Superman on Television
Smallville: Episode Reviews
Season 10 - Episode 13: "Beacon"Reviews:
BeaconReviewed by: Douglas Trumble
Super Short Summary: The Red Queen is grazed by a bullet while standing up for the supers while Lionel2.0 comes out of the shadows to totally and thoroughly defeat the Green Arrow in a verbal female-dog slap and to also reclaim Lionel1.0's life, fortune, and family.
Okay, no disrespect to Michael Rosenbaum who I am so glad decided to return for one last time, but John Glover's Lionel Luthor just cemented his place as my all time favorite super villain. EVER. The way he just so maliciously, happily, and thoroughly owned Oliver with nothing more than words ranks right up there with any other great super-villain victory moment in the history of superhero stories. (Though admittedly my previous number one was Syndrome geeking out over Mr. Incredible as he captured him so take that for what it is worth). The way John Glover combines confidence, coolness, power, danger, and pure evil in just the way he moves and talks is amazing.
When Oliver mentioned Lionel1.0's murder of the Queen's and Lionel2.0 just admitted to doing the same in his world without missing a beat you could just feel burn on your cheek from the slap. Both my wife and I gasped and said, "Dang!". Both John Glover and Justin Hartley played the scene perfectly. I do not want to diminish some other great moments of this episode but wow was that scene amazing. He was one step away from just twirling his mustache as he explained how he regained control of LuthorCorp too.
A few minor things that bugged me about the episode. Watchtower is a hideout that is open for any of the heroes to use should they need to right? Even if it's not up and running at the moment but if Impulse or AC need a place to hide out they should have access right? And Oliver is a guy who probably has access to some large amounts of untraceable cash that could easily pay for a hotel room right? So why exactly where he and Chloe, ummmm, reacquainting themselves to each other in the direct middle of Watchtower? I know it filled the part of Justin Hartley's contract that stipulates how many times per season he must appear shirtless, but I kind of found their choice of location a bit on the creepy side.
One other nitpick... Martha returned and had two fantastic scenes with Chloe and Lois about their place in her son's life. I loved both for many different reasons but I did kind of feel a bit disappointed that Chloe's "talk" seemed a bit more than Lois'. At least that is how I perceived it. Chloe was told she was all this and that and it was all true but all Lois got was your going to be a great wife to Clark and you inspire him. Also true and touching but at this point Lois is way more involved in the Blur/Superman side of Clark's development than Chloe is. Sure Chloe is a friend, fellow hero, and even a partner at times but Lois is not just helping him do the hero stuff, she is helping him be a hero. Let me be clear. This is a very minor nitpick to be sure, I just wish Martha could have talked more about that kind of stuff with Lois. Maybe I am still a bit bitter that Chloe left town simply because a magic helmet told her to. Annette O'Toole's Martha Kent is just fantastic and I surely hope this is not the last time we see her on the show.
I loved the way Lucas Grabeel played young Lex-Clone. It's scary how much he resembled Mr. Rosenbaum's Lex in every way. He even looks like him. Makes me wonder if they are related. I've said it before but it deserves to be said again... The show might not be perfect but Smallville has always done very well when it comes to casting characters (well they are batting about 950 anyway).
Some interesting twists with Lex-Clone. He's still aging and I am growing into the idea that this clone is the "real" Lex kept alive by one of his science schemes. Not the perfect answer in my opinion but it's been done in the comics before with some success so I am not going to shake my fist at it. I do wonder where they are going with the invulnerable skin. Is he wearing a power suit like the one Lana stole? Or did Lionel2.0 find something in Lonel1.0's notes on Kryptonian tech that fixed him up? Both options lead to fun possibilities.
I am glad the Smallville producers chose not to show Martha being shot. I understand the real world events that were similar were not their fault and they had this episode done before those tragic events occurred but I still think it was a respectful thing to do. They still needed the attack for their story but they found a way to have it happen without showing it and I appreciate that. Plus I have to say just showing the horror on Clark's face instead may have served the drama of the moment more so than actually showing the shooting.
It's too bad Michael McKean couldn't make the trip with his wife this time around. There were a few fantastic scenes with Lois that related to Perry White and his reporter history in this episode that would have been a thousand times better if he was involved. Still his presence was felt strongly and I enjoyed seeing Lois follow in his footsteps. They are really setting the stage for the future when Perry is running the Daily Planet and how Lois becomes his top reporter. She is in every way his Padawan apprentice now and that is very cool.
The internet videos to the Blur were fantastic. It shows that Clark was right to start marking his actions with his symbol. I know there was some question as to if it was right due to the graffiti issue but since he isn't visual yet he found another way to show the city he was there and it worked.
I was also very glad to hear Clark's Phantom Zone solution for Slade is not meant to be a permanent one. Still do not like that they did it in the first place but knowing Clark plans to release him to the courts once his team is safe makes that bad situation at least a little better. I appreciate them taking the time to inject that into the story.
The WTF moment of the week goes to the fine folks pushing the Vigilante Registration Act. Let me see. They know full well that Clark Kent is The Blur right? So therefore they would know that Martha Kent is the mother of one of the Vigilantes she is fighting to protect right? Now I am not saying all the people in the VRA office are dirt bags (even if Chloe feels her team is justified using lethal force on them) but you'd think that there are enough of them in that office willing to take advantage of the damage to Martha's platform that would be caused by leaking that information. I am just saying. What the Fudge?
So if you are a huge John Glover fan and miss Lionel Luthor then this episode will rock your socks off. If you like the show this episode will be a fantastic ride and John Glover will rock your socks off. In fact you might just want to take your socks off before watching it.
I give it 5 out of 5.
Humorous note on Writing: Did you know if you typo the title of this episode and call it "Bacon" your spell checker will not catch it? Good thing I caught it on my 3rd draft... OK maybe I shouldn't admit that. Mmmm Bacon....
BeaconReviewed by: Julian Finn
When Final Fantasy XIII came out I was pumped. The last game in the series had been an engrossing, multilayered and complex game-full of distinct characters and varied gameplay and boasting one of the best combat systems in RPG history. So I rushed out to the store on release day and bought a bright and shiny copy of FFXIII, ran home and started playing.
After an hour I was very, very confused.
I got online and started reading reviews and, while most of the critic's responses were generally positive, there was a phrase I kept seeing repeated that disturbed me beyond reason.
"Once you get through the first 20 hours, the game is awesome!"
When I started recommending Firefly to my friends I always made sure to let them know that the pilot was a bit dry but, once you made it through that gauntlet, the show was utterly amazing. Fringe was the same but with about four episodes to wade through before it got really interesting. Lost had a whole stretch in Season 2 that was utterly redundant but was made up for by four stellar seasons which focused on tightened story-lines and a continual build in tension.
We have a tendency in this culture, despite being constantly labeled as impatient stimulus junkies, to be wildly optimistic and forgiving in the consumption of our entertainment. I mean, here we are, ten years later, still waiting for Clark Kent to become Superman. And I'm not just talking about the suit.
I want to talk about the ending of "Beacon" first, mostly because I'm sure it was supposed to feel like some kind of payoff. Clark finally shakes the cobwebs off his brain and kinda sorta indicates to Martha that he's going to adopt a secret identity and step out into the light as the savior the world is begging for. And I'm sure that moment was meant to feel like a grand payoff to the meta plot of the VRA, not to mention almost a decade of mythology build up.
Here's the thing.
What has it taken to get here?
I'll save my full analysis for the post finale breakdown, but in the last half season alone it's taken the creation of a government organization bent on metahuman destruction to get Clark even slightly proactive about anything not related to his personal life. I shouldn't be watching a show about this character and be hearing quotes like;
"I just wish I could inspire him!"
Are you kidding me?
The whole exchange with Martha where he essentially asks her for permission to use the Clark Kent identity as a disguise is utterly pointless. He just spent a full year traipsing around in a what-if-Johnny-Cash-were-a-Kryptonian outfit, committing acts of terrorism and crapping all over the civilian life he'd built for himself. All while his friends are being descended upon by a superhuman madman bent on turning the Earth into an exclusive beach resort for him and his closest fifty friends.
I think at this point throwing on a pair of glasses and slouching a bit isn't going to come off as particularly horrifying to Ma Kent.
But I digress.
I started off talking about delayed gratification. Sometimes, when the stars align and the payoff is really good (like your first make out session good) a little build up can be okay. In case you haven't been paying attention, I'm not of the opinion that this was that.
Instead we got a collection of nonsensical moments, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Watchtower's open for business again and Clark might, possibly, if he really feels like it and a few hundred thousand more people make pitifully bad video testimonials on Youtube begging him for help, become an honest to goodness superhero.
Am I being a bit hard on the show?
OK, probably a little.
But I wasn't prepared for the VRA plot, after dominating a half season that started by introducing us to Darkseid, to end on such a contrived whimper. And I wasn't prepared for an episode this painfully boring to end on such an underwhelming nod to future continuity.
Some of you will have gotten swept up by the excitement of finding out that Rosenbaum is coming back for the finale and will forgive "Beacon" it's utter inanity because you're tying the little nuggets of Lex story we got into the larger tapestry of everyone's wildest hope coming true. Baum is an outstanding actor, and I'm glad that we're going to get to see him again in this role because I truly believe that his delivery of Lex as a character is the best we've ever had onscreen. If nothing else Smallville has given me the ultimate version of Lex Luthor. But I have to judge the episode on it's merits, not on what might happen later on and what might rock once Rosenbaum is back.
And on the merits this episode fails utterly. There was so much trying to happen that not much of any significance really did.
Last week I gave "Collateral" a lot of grief because it failed to tell an original story. But I think I liked "Beacon" less because it didn't tell a story at all. It was a jerky resolution to one of the meta arcs of the season, a placeholder for another one and a series of isolated moments that could have found their place in much better episodes. Which is disappointing because Smallville usually makes the meta episodes highly entertaining. This, to me, felt like a waste of multiple opportunities on the part of the writers, along with an hour of my time that could have been better spent playing inFamous.
Lex's plot to draw Clark in is actually well thought out. Put someone that Clark loves in jeopardy in the hopes that Clark will put himself between you and them and then pump him full of kryptonite tipped shrapnel. Never mind the fact that there would really be no way for Lex, living in a back alley slum, to turn raw kryptonite (wherever he may have found it) into usable bullets. It can now be taken as an absolute given that, if necessary, hunks of kryptonite will be given away for free by hotdog vendors and that its applicable uses are only limited by your imagination.
In fact, the only real flaw in the plan is that Lex has too much faith in Clark. For no other apparent reason than the fact that any other outcome would have resulted in Clark lying dead on the street, instead of superspeeding to his mother's rescue Clark chooses to saunter in a vaguely Metropolis-like direction and arrives at the hospital after his mother has already been admitted and treated.
This iteration of Lex is actually quite a bit of fun. He's off-his-nut insane, knows he's dying and is determined to put Clark in a grave before he lands in one himself. If you think back to the early seasons and the fact that Lex is really only evil because the Kents were utterly horrible to him at every turn, it makes some sense that the last bit of business he'd want to take care of is the death of the man he holds responsible for everything wrong in his life.
In fact Lex delivers quite possible my favorite line of dialogue of the last few seasons;
"I watched you fall forty stories. It was the greatest moment of my life."
The amount of casual malice, frustration and wry amusement he manages to pack into those two sentences was just stunning.
Seeing Chloe relaxing with Oliver was also a nice piece of characterization; hearing them both having a conversation that wasn't drowning in exaggerated pop culture references was refreshing and it was good to see some follow through on the chemistry that they were showing a season ago. Again, these two seem much more relaxed and natural together than Clark and Lois, and that's taking into account the fact that the writers have turned Chloe into an insufferable twit in the last two seasons.
Finally, Tess literally stabbing Lex in the back was a pretty natural conclusion for the arc that's been built between the two of them. I don't know how I feel yet about Lex's invulnerability and what that implies about the final use for that vial of blood that Lex stole from Clark way back when, but it didn't really matter; the moment itself was golden.
What Didn't Work
Absolutely everything else. In equal measures.
The conclusion to the VRA plot was horribly contrived and lacking in any sort of narrative consistency.
First, this is a plan cooked up by Darkseid and Co., yeah? Everything from Godfrey planting the seeds of fear in the populace that led to the adoption of the act to Slade's ultimate execution of the order and management of the war effort while under the influence of (presumably?) Anti-Life.
Does anyone here think that Darkseid (!!!!!) would let all of his most complex strategies fall apart because of a popular vote? That seems a bit weak to me.
And let's talk about that vote. A measure introduced by the military, that was designed to, ostensibly, protect the populace from a powerful, unknown threat that knows no jurisdictional restrictions, is going to get overturned by a national referendum? Are you kidding me? I'm Canadian and I know that the U.S. constitution doesn't allow for Federal referendums. In fact, there's no national electorate at all in the States. We're expected to believe what? That Martha Kent and a ragtag group of protesters somehow managed to persuade the U.S. government to let them try to overturn a law that is the Smallville equivalent of the PATRIOT Act when they have absolutely no reason to?
This might seem like a nitpick, but it's this kind of consistent lack of respect for the intelligence of the viewing audience that makes the people who have come to despise this show become so vocal. You can't just will plot to work. It either plays or it doesn't and, if it doesn't, you have to have the stones to try something different.
Alt-Universe Lionel was so totally wasted here. I badly wanted to see an episode where that menace we saw in the Ultraman universe came out to play. I wanted an unrepentant Lionel tearing through Metropolis the way only a person with sacks full of money and evil in his heart can.
Instead we got a hyperemotional clone of final episodes Lionel; a man preoccupied with making the clone of the alternate universe version of the son he let his adopted scion murder...never mind. None of the emotions at play here make any sense. Alexander isn't really Lex and, even if he were he wouldn't be this Lionel's Lex and, from what we've seen of his character, Lionel wouldn't exactly be excessively concerned with the health and well being of Martha Kent post beating, no matter how attracted his Earth Prime equivalent's journal tells him he's supposed to be to her.
Not a lick of it made any sense; not within the limited context we've been given for this character or for establishing the point of the plot.
Lex flipping out and torching the Luthor manor could have been cool, if it had been accompanied by the outcome and consequences it should have. Martha and Lionel should be dead. This is firing a gun at compressed liquid nitrogen all over again. Martha and Lionel are lying pretty much in front of the fireplace when Lex starts his hate quest against expensive alcohol. So, by the time Clark finally jogs over and finds them, what with the fire having spread to the upper floors and all, shouldn't it have spread through them? At the very least they should have suffocated from smoke inhalation.
But not on Smallville.
The whole "grass roots journalism on the internet" sub plot was just...I don't even know. Again, so much of what happens around the VRA resolution is dependent on things that either cannot be factually true (the internet doesn't work like that, for one) or fly in the face of earlier plot points (Darkseid is metaphysically hardening the hearts of everyone on the planet in mass quantities) that I don't even know how to dissect it possibly. Is this the same show?
And let's not forget the hatchet job on Clark's character this week. Not only do we get constant reminders that he's the least proactive guy on the planet; Chloe, Lois and Martha all take turns pointing out, as though it's a virtue somehow, what a stubborn mule he is and trying to figure out ways to coax him gently into doing his job; but we also have a marketing driven subplot (yes, I remember your stupid contest, CW) that fills up five minutes with atrocious and overwrought, "you can do it," videos that finally, after years of waiting, prove to be final impetus that Clark needs to become Superman.
I think my favorite part was the military officer in fatigues who basically implies that the Blur is the "real hero."
The icing on the cake though, what really makes it all come together is, after saving Martha from the burning building, not only does Clark have a loooooong moment of hesitation before grudgingly going back in for Lionel, but he then bounces him off the ground.
Superman chucks a powerless human, who is on fire, into dirt. After seriously considering letting him burn. You know what? I give in. Truly, this is the definitive version of the character.
Oh hey, and did I mention that the solution to the decade old question of how they're going to have Clark come out when Lex knows who he is and what he can do turns out to be...duh duh duh...Clone Amnesia!
You can't really make a case that this was a worse written or acted episode than last week's, because it wasn't. It's just an utterly wrong headed attempt at solving problems and closing off story elements before the big push. And worse than that, it was completely unnecessary.
I'd like that time back.
1 out of 5. What utter drek.
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