Superman on Television
Smallville: Episode Reviews
Season 10 - Episode 18: "Booster"Reviews:
BoosterReviewed by: Douglas Trumble
Super Short Summary: Booster Gold comes to town in order to take Superman's place in history only to be taken to school by the Red and Blue Blur and his spunky wife-to-be, and soon learns what it means to really be a hero.
I admit I was skeptical of them bringing in Booster Gold this near the end. I was afraid we'd see an episode where yet another hero comes in and has their act in place more than Clark, but I'll admit... They surprised me. I honestly thought this one would be filler and probably score average at best and when it was over I ended up jut loving the episode.
Clark knows he needs to come out in the light and be seen and right now he's figuring out how to do that and protect his identity. His own personal pride and image of self worth was holding him back from fully embracing the two sides. That is understandable as no one wants to be looked at like they are a fool. After seeing the extreme side of that pride in Booster Gold Clark was able to put it behind him and embrace his inner dork. Not only was Booster Gold the complete opposite of Clark in almost every way he was a perfect example of exactly what Clark did not want his Superhero side to become. I found that to be a fantastic way to use the character at this point in Clark's journey. Some might scoff at bringing Booster Gold in before Clark is fully Superman but they made it work for me.
Eric Martsolf pulled Booster Gold off perfectly and once again the folks running the show in the Smallville offices show us that casting these various DCU rolls is one of their strong points. Even the young man Jaren Brandt Bartlett that they brought in for Blue Beetle was spot on. I mean sure I admit I am no expert on Booster Gold or Blue Beetle beyond when I've seen them in various media with Superman over the years, but they did sell these characters to me without a hitch. If the show wasn't ending soon I'd have absolutely no problem with the idea of bringing both back for another ride sometime in the future. Maybe they will show up on NBC and visit Wonder Woman next season.
The highlight of the episode for me was the moment Clark and Booster met in the alley behind the studio. When Clark verbally owned Booster about what being a hero was all about and Booster had absolutely no reply whatsoever I almost cheered. Any fear that Booster would outshine or make Clark look bad evaporated in an instant. Sure it wasn't exciting action or Clark winning a physical challenge but a simple "sit down son and let me tell you how it's done" moment. Fantastic! Tom Welling nailed it in that moment.
That moment was highlighted even more at the climax when Booster finally figured out Clark was right and Clark, not needing to steal any glory and make things worse, let Booster talk Blue Beetle down. Clark's reward was hearing Booster take his lessen to heart and that is enough. By standing aside and letting Booster be a real hero for once, it not only saved the kid stuck in the Power Ranger armor but also may have saved Booster Gold as well.
Clark doing the classic phone booth change was fantastic, even if I do feel a need to giggle at how they never show what Clark does with his street clothes or where his Jacket/cape/boots are hidden before the change. That is just one of those things. I know comics have toyed with the idea a few times but you know. I think it's just fine to not explain everything. The scene was cool and I got goosebumps. That's all that matters to me.
Lois trying to teach Clark to act awkward and unremarkable was fantastic. I felt they touched the right note when Clark admitted he use to "be like that," grew out of it, and did not want to go back to it. That really helped highlight his development as a character over the years. It also showed a strong side of him when he was finally able to put aside worry about the public image of his real self in order to be able to be a more effective hero.
Also I know I have said it before but I really applaud Smallville for changing things up and exploring the "what if" aspect of Lois helping Clark develop Superman. I loved how ridiculously uncomfortable Clark was when first out in the field as a reporter trying to act out the part. I do think he was too far on the awkward side but as a first attempt that's okay. He'll need to find a balance.
One down side to this whole "building Superman" thing I have to point out though is they seem to be forgetting the fact that Clark gave Lois permission to develop a new name for his hero side. I loved when they did that because it helped sell me on why Clark would be willing to adopt a name that is in essence rather egotistical. I am sure they will still have Lois be the one to pick it but this would have been the perfect time for them to show Lois and Clark actually discussing options of some kind. Lois is now using "Man of Steel" pretty regularly even in print now. That is okay for the most part but they do need to be careful when they finally drop the Superman bomb that it does not look like just the last one of many name changes for the Blur.
I was very pleased when Clark came forward at the end and admitted he was not too worried about what people thought of him anymore but was concerned for what they thought of Lois. She responded perfectly by basically saying "So what?! I don't care". That showed a nice side of both characters as they both showed a willingness to put the other above themselves in that moment. Another thing about that scene I liked was for some reason I found it very humorous that Lois was wearing Clark's fake glasses around the house. Another way to show solidarity maybe?
The WTF moment of the week goes to Cat Grant... Look, the character of Cat Grant has been done in a few different ways over the years and I know other versions have been a bit more on the sultry "sexy" side but this version is just not that way. Keri Lynn Pratt plays Cat Grant just fine and is in my opinion a very attractive woman but in that girl next door, nice person kind of way. Certainly not the free spirit cougar on the hunt that Tracy Scoggins played but still very much appealing in her own way. As a character this Cat is a hard working, somewhat ditzy, single mother, who can be annoying and sometimes doesn't think things through. Okay. Fine. No problems here. But seriously what the fudge? At what point did anyone think her painting about 10 tons of makeup on and putting on a cheerleader costume would come off as anything but totally ridiculous? Was that supposed to not work and look ridiculous because it did?
So what I expected to be a final filler episode turned into a fantastic ride where Clark embraces his public act to cover his super activity. Booster Gold was fun and while Blue Beetle in full armor was maybe a bit too much like something from a Power Rangers episode the character aspects were well played.
I give this one 5 out of 5.
BoosterReviewed by: Marc Pritchard
Imagine a patchwork quilt that, seen in full from a bit of a distance, features a full-size image of our boy Superman flying into the foreground above a crowded daytime Metropolis skyline. Now look closer and see that each of the thousand-plus various fabrics of the quilt's patchwork themselves feature complete images, all taken from Superman lore - here a villain, there a friend or ally; next to any of these a fluttering cape; here and there a glowing fragment of green, or some other-colored, rock. All of this by the multitude. And altogether lots and lots of blue and red and yellow and plenty of black and white.
It's the kind of quilt I'd personally like to own, but the idea of watching the entire process of the thing being assembled doesn't strike me as obviously worthy of my time. A spectator experience like that would have to be facilitated in such a way that was reasonably consistent and clear about its internal logic - why this piece then that, why this step before that one. Otherwise I'd just get caught up in the random details of powerfully familiar images and associations and quickly lose sight of the "bigger picture."
All of which pretty well characterizes how I've come to feel about watching Smallville during this tenth and final season - fixated on the series of images but struggling to hold them together with unifying purpose. I mean, let's face it: the one fundamental story-telling crutch on which Smallville has always leaned is our basic, collective and absolute foreknowledge that Clark Kent eventually becomes Superman, with all the flights, tights and various mights we've come not only to revere but also to require of him. Fine that the show has really all this time been "about Clark, not Superman," as Tom Welling recently said. Nevertheless, it has at the same time been predicated on the eventual and climactic emergence of an unequivocal Superman identity. (Welling's comment, meanwhile, is equivocation's very face.) The transformation to Superman is the pay-off that makes any amount of Clark-Kent-coming-of-age story possible to begin with. And, sure, we're getting that, and it has been of sufficiently high entertainment value to keep me, at least, coming back.
Indeed, I confess to being pretty liberal about cutting the ole' crew (some) slack over many of its very many mistakes, missteps and missed opportunities these many years. That doesn't make me any less (and no less deeply) disturbed by them when they do occur. And not that I think "Booster" itself is especially troubled in this way, either. But here we are with three episodes to go and, as gratifying as much of the work done this season to bring a truly recognizable Superman out of this decade-long storytime has been, it's not getting any less uncomfortable watching the fabric unfold and the loose ends get sewn up.
Because the whole thing is patched together without any consistent or especially clear rationale.
I hardly expect I need to explain. Between first Neal Bailey and then Julian Finn, these issues and the tangle of troubles they have wrought have been well and truly covered in this space. All that remains, really, is to keep an encouraging eye on the show's continued attempts to earn the pay-off we've all been breathless for while calling shenanigans on any further cringeworthiness that might lessen our final applause. Personally, I want to be brought to my feet (or at least to an unapologetic masculine tear) when this thing comes to its close. That's what I've been holding out for, as no doubt have you. I'm just not sure there's time left to make it real.
So arrives "Booster," then, in the regrettable position of having to return to a lesson Clark has already learned in order for the thematic opportunities presented by the Booster Gold character to be realized. And they are great opportunities, not least the parallels between Booster and Clark's mutual preoccupations with fabricated images of themselves and whether or not those images can stand as the truth of their respective identities, desirably or not. So, it works that they both come to understand that the image is not the truth (i.e. that is the lesson), but in Booster's case the lesson is learned too quickly while, in Clark's, we're just zoned out again over one small patch on the quilt, which should have been stitched down sixteen episodes ago.
To which end, it was a wise move to have Cat Grant appear, continuing from "Shield" to serve as the unlikely voice calling out for a real hero to show his face. But with Booster serving precisely the same function (however skewed his motivations), the redundancy is less explicable. There is the cute happenstance that the time-traveling would-be hero is literally "boosting" the forward momentum of Clark's journey, and also that, because he both wields formidable power in his own right and captures the public's attention for it, Booster represents a raising of the stakes in Clark's dual-identity/true-identity wagers that Cat never could. Which I'll take, though I'd rather not have to go looking for ways to excuse the retread. (There's also the related development that Cat herself is now siding with The Blur, but I'm not expecting that to be of significant consequence on a, you know, go-forward basis.)
As for Blue Beetle - well, he was clearly used here as little more than the appropriate, although appropriately familiar, object of Booster's lesson (which itself is, of course, simply the object of Clark's lesson, ploddingly enough). That this Blue Beetle would not be Ted Kord was probably inevitable, given not only Smallville's ragged history with supporting character adaptations but also the intimate involvement of DC Comics' Chief Creative Officer (i.e. writer Geoff Johns), who surely is sufficiently biz-savvy to protect any potential new comic book sales featuring Blue Beetle by grounding his Smallville incarnation in current continuity. Besides, Ted Kord is just too much yesterday, and the kids dig an underdog.
All of which, at the end of it, is a-ok with me. Johns again delivered and with due (but not slavering) respect for the source material, as did the cast. Welling's finally burgeoning "clumsy Clark" act in particular shows great promise. Because so often on Smallville it's one step forward, two steps back (when real progression works just the opposite), it is exceedingly easy to focus on things like the phone booth quick-change (Aw, he's still not wearing it. Where does he hide that leather jacket?) or the newly sustained appearance of the "Man of Steel" phrase, or how much direct influence Lois has/should have on Clark's final growth spurt. Those things matter, but they are only parts of a whole. And the whole that is Smallville remains, still, incomplete.
So, line me up with Lionel-2: "Wouldn't want to miss how it all turns out."
Stand-alone: 4.5 out of 5. As its own little quilt, and examined at the necessary distance (read: forgetting that it is itself part of something bigger), it's hard to find much to fault here. Martsolf as Booster is note-perfect; Welling is bringing the "mild manners"; Durance is already my all-time favourite Lois actress (though she had to work for it, to be honest, as well as work past/over/despite the scripts she's often been trapped in), so, yeah; Jaren Brandt Bartlett really only needed to nail the climax to sell me, and did; the rest of the cast was acceptably believable, as was the production in general. Besides, in the final analysis, it'd be particularly troubling if an episode that begins with a script from one of DC's most accomplished creative talents (current ones, anyway) failed in any fundamental or inexcusable way. Right?
Chapter in the larger story: 3 out of 5. Ok, so, that's a fairly significant difference. And it's almost entirely because I can't get past the retread. It's of precisely no interest to me that Cat has finally come to terms with The Blur as a genuine hero, which is the only thing new about her in the wake of this episode. Given the forces we either know (or presume) to be lining up in opposition to Clark and company, surely the likes of Cat Grant has never even once been cause for genuine concern. But it's the function she served (and should have served indelibly) in "Shield" (and only because she served it there) that presents the best way in for Booster Gold, who was always a better choice to interrogate this particular hang-up of this Clark Kent anyway. Yes, there were other things going on in "Shield," but frankly if it doesn't contribute to Clark's story it doesn't really interest me, unless it takes from that story without giving anything in return. So, here we are.
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