Superman on Television
Smallville: Episode Reviews
Season 4 - Episode 18: "Spirit"Reviews:
SpiritReviewed by: Douglas Trumble
Okay, let me start with the good. Yes there was some good here though I must admit to being very disappointed in this week's episode.
I was greatly amused by the Martha doing the Freaky Friday thing in the Kitchen. Her getting busted by Clark and Lois was fun and it was sure nice to have Shelby in a cameo. It was a fun scene and was at least worth a few giggles. I liked the Advancement (if only slightly) on the artifact search with Jason and Lex. A few twists tossed in there that I may have seen them coming since the first week of the season but it was still interesting. I can't wait to see how it is all going to play out. Jason is bad, but now let's see how bad. Swann's assistant is dead and the other artifact is now in with Jason and Mommy. Now we have 3 players with artifacts and I for one find it amusing that Lex and Lionel are the two players without them.
Okay that's the good... and that was what! 10 minutes out of 45!
Now the bad... For one there's the freak of the week - The Valley girl super bimbo! Didn't they already sick a swarm of bees on the same gal? Or was that her clone? Okay the spirit possession did lead to a few amusing moments with Ma Kent and Lois finding herself in a prom dress but that's it. The rest was just dull and way overdone.
Jonathan Kent? Didn't you just get shot in the knee a week ago? That makes me wonder if the last two episodes were not shown out of order. I can not believe they would forget that they had Jonathan shot in the last episode and then have him walking up the stairs to be Axe bait. And that's another thing... Axes. After Lana went after Chloe with one last season you'd think they would get rid of them.
Usually I try and focus on the good parts because this is a really good show. but ya know... Every once in a while they just do something wrong and they did this week. My gosh. I hoped and prayed that the Clark/Lana Yo-Yo was done. I really did. Lana in my mind was on a good roll this season. She had a story line that wasn't involved with Clark being in love with her and while it was advancing a bit on the slow side at least it was advancing. But now we get THAT dance. To make matters worse we have to suffer seeing the real love of Clark's life being the one to give Clark the nudge to go ask for the dance. I don't know why but that really bothered me. I really hope it goes in the same plot file as Mr. Kent's bullet wound from last week.
I wasn't sure how to grade this one. It wasn't a total failure. There was a few moments of fun making me laugh at least a few times but even the good parts were mixed with bad. Just take what I would call the best part of this episode near the end. This is were we see Chloe learning about the Kryptonite. I liked that scene in concept and I am interested in seeing the "Chloe knows" story line advanced but that scene bothered me because I couldn't shake the thought that Chloe just got super punched in the face. She was laying there just fine with out even a mark. Maybe the stunt was just overdone making the punch look more powerful than it was meant to be but it ruined what could have been a really cool scene.
So I decided on a D+. This is really one of my least favorite episodes of this Series. Can't win them all I guess. Next week's looks like a winner though and I am really looking forward to it.
SpiritReviewed by: Neal Bailey
What makes a story good?
Let's think about it. There are two kinds of narratives. There are the plot-driven and the character driven. Me? I go with the character-driven. Why? Because there are only a finite number of plots, but an infinite number of characters, and unless you have a humdinger of an interesting plot, you won't be carried by it. A good example is John Grisham. Yeah, he's got some decent twists, but because he's very plot driven, every novel is essentially the same.
What is Smallville?
Smallville started character-driven. We had actual drama between Clark and Lana, Clark and Chloe, the Kents and Clark, we had Pete and Clark's friendship, and every once in a while, a freak would come along. Well, okay, all the time. But the focus was always the dynamic. The Lex and Clark spars, the Lex and Lionel wordplay. Lex and his new girlfriend, who was very much like him.
Now, the show is very plot-driven. What is this show? Girl gets powers, and just look at the silly stuff that happens.
This is going to get me hate mail, but I finally put my finger on what it is that bugged me about Buffy when I watched a few more episodes this last break. It's not that I don't identify with the characters (because I don't, necessarily, but that says nothing, because I don't identify particularly with Chloe either, but I like her), it was more that on the Buffy episodes that I saw, stuff was always just happening to Buffy instead of seeing who Buffy was. I caught some of the wrong episodes, maybe, but then... well, let me put it this way:
If you're going to make a story plot-driven, it's got to be unique, right? Agreed? Or you get MINDHUNTERS or some other cliche piece of garbage that comes down the pike and changes no one. Is today's plot unique, at all?
And in this, it is reminiscent of all that made Buffy BAD for me (and there was good, don't go threatening to kill me).
Let's look at the major elements.
Lex may be doing something evil? Done.
Lana's boyfriend has suddenly gone evil and homicidal? Done.
Plucky cheerleader type with bad dialogue suddenly turns to murder? Done.
Lana, for no real reason at all, suddenly wants to be with Clark again? Done.
Out of character excuses for people to be crazy? Done to DEATH.
In fact, as reader Varjak points out, it's been done in over a quarter of the episodes. I was going to save this for business, but after seeing this show, I have to point this out. Here's the list he came up with of episodes where characters act like they're not themselves to ham it up and make the story "refreshed":
That's 23 episodes. More than a quarter of the series. It's not as bad as the freak of the week ratio, which is one (at least) for every show, but it's still something that is DONE to DEATH. Like Lana's boyfriend going nuts over ten shows. How many times can we see that before people wise up, huh?
So the problem? The show needs a new direction. The solution? Start telling character-driven stories, not plot based nonsense.
And you know, I'm sure we HAVEN'T seen Jonathan in a dress yet. That doesn't mean it's going to be cute the week after Lana finally decides to lose her virginity while someone else inhabits her body. Get what I mean?
This show had nothing for me to enjoy in it, at all, really, aside from the acting. Given the material, the actors did GREAT work, but then, even if they got Bruce Willis to do the lead role in Buffalo 66, Buffalo 66 is still going to be a crummy movie. The acting is great, but it won't save a bad script. Just like Superman, with Azzarello. You can get Jim Lee to make Superman REALLY pretty, but it won't make up for an abominable story that is badly told, implausible, and constantly pulls you out of the narrative.
It started off well. We cut to the first blatant promotion of Lifehouse, which made me cringe. But then we see Chloe, and she's like, "I've had enough!". She goes and she smashes the glass and grabs the axe. You know, I was totally cool with the fact that it would be impossible to do that without cutting yourself up, because here I am thinking, "She's gonna go chop Lifehouse into little pieces! WOO!" I thought it was going to be like the episode that started with Lana burning to death. I was ready for fun.
Then I see Jonathan coming up the stairs to greet her with the axe. He's walking up stairs awfully well for a guy who had his knee shot out last week by Lex Luthor. Stephen G, my conscience, pointed out in chat that perhaps this episode happened more than a week later, or maybe it was just a flesh wound. Still, walking up stairs? And then she punches him once, and instead of him turning and going "Hey! You're a little girl! Don't hit me!" he barrel rolls down the stairs and is suddenly unconscious. Now that's just Schneider trying to make his way up the KO Count. Cheap!
Appropriation is the term that writers use for plagiarism and stealing themes. This show appropriated Carrie. There's been a lot of appropriation of late. It's getting sick.
She takes the axe and pops open a pipe... and out of the pipe comes... OIL. Because you just know that schools need the bubbling crude in mass quantities. Or maybe they really don't. Yeah, I think I'm gonna go with that.
We go to a day earlier.
Walking down the hallway, Lana is talking about how much she doesn't want to go to the prom. If there were any character on Smallville more likely to go to the prom, it is her. Minus points to the writer knowing your character. Like, at all.
Chloe gives us Lifehouse plug number 2. "Hey! Isn't it cool that LIFEHOUSE is going to play our prom?"
"Yeah, Lana. LIFEHOUSE! They're even giving away free OLD SPICE RED ZONE!"
In a cut scene I hear that Clark even fainted from excitement. Joke.
There are some characters that just evoke a visceral reaction in you. And not in a good way. I mean, if you watch The Matrix, Cipher evokes a visceral reaction, but it's cool. Because he's a bad guy, but you relate to him in ways, and he's just... oooh. Scummy.
And then there's Boss Nass. You remember Boss Nass? The big fat toad guy in Gunga City in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace?
He shook his jowels three times, and each time, I wanted to smack the screen. Like literally, smack the screen. And then find George Lucas and say, "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?"
I have the exact same reaction to Dawn.
It's not that I don't hate airhead blond bimbos. It's just that even airhead blond bimbos are not HALF as stupid as this character. Her character was SO surface, SO impossible, and SO badly written I couldn't even take her at face value.
Case in point. "LATERS!" She says it five times. FIVE TIMES! I counted.
Hypocrat. Do I need to say more than that? Hypocrat. My god. I could weep. I could just weep.
And just like the last five times this walking stereotype has appeared, she has two girls behind her. The "you go girl" posse.
Cut to Lex finding Bridgette. Apparently the gardener found her. In the middle of the woods. That's a naughty gardener. Most gardeners stick to the garden.
And then Jason shows up, very conveniently. You could argue it's because he already knows about the murder and wants to follow up. But then, Lex wouldn't just take him showing up in the middle of the woods at face value. He's not that stupid. It was bad timing and pacing, and it threw me right out.
Then, a really great scene. Dawn, in her nice new car, talking on the phone, and she's not paying attention. She skids off the road, and plunges in a great rolling wreck to her immediate and painful death.
BING! The episode goes to an instant five. OOOOH.
And then she survives, and becomes the catalyst for another body changing episode. AWWWWW. One.
At the house, Lois is magically back again. Last week, she was back on the military base, but now she's back with the Kents. Convenient plot hole.
And Shelby's back, too, which is good. I respect that. But almost too little too late. I mean, it's been four episodes now. It's not that hard to just put him in the background a little more. Still, it's better than having him totally disappear, which is what I expected.
Dawn takes over Ma, and Annette gives a great performance. Totally believable. She is definitely this over exaggerated, badly written kid. Problem is, she is definitely this over exaggerated, badly written kid. Meaning, good acting, but I can't identify with or say, "Hah! That's funny and cool!" about some vapid tart, even in that oh-so-hot Toole body.
And then she takes Lana, to no noticeable personality change. Nah. Actually, Kristen really pulled it off, and did a great acting job. The problem is, she really pulled off an over exaggerated, badly written kid. Which goes to show (and I believe this), the reason that Lana is such a pain to watch is not the skills of Kristen, but rather, her writers. I think she's a good actress. I enjoyed her in Earthsea, anyway, and with early Lana.
Now we come to a sad fact that just really irks me. Clark is, and I say this with all respect, mentally retarded. He must have an IQ of 2. And he shows he has at least half that in every action he takes in this episode.
You come home and find your mom dancing to Ashley Simpson. What do you do? Me, I'd just shoot my mom and say, "Heh, that could have been BAD." Clark, he sees his mother acting like a kid, and given four years of body switching tales and Smallville in general, he just, what, assumes all is well? And even drives her to the Talon.
Then, she doesn't remember where she's been, and Lana asks him to the prom.
That's me yelling into Clark's head.
See, Clark, Lana constantly acts like she hates you. Suddenly turning around and asking you to the prom means she's a different person. And even a dummy could see that. Ergo, Clark is beyond dummy. He has cognitive deficiencies. He is mentally retarded.
Dawn, in Lana, decides to kill her boyfriend. Because, you know (and I've covered this ground way too many times now), all it takes to make an 18 year-old in a small town turn to homicide is breaking up with them.
She rips the cord out of a buffer. Do you have any idea how hard that is to do? A grown man with big arms couldn't do that, much less a little girl. Then she goes into the locker room, plugs it in, and then electricity just starts arcing from it.
Now, I can understand that you play up electricity to not only be visible, but arc in ways that are impossible (as what happened in this scene clearly is). But to have the arc go into the ground wire? Come on. I know you can find out basic research for that in about thirty seconds on the web. Poor work on the part of the writers and the special effects people.
And assuming such a charge could go through ten lockers, you think it would really knock a guy flat like that? No.
And get this... Lana (Dawn) drops the cord and walks away, but the current keeps going through. I guess it just sticks to the locker, huh?
So then the boy goes to the hospital (again with the squeaky shoes... Clark goes). He survives.
Now, I know this is a convenient point to miss, but though it wasn't Lana in her body, she was still there. She still electrocuted him. Just like Lex killed someone last episode, two someones, and just gets away with it.
It's like they're not even trying any more.
Oh, who am I kidding, huh? This show has jumped the shark. I didn't ever really feel like saying that, but after that last phrase, typing that, "It's like they're not even trying any more." and knowing that it is true, I have to admit what I haven't wanted to for the better part of a season.
Since the finale of last season, since the first few episodes of this one, there just hasn't been anything new. They are out of ideas. They are not jumping the cars, they are jumping the shark, but it's still just jumping with a new face.
Now, shows jump back. Voyager did. Enterprise even did. I haven't watched many, but some have jumped right back.
But this show has jumped the shark. This episode makes it clear. They just don't care about any of the details or characters any more, and they're going through the motions. It's plain to anyone with eyes.
Dawn finds herself in the hospital and kills herself because she's ugly. Yeah. Okay. I know that makes sense in some backwards land. Especially the land where the "extreme disfigurement" Clark describes is simple a few cuts on her face.
Also, she kills herself by using a nurse's body to do the same thing Lex did last week. So there is no autopsy, then? The nurse just gets away?
Jason starts checking Lex's email. As if that's not weird enough (because Lionel did the same thing, in a different episode, another recycled plot), when Lex finds him, he doesn't fire him, he doesn't yell at him, he doesn't call for his security men, he doesn't even shut his computer. He just puts up with Jason giving him hell about a murder he's already said he didn't commit.
Does that sound like Lex Luthor in character to you? Not to me.
How the heck does he hack Lex's computer anyway? Impossible. He must have watched the old episode where Lex's password is revealed so that a cell phone company can make some money.
How did Jason get past security?
Lois also acts her part well. The problem is that she's playing an over exaggerated, badly written kid. Which is not entertaining to me. Maybe you like a vapid chick's escapades into self-indulgence, but me? I like stories of Clark Kent and his trail to becoming a hero.
And Clark sees her acting this way, and doesn't put one and one together to form his own IQ.
Do you see? Now even CLARK is not an enjoyable character. They're taking CLARK! He's become a dumb joke. A big, dumb joke. It's HARD to undermine Clark, but they're managing.
Get this. Jason's really a bum in disguise, working with his mother.
Yawn. Didn't see that coming 18 episodes ago. Did you?
Yeah, I did too.
And he has the stone, somehow. How? Ah, who cares? Who needs a linear plot?
Enter Lifehouse plug number three, where they play a song on stage and everyone oohs and ahhs. What it really needed was Pete to lean out of the curtain and say, "Look, guys! These guys are on my new fresh TALON mix!"
Then we're back to the opening scene.
Clark tells his father to go and "get something". The Kryptonite. Clark then super speeds to stop Dawn, and does.
He then shows his brilliance even further by letting her, with her MERE MORTAL speed, reach out and touch him. IQ of 2? That's being kind.
She takes his body, and then uses the "bitch!" line again. It seems that all a good "Ooooh!" moment needs in this show is "STATEMENT, BITCH!" followed by an act of violence.
So Clark hauls off (as Dawn) and punches Chloe full force across the room. The blow would have killed anyone. It's Superman punching someone without any power control. Chloe would be dead.
In fact, she's not even knocked silly. She's still awake seconds later, though I count that as a KO. But it really should have killed her. The effect even makes it look like a full force hit.
Jonathan arrives, somehow having gone all the way to somewhere with Kryptonite and back before catching up with his son (who moves at super speed) to hit him with Kryptonite.
Ah, I give up.
As the ghost floated away, I was seriously expecting it to say, "Laters!"
And as it did, I was picturing thousands of fans across the nation saying, "Laters!" and heading for Lost. Or American Idol.
In fact, the extremely passable show "Onyx" last week came in seventh place in the ratings, behind Dateline NBC, Lost, Stacked, The Simple Life, and America's Next Top Model.
People would rather be watching Pamela Anderson walk around like a ditz than Lex in his prime, because the show is so badly done right now.
It's the inconsistency. It's the lame plots. It's the lack of character and mythos. And I repeat myself... like this show has.
Then we have yet ANOTHER Lifehouse plug.
Clark asks Lois to dance. Chloe is there, at the dance, and she has no date, but Clark refuses to dance with her. Even though he likes Chloe, and Lois is his adversary in ways.
Then Lana walks in. Why? No real reason. She said she wasn't going. She had no reason to go. A day earlier, she had no dress, no hair plan, no real desire to attend.
And hey! She arrives anyway, made up to the hilt despite having no one to help her. And hey! She comes over, and despite spending a whole year badgering Clark relentlessly, she's just ready to dance with him again. Magic! Love!
And he dances with her, right in front of Chloe.
And then Jason, a man who should be barred from campus after what he did (if not facing criminal charges), stands at the door and broods. Why? I thought he was working with his mom. If he is, he should hate Lana, right? And how would he know she would be there?
For arbitrary tension, right? But for tension to work, it has to be sensible. This is nonsensical. There is no reason Lana would suddenly like Clark again, there is no reason Jason would be there (or be allowed to be there), and most importantly, there is no reason at all Clark would choose Lana over Chloe, especially given how kind Chloe has been to Clark of late and how utterly nasty Lana has been.
And next week? Another out of character rant, where Clark is not himself because he has amnesia. What a grand new idea.
1 of 5.
This show, if it can sink lower, would surprise me.
I don't want to be surprised.
My heart is just about broken. I don't know about you guys.
SUPER SHORT REVIEW:
Laters! Laters! Laters! Laters! Laters! Lifehouse! Lifehouse! Lifehouse! Lifehouse! Shot out knee? Climb the stairs. Someone hacks your computer? Talk with them. Hate a guy? Show up to the prom for him. Want to be prom queen? Kill people. What makes a good show? Silly situations? Sign me up! All this and Andy Rooney, tonight on Smallville: JUMP THE SHARK. 1 of 5.
Not too much this week. Actually, I was pretty taken up by the Dark Idol contest, which has fallen into hiatus. The site was apparently hacked, and the voting shut down, at least, for a while. I'll keep y'all up on it.
I went to visit friends up north, and came back to 270 emails. Insane!
I answered a good 120 of the short ones, and came up with thus:
Surgeville notes that it's kind of silly that when heat was applied to Kryptonite, the result was that Lex split in two, and then when heat was applied again, it somehow put him back together instead of splitting him into four Lexes. Interesting.
Shaun C. M. Anschutz helped my memory out, telling me which episode it was that heat vision plus kryptonite meant bad. The episode where he got super hearing. Remember? He used his heat vision on Kryptonite, and it blinded him.
Will writes in recalling an old episode of Lois & Clark where he fought Metallo. In that episode, Superman used his heat vision on a chunk of K and melted it just fine. So the question remains unanswered...
Rob finds it curious that Clark was able to eat apples grown with kryptonite radiation and still survive. I find it odd as well.
Stephen G writes in with some new Greek Mythology... check that out in the KO Count, newly updated with the Chloe KO I missed last week.
And that's it! Shorter than normal, but then, I go as far as my notes take me, no more, no less! Here's hoping that next week is better...
Don't forget the Smallville chat, Wednesdays at 9pm pacific, and if you want to chat, my MSN is still firstname.lastname@example.org. Hopefully, this week I can get some of them letters I'm owing you guys finished (you know who you are).
All the best, and thanks for reading!
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