Superman on Television

Smallville: Episode Reviews

Season 5 - Episode 1: "Arrival"

Reviews:

Arrival

Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

MAIN POINTS:

  • A few of Zod's disciples stopped by. Clark handed them their butts.
  • Chloe told Clark that she knows the secret. He then left her in the Alps on accident.
  • Lex Luthor smells a rat, and he doesn't mean Splinter. He means a liar.
  • Lois is leaving town. Again.
  • Clark loses his powers for leaving his newfound and built Fortress of Solitude.

    REVIEW:

    Now just one second. It's been five months, and things are rusty.

    MONKEYBELLA, START THE TRACTOR!
    AYE! C'EST FINI!
    Now MILK that baby, and straighten that tutu!
    BON!

    Good girl. Rebecca, you there?
    Like, totally. Y'know. Just lurking in the background, watching Friends.

    Just a second. I need to reach deep down to pull out my sense of sarcasm.
    "Oh, like you'd need that. All you need to do it look at your stream of writer income. That's sarcasm enough for me."
    Ah, that's better.

    Inner fanboy?
    LEEMMEE LONE! I'M BUSY READING WORLD'S FINEST FROM 1953 TO FIND OUT HOW SUPERMANFAN7345432 IS TOTALLY WRONG ABOUT THE LENGTH OF SUPERMAN'S CAPE IN SUPERMAN RETURNS AS OPPOSED TO THE ANIMATED SERIES AS OPPOSED TO SMALLVILLE.
    But he doesn't have a cape in Smallville.
    WORST...OBVIOUS OBSERVATION...EVER!

    Al Gough?
    No comment, eh? Sigh.

    Oooozin Ahhhs?
    (Greg Graffin's borrowing them. Check back in around sweeps)

    Multiple choice department?
    "ALL SYSTEMS REPORTING IN."
    Good. Shields up.

    Obscure reference department?
    Calling in Charles Bukowski as we speak. How is your heart?

    Old Spice Red Zone?
    OLD SPICE RED ZONE!

    Billy Bragg?
    In the Cheese Pavilion and the only noise I hear
    Is the sound of someone stacking chairs
    And mopping up spilt beer
    And someone asking questions and basking in the light
    Of the fifteen fame filled minutes of the fanzine writer

    Har de har har, buddy. Revolution is just a tee-shirt away. Beam me up, Scotty!

    *cracks neck*
    *crunches knuckles*
    *looks at the clock*

    Okay, folks. New year.
    Let's do this.

    I think my rationale for this review is ~Friends. What I mean by that is that the tilde denotes the logical "not", ergo Smallville is ~Friends. When the show comes on here, I have to wait through about fifteen minutes of Friends. It's like pulling off your fingernails. It's like hitting yourself with a mace. It's like some middle class vision of purgatory. Only with Jennifer Anniston. And secrets. And lies.

    So I'm prefacing this whole review as ~Friends. After watching a little of Friends, how could Smallville POSSIBLY get a bad review? But in all seriousness, the show itself has a lot going for it, especially this episode in particular, so maybe it was Friends...maybe it was the show. I report, you decide, buckos.

    If there's one universal truth in these reviews, it's that I'll be kinder and gentler on a premiere and a finale as opposed to a sweeps show. But then, in this case, for the first time since the premiere of season three, I feel it is appropriate to say I'm not doing this for the sake of just going along with the beginning or the end.

    I really liked this show.

    Does it make sense within the framework of what's come and passed in what we shall henceforth refer to as that awful black-hole of a medicine woman season?

    No. And for that, it loses a few points for not sticking to its guns. It creates inconsistencies...too many things are too easily forgotten.

    But on its own...this show is superb. If only this could all have happened as the SECOND episode of season four...say Clark gets the elements, then episode 2 is this one...we'd be talking.

    So I'm going to spin for you a magical thought process here. Let's pretend that DID happen, and judge this show on that basis. How's that?

    But just for fun, I'll twist the knife in the wound of the real season past that WASN'T, by Bailey Decree 1984. Doubleplusgood!

    We open with a nice flashing ad of the season, which shows Lois dancing on a pole. NOT exactly the best of signs. The good part, however, is that it's immediately obscured by a ton of GREAT images. Teasers of what appears to be a solid season to come. HECK, that ad even tried to make up for the failures of last season. If you look closely, you can see the scene that was CUT from the finale, where Clark throws the front door off Lex's safe to get the third element. A scene that would have made Clark laying on the floor passed out with the element in his hand sensible. Why didn't they think of that five months ago?

    We drop right back into where last season ends. Clark tosses the triforce...and whoooooooo boy. The ground drops out, the shards start coming up, and it's kind of predictable, yeah, but folks, this is the frickin' FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE!

    Can I get a hallelujah!

    Ainsi soit-il!

    Thanks, Bella.

    This is what we've been wanting for quite a while. FORWARD PLOT MOTION. How cool is that?

    I was a bit disheartened...the CG was a little off. If you look at it, it's just not as refined as it used to be. It's still awesome, but it's not as good as it was in, say, even season 2. You look at Star Trek: TNG, great show, BAD CG in those first few seasons.

    Smallville was amazing to me because, even though the premise might fail at times, even though you might get a bad show, until the LATTER half of season four, every single special effect was TOP NOTCH, for the most part.

    Now, the ice is just a LITTLE less refined than it should be. You can kind of see around the crystal that hovers that it's CG. The transition of the triforce from hovering to Clark's hand is a bit jilted. I want what I used to have, and I'm guessing it's not there because of cuts in budget, or some other factor I don't know about (schedule?), but either way, I feel a little piece is missing. When you have a show full of garbage (see last season), that really sucks. But then, watch this show, and you'll realize it's a small factor indeed. In fact, just the fact that the Borg exist forgives the fact that you see a spraypainted box on them, just as a slightly less refined Fortress of Solitude is STILL the Fortress of Solitude. And that's not to say the effects are bad. They're ten times better than most shows...just not as good as they once were.

    The music they chose for the Fortress, I really liked it. Interesting, shades of Williams in there. I was reminded of Rosetta, to be honest.

    The set, too, was also really well done. Evokes the movie incredibly. I'm glad it will likely be a regular feature.

    I saw him walking through the Fortress, and the inner fanboy certainly cooed like a baby.

    Then the logic circuits kicked in and said, "Uh, Clark. Buddy? People are dying in a meteor shower in Smallville. QUIT STARING and GET RUNNING!"

    But then, the drama almost killed that inconsistency.

    Cue the credits. Awesome. Very pleased. It's a little more stylish than the last set, but it's still very well done, and showcases some of the better moments of the last few seasons. The ending, with him flying, is especially fine to look at.

    And then, LANA.

    "SIR, SHIELDS ARE AT 80%!"

    Calm down, Worf. We're going to be okay. I do believe, given the circumstances, that the Tholian ambassador will forgive me if I say that in this episode, Lana was somewhat, subdued?

    "Subdued, sir?"

    Well, yeah. Not as much of a bich, you know?

    "Commander Data, remand Captain Bailey to Sickbay. He's obviously lost his faculties."

    Oh, Worf, you've got a butt for a head.

    "IF YOU WERE ANY OTHER MAN, I WOULD KILL YOU WHERE YOU STAND!"

    Go stand in the corner.

    "I will not-"

    I'll tell Kah'less.

    "RRRRRR!"

    Seriously. She wasn't that bad in this episode. But she was, shall we say, CLARK stupid? About as dumb as Clark was for the later half of last season.

    She's on the edge of the crater, looking down at a Kryptonian death ship. She had to CRAWL there, agonizingly slowly. Why? She's just been in a helicopter accident no one should have survived. She's lucky to be breathing, much less crawling. In fact, crawling should have tuckered her out.

    So two folks in leather jump out of the ship and say, "BEHOLD! SCHUMACHER SUITS!"

    And Lana can suddenly get up and RUN.

    Well, okay. Continuity error, but I know if I saw guys with green eyes, I would RUUUUUUN! And remember that, because it comes in handy in about twenty sentences.

    Lana says, "ON NOES!!" and starts gimping for the hills.

    "Oh no you di'int!" they say, and swing right in front of her. "We were sent by Neal to destroy you for season 4!"

    DOWN come the police. And I mean, this is some HEAVY police action. There's like, four squad cars, the Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen, Detective John Kimble, Inspector Gadget, a helicopter, and I think I saw Voltron in the distance swinging a sword.

    Lana turns to them and says, "But wait. How did the police just arrive instantly in the middle of an emergency situation? That's a bit odd, isn't it? I mean, I didn't call them. I know the dead dude in the helicopter didn't. You didn't?" And for that matter, how did they even know a ship was in that crater? I had to crawl to know that? And why did they come armed to the hilt? And how did they arrange a SWAT team, which usually takes an hour or so, minimum, to put together, in no time flat? And why aren't they taking care of people whose houses caved in? And why can THEIR helicopter survive the storm while mine went BOOM? And hey, how many helicopters ARE there in such a small town? And why aren't the cops evacuating? Cops evacuate in emergencies, too."

    Green eyed Kryptonians look at each other, grin, say, "Lollerskates!" and shoot their eye lasers, turning the helicopter into a "roflocopter". They then turn to each other and say, "PWNED!". In English, of course. Because, you know, Kryptonians are kind of like Hoshi. Just a natural knack for knowing languages they've never heard instantly.

    All the while, Lana gimps off into the weeds and lays down to look pretty for a while.

    "Why do these Hu-mans draw their weapons and shoot at someone who hasn't attacked them yet?" the man asks. "Furthermore, I just blew up a helicopter. Why aren't the cops running? I mean, I know if someone blew up a helicopter in front of me, I would run. That's what Neal says, anyway, about twenty sentences up."

    "ROFL," says the girl. "Why ur saying this wen u noes I will only kill u 4 it?"

    There's also the fact that we now have a documented case of people with Superman's powers in Smallville. There's also the fact that though POLICE DIED, there was a complete cover up. Money can buy you a lot, Lex, but not covering up dead cops, a blown up helicopter, or an alien invasion...and why wouldn't Lana talk, for that matter?

    So in other words, awesome to see Kryptonians pwning a bunch of stuff...not so plausible in a logical framework. But the cool overrides the failings, much like the Fortress of Solitude, which is more than I can say for most of last season.

    The bullet effect was also really, really cool. I liked how it bounced off their skin...it's one of the better renditions I've seen on film.

    The green eyes rocked. Cheesy? Creepy? I don't care. I liked them. So there. Fun stuff. Clark doesn't have green eyes, but maybe Kryptonian poo is green, and these guys are just blowhards that are so full of it their eyes are green. They sure talked a big game but got beaten down in one episode. It's like Darth Maul, kind of, actually.

    Cut to Lois, at the Kent farm. This is one of many cases of characters going somewhere that doesn't really make sense. Lois just lost CHLOE to Lex Luthor, through her own machinations, admittedly, but why didn't she go to the Luthor Mansion to try and get Chloe first? But okay.

    The demolished house was an AWESOME set. Very well done. I'm quite impressed, and I'm interested to see what they do with it in the coming weeks.

    Martha gets a KO. First time I get to write, "A house fell on her." In the KO Count. Go Martha!

    Pa finally finds her, with Lois' help. He turns her over, she's like, "Nnnn...my liver. My liver! My hair hurts! Spank me and call me beat, put a fork in me, daddy, cause I'm done."

    He strokes her hair and says, "Don't you worry. We're gonna get you out of here."

    I'm Martha, thinking, "THEN QUIT STROKING MY HAIR AND YANK ME OUT OF HERE!"

    Another case of trying to be touching when it's life and death, like Clark malingering in the Fortress. Good for drama, bad to plausibility.

    I love how they were just about to be shot by Jason, and when they get up, they're not at all worried. In fact, outside of the paper at the end, no one really cares that Jason's kicked the bucket. It's like a hole in the heart of the WHOLE town, isn't it?

    They don't even kick up debris and say, "Ew, look. A cute finger." Or, "Look! His perfect Caesar haircut scalp. Too bad. He ate a meteor." Or even, "Is the man who tried to kill us gone?"

    Lex has the key now. That's important...and cool. He's never had it. Kind of silly for Clark to leave it around. But I'm still wondering how the heck Swann got it...

    He's about to make like a tree when the two Kryptonians arrive. He starts to turn and say, "Sorry, officers..."

    I don't know about you, but if my officers dressed like that, I'd find a female one and try to get her to arrest me for being too hot, if you know what I mean? Eh? I'm here all season, folks. Try the ratings.

    They say, "You Kal-El?"

    Lex says, "What if I am?"

    Then they hold out their hand, use the force, and summon the key through telekinesis, last seen on a Kryptonian in Superman II. Then they smack Lex around the world so hard that he lands back in the cave but in a differing time zone (with no in-flight movie).

    "WTF, how u do dat?" says the girl.

    "New hax." says the guy.

    Lex, lying on the floor bleeding, says, "Hey, how are you speaking English, aliens? And for that matter, you can travel all the way to Earth from Krypton, you're smart enough to survive what all of the other people on your planet died from, but you don't have any kind of sensor that can tell you if I'm Kryptonian or not? What are you, the aliens from Signs. Ooooh! I've got water!" (then he spits at them). "Water! Oooh! Water!"

    "O rly?" says the girl.

    "Very well, Lex Luthor, ruler of Australia. Have a nice day. Your wit has saved you once again."

    And then they take off at superspeed.

    The Fortress in Chloe's eyes was a neat effect...it's a positive note. You have no idea how nice is it to have cool things to say after so many failures...

    Clark is worried about Smallville in the Fortress (finally), which is good. But Jor-El says, "Time to learn!". And he says, "Coolsville!", which is kind of lame, but then, it kind of makes sense in a shoddy way, because Jor-El says he can save the WORLD if he does, so I'll let it fly.

    Though I'm still at a loss as to how blood touching the triforce unleashed Zod...that's, let's say, henky?

    FALLING DONNER PEOPLE! You know what I mean by that? I mean a goosebump moment, the first honest-to-tractors goosebump moment in the last YEAR. One of my favorite parts in the original movie is the Krypton theme, and then the falling people when Krypton dies. I remember seeing it for the first time on widescreen a few years ago and just being blown away by how poetic it looked, and here it is, along with, yes, a picture of the ship Clark left on from the movie as well. INCREDIBLE stuff. VERY well done.

    Bad editing caused me to believe that when Chloe entered, the Fortress was attacking her. Why didn't she collapse outside? So my note says, "Mean old Fortress.". But it's not. Apparently it was just the cold. My next note? "What, the Fortress of Solitude doesn't have a heater?" No wonder Lois and Clark had to...to keep warm, if you know what I mean. Later on. But erm...I don't want to get nasty Superman Returns email, so I'll shut it.

    Clark picks up Chloe, and Chloe asks him to run with her. It's romantic and cool, and I loved it. Running with her would kill her instantly, of course, especially at speeds, suck the breath right out of her, but still, romantic, in that suspension of disbelief kind of way. Like lifting a tractor by the bumper. It's easier to ignore when you have a good story, see?

    So Lana gimps into the middle of the road without looking both ways. I swear, she must have SOME guardian angle. She survives the rotor being taken off her helicopter, Kryptonian baddies don't snap her neck, and then she looks both ways and LEX LUTHOR, the worst driver in town, is able to stop.

    Lucky.

    He asks her about the ship, she gets ticked, and then she shoves him. That really sucked. Imagine the scene reversed. Lana won't tell Lex where the ship is, so he shoves her. Would that play? No. Sexism.

    Lana then stops mid-whine and passes out. Just after they cut, Lex laughed, but you didn't see that. I did, though. In my head.

    And then, a NEW tradition.

    BORK BORK squeaky shoes! That's right, a Swedish Alps hospital set. Bork bork squeaky shoes. Get it?

    The Swedish Chef?

    Hmmm. Tough crowd.

    Clark and Chloe have quite possibly their best character interaction in the show of yet. And why? Well, because the characters are finally, FINALLY moving forward. Watch for her to be shortly written out of the show, but HECK, at very least, now it's playing. I was a bit upset that Clark is just standing around with her as opposed to worrying about his mom and dad, heck, Smallville, but the scene played SO well, I only noticed that after the fact. And, well, because the show brings it up. Whups.

    They see the meteors hitting Metropolis, the chaos. Funny, the news has NOTHING on the big explosive shootout between the aliens and the police that resulted in an exploding chopper and the death of Voltron...

    But at any rate, we see Clark HAPPY to be Superman, realizing how GOOD his powers are. Excellent. Of course, this is followed up by a later scene where he's just hunky dory NOT to have powers, but that can't take away from this scene.

    Lana hears scratching on the ground, and heads down to check it out. Lionel's gone a bit oopsy-doopsy, and he's playing the "All work and no play makes John a dull boy."

    She says, "Mr. Luther?" With an ER. And just like me, that sends him over the edge. His eyes glaze white and he starts ranting.

    Stupid move number three, Lana. Tick off the homicidal, eccentric man who's scratching at the floor instead of gimping away. And you come out better for it.

    This is, quite possibly, a great argument against Darwinism.

    Then, LuthOR says it. Lionel throws it down, and your head says, "Oh no. You didn't just say that."

    The disciples of Zod.

    Oh... yeah. Fanboys across the country just wet themselves and said, in unison, "Okay. We'll buy some Old Spice. Keep it coming, evil suits!"

    "Their home is their only poison. Their home is their only poison."

    I kept thinking, "His name is Robert Paulson." For some reason, but then I had to get back to Project Mayhem.

    Still, a poetic line.

    AND AGAIN WITH THE SQUEAKY SHOES (Minus the bork bork).

    Martha came back from the light...how marvelous. That's only happened about eighteen times to forty of the major and minor characters, but still, acted well.

    Jonathan says that Lois was quite the hero. How? She drove up? She talked to Jonathan? That line was a bit weird. Maybe I missed the part where she threw the meteors apart, kicked Jason's butt, and threw the house off Martha.

    Then come Zod's disciples, in matching coveralls.

    Where did they get matching coveralls in the middle of a meteor shower's disaster area? The same place witches get S and M costumes in the early evening, silly. The Smallville Plot Gap.

    They throw Pa Kent, and OW. OW! I mean, I felt that. I was thinking to myself, "Why couldn't that be Lana's KO!" And then I kicked a small puppy in frustration.

    What? I have to vent my anger somehow. It's okay. It was Krypto.

    STOP THROWING SALAD! I really like Krypto. It's a joke. But Streaky...he's gonna be piddling shoe.

    Lana arrives at the hospital, and again, like Lois, we're wondering why. She's bandaged up, she's okay, there's no real reason I can think of. But she goes anyway. Sigh. And HOW, with no vehicle?

    But anyway, she still manages to con the Kryptonians into believing she knows where Kal-El is. Because Kryptonians can apparently master English instantly, but have no way to ask a simple logical question to trip her up and make sure they're not being led into a trap, like, "How old is Kal-El?" or "What color is Kal-El's hair?" or, "If Kal-El were a spirit animal, what kind of spirit animal would he be?"

    Clark and Lex square off, and Lex points out Clark's blatant lie. Apparently, he saw Clark in the light. That bad. Of course, since he was knocked out, there's no reason to believe Clark was teleported, just that he ran away, but whatever.

    I'm torn, because Lex says he was knocked out, but in the finale, we don't see him lose consciousness. Still, since he says he was, I'm gonna update the count with that one.

    Lex has a VERY good reason to be angry at Clark right now. Clark lied. And not a good lie, like with Lana. A bad lie. Like, Lex has been pretty trustworthy, so Clark should have confided in his friend by now. Of course, that's not a reason to swear eternal vengeance on Kent and aliens. But we'll see how that plays out. I liked the scene. It played well. Not great, but well. And that's good enough, in a world of awesome.

    Although I was sitting there, wondering why Clark was letting Lex give him a hard time when his parents were potentially buried under the rubble of his house. That's cold, Lex!

    And they should have cut, at least briefly, to Clark scanning the rubble. I mean, he could have at least said, "Holy crap! Jason's thorax! But no Bo limbs, thank Rao." But nooooo.

    So Lana's trap works, and here's another time where she's Clark dumb. Get this. She's smart enough to discern that Kryptonite kills Kryptonians (even though she doesn't know what they are or what Lionel's babbling about), but once she leads them to the Kryptonite, she just WATCHES them. When they fall over, she doesn't try and push them toward it. She doesn't pick up the Kryptonite and attack them. She just WATCHES.

    They then close off the Kryptonite and throw her across the room. And she deserves it for being that stupid. BUT SHE SURVIVES. Rrrrrr.

    I'm wondering why she wouldn't take Kryptonite to the hospital, incapacitate them, and then have all the people pile onto them. But then, hey, no Deus Ex Machina or drama if she's SMART, huh?

    And for this, she gets the BENEFIT of going up the KO Count. Sigh.

    So the Kryptonians go all Darth Vader on Clark. "You will join us."

    Clark goes, "I'll never join you!"

    So they whip out their friendship bracelet and say, "I am quit teh server! Ur haxed!"

    And BOOM! Crystals, a circly thing, and Clark is being sucked towards it. He reaches into the floor, grabs rebar (awesome), and starts doing the end scene from Monster Mash and Evil Dead 2.*

    *this obscure reference brought to you by HBO and the 80s.

    For some reason, the Phantom Zone only sucks Clark in, and the other two can just stand there and laugh. I didn't get that. Then they pull the, "Well, okay. Let's go and assume everything goes to plan."

    Clark whips around and (Hey, just like Darth Maul there too, come to think of it), whips around and tosses them into the pit. This despite the fact that with their reflexes as fast as his they would have undoubtedly have stopped him (like Darth Maul as well).

    But I'll chalk that one up to Superman. It's why Zod always loses. Clark's been fighting people with superpowers forever. Zod, he's been fighting his own ego and beards.

    PHANTOM ZONE! WOOOOOOOOT! That's the woot heard round the world.

    Fanboys, having changed their pants, sigh wistfully, take another Dorito, and say, "Well, that's it. There goes the couch. MOM! ORDER ME A CASE OF OLD SPICE RED ZONE. We're in it for life now!"

    That's right. Spinning Phantom Zone mirror. I wish one of them had said, "YOU WILL BOW DOWN BEFORE ME, KAL-EL". But hey, I'll take what I got. That's TEN steps up from the whole of last season already.

    Wow.

    Lana then sits up and just, I guess, won't ask Clark how he stopped the super-powered Kryptonians. I hate that. Why doesn't she say, "What happened?" and then he says, "They disappeared?" How hard is that?

    Also, what, the dead helicopter pilots, the people at the hospital, NO ONE is going to talk about the Kryptonians? You just can't cover that up.

    I'm wondering why this makes Clark lose his powers. A bit of an odd plot point there. Clark tells Jor-El he'll be back in a day. That's a pretty big thing to ignore. It's said for a reason. Then he just, what, loses powers? Why? Because he stopped the threat? Why would Jor-El go through the trouble of the Fortress? Learning about Krypton wouldn't help him stop Zod's disciples, and even if it did, why take it away, along with his powers, when he succeeds? I just don't see a reason.

    For that matter, I don't understand Jor-El any more at all. If there's anything NOT squared away in this episode (and much is), it's how Jor-El is more and more an evil guy. He almost lets Chloe die, and ridicules Clark much like Green Goblin for choosing people over power...sure, Jor-El might be misguided from his Kryptonian life, but who saved Clark? Who tried to save all of Krypton? Jor-El, the one I know, values LIFE.

    The Kent truck rolls home, and look! New windshield. I wonder how the heck they managed to get a new windshield after Jason shot it out in the finale, especially in a disaster zone. I know! They sold all of their stuff! You know how I know that? They drive back from the hospital, and none of it is in the back of the truck. Whups. Big, obvious continuity error.

    And they just traipse around, not worrying about Jason's dead body? Talk about no closure there...

    I liked the scene with Clark talking about his powers being gone. Another Kent scene...we need those. Only one thing bothered me. When may said, "You'll be vulnerable!" with a worried tone. Clark says, "Isn't that what it means to be human?"

    Now, I love the movie Angus. It posits that Superman isn't strong, he's just invincible. And that's a good point. And many complain that Superman wouldn't work in the rain. He's a shiny, happy, character.

    But that's not the point here. The point is that Clark, Superman, is the embodiment of the STRENGTH of human idealism as it pertains to making a positive change in society. A man who tries his best and fails but still wants to be noble has a place to say, "Yeah, vulnerability is a human trait, and it makes my nobility."

    But Superman? Superman's BEST feature, what makes him human as opposed to alien, is the INVULNERABILITY of his logic and idealism. His invincibility, I would say, is secondary to his infallibility. There is a reason he is compared to the Christ figure. The man represents truth and justice. THAT is what it means to be human.

    To hear something like that come from Clark, even though it was a throwaway line, stopped me cold.

    Still, a great scene.

    My next note is pretty evil:

    "Ha ha! Chloe's stuck in Bork Bork."

    But then, that's countered by the next:

    "Uh, how does Lex know how to find her in Bork Bork?"

    But that's offset by the tension of him giving her a ride home, and what that must mean in terms of Lex being on the case.

    Lex deftly taunts her, asking her why Clark would be in Bork Bork. But Chloe doesn't ask how or why he got there? Minus snark points.

    At the hospital, I noted that Lois was croaking, but there were no marks on her neck. Lex had fricking FINGERNAIL marks, and he was talking fine. A bit off.

    But still, good Lois and Clark banter.

    AND THEN:

    The dreaded 8:50.

    Not so bad, actually. If you ignore ALL of the continuity, and just judge it as a scene, it played all right. Lana was a bit of a bink, but compared to the rest of the show, she was positively delightful here.

    He hands her flowers, she just drops them. I was a bit worried there. But then they have a normal, casual conversation. It works well.

    She tries to back out of the "I love you.", and I was worried it'd turn into a passive aggressive guilt fest, but then she reneges, says she loves him, and they kiss.

    I can live with that.

    It sucks that she's LOOKING at a story about Jason and Genevieve's death, but expresses no remorse that Jason is gone. Yeah, he was a bit odd, but he never threatened HER life that I know of. She didn't really know he was evil, did she? Maybe my brain is missing something.

    NO MORE SECRETS. NO MORE LIES.

    Maybe that's a subtle tip of the hat to the fans, saying that season four is gone. I certainly hope so.

    She does manage to slip in one last banal, stupid question.

    "Clark, do you believe in life on other planets?"

    Clark should have tossed the bed off into the distance through the wall and said, as she flew off into the sunset, "WHAT DO YOU THINK I JUST FOUGHT TO SAVE YOUR GIMPY LIFE? THEY WEREN'T FROM NORTH KOREA, YOU TART!"

    That's a very Everett True reaction, but you know what I mean.

    Then, the final moment...go back grooving to Depeche Mode to the missing ship, to the Luthorcorp depths, to the Terminator goo...

    TO BRAINIAC.

    Well, yeah, it was Spike. But you know what? I have the luck of not having seen much Buffy, so I can hit this clean. And so far? I AM IMPRESSED.

    Also, much respect to Sam Loeb. Great dedication. THAT is what I wish they had given Reeve. End a dynamite episode like that, then offer it to the man who inspires it, as I'm sure Sam was to Jeph, who's literally changed my life and writing style. I wish him all the best in that loss...

    Then the preview. Lois on a pole, sex scenes, and very little Brainiac. Sigh. But then, previews are previews. So far, this season is REALLY changing my mind.

    If it goes like this two or three more episodes, this baby might just jump back over that shark and become plausible again.

    Because of the inconsistencies (which can be glossed over with a compelling story, and are), and because this doesn't really mesh with the last episode we saw, at all (It's much better, but the continuity gap is jarring), I dock a half point. Otherwise, 4.5 of 5. This is my highest rating since Transference. That's seventeen episodes.

    That says something.

    MORE.

    Status report.

    "Shield are holding at 50% Captain. We appear to have survived the fourth season. The Breen are recharging their weapon, however, and there's a chance they might be able to fire through the anti-secret and lie cloak."

    Very well Mr. Worf. Ramming speed.

    "Aye, Captain. And let me just say, I've never been prouder to serve under any-"

    Quiet, butt-forehead. Brainiac's out there somewhere, and I've got a Bajoran wedding to crash. Engage.

    Cue the theme music.

    SUPER SHORT REVIEW

    UR KRYPTONI4N? OH NOES1! HAXORS! Voltron! Detective John Kimble! RUN, GIMP, RUN! O rly? Look! Giant igloo! No wait! Bork Bork! James Marsters? Screeching tires but no hit Lana. Green eyes. Knockouts all around. Lex knocked through time zones. THE PHANTOM ZONE. BRAINIAC! But wait, weren't we just talking about secrets and lies? No more secrets and lies? Curious.

    SCHOOL ASSIGNMENT:

    What I did on my summer vacation: A short essay.

    Well, I answered a lot of your email. That was fun. Thank you. I met Stephen G in person. He even treated me to dinner! Very awesome. Incredible experience. I started my fifth book. I worked on my house. I generally worked. I think a day off is a foreign idea, but I'd like to hope it's paying dividends in readers and quality of writing. I'd like to hope.

    The Dark Idol Contest, which many of you helped me succeed in, petered and ended because of accusations of cheating, general corruption, etcetera. It's not the fault of the organizers, they were great people, but suffice it to say, no agent was attained. I'm still pretty much where I was, minus the prospective book deal, and minus the agent.

    To say that this is frustrating is an understatement, but if it offers me one thing, it offered me perspective. And that perspective is that I must redouble my efforts. That perspective enlightened me to the fact that it's not accomplishing a book deal. It's you people. YOU PEOPLE. If I can hand you a book or an article, and you read and enjoy it, that's enough for me. It's finally enough for me. Always the nagging nonesuch of fictional duty to be a success. Now, I think, I've completely abandoned the need for New York success, a slow breaking that took ten years, good friends, and my favorite, most encouraging editor, the man on this masthead, who had faith in me.

    To that end, I've started putting out my own work. That's right. You heard me. Early in the summer I templated and released my third novel, "Madly", a bawdy love story about a young man finding his way in the writing world (Where did that come from) and soon after, a few weeks ago, I released my third poetry book, "If You're Reading This, I'm Probably Dead." Har de har har. It's 385 pages of the best poetry I've written in the last ten years though, so scoff at THAT, if ye will! I even managed to keep the price down there...11 bucks and 12.50. I don't make much profit at all, but how many books have you read where you can yell at the author if it sucks, where he'll respond, where he might feel guilty and refund your money if you don't like it? Huh?

    BEAT THAT, STEPHEN KING! With your millions of sales and, uh, more accessible style. Going to weep now.

    And I'll tell you what, the cover on "If You're Reading This..." is incredible. Why? Because it was put together by our own Steve Younis. And I tell you, it was embarrassing, looking at that thing I almost felt professional with his touch on it.

    I also burst full-bore into the comic world, deciding that I had to produce or die. I put the call out on Craig's List and got a MANIC, crazy number of artists who wanted to make comics. Who knew? One thing I knew, however, from years of working with other artists, is that artists aren't like me. They don't work 12, 14 hour days. They flake. So out of 30 emails, maybe five artists stuck. BUT THEY STUCK. And so now I'm self-producing (with help on a few) EIGHT comics. Comedy. Drama. Dramedy. Science Fiction. Political satire. VULGAR ranting of a deluded maniac. City stories of the downtrodden. Id and Ego ruminations.

    I will not be stopped. I may not make money, but I will not be stopped. So in other words...so much for jumping the shark.

    On top of all of this, I've created a daily political column (not for kiddies, at all), and I've got more backup plans than Lex Luthor.

    Most of these can be found at NealBailey.com, the books, the articles, and updates on the comics. The reason I mention it here is because, for those of you who follow this article, what I do there informs and persuades what I do here. Just figured I'd shout it out and see what stuck. If I succeed in my writing life, these reviews can only get MORE flamboyant, funny, and joyful. Look at what just a little success did for this review (if I can be so arrogant).

    CH-CH-CH-CH-CHANGES:

    Every year I change things up a little bit and modify to make this column more effective. This year, that goes to plaid.

    First off, we are now going to cross contaminate. What's that mean? Well, I'll tell you what that means, boys and girls. EXPERIMENTATION!

    For those of you who I've already promised to read for, I will. For those of you I haven't, we're going to utilize a fine service I discovered over the summer, www.ytmnd.com. This is for ADULT readers only. There are some very naughty things the FCC wouldn't like on there, and if you're easily offended, stay away. BUT, that said, we're gonna have some family friendly fun there.

    The basic premise of the site is a picture, and a sound. Sean Connery made a mockery of himself in Finding Forrester when he said, "You're the man now, dog.", because he's an old, unhip dude. It sounded corny. So the owner of the site put up a pic of Connery with a looping soundbite saying, "You're the man now, dog!" over and over, with a line of text saying the same. Thus You're The Man Now Dog.com. Imitators followed, and now there's a literal internet CULT for this site.

    How does this involve Smallville? Well, I look at this site daily and I end up laughing until tears come down my cheeks. I really do.

    I figure all this vitriol, all the mockery, all of the constructive criticism can easily be pared down to a picture and a sound bite. So DO IT. The best one each week will get a nod, and maybe a few honorable mentions. And if nobody bites, heck, it's an experiment anyway. See if it sticks!

    An example? Three pictures in a gif showing Chloe entering the building and being blown to smithereens, with the Price is Right failure wav. Make sense? Or am I crazy here. Let's see what you can come up with. Kill me. Make me laugh. Or make something that's incredibly poignant. Lionel talking with Lex, with a picture of Lionel and Lex, interspersed with flatulence. The possibilities are ENDLESS, which is why the site works. It's so simple.

    And no, I'm not shilling for them. They don't know who I am. This is called word of mouth. If anything we'll be exploiting their bandwidth, but they get referring links, and that's ad dollars, so hey! Symbiosis! Try it out.

    And the MAIL!

    Over the summer, I fought my way through approximately 180 emails... most of them came before the show ended. I worked my way through them slowly but surely, and ended up with a veritable metric butt-ton of business.

    I said to myself, this is, this is just getting to be too much!

    Not because it's hard to answer all those letters, though it is, because I love answering the letters. Getting a letter from someone (provided it's not, "Eat cow, butt-munch!") is very much the highlight of writing. It means someone has read what you do...and when there's not a paycheck involved, that's a big nice deal.

    What I speak of instead is the dissemination. Meaning, in business, I've been taking the letters, paring down what people say, regurgitating it in a healthy format, and them giving it to you to look at.

    I then realized, essentially, in a flash, that this was, in effect, a letter column. So why not treat it as such? Any of you who read Brian Michael Bendis knows how much fun that can be, so henceforth, when we do business here, I'm just going to print your letter and respond...that way, I don't get mix-ups (which happens sometimes), credit is still given where credit is due, I can be more witty instead of aesthetic like the evil newsmen I rail against, and you guys can say whatever the heck you want and I won't have to classify it, just give it its due.

    SO, when you send me a letter through the homepage, there's now a check box. You either check the box to agree to have it published, or leave it unchecked to keep it private, and depending on your choice you can get a letter back, or a public response... at least as we work with this for a bit and see how it goes.

    Then I print them, I respond in bold, and we go from there. That'll increase the fan interaction (a chief goal of mine) and allow a forum to get dialogue going about Smallville for the week previous which will hopefully spill over into constructive criticism in the message boards. Heck, I might even get to show you a few mean letters. But PLEASE, if you curse or do anything naughty that I might not mind but that little children who see will just drop dead, use the ampersand, the carat, the percentage mark, the asterisk, and the dollar sign. That's what those #*%@$*ing things were made for, it would seem. It's the site policy, and I respect it.

    If there's anything you DON'T want public but still want to send a letter for business, just say so. IE:

    Dear Neal:

    I hate Old Spice Red Zone. Do you think Lana is really Lois? And hey, what's with Jonathan always saying, "Son..."

    Yours,
    Monkeys Fagoola,
    Valhalla, Timbuktu

    PS: Don't say I'm from Timbuktu or my boss will label me not work-safe.

    And then I print the whole letter, minus the PS and the Timbuktu. Get it? Simple, yeah, but just to be clear.

    But, one last time, I begin dissemination that I might respond to all of the voluminous mail from last year's finale, and even back to Krypto (What can I say? I got BOGGED down.).

    BUSINESS:

    Bruce Kanin writes in with a few questions regarding the finale that I couldn't answer. First, how did Lana leave and re-enter the Luthor mansion to meet up with Clark? How did Chloe enter the Luthor Mansion? Whatever happened to security? Good questions.

    Colegino has a very obscure, but nonetheless GREAT observation. Back in the pilot, Lex tells Clark about the mansion being transported for weeks. He says, quote, "My father had no intention of living here. He's never even stepped through the front door.". And then BANG, Onyx, Lex says that his father would never let him play down in the basement. How so, if he'd never even stepped in the door before Metropolis?

    I missed some people's Jump the Shark, including Adam Hoerner, not because of their letter being late, but my response being late. He theorizes that it jumped the shark in 4X02, when Chloe came back. Decent marker.

    Jeremy Jackson writes to point out a pretty funny bit...in Spirit, Lex has an email from Clark with the subject line, "I need a favor." How many times have we heard that one, huh? Also, there was no prom king in Spirit. How sexist! Further, Jonathan is shot in Onyx, falls down the stairs in Spirit...how does his heart take it?

    Steve Crow notes a recurring actor with differing characters...Jesse Hutch played Todd Turner in both Shimmer and Redux, but he's identified later as Billy Durden. Also, the end credits identify Clark's dog as Einstein, even though they chose "Shelby" at the end of Krypto and he was credited as "Shelby" in Lucy.

    Another critique of the "Dawn" character that can switch bodies with living things and just HAPPENED to change with Martha because it was the first living thing she touched...leaving the forrest, she sure touched a lot of trees.

    Dawn-in-Chloe also touches the furnace door with her bare hands while it's blazing., Steve notes. Dawn-as-Lana also breaks the electrical cord on the cleaning machine, which requires a pretty good amount of strength, but beyond that, sparks fly despite the plug being unplugged and the cord neatly coiled.

    B-Rad writes in with another inconsistency, a goof. In the finale, Lana limps into the grater. When she climbs up, you can see fire below her. In the overhead shot, no fire at all.

    C. Bowland writes in with Lana Lies...a new feature for the KO Count.

    In Lucy, she lied about the stone being stolen, lied that she did not care for the stone.

    In Facade, she lied to Lex about why she needed the books.

    In Crusade, she didn't tell Jason about her memory loss, a lie of omission.

    In Gone, she was holding back telling Clark about Jason, a lie, until Lois told him.

    In Magnetic, she lied to Clark about where her boyfriend was. She was being controlled, but note that when Clark is manipulated and he lies, she holds him accountable.

    In Tempest, she lets Whitney think he's still the only one she cares about.

    Feel free to add to the list.

    Will writes in to point out that Dawn is technically a Kryptonian Wannabe, taking over Clark's body. Noted and fixed.

    In the memory stealing episode, Trent writes in and points out that it's odd that Clark can get the freak to Summerholdt without transportation, and as fast as someone with a car. Odd.

    Keith Price puts another nail in that coffin by pointing out that the sherrif of SMALLVILLE can't go to METROPOLIS and have jurisdiction. Whups.

    Kevin Patrick's shark jump moment is Transference. Decent end point. Probably the last really good episode of the season.

    I deal with Smallville by using comedy to poke fun at the bad parts. Adeylan Dyos did it better than me this summer with this, which I can't describe, only paste:

    {Clark and Isobel are standing on the peak of one of Kansas' scenic mountains, sparring in front of a large crate with "Cold Fusion Box" scrawled in pink crayon on it.}

    Clark: You're never going to get away with this, EvilWitchLana! I need those stones, they can help me find my dog and dead wife, both of whom are a hole in the heart of Smallville.

    EvilWitch!Lana: Ha! Of course I'll get away with it, Clark. Not only do I have mad kung-fu skillz, I've single-handedly unlocked the secret of cold fusion. One more step, and I'll freeze the world in purple kryptonite, and there's nothing you can do about it-you have no powers! You're just a regular high school student!

    Clark (aside): If I'm not careful, that purple kryptonite will increase the already boundless tension between Lex and I.

    EvilWitch!Lana: *cackles*

    {Closeup on Isobel's thumb, poised over a very science-y detonator, with thematically appropriate music playing, when suddenly . . .}

    Ashton Kutcher (jumps out of the "Cold Fusion Box"): PUNK'D! Oh, man, America, we so got you!

    {Tom Welling and Kristen Kreuk burst out laughing.}

    Ashton: Oh, we had you going. Four years! Longest punk'd on record. We thought we were going to lose it with GoodLionel, or with Clark getting married for like three hours, or with Krypto, or the Rainbow Stones of Suck-

    Tom: The prom episode. Dude, don't forget the prom.

    Ashton: I mean, did you actually think this was a real TV show? It hasn't even been about Superman for the past year! People, art school in Paris?

    Tom: Kristen Kreuk isn't even a real person. She's two dwarves in an animatronic body.

    {The body unzips; the dwarves wave to the camera.}

    Dwarf1: Hello!

    Dwarf2: We really thought you were going to catch on with the kung-fu Lana.

    Dwarf1: Sorry about wrecking the show, but you should have caught on before now.

    Tom: Kryptonite-powered cars! Seriously!

    {Ashton gestures off-camera.}

    Ashton: We'd been looking to bring Pete back on the show for a while now, but Sam couldn't keep a straight face anymore during his scenes.

    Sam (entering, speech barely audible through laughter): Hey, Ashton, you got any lemon-scented Pledge?

    Ashton: No, but will you take some Old Spice Red Zone?

    Tom: Man, buddy, we needed you for the prom. Did you know LIFEHOUSE was playing?

    Sam: Man, LIFEHOUSE at the prom?

    Tom: LIFEHOUSE!

    Sam: Wow, that would've been really cool four years ago!

    Ashton: Now, just so we're clear, this has been a joke from the beginning.

    Tom: You almost blew it right off the bat by casting Bo Duke.

    Ashton: We had to start off kinda slow, but over the past few years, we just kept kicking it up, waiting to see when you all would catch on-

    Tom: Mountains in Kansas. Kansas, KA.

    Sam: Chloe got addicted to gambling . . . with Canadian money!

    Tom: Lois is here, and she's already calling me, "Smallville." Wouldn't it make more sense for her to call Chloe that-I mean they're cousins and all.

    Sam (perks up): Cousins?

    Tom: Not like that, man.

    Ashton: Hey, here's a spoiler for season five: Jimmy Olsen and Bruce Wayne fight to the death to be king of Apokolips, all because they're trying to win Lana's heart.

    Dwarf1: James Van Der Beek makes a hot Jimmy.

    Dwarf2: But he can't hold a candle to Special Guest Star Bill Gates' Bruce Wayne.

    Dwarf1: With Paris Hilton's cameo as Robin . . . or is it Robina?

    Dwarf2: You'll have to watch to find out!

    Ashton: Now, America, I'm not saying it hasn't been fun. After all, this one's going down in the history books, but don't you think that maybe, just maybe, you should have seen this coming? Tune in next Monday at eight for a very special episode of Pun-I mean, of 7th Heaven: "Camden, or SHAMden?"

    {Punk'd theme music plays over Ashton, Tom, Sam, and the dwarves' continuing reminiscence/laughter.}

    How cool is that?

    Stephen G sent in a few more Greek Myth references... check that out in the KO Count.

    Bryan writes in to commentate on a piece of dialogue:

    Lois: You know a year from now this will all seem like a lifetime ago.

    Chloe: Funny how it seems like just yesterday when he deserted that nervous freshman on the dance floor.

    He points out that now Chloe KNOWS he wasn't just deserting her...he was saving lives. Kinda cold.

    Will Sabel Courtney writes in with a few bits.

    First, in Leech, When Eric is about to fall from the dam, Kryptonite is in his right hand and the bag is in his left. The next scene, it's reversed. Continuity.

    In Kinetic, if you use your pause button, when the punk leader sucks a lime out of the hot chick's mouth, it's Lost's Evangeline Lily. How cool is that?

    Jonathan North corrects the KO Count by pointing out that the nurse in Cool was never frozen to death. Fixed.

    Aino P's shark jump moment was when Lex started liking Lana. Fair enough. I know it's when I started getting really dubious...

    Aelora Lane writes in with some witch commentary:

    Lana/Isobel/The Teagues: Okay, let's break this one down here. Let's

    start with the first time we see Isobel in 'Spell' at the beginning

    before being burned:

    Isobel: They've taken the book (BOOK?? What book?? If her powers are gone, wouldn't she need the book when she came back?? And again...what book??) and with it our powers. What would you have me do?

    Briana: Anything. We're running out of time.

    Isobel: Time is the one thing we do have. If we fall this night, I promise you, we will rise again to finish our quest. (And they were all supposed to rise apparently to... throw a party. That was their quest. To throw a party with teenagers.)

    Just, keep that whole dialogue in mind as we go through the Isobel/Lana storyline...

    So, Lana goes off to Paris. She meets Jason. We see them interact and it's adorable. Jason is sweet and funny and caring. Now, according to what Lex later tells Lana, Genevieve and Jason were meeting and planning in Paris *before* Lana and Jason met. Lana and Jason are together. Jason, also according to what we are later told, grew up in a house knowing all about the stones, and all about Isobel, and all about the prophecy of Isobel killing Genevieve's ancestor's descendents (or Genevieve's descendent's ancestors as we were originally told by Genevieve herself in one of the most *%)($*^ up script lines *EVER*). So, knowing all of this from the beginning... why in the hell would Jason allow Lana anywhere *near* Isobel's crest or tomb or whatever it was in the church? Wouldn't they be extra cautious of such things??

    Aside from that, it doesn't take Lana long to show off her tattoo to Jason. So, now he knows that she is connected with the stones, which again comes back to Isobel. Hell, not long into it, he knows she's possessed by Isobel. His mother knows she is possessed by Isobel. So... why didn't one of them just kill her??? Slip some poison into her cappuccino and viola!

    But the most glaring aspect of this entire STUPID arc... WHAT THE H*%$ DID ANY OF THIS HAVE TO DO WITH THE STONES???? Isobel was destined to kill Genevieve... and then she went away. Bwuh?? She needed a stone to kill Genevieve... why? She could have killed her at any point. She obviously wasn't around to protect the stones or anything like that. She didn't even really care about *finding* them. She just wanted one. To... kill her enemy. So what am I supposed to infer here? That Genevieve was immortal and you had to have a Kryptonian stone in order to kill her? Not that we were given any hint that this was the case... I'm still left to wonder what the hell the purpose of Isobel was? A sixteenth century witch who was out to kill Genevieve because she was burned at the stake. Though originally she was coming back to finish her quest. And somehow this all ties into the Kryptonians and Clark.

    Oooooookkkkkaaaayyyyy. Lost me on that one, Almiles. Seriously, this storyline?? Makes the Helex travesty look like Emmy-winning material. But thank you for that. I now know I can watch season two - and love it!

    And let's talk about poor Jason for a moment. Poor Jason who was sweet and funny and adorable at the beginning. Who got a coaching job at Smallville High and everyone liked. Jason, who had this conversation with his mother, in a limousine, in episode 4.09, away from the ears of anyone but the *audience*:

    Genevieve: I just want you to know, Jason, that I'm really glad that you're happy. I mean, Lana is... an enchanting girl. I can see why you moved to the middle of nowhere to be with her. I mean, she's... She's special.... I knew you'd meet someone like her one day.

    Jason: Did I meet her by accident, or not?

    Genevieve: What on earth are you implying? Of course you did, Jason. How else could you meet her?

    Who turns around and has this conversation on the phone with Genevieve in episode 4.18:

    Jason: Hello, mother.... Oh, it's done. Lex took care of the body just like we wanted... Mmmm. Love you, too.

    Who suddenly, and inexplicably, knows Clark is tied to the stones, even though Lex has been totally clueless on this fact the whole time, as has Lionel. And who, though he apparently has *had* this information since China (because all Chinese history includes

    information on the Kryptonians and Clark Kent, dontcha know?), doesn't do anything about it *until* last night???! Even though he's welcomed by the Kent family and friends with Clark - he does positively *nothing* about it until it's time to flip out with gun in hand and a face that looks like it went through a meat grinder instead of a pool of water?!? Oh yeah. That makes perfect sense. Way to build a character arc there, Almiles. And look, it even made sense!

    Good one, Aelora.

    Scotty V writes in and points out something that I didn't believe until I actually went to the tape and checked it. Sure enough, in Onyx, when Lex pulls a gun on the Kent family, they never escape. It just cuts to the commercial and BANG. They're at the hospital. What the...what THE? That's probably the weirdest thing yet.

    LETTER OF THE SUMMER:

    Cat writes in with a well put letter about jumping the shark:

    When Did Smallville jump the shark? I suppose I should begin with how I define "jumped the shark." There are many different definitions floating around the web, but the one I've always liked best defines the term as the moment of realization that a show has strayed so far from its original premise and/or theme that it's barely recognizable anymore. The precise moment Smallville jumped the shark is an issue my friends and I have been pondering for a while. The prevailing opinion seems to be the finale of season 3 or the premiere of season 4, but in retrospect, I don't think it's either. I will grant that those are two significant moments - not because they're when it all started to go downhill, but when we realized just how far downhill it had gone. They are the culmination of a gradual decline that appeared most glaringly in S3, but probably has its origins as far back as S1.

    Now, I should mention that during S1 I was not an avid comic reader nor was I particularly well-versed in Superman lore. I didn't really know what I was supposed to be seeing. Most mass-media portrayals, e.g. movies and TV, focused on the hero, not the human. Clark Kent was an alias that enabled Superman to live in the "normal world." We saw very little of Clark himself, where he came from and how he got to be who he is. Smallville was rich with the promise of that. We were finally going to see Clark Kent, no cape or tights or Daily Planet or supervillains to vanquish. We would see how a teenage Clark learned to deal with his powers, his alien heritage, his relationships with family and friends--basically, living in a world that he could never truly be part of. But most intriguing of all was finding out what made him so extraordinary that he would become the world's greatest superhero. Through his relationships, his decisions, and the lessons he learns, we'd see just what makes Clark so special after all.

    I figure one of the most crucial parts of conveying Clark's journey is to make him a character that viewers care deeply about. Well, Al and Miles blew it the second they made Clark impossible to identify with. At many points, I have remarked (often in more colorful language than the following) that Clark's thought patterns basically follow those of a very young child. He is painfully nave, trusting, and doesn't seem to learn anything from all his misadventures. He has moments of being perceptive, then in the next episode lapses right back into where he was. His naivite, while exaggerated, worked in S1 because we assumed he was going to get past it. But here we are on the eve of S5 and he still remains basically unchanged. In "Spirit," he walks in the kitchen to find his mother dancing to Ashlee Simpson and acting like a vapid teenage airhead. Yet he just gives her a funny look and that's that. You'd think after three years of facing meteor freaks and various personality-altering circumstances, he'd get a clue by now. And then we have Lana. Despite the way she has mistreated him all season, Clark still worships her as a teenage deity of perfect beauty and virtue who can do no wrong. This isn't love, folks. This is childish infatuation. Hardly captivating - by now, it's verging on nauseating.

    Some may disagree with me, but I still contend that the Clark/Lana relationship was once one of the highlights of the show. While a bit simplistic and at times unevenly portrayed, the Clark/Lana interaction was sweet in S1, and showed Clark forming what could be a very close and significant relationship with someone other than his parents. Had the writers played their cards right, the relationship with Lana could have been the vehicle for Clark to learn who he can trust and confide in. Lana could have been Clark's connection to the "human" world, a poignant reminder of a life that he could never really have. Instead, all this potential was squandered when Clark and Lana became Dawson and Joey with super powers. And then we have Clark's other friendships. In the first season, Chloe was shaping up to be great foil for Lana and an example of someone Clark couldn't trust - her insatiable curiosity, coupled with a drive that often clouds her better judgment, could have been used very effectively. But instead, she flip-flopped back and forth between a friend/confidant and vindictive woman scorned, until you couldn't figure out what the heck she was supposed to be to Clark anymore. And as for Pete, well, I can't really think of a single thing to say about him. That in itself should be telling enough.

    And then we have the Clark/Lex. Now, I may not be a comic reader, but even I knew that Lex was never originally in Smallville. But I'm open-minded, and I was curious about how this twist would be handled and what kind of character Lex would be. I liked the dynamic in S1. The idea that Clark and Lex were once good friends added a new angle to the story that had numerous possibilities. What happened that split them apart? What caused one young man to become a hero while the other gives in to a far darker fate? Sadly, almost five seasons in this question is still largely unanswered. Once again, it comes down to lack of character development and inability to move the relationship forward. Toward the end of S3 we finally see Clark's trust in Lex start to falter, and Lex moving closer to the villain he eventually becomes. But all this is all undone in S4, when a quick apology and handshake is all that is required to make everything well in Clexville again. This was about when I started looking for Bill Murray, because I was sure I was watching a TV remake of Groundhog Day.

    Now you're probably wondering why I went on so long about characters, and why it's so important anyway. It should be obvious by now that I favor a character-driven story. But I should also point out that what made so many of the great TV shows and movies memorable was the characters. Like Neal Bailey said in his "Blank" review, there are a finite number of plots you can write. But there is literally an infinite amount of characters you can write. Character is the easiest and most effective way to make the tried-and-true fresh again. Look at Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Basically a retelling of the Romeo and Juliet story (which wasn't even that new when Shakespeare did it), but I was crying like a baby at the end of "Becoming" and was all "Buffy and Angel 4-Eva!!" See, a great show can do that do you. Great characters that viewers identify and empathize with can do that to you. Every viewer wants to feel that this person on the screen could be them, or someone they know. Can you do that with Smallville? Yeah, I thought so.

    Well, this essay has already gotten tremendously long, and despite my feelings regarding character I don't think it's right that I close without at least touching on plot. Even if you do have great characters, in order to keep a show exciting and fresh you need to be a little more inventive with your storylines. With Smallville, it had become obvious to me in the final arc of S3 that the writers had run out of ideas. The last time I truly enjoyed the show was early in S3 - "Relic," to be precise. I realize now that this was the last time the writing was truly fresh or original. While there were good moments since then, they were few and far between, and generally lost in a sea of been-there done-that's. The slew of Freak of the Week-style episodes in S4, many of which recycled very similar plots to earlier episodes, didn't help matters. When we did see something new, it was wildly inconsistent with what came before. Witches? Magic tattoos? Stones? Where did all this come from? And what happened to the kiwatches, anyway? And what does all this have to do with Clark becoming Superman?

    Now, I've never been one of those viewers who complained about Freaks of the Week. I actually enjoyed the Freaks of the Week, and sometimes found them quite effective. In S1, the FotWs provided a good foil for Clark, showing us just how much of a burden his powers could be and the strength of character he must have not to abuse them. But the problem with the Freaks of the Week is that the show grew far too dependent on them, and it showed. Buffy the Vampire Slayer used its fair share of Demons of the Week in the earlier seasons, but by the time the end of S2 rolled around, DotW episodes were pretty much reserved as "filler." Also, on many occasions the writers were able to make these episodes relevant by interweaving them with the long-term arc or character development. Smallville, however, squanders this possibility by making the characters either forget everything that happened or just move on as if nothing ever did. Furthermore, Smallville has never been able to come up with a consistent, coherent seasonal arc. The pacing of the show has always been strikingly uneven. Every attempt at a long-term arc starts out promising enough, then is promptly ignored for several weeks of FotW filler before being resurrected again in the final arc of the season (see S3 and 4). The result is a rushed, hastily resolved story that feels incomplete, partially because most viewers have forgotten about it by now.

    As a writer, I find that plots often seem to emerge almost on their own once I've established unique characters and relationships, with an idea of where I plan to take them. I usually regard plot as a) a way to generate suspense and keep the reader reading and b) a fun, exciting way to facilitate character development and to move relationships forward. When I've decided where I want to take a character, oftentimes I can fairly easily come up with a plot that will get him/her there. Seldom does a plot pop into mind before I've figured out my character's path; if it does, I ask myself, does this sound like something so-and-so would do? Would this event/scene move my story forward? Would this plot illuminate anything important or noteworthy about the character(s)? If the answer to any of these questions is no, I seriously rethink my idea and adjust it until I can answer yes. No matter how cool an idea sounds or how much I'd love to write it, I never put it in the story if it means forcing character regression or going against what I've done with the story so far. Basically, anything that could jar your readers out of the world you've created and ask themselves, "What just happened?" should immediately cause you to question it.

    So basically, I guess the moment when Smallville made me scratch my head and ask, "What just happened?" would be the moment it jumped the shark. I can't give that exact moment, but I can say that by "Covenant" I'd lost all sense of who the characters were, where they might be headed, and just what the heck is going on, anyway. I had no idea what motivated them or made them tick. I had no idea how they had gotten here, or what I had missed along the way in order for this to make sense. (Lana is an artist? I learn something new every day). When you watch a show, you should never have to question how you got here, or try to rationalize it in your head in order for it to make sense. It just should. Events should flow smoothly from one to the other. Characters should change and grow, while still remaining true enough to themselves that they're recognizable. The slogan for Smallville S4 was "A hero is born." Yet, I don't see a hero. I see the same guy in plaid lusting after the same girl and making the same mistakes in the same situations over and over and over. I see extraneous new characters that really don't add anything to the show. I see established characters fall by the wayside for said new characters. I see a pale version of that first season that was so full of potential. It's a shame, really. I guess we'll never find out about the journey after all.

    Neal



    Arrival

    Reviewed by: Douglas Trumble

    Welcome back everyone! I hope your Summer was a blast (or Winter for you folks on the southern half of the big blue interstellar beach ball we all share.)

    Oh what a wait we had over the break. I view cliffhangers with sort of a love/hate relationship that slides more towards hate than love. Sure I don't mind waiting a week but three months? Yikes! But Boys and Girls, it was well worth the wait!

    What we had tonight was just an absolutely fantastic episode of Smallville. A great kick off to what is looking to be a great season.

    Let's just start from the beginning. The Fortress of Solitude! No not the loft or a tree house. The Fortress of Solitude! Nothing like getting the old Fan boy/girl giddy factor going in the opening seconds of the episode. I was squealing with unabashed glee watching those crystals rise out of the ground. Very nice effects work! I loved the shot of Clark approaching the entrance and the interior looks fantastic. I hope we get to see a lot more of it in the future.

    The new titles sequence is very well done and I liked it a lot! It is nice to see Erica Durance getting her just dues being added to the credits.

    Now on to the main story.

    We get to see a couple of Kryptonian baddies in Xena-esque clothing coming out of the ship and heat blasting some cops in a field. The effects work was done well here and I think Miss Kreuk did a great job playing her part during the mayhem. The villains were not particularly deep but I never got the feeling they were supposed to be anything more than thugs. In the end I think it was clear they were nothing but a distraction for the main menace that appears during the closing seconds of the episode. Time will tell on that front I expect.

    We soon have Chloe stumbling into the Fortress of Solitude. (Yes the Fortress of Solitude, no you are not dreaming, it was really there.) We learn real quick that the heating system has yet to be installed. We see Clark being educated by Jor-El in some really cool effects and even a few flashes of Superman: The Movie footage, which I thought was a really nice touch.

    Clark has to save Chloe and we are given a really great treat when once again Alison Mack is given some of the best lines in this series. Her comment about going into "Super Clark Mode" was fantastic but she manages to top that one by leaps and bounds later in the hospital when Clark is opening up to her. "You're more than just a hero. You're a Super Hero." Oh how I loved that line. In fact that entire scene in the hospital between Chloe and Clark could very well be my favorite scene of the entire series. Admittedly I could just be suffering from Smallville withdrawals but it was a very great scene. Tom Welling was great as always and I think he was equally as good in this scene. However what made his part even more noteworthy was how he let Alison Mack shine and take center stage.

    Alison helps make these great lines she is given even more memorable by delivering them dead on perfect with just the right emotion for the given situations.

    I am also looking forward to how they deal with her knowing all about Clark now that Clark is aware of it. The bigger challenge will be Lex who also is aware of the fact that Chloe knows more than she is admitting. This could become dangerous for our favorite spunky blonde reporter. Last time she got on the bad side of a Luthor it took the intervention of another Luthor to save her. This time she will not have a Luthor to fall back on.

    Lex was just evil in this episode and I liked that a lot. Michael Rosenbaum continues to play Lex to perfection good or bad. We first see him in the cave wondering where Chloe has gone too. It is obvious to everyone that his concern for her disappearance has nothing to do with any real concern for her safety. He wants to know what she knows, nothing more. We also see Lex playing games after he finds Lana. I cannot help but notice how, despite what looks like a nasty puncture wound on her leg and a face that has been put through a meat grinder, Lex chooses to bring her to his home instead of the hospital after she passes out. I assume that is when he took off to go find the space ship. Later we learn he has it stashed away in a secret lab somewhere which is a very interesting development.

    Clark's part in the story brings him head on with the Kryptonian thugs, and my wife and I were braced for a good old fashioned super powered throw down. Instead the Smallville folks throw us a curve ball and did something I did not expect, but I think worked so much better than a knock down, drag out fistfight. Clark beats them by tricking them and using his head. He turned their trap against them, surprising them, and dealing with the situation with almost minimal violence! Don't get me wrong. I like a super powered throw down just as much as any other comic book geek but it is nice to see heroes using their head instead of their muscles from time to time, and this time I though it worked very well. Using the same Phantom Zone effect from the Christopher Reeve movies was a very nice touch and a good choice by the producers.

    Lois and the Kents have a smaller part to play in this one but I think it was well played. I really like how they are showing Lois to be almost a part of the Kent family. We as fans know she is Jonathan and Martha's future daughter-in-law and it is nice to see them developing a family bond with her during her time in Smallville. This can only help to deepen the family relationships in the future, once her and Clark start their romance and I like that addition to the Superman story a lot.

    Finally at the end we come to perhaps the only complaint I have with the episode. Clark losing his powers. It didn't bother me that he lost them or why he lost them. Jor-El did warn him to return by sunset. It is just how he lost them. The sun goes down and Clark is powerless. Just like that! Nothing happened to him. There was no bright light or technology used on him. Just no more powers. Still, that said, I am interested in seeing where they are going with that story line. I just thought there should have been something there to explain the loss of powers.

    I am also very interested in this new villain that came out of the ship at the end and not just because it is James Marsters, who's work I loved on Buffy and Angel. Obviously this was the real threat in the space ship. Clark's belief that he has dealt with the threat Jor-El was talking about is going to be rudely shaken somewhere in the future. Jor-El has been talking for years about some great danger and how Clark needed to embrace his heritage to prepare for it. Then Clark runs into two Kryptonian villains and defeats them with relative ease so I can understand how he quickly came to the conclusion that the threat had passed. Now he believes he can be human and not feel guilty or worry that the world needs him anymore. I can't wait to see how Clark reacts once the truth comes out and this other villain is revealed.

    Finally it's nice to see Lana and Clark just get together and not play the yo-yo anymore. The relationship needs to be played out and brought to a good solid closure before the series ends.

    I give this episode a solid A (or 5 stars for those who like bright balls of fusing gas more.) It is certainly a great start to the season!

    Doug



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