Superman on Television
Smallville: Episode Reviews
Season 10 - Episode 11: "Icarus"Reviews:
IcarusReviewed by: Douglas Trumble
Super Short Summary: Clark proposes, Lois says yes, Deathstroke returns, Oliver is attacked, Clark shuts down the Watchtower, (Oliver will still probibly hang out there), Clark sends Deathstroke to the Phantom Zone, and Hawkman dies saving Lois.
Well my friends, aquantices, readers, and enemies we have another one of those dilemmas. What we have here is a darn near perfect episode where just about every minute of screen time is filled with either pretty good, near awesome, and totally awesome. I do mean just about because there is one moment where if I had hair I would be pulling it out and I wanted to just scream at the TV wondering what the heck they were thinking. Seriously this episode just rocked but then it all came crashing down with just one little thing near the end. You have 40 minutes of awesome with just 30 seconds of suck and it hits just like a sucker punch.
So let me not drag this out and get right to it. My problem with this episode came near the end and was simply this. Clark's solution to the "Slade problem". I like that he took action and didn't just go into hiding or anything but the Phantom Zone? Seriously? I mean SERIOUSLY? I don't argue that Slade didn't have it coming and I certainly could see that being an eventual solution without killing the character but again SERIOUSLY? Let's think about what Clark did right there. He just imprisoned a human being without trial and without verifiable proof of wrong doing other than his and other Super's word. Public opinion is already against you and the government is hunting you. Do you really think it is going to help your cause when the guy leading the Government's initiative against the Supers just suddenly disappears without a trace? Especially after what I'm sure his men reported as a confrontation with at least one hero?
Do you think foul play might be suspected? A little bit? Do you want people to think you make cement slippers for anyone who speaks out against you? I don't think so.
I get he was a bad guy and I get that he had bad plans and they needed to stop him but it is not like we are talking about Doomsday or some other Kryptonian villain. I also get that they didn't want to have him die and I am certainly glad Clark didn't kill him but there had to be a better way than just dumping him in the Phantom Zone. The Supers needed to discredit him and the Vigilante Registration Act before they moved against Slade. They needed the public to know they were on the good side and Slade was the bad guy before this mysterious disappearance occurs and even then I don't really like it. Last time I checked Slade was still an American Citizen with the right of a fair trial before lifelong imprisonment.
I guess maybe that is the point and the backlash will be part of the story coming up. I don't know but even then I do not like that Clark took this action.
It is so sad this happened because everything else in this episode I absolutely loved. It really was a fantastic episode except for that one moment. If only they made a better story choice there we might have had one of the top episodes of the series period.
Clark's proposal was just perfect. Whoever came up with the idea to set it outside the phone booth where Lois and the Blur started their relationship is a genius. Absolute genius. There simply could not have been a better location for this Clark to pop the question. The way Lois' stubbornness made Clark's plans go wrong and the way Clark used his powers to "save the situation" just added to the perfectness of the moment. (Really really liked the flower shower).
I loved how Tom Welling played Clark as scared and extremely nervous and reciting a practiced speech when he finally popped the question. Plus I was so glad Lois answered on the spot after taking just a moment to absorb the shock. Not saying someone would be "wrong" to think it over but I liked that Lois knew it and was able to just answer.
The surprise party the Supers threw for the newly engaged couple was very nice and fun to watch even if I had to sigh over Oliver violating his Watchtower self-ban yet another week. I think it was a good moment to show that these people are not just building a team, they are building friendships. A point that really sells the pain of the final scene as well, but I will get to that more in a moment.
It is too bad they did not get more heroes to attend but I can understand budget might not have allowed it and stand-ins wouldn't have worked like they did at the funeral. I very much enjoyed Lois bonding with the others and the conversation between Carter and Oliver was very touching.
Slade's team of Super hunters was a bit over the top in my book but I think it worked to show how wrong it was. Sure maybe it was too cartoony but sometimes it is nice when they play the villains as villains and not just misguided or tortured souls. The Nazi-style uniforms and the fascist way they went about trying to root out the Supers from hiding made it clear this wasn't just some over reaction to the Supers doing their thing. There is more to it than that. How much Darkseid has to do with it I do not know yet but we were certainly shown something evil that needed to be stopped. (Just not by a sudden unexplained kidnapping and disappearance of a man who wasn't proven guilty to a court of his peers is all I am saying).
I just loved how after Clark gave the order to disband and disperse he, Oliver, and Carter all show up in Slades' office disregarding that order. The fact they all took it upon themselves to investigate anyway was just what I would have expected from these characters. Plus the banter between them in that scene was fantastic. Hawkman trying to use the computer was certainly a moment to remember.
Hawkman's battle with Slade was intense and I enjoyed it. I do think the effects were just a bit off though. Slow mo is fine but for some reason it almost seemed too slow to me at times when Lois was crashing through the window and falling. Like the timing when cutting between Hawkman and Lois was different. Like slowed at a different pace. Maybe that was them trying to show Hawkman was moving faster than her but I did feel it was a bit off. Other than that though it was fantastic. It's nice to see some of the Supers unleash on a bad guy now and then, and Hawkman is not one to do things in a subtle way. Anyone who's main weapon of choice is a spiked mace isn't going to just slap you.
It was sad that Hawkman died but he did go out in a literal blaze of glory saving Clark's betrothed, and I have to say that was a pretty awesome way to go. I cheered when he said to Clark "I have something for you" and moved his wing to show Lois. That was epic! Next thing I knew I was holding back tears as Clark thanked him just before he died from his injuries. I did not see that coming, but wow. Thanks for the emotional rollercoaster Smallville. You have to really be into it to feel it like that and I can only say good job to the Smallville cast and crew in making that moment work!
I am ok with Hawkman dying at this point in the story even if it caught me completely by surprise. The fact that Cater Hall is a person of many lives makes the "death" not as sad and I almost think it was necessary for one of the Supers to go down fighting for this registration act to have weight. It fits and it was done well with a hero going down like a hero should. Nope. I have no problems with that.
The funeral was pretty touching as well. Some might not like the use of doubles for some of the heroes but I think it was a good choice. I'd rather they do it that way then try to come up with an excuse why only the characters who's actors were in town could be there. The only one missing I wonder about is Kara but maybe she never met Carter? (I am fairly certain the figure next to Impulse and behind Zatanna was Martian Manhunter but I will admit I am not 100% sure). There certainly could have been more people behind them in the procession. They did a good job shooting the scene in a way they could have stand-ins for various heroes and still have the scene work. We didn't need their faces to sell the moment. It was well done and everything well said. Great moment for the show. That is exactly how Hawkman should be put to rest. Nice touch putting him in the tomb with Hawkgirl.
Not sure what to think about the trap set though. Guess we'll find out next year what was up with that.
This week's WTF moment of the week goes to the prop department. Check out the wanted poster shown briefly in the episode with the various pictures on it if you still have the episode on a DVR. Kara is listed as Supergirl on there. Umm correct me if I am wrong here but Kara is NOT known as Supergirl yet in the Smallville world. Last I checked her code name is Maid of Might.
That might be the big one that gets the prop this award but there is also a few little things about it that I was unsure of. Star Girl and Hawkman are both pictured without a mask. When were they exposed? Zatanna is a known vigilante who is also known by her actual name now? I know she was working with the League now but when did the world find out about her? Both Bart and AC have been captured before so I understand they have pictures of them but why was AC smiling in his picture? Maybe it was suppose to be a class photo I guess since it's likely Slade knew his real identity but it just looked odd on that poster. Lastly Oliver's picture looked like a drawing. Seriously? Of any of the heroes he is the one that they should have a clean crisp photo of.
Now I could get up in arms about possible story implications of this shot but then I am fairly certain this is what you call an error on the part of whom ever made the prop. Plus I had to actually pause the episode, frame by frame it to see the whole thing and it was still a bit blurry so I really can't slam them too hard about getting Kara's super name wrong. So I am just going to say What the Fudge people?
So an emotional rollercoaster with some very high highs as Clark and Lois agree to wed and a very sad low as a hero goes down being a hero. Only a poor choice on how Clark deals with the bad guy and a prop error keep this one from being perfect.
I am giving this one a 4 out of 5. You do not want to miss it. Just don't look too closely at the wanted poster and hope they can justify Clark's imprisonment of an American Citizen without a trial and you'll love it. (Would have been one of the best of all time if they hadn't stumbled there).
Looks like we are done for 2010. Have a Happy Holiday Season everyone. Stay safe and see you next year.
IcarusReviewed by: Julian Finn
I was really hoping for more.
That feels like it's going to be a prophetic mantra leading up to the series finale but, going into the winter break and especially after the brilliance of "Luthor" last week, I was really expecting some spectacle.
Oh, who am I kidding? No I wasn't. In fact, from the moment I found out that Genevieve Sparling would be writing this one, I had a sneaky suspicion that it wasn't going to be one of those event episodes that everyone talks about for wee...well at least for a couple of days. Actually, I was expecting something dismally bad, and I didn't get that either. Instead Smallville delivered an episode that was extremely thorough in its embrace of meh.
In the past, people have tried to make excuses for Ms. Sparling, saying things like:
"She's just given outlines; it's not her fault if they're bad."
"She's a really good writer, she's just aiming it at a different demographic than you. You know, the one that confuses Smallville for Gilmore Girls."
It's that first example I want to examine for a second.
It is entirely likely (I don't know as, sadly, I have never been invited into the Smallville writer's room) that each episode is broken in advance and then handed off to the writer who is felt to have the best voice for the subject matter at hand. We know it doesn't happen very far in advance because, even just a few weeks ago, Souders and Peterson were saying in interviews that they hadn't broken the finale yet, but we can leave that alone for now.
Now, if that's the case, then one could argue that, so far, Genevieve Sparling has been given the rough end of the stick to work with. With the exception of "Progeny", way back in Season 6 (which is bad in different ways that have less to do with plot and more with execution) every one of Sparling's episodes has been an ill conceived mess with poor story ideas and little to no tie in to the major arcs of the seasons in question. One could, I suppose, make a case that she just needed a chance to shine; an opportunity to play in the bigger sandbox that Smallville provides.
Of course you could only make that case if you completely ignore the fact that she's also functioned as a story editor for much of this season, including assuming that task on "Isis", which she also wrote, and which is right up there for me with the worst this show has ever offered.
Let's talk about "Icarus".
Here, Sparling finally got her chance. She was going to prove everyone wrong. She was going to show us what she could do with a major event episode. It hasn't been her fault; she just hasn't been able to play with all the toys. She's gonna...turn Hawkman into Wonder Woman? Blame World War Two and the Spanish Inquisition on Darkseid? Bring back Cat Grant?
I would really, really like to see what this episode would have looked like if written by someone else. Steven DeKnight perhaps. Or...ahem...Bryan Q. Miller.
But we got Genevieve Sparling and so we also got paper thin metaphors for goose stepping Nazi storm troopers, atrocious dialogue, and ultimately about five minutes total of quality entertainment and a half hour that thought it was much cleverer than it actually was.
That's pretty much the sum of it. The pre credits mini event that was the culmination of a relationship that I've felt throughout was rushed and shoehorned into place was actually the strongest piece of writing Genevieve Sparling has produced in her tenure on this show. And so, of course, I'm reasonably certain it was edited repeatedly and vetted by the entire production team before it went to film.
The fact that Lois screws with every one of Clark's plans but in a completely non annoying way was played brilliantly. You really get a sense of the depth of feeling that these two characters have for each other. Clark's little throwaway line about running to Madrid for her was a great nod to Superman II and all the little touches, like the phone booth, were just fantastic. I'm tempted to quibble about the never ending rain of rose petals because, you know, where are they all coming from once Clark's not dropping them anymore, but whatever. I'll give the overall moment an A+. It was handled very well.
Which is why it's a shame that everything else in this episode was either completely forgettable or just flat out bad.
The scene where Clark, Carter and Ollie are all ransacking Slade's office was fun, but ruined by details like, I don't know, why would Slade, a thrall of Darkseid and all around thorough villain, have security that bad in his offices?
What Was Sort of Okay
The actual advertised focus of the episode; the attack on Oliver by an angry mob, was decent. There was some abject silliness of course:
- If that mugger wasn't a plant designed to entrap Oliver, then he's the best dressed, least criminal looking mugger imaginable. It kind of screamed, "We just grabbed someone's boyfriend because we needed an extra at the last minute."
- I get that people are supposed to be gradually getting meaner and darker as Darkseid's presence takes hold, but the mob's reaction was a wildly disproportionate response. And where did those rocks come from? They were the size of human heads. Is Metropolis so run down that people are just leaving boulders in the streets? You know, in case they have to have a good stoning?
- Since when does Star Girl's staff teleport? I don't remember that from "Absolute Justice" but I could have missed it.
Speaking of disproportionate response, the army of storm troopers descending on Ollie's office were visually interesting but definitely overkill. He was the first one who outed himself as a vigilante, would it not stand to reason that they'd be able to find him fairly easily?
The scene at the farm was cute; especially the flip flopping that Lois does on whether she'll take Clark's name or not. However...
I really don't like how much Clark is actively looking for reasons to shunt aside being a hero:
"Our relationship is more important."
"The government really doesn't like us."
"Peas are gross."
It's starting to look like all that lecturing Jor-El did on not allowing his human connections to stand in the way of his duties wasn't all that unreasonable. Perhaps, and call me crazy if you like, Clark should have completed his training and become Superman before meeting his soul mate. But, comic book writers don't know what they're doing, all that detail is really unimportant.
Lois' confrontation with Slade was borderline great, minus Slade being the biggest tool in the universe and falling for the old, beg for your life and then hit you in the side of the head, trick. It was tense, Lois was brave, and Slade was effectively menacing all in equal parts. Slade's violence, especially against Lois, was perfect. By contrast the fight scene between Hawkman and Slade was almost silly. Slade punching Lois around had some genuine malice to it while the epic showdown was over the top cartoony. Starting with, but not limited to, Carter using his bracelets to deflect bullets a la Wonder Woman.
Anyway, it was a decently choreographed fight, but where the heck did Slade get that sword from? I get that when fighting a man wielding a mace who has rendered your gun no more effective than a rolled up newspaper you'd want to have something to deflect those blows with, but I haven't seen a thrown in deus ex machina this bad since Charlie's Angels. Yes, yes, I get that Deathstroke likes swords in the comics, but they've gone above and beyond to make this version of the character only superficially similar to his roots; did we really need to go with swords?
Finally, Clark banishing Slade to the Phantom Zone was wicked and a sort of logical final solution, but, it being that easy to get rid of him, I bet that Clark feels really bad that Carter is dead.
It's not even a matter of asking what didn't work; the bad in this episode was really bad.
Just about every square inch of dialogue (again minus the proposal) was terrible. The engagement party was painful to sit through; everyone was speaking in platitudes (and just a note, when one character turns to another and says, "Well said" that's just the writer patting herself on the back a bit too much. It wasn't that good a line Genevieve). The Nazi...sorry VRA interrogators were Bond villain deep; no characterization, just pure plot motivation and hollow lines delivered badly. Slade's monologues were meant to be menacing but just came off as cartoonish and nothing, NOTHING, will ever top this for sheer bad:
"Let's just say that the Reaper can swing his sickle at me, but I'm beyond death's stroke now."
Get it? GET IT? His name is Deathstroke, and he used the phrase Death's Stroke!!! Mwah ha ha! I'm an evil genius!
I'm so sick of these turn to the camera and wink catchphrase moments. Enough. We get it. Someone finally pointed out to the writers that these characters actually have source material to draw on; we don't need constant gleeful reminders. Please try and remember that most of us knew these stories when you still thought that Spider-man and Superman inhabited the same universe.
We were also back to full swing exposition dripping in the dialogue. Even in the proposal scene we were given a crappy throwaway line about the city being under a curfew. Are you kidding? We just watched it take three weeks for the U.S. government to decide it might be a good idea for 4 million people to not lose all their income; does anyone really believe that they'd be able to pass pseudo martial law in anything less than a year?
Oh, and in case you missed it, the episode was called "Icarus". AND IT FEATURED A BURNING MAN FALLING FROM THE SKY!!! MWAH HA HA HA! OH, THE IRONY!
The attention to detail in this episode was typically fast and loose like that. The VRA and its resulting militia in spiffy new fascist garb are just laughable. It's as though the writers have suddenly learned about metaphor and someone finally let them read newspapers from three years ago. The whole, are they heroes or are they terrorists, angle is almost puppy dog cute when you take into consideration that this whole plot line is a thinly veiled parallel to the Homeland Security Department and much of the heightened paranoia that attended its creation.
Speaking of detail...Didn't Lois have a broken arm last week? And wasn't Watchtower torn to pieces? (again?) How much time has passed between these two episodes? Or does it just not matter because Smallville is too awesome for logical continuity.
The government clearly knows that Clark Kent is The Blur, so why is his face missing from the wanted sheet the storm troopers are carrying? It's the little things that provide authenticity, and there was none here.
I am beyond done with the constant beating of the fate drum. Lois and Clark are fated to be together, Clark is destined to lead a new generation of heroes against the Darkness, Chloe is fated to only reveal horribly insignificant details of the things she saw in Fate's helmet and only after they've come to pass. We get it; these people are all moving towards some great unknowable destiny. Less tell, more show, please. 'Because it's fate,' is not a valid excuse for lazy writing.
Cat Grant. Aagh.
There's no excuse for this character at all. She's useless as a reporter, back talks her boss using Cold War era propaganda speak, rats out her co-workers and then completely about faces after a thirty second speech from Lois. Why? Because the plot demanded it. She's a screwdriver. People just don't work this way.
Clark's second conspicuous absence, the one where Lois gets punted out a window and Carter has to save her so he can die in true heroic fashion was just colossally stupid. Usually this show is guilty of the highly convenient, 'in the nick of time' save by Clark; here he just sort of super saunters up to the building and has a chat with Slade. Yay plot.
And hey, what was Slade's endgame anyway? Did he really think that Clark wouldn't show up if he locked down his girlfriend and support network? Well, normally he would have. But still, no kryptonite, just a sword and a bad speech. I'm beyond mystified.
Finally, there was the crowning moment. The death of Hawkman.
This should have been epic, fiery plunge of ironic doom aside. But it wasn't. You cannot reinforce the fact that death has no finality for a character and then expect the event of their death to have any impact. There were at least six references to Carter's essential immortality in this episode including one he makes himself as he's dying. You cannot beat people in the face with a plot point and then expect them to forget it five minutes later when you want them to feel something.
Superhero funerals are supposed to have weight; this just felt like a going through the motions event moment. There's no consequence, so the scenes, including the funeral (which actually looked kind of cool) lose their importance. This is why a random device rose from the earth and knocked everyone out, making this the most nonsensical and least impactful cliffhanger of all time. What a weird throw in at the last moment. I mean, kudos for zero foreshadowing and all, you could really feel the effort, but what was that? I'm not even curious, just mystified.
And, as a final aside, attributing all of the darkest moments in human history to Darkseid just highlights how juvenile the writers on this series are. People contain a wide spectrum of nobility; we're capable of unassisted evil in equal parts to our capacity for good. To imply, as a plot point, that the root cause of all evil on Earth is an ever present alien god is an example of the dangerous kind of over simplification that makes the world such a frustrating place to live in; that this kind of philosophy is touted as a feasible plot point is just gross. Yes, I'm aware that the writers probably don't actually think that this is how the world works, but it's still utter and complete self indulgent foolishness.
What should have been, and in fact started out as, an epic outing to send off the halfway point of the final season, was ultimately ruined by a pile of mediocre and ultimately shoddy plotting and dialogue. I really and sincerely hope that the second half of the season is more like "Luthor" and less tainted by juvenile antics.
2 out of 5
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