Superman on Television

Smallville: Episode Reviews

Season 10 - Episode 8: "Abandoned"



Reviewed by: Julian Finn

With Smallville, the old maxim, "be careful what you wish for", holds special meaning.

For weeks I've been lamenting the fact that we've been getting not just filler, but increasingly bad and unnecessary filler.

"Where is my meta plot?" I wailed.

"What about Darkseid?" I moaned.

"Who gives a crap about which surface Lois and Clark are going to do the Smallville equivalent of 'Can you read my mind?' on?" I cried.

Oh, Smallville. When you aim to dish up the crazy, you really commit.

There was so much sheer madness in this week's episode that it became difficult for my rational brain to keep up. Not only did we get a full on assault of the senses with the introduction of Granny Goodness and the Furies, but we were also given an absolute barrage of stunt casting drowning in fan service.

Was it fun? Indisputably more so than any episode for the last month.

Was it intensely stupid and completely resistant to logical analysis? Oh dear me, yes.

But here I am, willing to try anyway.

But first...

I have two very large quibbles with the writing this week. One is an issue of style and, this being Smallville, it's something I should be used to, but the abuse ran high this week. The other is an issue of content, and it really stuck in my teeth. So much so that I wound up re-watching the last fifteen minutes of the episode about six times, just to make sure I hadn't missed something.

Here they are, my major quibbles of the week.

1) On the use of coincidence.

Coincidence can be, if used sparingly, an acceptable writing tool. If a character suddenly runs into an ex lover, years after last having any contact, and right after breaking up with someone, that can be acceptable coincidence. If it's subtle, realistic in the context of things that just happen in real life, and used very conservatively, coincidence can be a fair plot device to get things in your story moving.

If you're using it 4 seconds into an episode and then you don't really stop until the end credits roll, then you probably shouldn't be getting paid to write for a living. No literary agency in the world is going to represent you, Dan Brown is probably snickering at you, and I know I will dread seeing your names on any future episodes.

Yes, I'm talking to you, Andrew Landis and Julia Swift. I know you blackmailed your way into this gig, and I will find a way to expose you.

This was just lazy plotting.

a) Tess dreams about a childhood that alien mental programming should have erased from her memory forever on the very night that it comes back to haunt her. In fact, she dreams about the very music box that winds up being slipped into Luthor mansion to attract her attention. Bad writers! I get that they wanted to show this backstory up front because Smallville loves it some exposition, but this was weak.

b) All of Granny's Furies have weapons laced with Kryptonite. Why? Why is there a blacksmith in that basement, hammering kryptonite into more weapons? Well, since they decided to go with completely human Furies as opposed to super powered Apocalyptons, the ladies wouldn't have been much of a threat otherwise. So why take that approach in the first place? You're playing in the Jack Kirby sandbox; not going cosmic isn't really a story option. Why not some sort of technological enhancement to give the Furies powers; wouldn't that be a decent Smallville take on New God tech? Instead we get human Furies who, for no apparent reason, use "fire rock" enhanced S&M gear. Yay.

c) The very first tape of her dead mother that Lois watches gives her advice more relevant than you could ever possibly hope to expect in that format. It could be considered a fair use of coincidence, except that it directly leads to this:

d) Just because she needs it, Lois magically finds, in less than a minute, the map that Clark has (for no good reason) drawn to the Kawatche caves, complete with a little "cave entrance here" marker on it, as well as the key to the teleportation portal. That's some fantastic luck there, Lois. First, why would Clark even keep that map lying around? He's been there roughly a million times; I'm pretty sure he knows the way. And second, how did Lois even know where to look?

e) Tess. Just...everything about her. We saw this kind of thing all the time with Lana, where she became a utility character. Anytime you needed to throw a weird curveball into a season, just have Lana possessed by a witch who is her ancestor and is somehow connected to Krypton. Need to writer her out of the series? Elevate her to superhero status but poison the source of her powers with Kryptonite. So far Tess has been Lex's confidante and replacement, as well as (literally) his eyes in the world. She's been an agent of Checkmate and Chloe's replacement. And now, in another ecstatically zany retcon, she's both Lex's sister (which actually makes some sense when you factor in the mysteries surrounding her when she was first introduced but raises the ick factor when you think about how obviously in love with Lex she was) and Big Barda. What else would you call the intended leader of the Furies who rebels (by being adopted) and winds up fighting against them instead? That's right; we're not going to see Barda later this season because Tess is Big Barda. (I reserve the right to retract that statement later in the season should Big Barda actually be introduced. But still.)

This was a plot driven by coincidence, piled upon happenstance and served sandwiched between layers of contrivance. And the only thing that got me to stop laughing at all of it was my second nitpick of the episode:

2) On the behavior of Superman.

Superman, generally, rescues people. Sure he occasionally fights aliens, meteor rock infested teenagers, shadowy government agencies and Freddy Krueger, but typically his day is about helping people ESCAPE bad situations. You know, he RELEASES them from their bonds and hardships. Stuff like that.

So what happened to the end of Abandoned's A plot? Apparently, the writers, having jammed as much insanity as possible into 40 odd minutes, flat out forgot that the villain Clark had temporarily thwarted had a whole bunch of defenseless children in her care. You know why I make that assertion? Because Clark never rescues the kids!

Fights the Furies? Check.

Has awesomely tense faceoff with Granny and uses super powers while under the influence of Kryptonite? Check.

Rescues Tess from a lynching and then punches a powerless brainwashed rope wielding girl into unconsciousness? Super Check.

And then, after saying the line, "you're part of my team now, I wasn't going to abandon (HA) you," Clark super speeds back to the farm, abandoning the dozen or so children still in the care of Granny Goodness.

Now there are some of you out there who'll argue that Clark rescued them off screen. You tried it with the burning down the towers scene last season and it's just as much nonsense now as it was then. Smallville is a show that loves exposition. It doesn't trust its audience and it loves the sound of its own voice. Hell, it manufactured a terrible coincidence in the first thirty-seconds of the episode just to give us a little backstory that we would have figured out later anyway. When Tess sees the wardrobe that is obviously the same one as in her dream, she still pulls it aside so we can see the scratch marks she left behind. You know, just in case some of us were confused. In fact, in the rare occasions in the history of the show when things have happened off screen, we're always treated to 10 minutes of expository dialogue filling us in, just in case we were having thoughts, or something.

So yeah, I maintain that Clark didn't rescue the kids. Which is terrible. But it's not burning down buildings to accomplish your goals terrible because it's a passive error. The twin towers scene was the result of the writers making a conscious decision to have Clark do something horribly out of character. This was just forgotten detail in the rush to get to the Jor-El and Lara fan service extravaganza.

But wow, what a detail to forget. I'm having visions of the kids being turned over to Desaad for an afternoon because Granny's in a mood and Clark was too busy missing his girlfriend to do his job.

You might think from all of that that I hated the episode but, while certain things made me cringe big cringes of embarrassment for the writing team and a lot of the plot was flat out mad, there were things to love here as well.

What Worked

1) The overall direction and visual aesthetic - This was a very pretty episode while still being incredibly creepy. In fact, having seen this one now, I think it would have made a much better Halloween episode. Little touches like the fear on the little girl's face when Clark finds her tied up in the basement really did a fantastic job at heightening the tension.

2) The acting, all around, was pretty outstanding this week. It's amazing what forward momentum will do for a cast.

3) Jor-El and Lara - This was one of those moments that could have felt incredibly contrived and I'll touch on that below, but what a fantastic delivery. Clark and Lois having that moment right after the recording stops where they let everything sink in was a beautiful closing point from one of the high points of the series. It's too bad it took a decade to get that kind of background for Clark.

4) Granny Goodness - Oh my. I went into this episode prepared to hate any interpretation of this character that didn't look like she'd stepped out of a Justice League Unlimited or Superman: The Animated Series episode. Sometimes it's fun to be wrong. Christine Willes played the role with such a high level of manic and fun that I just got sucked in. The menace she gave out, even when she was striving for nurturing was palpable all the way through. I may not have liked the idea of human Furies, but I'm sold on this direction for Granny Goodness.

5) The Meta - I was mind numbingly happy to be thrust back into the season's main arc. Even just that five minutes at the end with Desaad, Granny and Godfrey having a James Bond villain conversation for the benefit of the audience (remember, nothing in Smallville is allowed to happen off screen) was gloriously refreshing after weeks of nothing.

What Didn't Work

Aside from the stuff I went into deep detail on above, there were some other things that rankled.

1) Ella Lane - As good as Teri Hatcher's delivery was, and it really was, this whole sequence felt unnecessary to me. I don't know why, but there was no resonance and the whole sequence of events that stemmed from Lois watching that tape felt forced. It might have just been that having Ella Lane on the show a week after Sam, and obviously to give his character and behavior some context, felt really heavy handed.

2) The Human Furies - I touched on it above, but this really didn't work for me. Especially seeing them in action; the specialized weapons became really gimmicky and were ultimately responsible for some of the worst fight choreography I've ever seen on any show. Especially Mad Harriet. Lindsay Hartley looked absolutely spastic waving those claws around; at one point I was pretty sure she was going to spin out and slam into a wall. Ill conceived idea, all around.

3) Jor-El and Lara - After 10 years of struggling with the digital version of his father; after being spanked for not wanting to be a conqueror and shunned for wanting to help humanity even at the cost of his own life, now Clark gets to hear that his parents sent him to Earth with the intention of making him it's savior? I'm beside myself with frustration for the Smallville version of Clark Kent. He's gone through living hell because his father programmed an AI badly and it didn't reflect its designer's wishes correctly. Oy. That's a hell of a lot of retconning in two minutes of screen time.

4) Tess - The whole idea that Granny would have earmarked Tess as the future leader of the Furies after spending only a couple of months with her as a child is just silly. Dear Smallville writers, please refrain from writing in plot points that assume your audience is stupid. Remember, you're going to be unemployed in 5 months.

All in all, I was more entertained than I was annoyed, but it still wasn't anything great. You can't spoil me with an episode like Homecoming and then expect me to swallow the good old status quo of doom for weeks at a time. Not anymore; not in the final season.

2.5 out of 5. And that's only because Granny was awesome.



Reviewed by: Douglas Trumble

Super Short Summary: Lois finds some tapes her mom left her which gives her the great idea of going on an expedition to the Arctic in order to give the Jor-El-Bot a piece of her mind while Clark helps Lady Lex sort out a repressed memory Granny not-so-Goodness forced to the surface. Of course this ends up with Clark shirtless in chains, Tess in a ninja fight, and Lois finally solving the mystery of the A-hole AI in the Fortress of Solitude.

There were a couple of very powerful moments in this episode that had me in tears, but were oh so good. My God I couldn't believe how powerful those moments turned out to be. Being a father myself I couldn't help but think of myself in some kind of similar situation. Knowing I am about to die and having just one last chance to say something to my son or daughter to help them through life? Dang that's some powerfully emotional stuff right there.

The scene with Lois watching the tape of her mom was very powerful. Bringing Teri Hatcher in to play Mama Lane was genius. It makes an instant connection to the character and continues Smallville's fantastic trend of paying homage to previous versions of the character. The scene was very nicely played both by Teri Hatcher while making the tape, and by Erica Durance showing Lois' emotions while watching it. I teared up. I am not afraid to admit that. The scene was so powerful and well done.

Then to add to that, we also end up with a similar message to Clark left by both his birth parents, which was no less heart wrenchingly awesome.

I am so glad we finally got an explanation to why the Jor-El-Bot has been such a jerk to Clark. The fact that we see in person that the real Jor-El felt guilt over Krypton going kaboom and blamed his feelings and pride, really explains a lot as to why he left an emotionless jerkwad computer program there to teach his son. IT'S ABOUT TIME! Clark was also able to see that the real Jor-El had doubts, fears, and regrets just like Clark does and that it is normal for him to be facing those trials no matter what the Jor-El-Bot might say.

Plus it's fantastic that Clark was able to see his real father and his real mother showing love, affection, and bravery as the end of Krypton neared.

The message was pure epic in every way. I loved the way you could hear the excrement hitting the oscillator in the background while they rushed to say everything they wanted to say to their son in the message. It really drives home how fast they had to make the choice to do what they did and how desperate they must have felt. To say the actors did a good job would be an understatement.

I know Clark has sort of met his real parents before but those were both clones and not the real deal in a strict sense. I am not saying that Clark was wrong to feel some attachment to those clones. He had every believable right to, but a clone is just a copy and this message was from the real deal and that makes it all the more powerful.

The only down side I am seeing, now that this is out, is that maybe it is time for Clark to stop treating the AI in the Fortress as his "father" and treat it like the computer program that it is. Plus at what point is that PC going to start taking orders from Clark? Maybe a re-boot is in order. I doubt that will happen though since calling it "my father" makes it more dramatic. We'll see. I hope they can do it. Not knocking anything, just stating where I would like them to go now that they have fixed the 'Jor-El-Bot is a jerk' problem.

Another thing I like about how Clark got to see this message was that it came about due to Lois having the guts to go to the Fortress and tell off the Jor-El-Bot. The girl certainly has guts. Here she is going to face down a computer program that could memory wipe her, send her to the Phantom Zone, freeze her solid, entomb her in a crystal, or even just make her go poof and disappear forever. Not even sad puppy dog eyes from the world's most awesome dog could stop her. It's almost amazing the Jor-El-Bot only put her in a status field when she showed up all spit fire and vinegar. At least it was smart enough to know what would happen if it did hurt Lois. Clark would have tore that place apart by the molecule.

Moving on to the other plot of this episode... (yes actually there was more to this one).

So anyway, Tess is a full blooded Luthor? Are you surprised? I am not. Really. Kind of saw that coming since day one actually. At least suspected it. The only questions are is if Lex knew and how much Lionel's will might have had with her being promoted after Lex went missing. It is possible that Lex didn't know but Lionel set her rise up or Lex knew and was using his sister as a tool. Either way works for me and goes a long way to explaining how Lady Lex ended up running the show at Luthor Corp. after Lex went M.I.A. While not a surprise it was a welcome twist helping pieces fall into place from the past couple of seasons.

I will be interested in learning if Lionel knew who Granny Goodness was when he turned Tess over to her. Is it possible Daddy Luthor was making an offering to Darkseid? I find that possibility rather awesome to be honest. Sure Lionel went good or at least neutral at the end there but there is no doubt he was Chaotic Evil initially. Having him scheming with Darkseid just adds another level of cool to that. If this turns out to be so I'll be interested to see how they manage to work that in with all the Veritas and Traveler story lines if they can. Maybe they will not and that is ok but it'd be fun to see if they can make it all work together somehow.

The Furies were fun and well played for a Smallville-ized version of them. I did find it amusing that once Clark was freed from the chains he had an epic showdown with the girl who had the whips. Swoosh... and... boom... out cold. Funny and awesome. Smart not to give them time to use their Kryptonite forged weapons. Caught him off guard the first time but he learned. Nice to see that. I really liked when Clark told Tess he wouldn't let her down because she was on his team now. That really came across as a very Superman thing to say. Sure we all know Superman would have saved anyone but the fact he did take a moment to give a pep talk to a team mate really sets the supermanly tone. Very nicely done.

This week's WTF Moment of the week goes to Lutessa Luthor-Mercer for her sudden ninja skill memory loss. We've seen her hold her own against Green Arrow, General Sam Lane's daughter, and even a thug or two along the way. Yet I couldn't help but feel a bit un-wowed by her fight with Mad Harriet. Seriously, this girl should be at least giving as good as she got. I know she "won" until the whip lady showed up but I guess I would have expected a little less hair pulling and a little more spin kicking to the face. Maybe whatever mind-whammy Granny put on her to bring back the memories messed up her kung fu mojo or something. Still what the fudge Lady Luthor? Kick that Freddy Kruger wannabe and her whip wielding buddy's butts already will ya? You're one of the Superfriends now! We know you can. (Yeah I know this is not the first time Lady Lex has regressed in her ninja skills [cough]Chloefight[/cough] but it was such a great episode I didn't have many choices here, so just work with me.)

So far so good with Granny Goodness. I am actually finding this version of the character to be more interesting than the comic or animated version. A little less clownish and a little more wickedly evil. Grandmas can be scary. No doubt about that. I know mine can scare the crap out of me. I grew up knowing full well you simply did not talk back to Grandma. (Oh you know I love you Granny... Put the wood spoon down ok... Please?...)

Not the biggest wow episode with action and stuff but some amazing heart wrenching moments that clear up some issues from the past and a few interesting twists concerning the Darkseid minions and Tess. It really is a must see episode and nicely done. Plus Teri Hatcher AND Helen Slater? Seriously? In the same episode? The only thing that would have been more awesome is if they found some way to bring Lynda Carter back too but I understand why they couldn't. The universe just might have exploded from that level of awesome.

I am giving it a 5 out of 5.

Bring on the next one! We are on a roll!


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