Superman on Television
Smallville: Episode Reviews
Season 10 - Episode 2: "Shield"Reviews:
ShieldReviewed by: Julian Finn
On its face, "Shield" had all the ingredients we assume would make a great Smallville episode. It was paced well, had some decent special effects, paid lots of fan service in the form of a couple of cameos and concluded with what should have been a pair of truly epic moments.
So why did it fall so flat for me?
The conclusion I've come to watching this show for the past nine years is that, while the writers may understand how to push enough buttons to get the average viewer engaged, they still don't have the foggiest idea why they're pushing those buttons in the first place. Oh sure, there's some sort of fuzzy goal in mind with respect to appeasing the fan base, but why do they tell the stories they choose to tell? What string of logic ties the introduction of Deadshot, a villain who indisputably belongs in Batman's Rogues Gallery, to this version of the Superman mythos? (Just to pick a random example, completely off the top of my head.)
What it boils down to, I think, is desperate attempt after desperate attempt to tap into the comic fan zeitgeist in order to sell ad space. After all, comic book movies make buckets of cash, why shouldn't a comic book TV show? The creative shift in the last few seasons from soap opera to sci-fi extravaganza has, at its core, been nothing more but a shift in sales pitch; sometimes the pitch is polished and delivered extremely well and so we don't notice the manipulation and just enjoy the ride ("Absolute Justice"). And sometimes we get "Shield," an over the top, way too dense misdirection fest that throws absolutely everything it can at us in the hopes that we won't notice the wire thin plot snapping under the weight of its heaping inadequacies.
Where this episode lost me was in its complete abandonment of internal logic. Here's the list of questions I was left with at the end of this episode. You'll notice that none of them are questions the episode actually set out to ask.
Anyway. Despite all those issues, I didn't hate this episode; I just wish it wasn't so obvious that, two episodes into the final season, the creative team are still producing the same mindless bait and switch with episode quality.
On with the review.
I'm still really digging the full realization of Durance as Lois Lane. Terrible CGI aside, the opening scenes with her in Africa were fantastic. It finally feels like she's in her element and has become the very best of what this character has to offer.
And then that is completely undermined by the realization that Carter is there to babysit her. I get that Clark is worried for her and I understand the impulse to want to protect the people you care about, but Lois is a jump off of ledges to get the interview kind of gal; this whole, "Whoa there little lady, don't go crossing the street without a grownup" crap is completely detrimental to her independent growth as a character, not to mention wildly chauvinistic. Granted Hawkman is mostly here to provide some expository dialogue (which I hate) that will become important later this season when we meet Hawkgirl, AND he had to give Lois her inspiration for Clark's handle (which I also loathe) but there must have been a better way to get him there than as a night time story teller.
Now, let's get into the meat of question 2 up top. Until the very end of this episode, we only get one scene where Clark is trying to find Chloe. One. This is his one of his best friends, not to mention a valuable asset to team Justice League. She's also a borderline paranoid shut-in, who is slavishly connected to her communications outlets. The fact that she's not returning his calls should probably worry Clark. In fact, maybe he should call Ollie and ask about her whereabouts.
No! It's mooning over Lois time. Because this, ladies and gentleman, has become the stock and trade response to the demands of logical plotting on this show.
Writer: Ummm, should we, you know, try to work in a subplot where Clark, who is infinitely better equipped to track people down (what with the x-ray vision), tries to help Ollie find Chloe?
Executive Producer #92: I don't understand the question. More cowbell!
Enter the living embodiment of the most annoying sound in the world.
Oh, Keri Lynn Pratt. You're doing your level best to live up to that last name, aren't you?
I realized, to my, horror, that I've seen this soul scorching young actress in a great many supporting roles in the last few years. Even worse, we're going to be stuck with her at least one more time this season. That's right, Cat Grant beta is making another appearance in episode 5 and I cannot fathom why. It would have been so much more interesting to work the existing Cat Grant from the "Crossfire" episode into the mix. Unless she turns out to be Cassandra Cain in disguise, I'm going to be very upset.
So, this "Cat" is, I hope, deliberately reminiscent of a Stepford Wife and does her absolute best to put Clark on edge. Why? Because The Odd Couple Template is the best comedy routine EVARR!! Also, if Clark is trying to protect this blonde, he won't be worried about the other one. Those humans sure all do look alike.
Ollie's growing desperation as he searches for Chloe is fantastic. Hartley plays twitchy concern better than just about anyone, although, if he were that concerned, wouldn't he just call Cl...
Shhh. There's nothing to see here.
"The only person who could erase Chloe is Chloe."
Yes, because no one on Earth is better with computers than a girl who grew up with sub standard equipment in a Kansas farm town. Sigh.
I loved the Indiana Jones comment Lois makes, along with her dismissal of Carter's history lessons. Out of everyone on this show, Durance is easily getting and delivering the best dialogue this series has ever produced. Her transition here into venting about Clark, Carter's ridiculous blurt aside, is so believably tortured and excited that you kind of get caught up with her. I think the Indiana Jones comment was actually very on point; there were moments in all of Lois' exchanges with Carter where I could see Karen Allen's performance in Raiders bubbling to the surface. I was half expecting a drinking contest.
Cat Grant's one saving moment is her insistence that Clark wear a seatbelt in her car. The look of suffering on his face combined with the audience realization that he wouldn't ever need one but has to comply for the sake of appearances is pretty terrific. As is, minus the costume change, the Deadshot reveal and the accompanying special effect.
Not so terrific is the mind-numbing stupidity of Cat, post car explosion. If ever there was a time for a random KO, this was it. Instead, Clark speeds the two of them to safety and she doesn't ask a single question. Shock doesn't do that. Total cranial brain damage does that. But we're asked to just ignore it.
Loved the parallel drawn between vigilantism and "alternative lifestyles." Ditto Clark's eye roll when Cat utters, "Oh my gosh. Why would anyone want to kill me?"
Ollie doesn't have super speed right? That's never been hinted at? Does he have a costume shrinking ring like The Flash? Meh. Here's a thought. Why did he go Green Arrow on her at all?
"This is my girlfriend's apartment. I was worried about her. Who the hell are you?"
Instead we get air horns and Batman style exits into broad daylight. Onto the main street of a small town. Wearing bright green.
Luckily for Clark, Tess makes a perfect Chloe substitute due to her time with Checkmate and in seconds identifies Clark's culprit. And once we know that he's loosely connected to Checkmate, The Suicide Squad and the identity of Ollie's torturer swing into focus. And I'm onboard. Deadshot and Rick Flag have a constant relationship in all the recent Suicide Squad stories and I'm tired of constantly complaining about characters being introduced too soon in Superman's timeline. There are twenty episodes left; the bad behaviour isn't going to change and this is a team structure that actually makes sense.
In fact, everything about Deadshot except his costume is just cool. Creating your own bullets? Cool. Am I slightly concerned with the basic lack of scientific understanding the writer's display by having him use a grinder on packed bullets? Absolutely. Does it ruin my enjoyment of the concept? Nope.
The conversation between Carter and Lois over the bottle of liquor, no matter how misguided, was still really fantastic. To see two characters openly discussing Clark and what he means to them and the world was just amazing. And then it was ruined by arbitrary shipping drama.
The cruelty Deadshot shows in his conversation with Cat is a great character moment for this series. It's clever and horrible and made more so because his comments about the likelihood of her son forgetting about her if she dies at this age are probably brutally accurate. I always like it when Smallville gets a villain right and doesn't weigh them down under Machiavellian plots and melodrama. Deadshot has a job to do, Cat is a vehicle to help him complete that job, and the concepts of mercy or malice don't even enter the equation.
Cat on the other side is just insipid.
I'm pretty sure that haymaker Clark swung at Deadshot killed him; in fact I was shocked his head didn't actually explode. But I forgot about it a second later with the Faster than a Speeding Bullet moment. Pure awesome sauce.
Moving into the wind down; while I dig the idea of each member of Suicide Squad marking their targets, I really didn't need the glowing calling cards etched into their skin. It was too reminiscent of last year's chess piece cheese fest.
I loved, beyond words, the exchange between Rick Flag and Ollie. The half hearted recruitment attempt followed by Ollie's tongue in cheek remark about not running for office was just glorious. Especially if you pick up on the reference to his Mayoral campaign during the most recent batch of Crises.
The conversation between Clark and Ollie in Watchtower is plain demented when you realize that Clark should have, by all the rules of sanity and reason, been helping Ollie find Chloe. There was no good reason for Ollie not to call him when he went to look for evidence in the warehouse. But....
Ollie's assertion that, "something has got to change" so perfectly mirrors the cries of the fanbase that you're left almost wanting to cheer, a feeling that should carry over into the next scene, when Lois says "Superman" for the first time. And maybe you felt that way. But I didn't. Lois naming Superman is one of the most iconic moments in the whole Superman narrative. The fact that she gets the inspiration from another character diminishes it for me somehow. When Lois inevitably writes the first story about Clark as Superman, I'm going to have the fact that Hawkman actually came up with the name stuck in my teeth. And that just sucks.
As does half of the closing moment of the episode.
I LOVE that Clark is out in the open, presumably about to engage in heroics in broad daylight. I love the iconography of that shot with him standing in front of the American flag. I love him dropping the plane ticket to symbolize his renewed commitment to the never ending battle. But I hate the costume. It is a kick in the junk that this isn't even the "Smallville" version of the Superman costume. We've seen that already. It's locked up in the Fortress. There's no decent defence for what we were given here; it was one of the most iconic shots this show has ever produced and it was wasted on a leather motorcycle jacket.
That's just flat out disappointing.
I flip flopped a lot with this one. There was a lot here that made little to no sense; some stuff that was intensely stupid and a pile of arbitrary plotting that did nothing to serve the characters. On the other hand, Deadshot was a whole lot of fun, as were Ollie and Lois, and we got two quasi epic moments.
2 out of 5
I want better from Supergirl.
ShieldReviewed by: Douglas Trumble
Super Short Summary: Lois takes a stroll in the desert with Hawkman while a secret organization of assassins sets their sights on Clark and his new partner, a hyper-caffeinated Cat Grant.
So Cat Grant is introduced to Smallville and boy what an... umm... interesting take on the character.
Compared to Tracy Scoggins' live-action version where her "Cat" was more of a cougar, we have Keri Lynn Pratt's version which is basically a kitten on too much catnip. Total polar opposites in almost every sense of the word. Neither version really fit the comics version but then Cat Grant is one of those characters I think is okay to play around with a bit, so no problems there.
The question on if this episode works or not will totally and completely hinge on whether this version of Cat Grant works for you or not. There is just no getting around that. She's just too there and too much in your face for it to work otherwise. We simply do not spend enough time with Lois in the desert to save the episode if Cat isn't working for you.
Personally? I found her freaking hilarious, however my wife found her extremely annoying and audibly groaned every time Cat opened her mouth. (She did laugh at the desk ornaments though).
The spunk and "all in" way they made her was so out there, so in your face, and so silly I couldn't help but laugh at it. I will admit that it makes you seriously doubt the validity of her getting the job at the Daily Planet but then I would point out there is obviously more to that story. I am willing to wait and see where they are going with it before judging that part of the story. For now I am simply showing a bit of personal respect for the almost ballsy direction they took the character.
The scenes with her and Clark were simply laugh-out-loud funny to me. Not only was she funny on her own but the reaction Tom Welling gave Clark when she went on and on was simply priceless. Clark's total bemusement at this off-the-rocker nutball teamed up with him was very well played. Both actors played off each other very well.
I will admit to some disappointment that Cat was the one to sort of push Clark away from the black costume. I knew it had to happen soon and I think it was more something building over time but Cat's comments about heroes hiding in the shadows seemed to be the final push as I saw it. You could also give some credit to the conversation Clark had with Oliver but it seemed to more come from Cat. That is not the end of the world but I have to say, I was rather hoping it would come with a push or two from Lois. Minor thing here but it was a thought I had as the events in this episode unfolded.
Still with that said I do like the new proto costume. It's almost a step back to his old Red/Blue "costume" yet with a little extra Super flair to make it more of a step forward than a step back. I like that. It's Clark moving forward yet going with something he's comfortable with. The only real complaint I have is it could use more blue. Maybe if he wears it open with the blue shirt under it that'll be enough. I am a little concerned that the "S" being just a raised part on the jacket will not have enough contrast to be very visible as his symbol but let us see how they film it in action first. As a costume 2.0 prototype I think it's just fine. Glad he is out of the black. That is the important thing.
I have to admit to a moment of anger while watching this episode that luckily soon passed. When Hawkman had his vision of his love and tried to kiss Lois I was certain they were going to try and say Lois was Shayera re-incarnated. I was so hopping mad that they were going to try and make yet another member of the Justice League be in love with Lois that I had to pause to let some words out that would make a few sailors proud. I was ready to give the episode a 1 for that alone.
THANK ALL THAT IS MIGHTY that they later pointed out it wasn't Lois the vision was pointing him towards and it was just a sign telling him the time was coming for him to meet her. I guess that makes sense since he was having a conversation about epic love and all that... Still I at least have to give them a grrrrr for making me mad for a short time.
Other than that I found the conversation with Lois and Carter very entertaining. I loved how he figured out what was going on so fast, plus I found it cute Clark had a Super-buddy watching over her. It was good to have an older, more experienced hero, set her straight about her possible place in Clark's life.
Plus how epic was it when Lois got keyed onto the term "super man"? That was cool.
Suicide Squad was basically just introduced so we need more to go on there. I found all the characters well played so far and should make for an interesting challenge over the next few weeks. Not sure if they have anything to do with Darkseid yet but those were certainly very high-tech bullets Deadshot was using.
I liked Clark's speech to Oliver about Chloe. It not only gives us a valid reason why Clark isn't tearing apart the city brick by brick but it also shows us Watchtower is even more sneaky than we knew... and we've always known she was a slippery one. I hope Oliver doesn't drop it though. I like that Clark is putting trust in Chloe and his reasons are valid but Oliver is driven by matters of the heart. I would like to see him push on with it because of that.
The WTF moment of the week goes to Clark Kent tossing away his plane ticket to Africa. I get the symbolism in the act but What the Fudge man?!? The Blur's first act after stepping out of the shadows and going back to being the Red Blue Blur is to litter?
So really I don't have much more to say about this one. Taken as a whole this episode was mostly set up and introductions for stuff yet to come. Some small plot movement with Lois and a big step with Clark's costume change but that was just in the final seconds. The rest was pretty much just setting up stuff for the rest of the season and nothing that really stands on its own. It's almost unfair to judge it on its own but I have to give it a score.
So since they did make me mad for a short time, even if fixed a short while later, and since my better half wanted to hit mute whenever Cat Grant talked, I am going to have to give this a middle of the road score:
Let's call it a 2.5. worth watching for the introductions and the costume reveal but nothing you will hate yourself for if you miss it.
See you all next week!
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