming Superman is a bit Lana-like but we know it won't last so I am not going to ride on that too much. While I might question her choices in First Aid, leaving a guy who wasn't quite healed yet alone, I do like the idea of having her know without Clark knowing for a few episodes and that did require her not sticking around. The key word there being few. If they try and drag it out all season I could see that idea getting old fast.
I loved the scene with Lois finding Clark's colored costume. I think it will be neat if he finally switches to the costume at her instance. Not sure why Jor-El took it though. I mean it was something Martha made right? What does he care? Why not take the black S shirt too? Kind of a lame excuse to keep him from wearing it, but I guess they had to do something to explain why he doesn't put it on for 18-20 some episodes.
So Lex-Clone 2.0 gives Clark the classic hero choice and Clark speeds so fast he "felt like he was flying" to save them both. Awesome! Great job on the effects and I loved the Superman pose on the roof with the globe in his hands. Any worry about The Blur not showing himself to the world before other heroes has ended. While he was too far for anyone to see his face The Blur was clearly seen by many saving a ton of people.
Darkseid shows his face? Pretty cool! Not sure if it's directly related to who had Oliver yet or if we have another Checkmate thing brewing, but for now I am assuming the two are directly related.
The first WTF moment of the week? I'm torn between a few things. Do we go with first aid 101 where you don't pull out the knife? Do we go with physics where an indestructible man-shaped object accelerating upwards at what was likely the speed of sound collides with an object in free fall accelerating based on standard gravity and yet manages to stop it and change its direction without the non-invulnerable object exploding into a thousand pieces or even dented? Do we go with how a powerless Clark with Blue K in his gut managed to not explode like a watermelon on impact after falling 30 stories? Naaah. Those kinds of things are just common superhero liberties taken with natural laws and stuff. Amusing to point out but nothing more than that.
No I have to go with Watchtower's brilliant plan to trade herself for the Green Arrow. Sure I get the sacrifice for her love thing, but she has at least two people on speed dial that can move faster than the bad guys could even see much less shoot. Once on site for the trade she could have easily had herself and Oliver whisked away safely without either one of them going away. I know they needed to write Chloe off the show for a good chunk of the season but her sacrifice is lessened by the obvious alternate choices that were available to her. Seriously Chloe... What the Fudge? She could have dropped a Justice League-sized hammer on that trade so easily.
Anyway. Not perfect in a couple of spots, some of it nitpicky and some of it simply didn't work right for me, but most of it was a blast. Maybe a 4 but the two-part super save at the end and the Pa Kent scene gets this one at least a 1 point bonus, so 5 out of 5 it is!
Bring on the rest of Smallville's final season. Have a great week!
LazarusReviewed by: Julian Finn
I read once that the job of a season premiere is simply to establish the new status quo. On the surface Lazarus appears to achieve this goal but going a little deeper we find that the NEW is just the OLD 2.0. The possibility of Clark becoming Superman is still just tantalizingly out of reach and, character declarations aside, he's no closer to actual flight than he was in Hidden, way back in season 5. Jor-El is still a colossal douche, Lex is... well, actually, that was handled quite well. We'll talk about that later. The point is, slavish fan service does not make for forward progression. Was it neat to see Lois tied to a cross a la Clark in season 1? Absolutely. Did it make any sense from a character perspective? Not even remotely. I'm sure that this sequence of events will eventually serve the PLOT (all hail the plot, the plot is king) but it turned Lex into a moustache twirling version of Nolan's Joker and that, kiddies, I didn't need. When a show is going to lay on the symbolism I prefer mine to have the subtlety of Lost rather than the smack-in-the-face bugle blaring of a Dora the Explorer episode. (That's right! There are seven Lex clones! Can you say siete?)
All that being said, this was still a mighty enjoyable episode of TV and probably the strongest season opener since Crusade. The special effects were fantastic; the action to emo ratio was at its absolute best since Lana turned into a kryptonite butterfly in Requiem and the Jonathan Kent cameo was everything that Martha's return last season wasn't; poignant, meaningful and lacking shoehorn motivation.
Okay, here's a prime example of what I'm talking about. This is a quote from a Herocomplex/LA Times interview with Tom Welling:
"I think the dilemma and the challenge this year is waiting until the end of the show," said Welling. "At this point you're like, 'Why doesn't he just put on the suit?' I mean, come on - he's doing the same stuff now, so why not? That's the challenge - to make that last until the end."
When the creative team is struggling to think of ways to cram the genie back into the bottle (where Genie=Super-Suit and Bottle=Time-Machine-We-Need-To-Build-To-Erase-Plot-Thread-We-Had-No-Intention-Of-Following-Through-On) does anyone really think the result is going to be great? Story telling should be organic; if your characters and plot arcs take you to a place where the next logical step is to put on the suit, then you put on the suit. You don't just fling monkey turds around and hope that no one notices that it makes no sense.
Anyway, and speaking of...
That sure was a tall building Clark fell off of, huh? I liked how well the scenes of Clark being trapped between life and death translated from the Death of Superman books, but a de-powered Kryptonian falling from that height to land on concrete would have liquefied on impact. What with all the teasing of a Fourth World story line for this season, I was expecting a last minute save by Orion or Scott Free not just...splat, it's a miracle!
Welling doesn't usually spend a lot of time alone on screen and his moments in the cornfield being chastised for killing himself and leaving the world in peril really highlight why. The delivery of some of those lines (and here I'm thinking of "I can do it, I can be their hero," delivered right before a melodramatic and far too effort-filled stone crushing) was beyond painful. Terrence Stamp came off out of practice here too; I kept on hearing a whiny note of "I told you so," mixed with "Father knows best" that seemed petulant when compared to earlier exchanges. The whole thing smacked of arbitrary conflict.
Lois pulls the blue kryptonite blade out of Clark's chest and huzzah! At last we know what can render Kryptonite completely inert. Rain water! Woot! Please writers, pay attention. Sometimes you need to put a little effort in, especially when your target audience isn't comprised of ADD afflicted infants. Just a thought.
Oddly enough, the Chloe and Oliver plot thread delivered the strongest storytelling in this episode. Finally Chloe's mystical data mining abilities are foiled by the fact that a new villain (?) failed to leave GPS tagged business cards at the scene of the crime. Seeing Chloe take desperate measures to find and rescue someone she cares about was beyond refreshing. Here we were given an interesting new direction that broke Chloe out of the Oracle archetype she'd been unceremoniously dumped in last year, a tie to the mystical side of the DCU through Fate's helmet and some genuine regular human on human horror, steeped in solid moral complexity. Also, we were given nothing in the way of overt hints with respect to the identities of the new players; subtle is not a ball Smallville plays with very often and so I damn near hugged my TV during these scenes.
Apparently though, when it came time for Chloe to Jiminy Cricket Clark back onto the A plot, the writer responsible for the Chlollie train was promptly defenestrated. And so we got this gem:
Chloe: Well gee Clark, my Super Database of Awesomeness (which was melted last season and subsequently restored to glory along with a 6 foot wide table that is essentially the world's least portable iPad) which has absolutely every piece of data EVAR pertaining to everything that Lex (a billionaire with resources far beyond mine who can afford to pay for such things as excellent security) kept hidden and secret and cloaked in evil, has no information that could help you in your spirit quest to find Lex Luthor.
Chloe: You're right! I'm not the only one with access to things that I couldn't possibly have access to; you work at the Daily Planet! Surely they ran a piece at some point on Luthor's lab of Super Secret Evil that we didn't, heretofore, know to exist. I'm sure it's just sitting in a filing cabinet somewhere, complete with address and security code. Marked with an X.
The secrets and lies dynamic between Clark and Lois is shockingly fun. I mentioned in an earlier review that I've always had a massive issue with the way that the Lois and Clark romance usually plays out. Clark keeps his secret for years, blatantly lies to Lois' face on numerous occasions, finally deigns to tell her the truth after every other person on the planet already knows and, instead of stabbing him in the eye with a Kryptonite ice pick, Lois marries him. Here, the double deception is wonderfully goofy and takes away most of the pain of watching a supremely moral character deceive someone he's apparently in love with.
Character moment of this episode (and really, most of the last 20 episodes) goes to the scene of Lois teasing Clark using her kiss with the Blur as a mocking incentive to faux jealousy. Durance has finally become the quintessential Lois Lane for me. I never thought I'd say that.
That being said, this version of Clark is a gullible simpleton.
When people talk about updating comic book properties to make them dark and gritty, I will now and forever refer them to the scene of Ollie being tortured by the Villain of Unknown Origin. This flat out works from a logical viewpoint. If vigilantes openly operated in our society they would obviously pose a threat to general security. Marvel's Civil War tackled this idea neatly and here we get a proportionate response to all the crazy that takes place in the Smallville universe. It's not the cartoonish buffoonery of Checkmate but rather what Checkmate should have been. I can't wait to see where this story line goes.
And of course, my good times are ruined by Tess still drawing breath. For a second I thought that weird healing mass was actually supposed to be scar tissue from Zod's heat vision. Granted, if that had been the case it would have been a terrible practical effect, but still, it would have opened up some acceptable character developments. For example, we could have explored the effects of physical deformity on the psyche of a woman whose highlight moments of last season involved seducing and sleeping with the enemy. Just, you know, off the top of my head.
Instead, Tess has been transported to Lex's secret cloning facility and healed, presumably, by the creepy kid clone. I'd usually get cranky about the lack of lasting consequences on this show and ramble about the incongruity of Tess winding up here when the last we saw of her she was being descended on by a character who bore a striking resemblance to Granny Goodness but....holy crap! It's a secret Lex Luthor cloning facility! And it's Cadmus! Where are my News Boys?
I will give the Smallville creative team this. Getting around the question of Lex's death and (even if he were alive) far too in depth knowledge of Clark's history by using imperfect clones is a cheat, but a glorious one. It was never going to be easy to make Lex the central villain in this Superman's story, by simple virtue of the fact that Lex knew too much. Killing him off and bringing him back as a clone is, on its face, apparently lazy, but really it's the best possible solution to a nagging plot problem that's been ongoing for years. It will be just as easy to introduce a physically perfect clone with an imperfect memory as it was to create this hyper aged and ultimately doomed Evil Lex. Even without Rosenbaum coming back this can be a great way of salvaging this part of the mythos.
Ultimately we're left with the lab in shambles and all of the clones except Young Lex horribly killed. But we're also left with a question. Who locked Evil Lex in that room in the first place? I think either one got out of the lab already or the kid will hyper age (perhaps in an attempt to reach emancipation age and escape the weird oedipal vibes of his newly adopted parent?) and Tess will raise him with certain holes in his education.
Chloe's recovery and revelation was handled well and I was completely fooled for a second by her teary, "Bye Clark." It took me a few seconds to realize that she'd seen her own path and what it entailed.
There are going to be a lot of people who dug the Lex and Lois scene in the cornfield; I'm not one of them. The whole scenario felt contrived and maniacally out of character for the Smallville version of Lex Luthor. Truth be told, the whole, "which one will you save," gambit reminded me too much of the Fleischer studio Superman shorts. I'd hoped we'd moved beyond that kind of nonsensical villainy in the last few decades.
That being said, both rescue scenes were outstanding. We got treated to a rare dose of special effect awesomeness and Clark being seen in broad daylight and finally making the decision to go public was spectacular.
And then it wasn't. Because we're not allowed to have logical progression. Instead we get the Super Suit stolen by petulant AI daddy, ridiculous self aggrandizing on the part of Clark and (and this part is halfway decent) a tease as to the nature of Darkseid's influence on Earth. I wasn't a Final Crisis fan, but I'm far more okay with the idea of Darkseid possessing and corrupting people from within than I am with a retread of Doomsday foam. Unless they put Michael Ironside in the foam. That would be okay.
Jor-El is a mega douche. Tonally he's just become insufferable. Where once we were given an impressive figure worthy of Clark's respect and fear, he comes off here as a disembodied whiner with an inferiority complex. Because, of course, that's the way you kill logic and reason. You inject it with a dose of Paris Hilton.
Lois runs off to Africa. Clearly one should always take the things psychotic clones with purposeless evil plots say to us to heart. And run away. You know, rather than have a candid conversation and move things forward in a way that makes sense.
The Jonathan Kent scene was pure brilliance. It defied explanation and so we didn't get one; we just accepted it on its face. I have really missed Jonathan's influence on this show and Clark's need for guidance really comes through in a simple exchange between father and son.
Watching the scene a second time, there were moments where I almost thought Jonathan was being too permissive, and one where I flat out suspected that he was nothing more than a means for Darkseid to start seducing Clark to the...ahem...dark side. I hope not, but it would be an interesting justification for that scene.
And Neal, I hope you broke your embargo and watched this episode because it turns out the whole burning down a building thing wasn't the creative team's way of making Superman dark and edgy. It was just a character flaw! And he's very sorry now, but he's learned his lesson.
Despite an overall reluctance to push the characters to their logical next steps and some frankly ridiculous attempts to completely halt character and plot progression in certain cases, this was generally a very enjoyable episode. I'd like to see a little less looking to the past, though. We know this is the last season; we don't need constant reminders in the form of slap in the face symbolism.
See you all next week.
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