Superman on Television
Smallville: Episode Reviews
Season 10 - Episode 9: "Patriot"Reviews:
PatriotReviewed by: Douglas Trumble
Super Short Summary: Green Arrow offers himself up to Slade in order to be shirtless and wet while Clark goes after AC and his new hottie who have regressed to blowing up things they don't like again. AC ends up captured and also shirtless, Aqualady ends up naked, Lois ends up ticked at Clark, Slade ends up blowing himself up, and a team of Dolphins did some high jumps!
First let me start this commentary with an apology. It was pointed out to me in the comments section of last week's commentary that I used the phrase "Clark's real parents" when referring to Jor-El and Lara. It was pointed out, and rightly so, that this could be read as saying the Kents were not real parents to their adopted son. That was not my intention and I apologize. I should have used a different wording such as "birth parents," "biological parents" or as Clair on Heroes would say, "biodad". While I think an orphan seeing his biological parents and their feelings, doubts, and love is a powerful moment in the story that does not in any way diminish the story of two Kansas farmers who took that orphan in, gave him a home, loved him, and taught him to be the world's greatest hero.
Anyway, on to this week's episode. Slade comes into the show looking like someone who could be a Cylon, if only he had an eye patch too, oh wait... he's totally a toaster.
Seriously though I enjoyed the casting there and I felt the psychotic General idea was also a nice touch. It really shows a contrast with General Lane which I think is important. While this Registration Act looks good on paper and is something a man of principle and honor like General Lane can get behind there are those less honorable people out there who will take it too far and cross several lines. We see that here.
I am not going to get into how this might parallel the Marvel Civil War story line because I think you can look at pretty much any despotic future sci-fi story and find similarities. I only mention it because I couldn't help but be reminded of it while watching this episode.
I couldn't help but be bothered by how Clark looked hypocritical at times in this episode. I mean I liked how he acted and what he said in this episode but here he was chewing out AC for blowing up a prison for Supers disguised as an oil rig and I was thinking, "Wasn't it just last year he melted two buildings with his heat vision"? I cannot tell you how much adding a line from Clark saying, "I was wrong to deal with it that way and we shouldn't do that" would have changed things there. So while I was happy to see Clark being the one taking the stand and leading by example in THIS episode I couldn't help but think about those buildings from last season and wonder why that was not mentioned. It certainly comes off a bit hypocritical.
It's not like it is wrong to show Superman admitting to making mistakes. Heck we see a great example of that working very well in this episode so you know they can do it. I loved at the end when Clark admitted he was wrong for not letting Lois into the Super club. Yes, it was more a crime of ignorance for him than a willful action on his part but he still messed up. Lois is all in and that should include the Superfriends. It was great that Clark manned up in the end and fixed his error as soon as he was made aware of it. He even took it a step further by briefing the team on Darkseid which I think was a very important step for him.
So why exactly couldn't they have him admit that melting buildings you don't like is wrong before chewing out AC for doing exactly the same thing? I guess it's ok if you use heat vision but not ok if you use C4. Really?
Anyway, moving on... Again I am convinced Justin Hartley has a clause in his contract that stipulates he must be shirtless in 90% of the episodes he is in. Boy did we have a lot of eye candy tossed around in this episode. Not only was the Arrow shirtless and wet but Aquaman was also showing off the bulging sweaty pectorals left and right. Heck even the other side had a bit of eye candy thanks to the costume department adding a wonder bra to Aqualady's costume (when she wasn't naked or walking around in a thin green bikini anyway).
I have to admit I wasn't really sold on Mera. I don't know. She just came off as kind of a witch with B if you get my meaning. I get it she had that Atlantian superiority thing going but it was an attitude that really turned me off. Plus the cleavage in her costume was just too obvious skin quota to be anything more than a "look at me. I have boobs" addition. I admit I am a red blooded heterosexual male so I am all for boobs but it just didn't look naturally part of the costume. I know there are several female superhero costumes that do the cleavage thing but they at least make those costumes so the cleavage looks like a choice and not a "I forgot to zip up and now you can see my wonderbra" moment.
I guess what I am trying to say is that I found the character forced and completely unlikeable. Even in the end when she and Lois had their girl talk I found myself thinking "Please Lois, don't be friends with that witch-fish."
Not that I thought the entire episode stunk. Overall I was entertained and I did like a couple of moments a lot.
The scene between Clark and Lois on the Kent farm was fantastic. I loved seeing Clark step up and admit his mistake and then following through on the advice of his partner Lois by telling the others about Darkseid. Letting her into the Watchtower was my favorite moment of the episode.
I loved the scene between Lois and Tess in the Daily Planet. I do think it was stupid for Clark not to tell Lois that Tess was in on everything but since he apologized for it I will forgive it. The scene turned out to be very amusing to me watching the two verbally spar, trying not to let on what each of them knew. It amused me because I know Tess was well aware of the fact that Lois knows about Clark. She could have admitted that and cleared the air on their little word battle but instead she got that mischievous little gleam in her eye and took some satisfaction in toying with Lois a little bit. I thought that was a great moment for Lady-Luthor. Very well played by Cassidy Freeman.
I thought Oliver shined really well in this episode and to make it even more awesome he did it in a way that didn't push Clark into the background. His choice to be the sacrificial lamb to see what happens when you register was not only brave but very logical and you know I always like it when superheroes use their brains as much as their powers. I liked his comments to Lois about Clark and why he didn't talk to her about it first. Clark's sometimes over developed sense of responsibility has been a major issue over the years and it was nice to hear other characters acknowledge it as a flaw but one of those good flaws if there is such a thing. Sure it might make Clark sulk a bit, make him screw up and not tell his girlfriend about something, or even make him rush headlong alone into certain death, but it also is a big part of what makes him the hero he is. It is good they took the time to talk about that.
I also really like how between this week and last week they are showing Clark fighting through the Kryptonite. The show has established that Green-K in this version of Superman makes him weak and will eventually kill him but it doesn't just shut him down instantly like Blue-K. I like it when they show Clark fighting the pain and toughing it out a bit. Not happy that they didn't show Clark taking the blast at partial strength and saving Slade (minus the eye) but I do like to see Clark tough out pain now and then. He is Superman. Not Never Fights Through Pain Man.
Still, I have to admit by not showing what happened I am forced to assume Clark shielded Slade and carried him out of there, and making the viewer assume is never the best story telling choice. Sure the impression I got was Clark bared down and took it, saving them both but then I couldn't fault anyone who might think differently because of the choice not to show it.
The WTF moment of the week goes to Oliver Queen and the Smallville writers and producers. Seriously Oliver was back in the Watchtower already? Not once but TWICE in the same episode? This soon after the self exile? Talk about totally ruining the sacrifice he made deciding he had to stop coming there. I mean in this very episode they showed the Superfriends can easily communicate via a com-sat securely and effectively. There was absolutely no reason for them to have Oliver on site either time. He could have just video called in without any change in his participation in the plot. I know he took a moment to verbally acknowledge this but come on, seriously What the Fudge? Why did you even do that if you were going to invalidate it two episodes later.
So... You want to see this one because it has some good character movement for Lois' place in Clark's super world and some advancements on the government's stance on Superheroes but there are some significant flaws and poor choices that can make it a hard episode to love.
I am going to give it a 3 out of 5.
I am so jazzed for next week! Mr. Glover is back and the man is a fantastic actor who is just so fun to watch.
PatriotReviewed by: Julian Finn
Those are the words I'm left with after the utter insanity of 'Patriot'.
I'll save those of you who only care about the endgame the suspense; in many ways I loved this episode. With reservations to be sure; there were a couple of WTF moments in here that made me spray Kung Pao Chicken all over myself, and almost none of it made a lick of sense, but I also couldn't stop grinning for the vast majority of the hour and that's about the highest compliment I can pay this show. It's never going to be art and it's sometimes wretched, but every so often the sheer madness of what the writer's try to pull off is amazing in its dementia and 'Patriot' was one of those moments.
So the first thing that has to be said about 'Patriot' is that it's almost unreviewable in its entirety. There are simply too many pieces of too many different flavours of pie present to ever merge it into a concrete whole. In fact...
Do you remember the episode of The Simpsons where it turned out that Mr. Burns had every disease known to man and they were somehow all working symbiotically to render each other inert? This was like that.
'Patriot' gave us, in no particular order:
Again, there was about as much to love here as you could possibly hope for from an episode of Smallville. It did what this show has done at its best lately; drown the screen in DC universe nuggets and do its best to tell an actual superhero story, as opposed to the usual soap opera with sci-fi elements.
There were a few things that frustrated me beyond reason and they ultimately prevented this from being a great episode and reduced it to the merely good pile.
But hey, let's go to the play by play.
The Return of Aquaman
The opening scenes of the episode are just outright bonkers. I know that AC was introduced way back as being something of an environmental terrorist and I guess that's a fair way of launching this character into the Smallville universe. But wow, the whole, "Let's blow up oil rigs in the name of justice," stuff (which, you know, if they actually had turned out to be rigs, would have been wildly ironically awesome. Because of the whole, oil spilling into the water, hey wait isn't that Aquam...) was really jarring considering the parties involved. Which made it all the better when it turned out that the rigs weren't rigs and there was actual logical consistency behind the plot point. I would like to know, however, where either Arthur or Mera stashed the explosives they used. Those wetsuits didn't look to have that much pocket room.
Mera was deliciously weird in both mannerism and speech delivery. I don't know if the writers just failed upwards on the dialogue this week or whether Elena Satine wikied the character and decided that was how undersea royalty behaves; either way, she was glorious. I especially loved Mera's commentary on one of my least favorite attributes of the Smallville Lois; when she basically called Lois a hero groupie my inner nine year old jumped for joy. And later, when she apologized for the comment, she still managed to make it sound like an insult. Utterly awesome.
Decent powers use throughout the episode, especially the control over water element that had Clark tossed into the deep end. And let's please not forget what may possibly be the most gratuitous use of skin this series has ever bequeathed upon us. Mera was stunning in the wetsuit removal scene and, what's better; it was a believable if utterly catty character moment. This is Mera's first time meeting a woman who once caught the eye of her husband; yeah, I buy that she would have a flaunt it moment at the expense of Lois' comfort. I've met women like that; they do in fact exist.
There was also a nice reference buried in one of the exchanges between Mera and Lois where Mera drops a nod, while talking about Arthur, to "his people." Even if we never see the follow through from this, it's nice to know that these characters are moving towards the DCU continuity offscreen.
That being said, nothing about the character made a lot of sense. So the VRA just got passed and somehow he's not only gotten a ridiculous level of funding, but he's also managed to go completely off the reservation and build superhero gulags without anyone noticing? How does he know how to neutralize Clark? How, in the name of whatever deity you prefer, does he manage to survive the explosion of the facility with only a missing eye and no other scarring or burning? For that matter, how did he survive at all?
The answer to at least some of these questions comes when Clark x-rays Slade's head and sees (awesome) the omega symbol branded on his head and we learn that, in this continuity, he's a puppet of Darkseid. I'm kind of digging this fusion of storylines into one meta plot; it's kind of the equivalent of tossing everything in your fridge into a wok and somehow coming out with something that tastes good despite itself. It's utterly gonzo and unwieldy from a storytelling perspective, but it follows good comic book logic and makes the show feel more like a comic on screen than anything I've seen on TV before. This particular development does beg the question of why exactly Slade would put up with Lois's interrogation of him and not just clamp her in irons; he's obviously not going for subtle at this point and Lois is especially annoying in her scenes with him. If he's really controlled by Anti-Life, wouldn't he just put her down like a whimpering dog? I also wasn't overly fond of the fact that this is the character who introduces the phrase "Truth, Justice, and the American" way to Smallville. It was a little thing, but it rankled.
But again, I don't care too much because Michael Hogan=Awesome.
Metaphors of Great Political Import
Message storytelling is not something Smallville typically does at all, let alone well. The Guantanamo and torture references, along with the "what are the differences between a terrorist and a patriot?" exploration feel a little strange here. Not because Smallville shouldn't explore serious issues, comics do it all the time, but because it feels about five years too late. It's almost as though the writers realized that they missed a window to add to the commentary on the War on Terror and decided they couldn't let the series end without telling us that they're generally not for it. Again, it just felt a little out of place, but I'll go into greater detail below.
I loathed the B plot this week. I'm beyond tired of manufactured conflict between Clark and Lois and this week's instalment, the "Lois feels inadequate because she's not in the superhero club", just made for mindless drama. Relationships can be interesting even when they're functional. Please stop. The fact that Mera accepts her as a decent mate for Clark only after she shows up with stolen blueprints that are the precise plot device needed to resolve the A plot (worst super power ever) was weak sauce indeed. Lois is an emotional grounding rod for Clark, that's her super power. She is his intellectual and emotional compass. And yes, it's important to show that as we move closer to the most premature marriage proposal of all time, but this was not that. This was a, "Look, I'm a big girl and I deserve a secret decoder ring too!" moment. Just bad.
And speaking of...
Blatant shilling for Microsoft by zooming in on Lois' Windows 7 phone? Bad. That was right up there with the seasons 5, 6 & 7, "Let's go for a ride in my Yaris" or "Let's write an entire episode based on Stride gum" period. Crap like that just yanks you out of the story and reminds you that this is entirely artificial.
But, worst of all, was the sacrifice of character for story that the writers were willing to make. Again. For about the millionth time.
Lois Lane, holding a knife to someone's throat to coerce someone into giving her information, is pretty much the lowest point this show has ever hit. I know they laughed it off as a, "I would never!" moment, but she did. She held a knife up to Emil Hamilton's throat to coerce the location of her boyfriend out of him, because she was feeling unappreciated and petty over him not including her in his save the world plans.
I just, I don't even know how to convey my disgust with this. This isn't bad characterization, this has become character assassination. I said it just last week but, if you can't write yourself out of a corner your story has taken you to without sacrificing the core of who your characters are, write a different story.
And then it got worse with...
I'm sorry Welling boosters, but Tom was the weakest link in 'Patriot', absolutely no question. When you factor in the fact that he was also directing the episode, the excuses for some of the choices made here dwindle away to zero.
Clark delivering his attempt at a Superman voice while chastising Aquaman was quite possibly the worst execution of an archetype I've ever heard. That wasn't the voice of a leader commanding respect, that was a bellow of great whininess and minimal import and it just came off as stupid. I've said this to countless people over the years, but it bears repeating here, "He who speaks loudest isn't always right, but he certainly seems the dumbest if it turns out he's wrong." This was just a weak and misguided attempt to tap into what past actors have done with the role and Welling doesn't have the chops for it.
Going further, the kryptonite cage scene was insane. Kryptonite is literally on all sides of him, but he just decides to ignore it, stand tall and somehow lives through an explosion? I don't get the thinking behind choices like this. It's light switch writing.
"Hey, you know what would be neat? Let's lock Clark in a Kryptonite cage."
"Yeah, that's cool, but how will he get out?"
"Um, well, maybe we'll just start to dim the green glow and then, later, Clark can make an obscure reference to a lid being lifted by someone. Or something."
For the cheap seats, you cannot willpower your way out of an allergic reaction.
And hey, let's add to the noggin pain.
The Gulag blows up. Ollie, Clark who is infected by Kryptonite, but not, Mera, AC, Slade and, presumably some guards are all in the facility when it explodes. OMG how are they going to get out?!!? Is Aquaman going to...? Or maybe Ollie has a trick arrow...? No wait, Clark will...
Clark is bailing hay. And Slade has the weirdest eye patch in the history of film. And Mera and AC and Ollie are fine.
Tom Welling, I hate you.
Your job, when directing an episode, is to make sure that the end product makes sense. If the writers can't tell a coherent story you send the script back for minor rewrites. If you're stuck with time constraints and you have to cut something out, you cut out nonessential garbage like Lois flying to Miami. Or Lois holding knives to people's throats. You know, the stuff that no one would miss if it were gone. You don't leave a plot hole you could drive Krypton through, just because you feel like it.
Headdesk so hard I have splinters in my brain.
Now that I've got that out of the way.
Vigilante Registration/Keane Act/Marvel Civil War
I said if I was wrong I would admit it. I was partially wrong.
The VRA when taken in the context revealed this week, that is, that it is essentially a reasonable plot on the part of Darkseid to push the world's defenders into the light of day to be exterminated before the inevitable conquest of Anti-Life (holy run on sentence) is actually a pretty cool use of a well worn plot device.
More importantly it actually makes sense.
I still maintain that as a blatant plagiarism of Civil War (and it is; the press conference scene was a clincher for me as it was dripping theft all over the moment when Spider-Man comes out in a very similar scene and the relationships and conflicts between the major players echo, if imperfectly due to a severe dumbing down, those of the major players in Civil War) the VRA plot is somewhat misguided. I say that because, while Civil War was a fairly intelligent look at the concepts of patriotism, government abuse and the reasonable need of the average citizen to feel safe, the VRA storyline has dragged the same ideas into an oversimplified "us vs. them" parody. What Civil War gave weight and import to just comes off overly simplistic and Manichean here. The heroes are good and the government and citizens who have genuine concerns about them are easily shown to be wrong because they're being influenced by Darkseid.
Again, it's not quite the disaster I thought it might be, but it blows an opportunity to tell a story with depth in favor of telling an easy one.
Insane fun as it was (and it really really was), 'Patriot' was ultimately hobbled a bit by some tremendously bad creative decisions. The Lois character burps were terrible, some of the dialogue and acting were downright putrid and the giant plot holes were overly distracting. But it was still an utterly bonkers hodgepodge of action and wild throw it at the wall plotting that yielded a pretty good time so let's call it:
3.5 out of 5.
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