Superman on Television
Smallville: Episode Reviews
Season 4 - Episode 21: "Forever"Reviews:
ForeverReviewed by: Neal Bailey
You know what I mean by the bwanging strings, right? Because whenever something happens that doesn't really add much suspense but still is supposed to, they bwang those strings. BWANG! Listen for them. It's what's driving me nuts about the score, I don't know about you.
Usually when a show hits the downward swing toward the end of the season (At least this show. In the last decade I haven't seen enough shows to really be a good judge.) there are a few clunker episodes, but generally by about three in we start to see a wind-up to the epic storylines that we want to see coming to life, getting us eager.
This episode tried to do that, with kind of success, kind of abortion. The problem being that it's really nice to see Lana acting like a human being, but it just doesn't follow from what's come before, and the other problem being that it's interesting to finally see some violent intrigue about the stones (as stupid a device as they are), but it's underscored by the fact that it doesn't make sense, what Genny and Jason are doing.
I mean, get this? You think someone is going to kill your family? Honestly, you think that?
Okay. You walk up to her with a gun, or you station yourself in a nice little tree, and BLAM! You blow her brains out. Problem solved.
But Neal, maybe they're after the power of the stones!
Yeah. Maybe they are. But why does Lana have to be alive for it? She doesn't, you see. They can still find the stones without her.
But Neal, she's the chosen one!
So? Killing her is going to suddenly negate the power of the stones? Why?
There's little rational framework for the pair's actions, so I find myself wondering why they do what they do. In this episode, it's no exception, but I'll get there.
The show continues to fall in ratings, the show continues to drop in viewers. I know this because my email incoming is a litmus test of the show's balance. And the balance is overly acidic. Meaning, most of the mail I get is from people who are leaving the show, or people who are sycophants. There are many exceptions. The number of letters is also dropping. I am catching up. This tells me that the show is either on its way out, or my reviews have turned to absolute crap. Since I've kept them pretty consistent this year, I'm guessing it's either that the formula is getting tired (IE my schtick) or that the audience is getting tired with having to hear the same complaints over and over again. To that I reply:
As much as it pains you to hear my cite the inconsistencies, it pains me to list them. But the solution is not, as it were, to then gloss over those inconsistencies and have a good time for no real reason, nay, the solution is then to wish for a reason not to slam on the show. Which I do.
I enjoyed reviewing, for instance, Superman #216. I was done in a half hour, and my review was shorter than Barbarella's shorts. The reason? It was just a finely executed story that changed things up and kept it fresh. Winick is great that way.
This show hasn't changed up much of anything for the better part of a year, so I'm stuck with the same complaints. The people who agree are vocal in agreeing with me, and the people who don't are very happy to call me a big turd, but the fact remains that until I have differing and changing material to review, much of the criticisms will remain the same. And while I apologize for that, I also can't fix it.
Many thanks to the one person, who knows who he is, who wrote in last week asking about the whip crack. That was, to wit, another litmus test. Had I written a review like the last one two years ago, my reckoning is that purposefully leaving out one of my trademark bits might have gotten me flayed. To wit, not putting in the Indiana Jones whip last week went mostly unnoticed, and helped me realize and helped me to figure what's going on in the minds of most of what were once my most vehement readers. CRACK! They've disappeared. The ones who love or hate my work so much that they nitpick to death (much as I treat Smallville) have gone to plaid.
So what's left are you guys. And you know what? That's fine by me. You either stuck with me because you're cool or you read me because you hate me... and that's great on both ends. On to the show.
Again we start with a first scene involving a kid that's been close to the mains for approximately four years and yet a character that nonetheless, we have never seen. A man so memorable, the only way I know his name is by the company he built his box in, which I'm hoping is Nash, because that's all I can remember from his performance.
This show is, essentially, a combination of Recruit and the last Emily Dinsmore episode, which, if you look back, didn't fare so well. Why? Because when you have a series where not 8 episodes ago you have a guy with the same power (to freeze people in place) and when you have a series that takes an impossibly ridiculous prospect (building an encased glass box with which to look at the fetishized women of your choice) and repeats it (remember Emily's box and my coronary?) you have, generally, a recipe for crap on a stick without the stick.
But there is some good in this episode, believe it or not! For instance, at the beginning, there was a masterful shot, it appeared to be crane, going from the ceiling downward after Chloe. Where did that come from? It was great.
And there's even something to be said for the surprise opening. I mean, Chloe in the middle of a fake school, not knowing how she got there, in a huge warehouse.
My first response was, whoa! Hey! Maybe Lex is doing something naughty. Or maybe she's going insane. Or maybe, just maybe, she's a clone.
But no. You see, those would have been interesting stories. Instead, some kid, a fricking kid, has managed to build an entire scale replica of the school right down to the posters on the wall and the items in the Torch. Which is not exactly possible without raising suspicion, even if you have a dad who's complicit. Why? Because let's see, number one, you're a father and your son threatens to kill your wife unless you build him a giant replica of a school. You then decide, what, that letting ten people get kidnapped is better than letting the guy kill your wife? Or even better, you spend the literal MILLIONS of dollars it takes to construct a school (we don't have levies for fun, you know).
Or maybe, just maybe, you walk up to him with a gun, or you station yourself in a nice little tree, and BLAM! You blow his brains out. Problem solved.
But if they did that, then they couldn't capitalize off of House of Wax, now, could they? They couldn't take that oh-so-sophisticated Paris Hilton vibe and rub the skank off on your television screen, could they?
At least he didn't have the mentality of an 8 year-old and build it all himself. But the fact that he managed to bring in lockers, posters, and all of the things that makeup the school without anyone noticing or becoming suspicious is indeed hard to account for.
As is the fact that while all of the other people knew they were being placed in a cell, Chloe somehow magically got there without knowing. How? Well, who cares, it made for a compelling opening, right? Nah, I think I'll care. I have brains that aren't formed into wax, at least, not yet. After this show, I don't know though.
It's almost like the stated intention of the show these days: Women frozen in wax and their idolatry. Take a pretty girl, put her in the situation you like to see her in, watch her tick. I found more Freudian aspects of this show coming out at me than usual, and I think that may be the subconscious direction the writers are working. Why else have the same villain twice in one season? And there are folks out there, believe me or not, who like frozen women on pedestals.
The opening also suffered from the plot motion flaw. That's where Chloe, when she's sitting in her own office, suddenly starts getting up and exploring something that doesn't really make much sense for her to explore. The music, for instance.
She looks up at the clock and it's clearly 8:30pm. This is later than anyone would be at a school, and it MUST be later than it was when she last looked up, so when her primary concern is not "How did three hours just disappear?", but rather, "Hmm, where is the music coming from? Music means someone is getting hurt!", you see where I have problems, correct?
And to explore the music, she goes, where? The girl's locker room?
So good idea, badly executed.
There are two redeeming features of this episode, but both are so filled with rubbish and god forsaken devices that you cringe through them, but there are some good points.
Like Clark and college. Okay, I enjoyed the idea. I really did. Clark sacrificing himself to stick up for the family. It's a noble theme, and a theme I love. I read books about that theme solely for being about that theme, and I know there are tons of guys out there, and women too, who have given up their dreams to protect their families. It's a part of one of my favorite songs, by the Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Irish Whiskey. Worth a listen.
But here's the deal. The theme only works when the kid has to sacrifice himself. You know? Like, when the kid has college in front of him, and the reason he can't go is because he doesn't have the money and dad can't keep the farm afloat without him there.
Number one, Clark has Lex and a strong back. He can get money somehow.
Number two, dad can't keep the farm afloat without him there, but no matter where Clark goes, he's always there, get me? Clark could go to school in the University of Venezuela, and after class, he's about fifteen minutes of running and one leaping of the giant bounds at the Panama canal away from pushing in fenceposts with his thumb and then skipping back for pizza. He's SUPERMAN for crying out loud! It doesn't matter where he goes, he can run back to the farm and help if they need it.
So there is NO reason, NO reason why he can't go to U of M and have just a randy time and then run home.
But he's staying for Lana, Neal!
But he didn't know that Lana would be staying, reader! He made this decision before that.
So while the premise is noble (like Alicia) it fails because it lacks a coherent framework. As does Lana not going to college.
The reasons Lana gives for not going to college are the same she gave for not having sex. "I just don't want to do it for the wrong reasons!"
Okay. What are the reasons for going to college? One, money. You get a higher paying job. Call me cynical, but I've never met a college student more concerned with the pursuit of education than the pursuit of the almighty buck. Which is why I dropped out in my last week, since you asked. Two, money.
That's right. College is vocational school. So the only reason that Lana would not want to go to school were if she were afraid of a new situation, or if she were rich.
She is neither. She went to Paris on a whim, and she, to my knowledge, has been living on top of the Talon for most of a year without a job, buying ever more expensive clothes and vehicles. See that 30,000 dollar SUV she was in today?
Nell is rich and stupid, or this show's got its head on backwards.
So she has every reason to go to college. If she stayed for Clark, the same argument for Clark applies. She didn't know Clark was staying, so there's no reason.
They are fixing Chloe. That's another good thing. I respect the fact that they are bringing Chloe into each episode more and more. They are actually offsetting Lois by bringing Chloe in for the last few episodes, and now it's more of an equal character time. If they keep this up, I have no problem with Lois being a regular, even if I don't buy the premise. But here's the rub. I think they're giving Chloe the equal time because after this season, I don't think we'll be seeing much of her any more. I think it'll be Chloe in far flung college A with Lana, Lois, and Clark in far flung college B.
I believe Chloe's getting the axe, though I don't think they'll kill her, and I've been calling that all season. She's just not "hot" enough. Though, to me, she's next to only Annette in beauty. But then, like a good Ferengi, I like most of my women human, not plastic.
Which is another reason this show had problems with me.
And hey, check out Annette in 48 Hrs. I just saw that movie again, but hooooo mamma. Annette, marry me!
Clark and Lana are flirty and friends again. Usually, this would make me happy. Like, two years ago, even if it meant passive aggressive banter at the end of the show (which it did). Instead, it now infuriates me, because I know I am being played for a patsy. You can't make a character hate another character and then make that character love the other character without a transition. And you know what? A baby ain't it.
A good example? Imagine if Lex and Jonathan were just buddy buddy one episode. They're not exactly enemies now, but they're about where Clark and Lana were three episodes back. Lana thinks Clark is a liar and a rear end, just like Jonathan thinks Lex a liar and a rear end. Imagine if they were joking with each other one episode, how unnatural that would be. But because Lana's got hoo-hahs, most of the audience just accepts with grace that they're back together and happy. Crapola!
Jason walks into the mansion. Lex holds out his hand and says, "Oh, hi, Jason! I just opened my computer and typed in the password, which you can use in a Verizon ad, and then I-ACK!" COLLAPSE.
You'd think Lex would instruct security to not let Jason on site, but then, you'd be thinking, which this show will have none of!
They have another scene about the problem I enjoy with the execution I don't. Ma and Pa talk about Clark's options, and there are some real gemmies of dialogue in there from bad writing school.
"Clark still feels responsible for my heart problems."
Good. He is.
"He can only come back a few times a year." (If he goes to another school.)
And then a great big scene with Lex and Lionel and Genny and Jason that should have been great, had it not all been about the dread concept. SECRETS AND LIES! Lionel lied to you, Lex. No, Genny, Jason lied to you! Jason, your mother will betray you! No, Lex, your father betrayed you.
Ah, just get together and make out all ready, you putzes! Either that or climb a tree with a gun!
Which leads us to our great action sequence. First they torture Lex, leaving marks on his chest that will magically heal by the next time he see his chest (mark my words, and lo, it shall be a miracle). Then they prepare to spear him in the eye, so Lionel relents.
Okay, you tried to kill this boy a year ago, now you don't want to see him even scarred. Add into this flawed character philosophy the fact that if they tell Genny and Jason where the stones are, they will be killed, so why tell them anything, and you realize how ridiculous the scene is. If a rational writer wrote Lionel, as the poker came into his face he'd just say, "Look, you go ahead, but if you hurt him, I'll never talk, and you'll never find the stones. Let's go together, so you don't kill us, and we'll give you the stone and part ways."
But, of course, after they find out where the stones are, they just let Lionel and Lex live. Why? Because they're morons. What do they need to be alive for now? They obviously can't live, because they'll then swear vengeance at best or go to the police at worst. So they just leave them alone in a room near a fire tied up in chairs.
And they escape.
The whole scene is ridiculously impossible to buy, even though it is good in the sense that it brings a bit of closure to the awful secrets plot that refuses to die.
BUT, I can be optimistic. I see that by killing all the Lana-Clark baggage and ending this stupid stones mess, they may be setting themselves to start over or begin anew next season. And I like that. But I can't give them credit for that until it's happened.
Why would Lana pull out the stone and look at it in her brand new SUV for no reason? I KNOW she's obsessed with the stones, writers, but she still has to have a logical reason to be looking at it in a parking lot!
I know why they did it, too. Because one of my main letters I get is folks asking me how many stones there are. I've heard people who think five, many who think four. It's because they don't really care and the show doesn't make a point to push where they are very well, and because the arc has taken so long to play out that people just plain forget. So they show Lana oogling it so people will start to get it, because they have to now that the finale is next week.
The "Chosen" one. What the heck is the chosen one. This better pan out, or you know what. CRACK!
Now get this one... this one just made me laugh in horror. You're smart enough to get an entire scale replica of a school built, but you're not smart enough to take down the pictures of the kidnap victims who are crossed out in your office. And you leave the name of your company on the blueprints for your evil layer. CHRIST! How mentally retarded do the writers think we are?
And then Clark has a brilliant detective moment. He looks at the blueprints, he sees the girls, and he comes up with the ONLY... POSSIBLE... CONCLUSION! That Nash must have rebuilt the school somewhere. Why?
Well, who knows. The man who doesn't think something's up when his mother is dancing to Ashley Simpson and eating ice cream just suddenly became the Batman.
DIE, AS YOU DESERVE TO!
The girls smash the villain with a drawer then run. Then, magically, the villain gets ahead of them somehow despite their thirty second head start. Don't ask any questions, just watch.
AHHHT! No questions. Just watch.
Then he tosses the waxed up head and BOOM! Jelly all over their pants. I forgive the impossibility of him getting ahead, because it was awesome to see the head jelly. Another redeeming point in this episode.
Then we come to another redeeming feature. Lex and Lionel escape, and you can almost get over the implausibility of the situation. And why?
Well, because in the scuffle, Lex manages to disarm Jason, and then chase him through the woods with a big stick. I've been wanting to do that for a solid year, now. Picture me in my pjs jumping up and down and screaming, "GO! GO!". It was probably one of the best moments of the season for me. OOOOOOOH!
But then Lionel only wing shots him and lets him fall in the water. And as we all know, long falls and a grazing bullet wound only kills in real life, not TV, so Jason will be back.
Wouldn't it have just been great to have Lex whap him to death with a big stick? But no. Why, God? Why do you torture me?
Al: "Because chicks think Jason is hot, my son."
I'm also curious why Lionel only shot him once, when there was clearly time to load him full of lead at point blank. Heck, load him full while Lex hit him with a stick. Or even kill two birds with one stone. Shoot Jason, and pop a cap in the insolent kid who will likely kill you someday. But nah, that'd be logical.
Lois on the way to confront the villain: "How cliché, an abandoned warehouse."
To wit, I reply, too true.
Lois gets waxed with her leg in the air, and somehow doesn't tip over and explode into a million pieces? I don't buy it.
Did anyone else have a moment of diabolical laughter when looking at the Lana statue and seeing her little earrings dangling? If you have a copy of the show, seriously, watch that. It's a good gut laugh. She's sitting there, like, "MMMM! MMM!" and the little French earrings dangle. It's more comical of a satire of the character than any that I could come up with. I see it as a Freudian example of the real woman, not the fake plastic woman, wanting to come out and be a character. But maybe that's just me.
So he tries to turn Clark plastic, but instead gets himself. Clark saves Lois, but hey, why try and save the villain? Clark does the typical un-Clarky thing and just lets the dude die when he has plenty of time to set Lana down and go and save him.
I really hate it when he does that. It's very 50s comics. You remember, when Batman and Superman would just let the villain kill themselves? I always wondered why the good guys didn't try and save them. That's what good guys do. It's why I was so ticked when Az just let Superman let Zod go. I mean, Superman has mastered the Phantom Zone, why not save Zod and imprison him in a place that isn't an eternal hell? (He doesn't send OUR criminals to the Phantom Zone, why would he let Zod rot?)
The eye closing was incredibly cheesy. It actually made me laugh it was so bad.
At this point I ask, "How has this story moved the characters forward at all?"
Except for Clark and his parents (which has a bogus rationale) it hasn't.
But there was the attempt, which I recognize, and some of it went well. Like the part where Jonathan talks about getting stuck on the farm. And the scene where Chloe closes the Torch was touching, despite all of my cynicism.
As they all walk away from school, Clark and Lana hand in hand and Chloe running up after them, she says, "I guess things don't change." (paraphrased). Which, while an astute observation, is the problem with the show. But Chloe was still done well, they did attempt to move things forward again, and even though I think it's just the finale speaking, I have to credit that. An otherwise lousy show, somewhat saved, so I go with a 2 of 5.
SUPER SHORT REVIEW:
If you're out of ideas, just use the same one over again. Especially if it reveals something Freudian about your desire to have doll women do your bidding. It's good to have a plot about the rural plight. Problem is, you have to be rural, and super-speed from urban to rural precludes that. Jelly smashing heads are cool, as is Lex with a big stick, but sub-plots that don't move forward and characters that don't move forward are still definitely the antithesis of cool. 2 of 5.
As I said, business is slow, so it may turn into an alternating thing or a disappearing thing as the show picks up or doesn't next year. But this week I got enough, so this week, we shall plow on!
We have a new feature this week because of Jeff Schwarz! You will find, in the main review area, a REVIEW PREDICTOR! He was good enough to put a predictor together based on my typical rating coupled with the writing, and the best part is, he says he'll keep updating it! Pretty soon, evil robots will write my reviews for me, and I'll just keep cashing the blank checks! Ah, who am I kidding. I'll never get paid. Thanks, Jeff!
I've gotten some letters, so just to let you know, Dark Idol is still on, they're just having technical difficulties, so if you want to be kept posted, just shoot me an email. I have an email list for the contest that I will eventually turn into a mailing list for general goings-on with my writing, and you're all welcome to it, and I thank you for your continued interest. Bailey.email@example.com
I also have some GREAT news. The New Patriot, my comic offering, is being put out under Portent, at least as soon as we finish it. We're half done, Alessandro and I, and there are six scripts. I plan to make it an ongoing, and it should be about a buck fifty an issue, so if you want in on some subscription action or want a small preview, send me an email above. There's a few pics at my website, and there will be a small preview up as soon as it's finished. I also plan on doing color issues, but they cost more, about five dollars a pop. I promise you these books will be worth it, though.
So that kind of offsets the failure mentioned last week with Dinoship, and just goes to show, with every bad thing, there's a good thing, eh? Nertz.
Also... I have a few letters to Al and Miles, but to date I have NO lies from Lana, and NO speculation on when the show jumped the shark. If you guys don't get hopping, the finale will be nothing but me rambling, so please, send in your speculation! For more, check out two businesses back.
Sherry Schmidt wrote me a long while back, and I just got to the letter. She writes about Chloe's genealogy skills, and makes a good point:
- ...Chloe Sullivan never ceases to amaze me with her resourcefulness! I have been doing genealogy research for 20 years (and have made some fantastic progress) but in one evening she was able to trace the Teague line - How? I'm not saying it is impossible to make that kind of progress in one evening, but you have to have subscriptions to on-line resources, and you also need a little information - likes dates and place of birth, and, most important, you have to know where to look.
If Chloe can get these kind of results overnight, then I just figured out how she can pay for college and get her and Gabe (and cousin Lo, too) into a nicer house. People would pay serious cash to get those kind of rapid results.
Brian Robinson writes in and points out that the sai Lana uses in Crouching Passive, Hidden Aggressive is an Elektra sai, and if you look, you can even see the E. Holy cow!
Brian Teufel gets in with something I swore I'd never allow again: A correction. The reason? He's just so incredibly right. In the scene where Clark sees all of the meteors and the planets close up, it's designed to contrast Lois' view. Lois looks through the telescope earlier in the scene, and sees just stars. I missed that, because there's so much time in between Lois looking and Clark looking, and because I was distracted by Lois hitting Clark, but when you look at it in full, it's actually cool. I changed my mind because of this email, so I think it only fair to give him credit.
And finally, JB writes in with a great point. He wants to know why Chloe remains unknowing and in no form of anger about Lionel's release after three quarters of a season. I think we all wonder that...
Next week: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO!
Oh, and don't forget the KO Count.
ForeverReviewed by: Douglas Trumble
Last week I offered a bit of criticism on the fact they had a Filler Episode so close to the end of the season. I stated that I felt the fact they had not yet started covering the main season plot would require them to rush it's conclusion on the final episode. Well this week we have sort of a different animal to deal with so I am not sure I can make the same complaint. The A plot of this episode was Filler yet again, however there was enough of the main season story line covered in this episode that classifying it as simply a Filler Episode just isn't right. So it's a half filler, half main course with a wrap up of Smallville High to boot. Yes a different animal for sure.
That said, I rather liked this episode. I must admit as much as my focus on the show is Clark and his journey, this week I found myself way more interested in what was going on with the Luthor's. I found the scenes with Lex and Lionel prisoner were very well done and I liked how they played out. I still can't peg Lionel. He really seems to care about Lex right now which tells me he isn't simply back to his old ways. He may not be good and he may not be fully evil again but there is a change to his MO now and his feelings for Lex seem to be that change. I like this little sub-plot and I think it's being done very well for the most part. If it keeps going like this I may have to take back my comments from Onyx about Lionel's sudden change of heart.
You could even see genuine pride in Lionel's eyes when Lex freed himself from the binds on his chair. Very nicely done by Mr. Glover. Jason's "death" was also nicely done I think. I was so certain Lex would kill him and I was very surprised Lionel was the actual trigger man. I also think it was a good call on the writer's part to have Jason "die" the way he did. It leaves it open for him to possibly come back which is always nice to see in villains. Smallville tends to kill villains a bit too often and it was nice to see a death that may not be an actual death.
The Kent scenes that advanced the main plot in regards to Clarks future were fantastic. Clark's choice to stick around to help his parents is a stroke of genius in my mind. It makes total sense to me. Clark had left them before either because of his heritage with Jor-El and because of his guilt. I can completely understand how he could feel like he owes it to his parents to finally once not leave them. I think Mr. Schneider and Mr. Welling both did a great job working with each other in these scenes. Mrs. O'Toole also did a fine job but didn't have as much to do in these scenes. That makes sense to me though since we are seeing more of a Father-Son thing going on right now. It works even more when you consider there is a mirror of that going on with the Luthors as well.
The A plot of this episode was standard Filler fair. It was bit far fetched with the fake school being built in the factory but this is a comic book based show. I can accept a bit of far fetched from time to time. There were some very nice moments throughout with the characters but nothing hugely memorable, good or bad. There were some things I was very pleased to see though. For one I really liked how Clark and Lana's relationship is being portrayed right now. They are friends with a hint of something more. Nothing else. No angst, no drama, and no conversations about should they/shouldn't they. I like that. I also liked how there was no mention on how this week's villain got his powers. This is a minor thing but with the overuse of meteor-rock-caused-mutations it's nice to see a villain that could just be one of the common DC universe meta-humans we see pop up in the comics here and there. I am certain with the context of the show, Kryptonite is most likely the official back story of this character but it was nice to see them just skip that. I can accept there are others in this Universe with Superpowers. I don't need them to use kryptonite to explain every super villain they bring on the show.
The villain was killed again this week which does bother me some but I can understand it. Lana was frozen and very fragile. Clark couldn't just drop her and take off at super speed to save the villain without risking her shattering. So he had to choose and I for one agree with his choice. If I had to make a complaint about this story it would be the effects. I don't think the effect of the kids being turned into a statue looked right. They looked like they were covered in Cake Frosting. This is simply a minor complaint but a valid one. It certainly wasn't something that affected my enjoyment of this episode but it was something I feel should be mentioned.
So anyway. Not a bad one, not a great one. Scenes tied to the main plot of the season were great and propelled this one to a solid above average grade. I give it a B. (or 4 out of 5 for those that like stars more.)
Next week we have the 90 minute Smallville season finale and "Revenge of the Sith" opens at midnight. This is one geek that is going to be on a blissful fanboy overload that night. I may have to force myself not to be giddy when I type up my review.
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