Superman on Television
Smallville: Episode Reviews
Season 10 - Episode 16: "Scion"Reviews:
ScionReviewed by: Julian Finn
"Remember the bad guys on the shows you used to watch on Saturday mornings? Well, these guys aren't like those guys. They won't exercise restraint because you are children. They will kill you if they get the chance. Do not give them that chance." - The Incredibles.
In the final analysis, Smallville's greatest point of weakness is going to turn out to be its utterly cavalier attitude towards character behavior.
"Scion", notwithstanding some bad creative choices that are just the product of a decade of similar, bad creative choices, should have been an epic episode. We got the introduction of the Post-Crisis Superboy in a way that was not entirely inconsistent with his comic book roots. Clark, for a change was acting more like Superman is supposed to than he has at really any point in the show's run up until now. In fact, for the first time, there was an element of Smallville Clark's character that I preferred to another current iteration. I'll touch on that later.
Darkseid's reveal was stellar; a cool menacing moment and a sudden understanding that Lex is actually dead and will be brought back through some Faustian deal between Alt-Lionel and Darkseid.
We were also given some beautiful nods to past continuity, thus torpedoing my theory that the writers don't watch past episodes. Also, to the best of my knowledge, "Scion" wasn't "based on" a preexisting film property, so... yay? Pat on the back for not outright thieving this week?
So why, with all that going on, did "Scion" just feel middle of the road good, rather than great?
Before I get into the meat of my review I want to divulge my stance on the timing of the Conner Kent reveal.
Dumbest plan B ever.
Never mind the fact that they've now introduced Superboy before Clark has actually become Superman; I take for granted that, after Lois, Ollie, Black Canary, the Flash, Hawkman, Aquaman, etc., this version of Clark Kent is going to be inspiring exactly no one to come out of the shadows. Smallville cast this die the second they started mining comic book continuity rather than relying on the same old meteor freak motif. And why not? The alternative was to end the show, so of course a liberal shuffling of timelines would seem more appropriate.
But Alexander was set up for what felt like a very different story and, until a couple of weeks ago when Rosenbaum committed to returning, I would never have seen this left turn coming. My money had been on Darkseid possessing Alexander and becoming some sort of permanent lasting evil. Or something.
But not this.
Yeah, the Superboy angle is kind of cool. But it felt completely tacked on; the fact that Tess didn't immediately go to Clark when she found out about Alexander's powers, on hindsight, looks like there just wasn't a moment to fit that into the last couple of episodes where it wouldn't have ruined the "narrative flow." Heh.
On the flip side, it also kind of felt like a "Hail Mary" pass for some kind of directly related spin off. And you know what, I would watch that show; Lucas Grabeel is a likable enough kid, and at this point they already have the full DCU established on the show, so coming at the timeline from Conner/Alexander's viewpoint wouldn't feel anywhere as screwy as what's been done with Clark's story. As long as the writing was good, I would watch it.
But I have no faith that the writing would be good because, if "Scion" is an example of just about the peak of storytelling capabilities of this writing team (and I thoroughly believe it is) then they do not have the chops to get another series off the ground.
But that's all idle speculation. Who knows what anyone was thinking with this move? It certainly felt like, spinoff possibilities aside, there was a note of finality to Conner's story this week. And maybe that's a good thing; the first door closing before the finale.
On with the review.
I really dug, with a couple of exceptions, the character interactions this week. Lucas Grabeel plays an overenthusiastic Teen Titan much better then he did a full on nut job.
Tess's embarrassed punting of Conner onto Clark was actually pretty well delivered, all things taken into consideration. It was almost sweet hearing her dance around the fact that she's been keeping secrets and lies and Clark completely overlooking it because... actually who knows why? Because any kind of realistic confrontation over a pretty massive omission of detail would have clogged the episode and there were other piles that they had to drive down our gullets?
I actually loved the training sequences; very Empire Strikes Back. Also rife with references to past continuity. Lifting the tractor, heat vision upon... ahem... physical attraction, the hero worship for the Blur; everything about those early farm scenes brought back memories of how much fun this show was in the beginning. Before Doomsday. And Henry James Olsen. And Martha packing heat.
The fact that Clark immediately justifies taking Conner under his wing was awesome. I don't know how many of you have been watching Young Justice, but one of the things that has really been bugging me is how absentee-father Superman acts whenever he's around Superboy. It just rings false that he would even hesitate to reach out a hand to someone who has to be equal parts terrified and curious about his potential.
Here, on the other hand, we have a Clark Kent who sees a person with his abilities and, a little awkwardness aside, reaches out to him. He knows what Conner must be going through and so he just acts. Positively. I just about fell out of my chair.
The fact that Lionel immediately tries to do with Conner what he'd done with his Clark in the alternate Earth was thrillingly consistent. I even forgive the use of Red K in this context; it wasn't about using it to justify stupid behavior on Conner's part (okay maybe a little) but rather to give Lionel a way to sway a little influence.
The fight between Clark and Conner near the end of the episode was fantastic and was clearly an homage to Season Three's "Phoenix" especially when Clark utters Jonathan Kent's line;
"No, you're coming home with me."
Eight shades of awesome.
What Didn't Work
As cool as a lot of "Scion" was, we had another blatant case of the story that was told only being possible due to incredible stupidity.
Conner tells Clark, who has super-hearing, that he heard the doctors talking about him, with his super-hearing. Minutes later Clark tells Lois, within earshot of a person with super-hearing, that that person can never be told about his dual lineage. Thus throwing the rest of the episode in motion.
You cannot, just for the sake of telling the story you want to tell, reduce your characters to hollow, unbelievable shells and expect anyone to buy it.
I think I've mentioned this before, but I'm also getting more than a little tired of the concept this show throws around that a person is nothing more than their genetic heritage. This assumption that being genetically a Luthor will automatically make someone a bad person is getting a bit old. Especially since Lex didn't start out that way, and neither did Tess. In Lex's case, thinking back to those early seasons, he probably would have turned out alright if Clark and Jonathan hadn't made a point of treating him like crap based on nothing more than the fact that he's a Luthor.
I'm just not buying the evil seed/good seed theory that Smallville has made its through-line. It takes all responsibility off the characters. Clark will become Superman because he's meant to be and Lex was shoehorned into the villain role for the same reason.
And that brings me to the second thing that really stood out as just plain bad this week. That quote up at the top of my review is from a children's movie that more thoroughly understood what villainy is than Smallville seems capable of. This version of Lionel is supposed to be utterly ruthless and without mercy. So why does he go all Bond villain on Lois and just wave a gun at her while monologuing, rather than doing what someone of his character would in real life; shoot her in the head?
Because Lois isn't allowed to die. And so Lionel isn't allowed to be Lionel.
Good writing ensures that characters aren't put in situations where they have to behave contrary to their nature just to further plot. Lois should be dead (twice this episode) but she isn't because she can't be. The solution? Don't put Lois in a situation where the only logical outcome is death. This was an example of pure lazy writing and I'm utterly sick of being asked week after week to swallow this kind of garbage in the name of advancing the story.
Write better stories. Ones that don't require giant glaring omissions of logic. For example, Conner commits his run of crimes on a busy retail street. It's a fairly safe assumption that all of those stores had security cameras. Logically, the police should come knocking on Lois' door at some point the next day; even if Conner has super-speed, Lois is just standing there for most of the scene and she doesn't have an unfamous face. She would be tracked down for questioning. Again though, that would take away valuable air time in the remaining episodes and the consequences of one's actions are not usually enforced on the central characters so we'll never see any fallout.
Violent, wood busting headdesk.
One last gripe.
The way that Tess ultimately has Lionel ousted is just laughably bad. So you've got a set of twenty year old finger prints that prove that Lionel can't be the real Lionel. Now what? What's your big plan? Are you really going to go to law enforcement and try to explain that Lionel comes from an alternate universe? And wouldn't Lionel have magically found a way to change all existing records of his original's prints to match his instead? So really all you'd have is a document with finger prints on it that ultimately prove... nothing.
I said that "Homecoming" would be the bar for the rest of the season; thus far we haven't really come close to that promise. Again, "Scion" wasn't dismally bad; in fact it was solid in a way that most of this season hasn't been, it just made some bad choices that ultimately marred the final product.
3.5 out of 5.
ScionReviewed by: Douglas Trumble
Super Short Summary: Conner Kent comes to town and has his inner Lex unleashed by Lionel 2.0 which causes him to get fired up over Lois, steal some stuff, cause Lois yet ANOTHER concussion, and knock Clark around a bit before our boy in red and blue says "enough is enough" and takes the young whipper snapper to school.
I cannot believe it. Until I saw the promo pictures of Lucas Grabeel in the Conner "costume" I had absolutely no idea what-so-ever that they were going to bring Conner Kent into the show. I had assumed they were leading up to the Alexander clone becoming Lex similar to how comic Lex used clones to beat his cancer at one time or another.
As you may have read I was not too keen on that idea. Not at all. I wanted Lex to be pure Lex not Lex-Clone 2.0. I was so off base and wrong it is not even funny.
Oh was I wrong. So very wrong. All this time they were building towards Conner? Seriously? That is so AWESOME!
I LOVE Conner from the comics. What's not to love? He's basically Superman's little brother. Sure he has a little bit of a darker streak to him that is often attributed to the Luthor in his DNA but that just adds a bit of a challenge to the character. He's a very fun character. The Teen Titans run where Lex flipped a switch and caused Conner to shave his head, cut an L in his T-shirt, and go on a rampage was fantastic. I saw they channeled a lot of that in this episode and I was very pleased by that. Though admittedly Conner going toe to toe with Wondergirl, who can hold her own physically against him, is a bit easier to watch than Conner roughing up Lois but I will touch on that more below.
Conner Kent is a troubled character with a nontraditional history that has a lot of story potential that nicely fits into Clark Kent's growth. It is almost a better fit in this version of the character than Kara is. I enjoy this version of Kara Zor-El but because of her being raised on Krypton and technically being older than Clark there was never an opportunity to build a strong mentor and mentored relationship between the two. They touched on it occasionally but it was always over shadowed by the fact that Kara was a bit more advanced in somethings than Clark was. Conner on the other hand is completely lost in the world in regards to his powers. It takes Clark stepping up and giving him a place in his world to turn the kid around and teach him the right way to use his powers. That is story worth exploring.
So I admit it. They surprised me by turning Alexander into Conner and I am 100% OK with that.
I was very pleased to see Clark step up and bring Conner into his life with only a small amount of totally understandable hesitation. Once he learned Conner was a half clone of himself and shared his DNA Clark dropped all hesitation. Sure he might not have liked the idea of Conner calling him a "father" but was more than willing to offer himself up as a "brother" and I love that. (It is certainly a lot better way of dealing with Clark's reaction to a clone of himself than they are exploring on Young Justice right now. Not really digging the Superman being a jerk angle there but that's something beyond the scope of my commentaries.) In the end when Clark gave him the Kent sir name and offered him a permanent home I couldn't help but feel touched by the kindness. Even Lois who was even more understandably hesitant came around and was willing to let Conner into their life.
Clark training Conner to control his powers was a fantastic part of this episode. I loved the way Clark fondly talked about his parents and how they taught him even without the use of powers themselves. (Though admittedly Pa Kent did have to go get powers from the Jor-El-bot at least once in order to put CK over his knee). The heat vision kicking off due to hormones may be an old gag but it is always extremely funny. The way Clark noticed and re-directed the blast was hilarious.
The dark side of this episode was obviously Conner fixating on Lois. Maybe something in Clark's DNA drew him towards Lois instead of someone else but they made it clear it was the Luthor inside of him driving his reaction along. She was the first hot girl he came in contact with who wasn't his sister so I guess it makes sense. Conner absolutely has this dark side to his character. That is part of the story and they did well enough exploring it. They did tip toe up to the "too far" line with Lois though. I'll admit I was worried for a second that they would have Conner attempt to rape her but I was glad to see they backed away from that. In the end it seemed to me Conner just wanted Lois to be a willing participant in his fantasy and just reacted with uncontrolled anger that she did not. Yes, he hurt her and that is very bad but he never tried to force himself on her which was a relief. Still, while it was part of the character and a valid idea to explore, it's never fun to watch. I was personally glad the scene did not last long.
But other than that the whole Red-K Conner was fun. I couldn't help but chuckle at Lionel 2.0's response to Conner running off with Lois and Conner's feeble attempts at "impressing" the girl were very amusing. Seriously dude that coat was hideous.
Clark's showdown with Conner was well played. Clark in no way wanted to hurt Conner and he didn't. He tried talking him down at first but after Conner sucker punched him he didn't waste any time showing the boy who was the actual Super MAN. By effortlessly grabbing Conner and smashing the ring I think the message was clear.
They maybe should have had Conner apologizing to Lois for his actions but it is not the end of the world that they didn't. I very much enjoyed watching Conner's excitement over the life Clark was offering him. Having him rip open his shirt to show the black T and red S brought a huge smile to my face. I've always really liked the modern Superboy "costume" for its almost absurd simplicity.
I hope as the end approaches we see at least a little more of Conner Kent. It is not fair to say I wish they brought him onto the show earlier since they had actually been building to this for some time but I will admit to being a little disappointed in the idea that we might not get much more of the relationship between the two "brothers". The very least I would like to see Clark introducing him to Kara, his Kryptonian heritage, and giving him the name Kon-El.
Darkseid appearing to Lionel 2.0 at the end? WHOA! Chills... seriously... Chills! Certainly not a combination that is good for the world.
This week's WTF moment of the week goes to Lady-Lex and the Luthor Corp Board of Directors. So let me get this right. Thousands upon thousands of documents support Lionel 2.0's claim to the Luthor name. Tess and Lois track down ONE... Yes, just one... document where the signature is a bit off and the finger prints are reversed... Note IDENTICAL but reversed. And this is all she needs to get him removed from office? Seriously? Sure I can buy it might provoke an investigation into the matter but I seriously cannot believe they would toss out DNA matches, thousands of documents, and the proof of their own eyes based on what might be just a flipped image and a signature made by someone 28 years before. (Signatures can change you know.) What the Fudge people, if you are so easily turned then I totally need to start working on my own corporate take over.
Honorable mention goes to Clark and Conner. Two guys with super hearing and speed and an old man who has maybe a 40 second head start is not worth pursuing? OK then.
A great introduction to a major character in Clark Kent's life handled as a pretty neat twist from a story line that had been running for some time now. Maybe a little brutal with Conner on Red-K and Lois does get knocked out AGAIN but over all a fantastic episode. One not to be missed.
I give it a 5 out of 5.
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