Superman on Television
Smallville: Episode Reviews
Season 8 - Episode 1: "Odyssey"Reviews:
OdysseyReviewed by: Neal Bailey
So... that's the second season premiere of Lost. The subject at hand is the 8th season premiere of Smallville. Why post it?
Because it illustrates, pretty well, what it is to write these reviews over the last four years. The sheer and utter dread that accompanied the bad writing, awful work. It also very plainly shows what it is to be a writer.
You get up, you do some small exercises in your underwear, you make some awful quick food, inject yourself with something strange, and then sit down to punch in numbers no one else can understand in an attempt to save the world to Mamma Cass.
Then BOOM! There's this thing to the side, it opens the hatch and says, "AHA! Deal with me, bucko! I'm a bald box technician! I'm a doctor with a leadership complex! How do we work together?"
Actually, that's kind of like what writing a novel is.
Point being, I expect horror. I expect things I don't understand, like, "Why are you wearing cargo shorts?" or "Why does that statue have three toes?"
In Lost, these things are slowly but surely revealed. In Smallville, we still have no idea why half of the things that happened did beyond, well, the fact that they sounded cool. They show Desmond in the bunker in Smallville, it's just for that odd image that captivates the mind, they don't follow it with the payoff.
This season premiere seems to change that. I am taken aback even more so then when the stories were crap. Are there flaws? Yes, and I will certainly soon exploit them. Was there arbitrary dilemma? Kind of, though MUCH less than normal.
But what IS present here, that wasn't? Character. A desire to move forward. A change to the status quo. Actual tension. Conflict that makes sense. It's as if all the crap that happened at the end of last season still happened, but they held up a hand and said, "Hang on guys. Screw that. We're going forward."
To be frank, I've waited for that for four years.
Was the action ramped up? No. But character was. Was the plot entirely coherent? No. But it was mostly coherent. And that's all you need for the suspension of disbelief.
The acting is another factor. It went from hamming it up to fairly serious. Take this episode. You have Lois in a gawd-awful maid outfit, and yet she manages to convey poise and make a SCENE out of what is a veiled dream moment for any teen viewer.
In short, what happened? Am I watching the same show? It sure as hell doesn't feel like it. Adjusting the mirrors on my telescope, and more as this develops.
We open with the title Four Years Later. When you read it as I wrote it, it looks like a typo, or an inappropriate way to put a design together. It is. FOUR YEARS LATER works much better. Nitpicking, but in a world where "your retarded" sans punctuation or consideration for contraction is considered acceptable, this kind of thing bugs me.
Tess Mercer was win for me, overall. I have a very big fist for "tough women" that aren't tough women. Women who can suddenly kickbox without training, or say that "girls mature faster than boys" before they start crying and claiming that if I eat kippers it will not rain.
She talked smack, but she did it in a subdued, quiet, intellectual kind of way. She played against people, and pretty much acted as Lex would. I bought her. I bought the actor. It wasn't wooden like Kara, it wasn't awful and played for laughs as Jimmy often is. She is, to me, a shot in the arm and fresh blood, at least so far, which was the goal, I'm guessing. We'll see. Unlike Lex, there's no, "YOU'RE SO TURNING EVIL YOU'RE BADONG! Now can I have a favor?"
(Cough) She uh, (cough) DID say LuthER the first time she said it.
I don't care. I still stand by that criticism. It's sloppy. You can say LuthOR without it being hokey or elitist. It's the name. Even if everyone said "rosin bomb" it's still "rose en bomb."
That's two prescriptive arguments in one page. I'm getting old.
Green Arrow appears! He's stolen the spectacles from Number Two, and he's ready to roll! He launches an arrow into a semi-lethal point and starts taking folks out.
Black Canary appears! And still looks awful in costume. But the effect was much better. She used an attack that looked like it could kill somebody, which sucks. It was for the action, but still... lame.
Aquman's appearance was surprising, and rocked. Generally a very good scene despite the flaws. Point of fact, Green Arrow's arrows actually seemed to be acting like real arrows would, generally, in this episode, particularly later, but I'll get there.
Batman style music, they parade out onto the ice with Clark's jacket. My first question? Where the heck did Tess run, and how did they get there?
The new opening works well for me. Though the fraction of a second glasses shot with Clark is a big fat reminder that they've blown the glasses thing with this show. Poor choice. It's iconic, yes, but it also reminds us we're watching a show where Clark Kent has never worn glasses.
As I said before, Lois as a bad French maid, ugh. I mean, yeah, she's hot. I get that. It shows off her legs. I get that too. And I don't mind seeing it. I'm human, male, and I love hot chicks. But if there's no rationale, it's obvious, and in this case, it is.
THANKFULLY, this is cancelled out by a fairly stern and strong scene between Tess and Lois that shows them both as great actresses. The dialogue was at times slightly weak, but not overall, and it was tense. I don't get the microfiber joke. I'm guessing it's a type of bra? Looking it up, it says that it can be a cleaning implement. I dunno. Whatever. Pulled me out.
The mention of the DDS also pulled me right out. It's a hokey concept, and I wish they'd axe it. DEO would work far better as a concept.
The Clark scenes in Russia had an AWESOME bit of camerawork. It was strong all the way. The filter was great, the action played (as I'm imagining they attempted to emulate) like a Bond movie, which is fine by me so long as they're not ripping concepts. It was gritty and real and fantastic.
Clark had a scruffy beard, presumably because they wouldn't let him use a razor. But man, those Russians have GREAT teeth whitening stuff, because those were some pearly whites.
The Johnny Appleseed bit played for me. Yes, it was a stock evil Russians, but man, that's like a stock evil Nazi. In post-Cold War America, it works. I'm a man of tolerance, but if you put me in a video game with those darned ruskie guys running toward me, I will wax them with a nail gun until I win the Cold War. It's an ingrained stereotype, so I'm more forgiving than I'd be for, say, the stock immigrant being persecuted by the man despite flawless English and a set of sympathetic circumstances (Subterranean).
And at any rate, this dude had some sauce to him, as did the conceit that got Clark released. A good fight, even if it went a bit long, and funny. Green Arrow actually seemed like... A CHARACTER. GREAT scene.
Green Arrow's green milkshake was a nice touch.
Clark has been, uh, de-powered by Jor-El? And the Fortress collapsed because, uh, Jor-El didn't want anyone to control Clark, by, uh, killing him? And so he orchestrated a huge ruse called Veritas to, uh, trick someone into not...
Aquaman and Canary get caught by Luthor's goons, but there's one really great bit. They take off Black Canary's makeup, but they leave Aquaman shirtless. I think this Regan guy's not telling us something. Either way, awesome skin flaking effect. I wondered for a minute what it was, then I got it, and it was rad.
Clark and Green Arrow go to the warehouse where Chloe and her amazing friends are being kept. I don't know how they found the warehouse, or for that matter why Clark is showing himself publicly with the Green Arrow out of costume. Not incredibly wise.
Lois doing the Luke arriving on Bespin rocked me. Seeing her just naturally dropping into her role as a character, and having it work so well, good writing. I mean, I don't know if I buy the A to B of it, but now, seeing Lois in action, you don't care. It's like seeing Lex suddenly act like Lex. You don't care how it came to be, just that it is. Lois is doing just incredibly well this season so far. She's completely jumped back to cool for me for at least this episode.
They have a serum that will make people do whatever they want. They find Green Arrow, inject him, and, knowing it doesn't last long, they say, "Find out what happened to Lex! Now run free!" Bright villains there. Like he's suddenly gonna find out in ten minutes. How about inject him, say, "Do you know what happened to Lex?" "No!" BLAM! Or at very least five across the eyes.
Lois gives a comment after Clark complains that she's pointing a weapon at him that he's being a whiner, and besides, he'd only get shot in the knee. Bad dialogue for a few reasons. One, I'm experienced with and I love guns. If you point a plastic water pistol at my knee, I will scream at you. I will. You do not, under any circumstances, point anything that even remotely looks like a pistol or rifle, loaded or unloaded, at another human being unless you intend to kill them or want them to take you apart.
You know who I learned that from? My father. You know where he learned it? The military. My Shihan in karate is also a former special forces guy. He shares my philosophy. I'm ALL about the second amendment. But if you point a gun at me, in jest, unloaded, plastic, doesn't matter, I'll take you apart. It's just not the kind of thing you make jokes about, and I shame the writers for putting it in the mouth of a role model to do such a thing.
And ask anyone who's ever had a knee injury if it's not the most painful thing ever, beyond a kidney stone.
Green Arrow shoots Clark in the chest. Clark wins the dumb as Clark award this week by pulling the arrow out. DUR!
Then, in the first accurate depiction of an arrow's actual impact on this show, the second goes straight through his chest and out the other side. That's about what it looks like, actually. I've seen it happen to animals, and it's FWOOMP! In, then out, that fast, that brutal. It's why when I see an arrow hit a wall and not shatter I scoff.
Chloe's power is gone, which is cool, as it was a drama killer anyway. No one can die? Then where's the tension?
Clark dies, and thinks of Lana? Still? Lame-o.
Manhunter appears, and rockets Clark to the sun. Even though he "died," I buy that a trip to the sun would heal him right quick. I mean, it's worked in the comics before.
Why Martian Manhunter would then lose his powers is beyond me, and strange, and stupid. How did he fly back, then? And beyond that, how did he survive his time on Earth, where he's constantly bombarded by solar radiation? Even on Mars, he'd be exposed to the sun. More so, likely, because of no atmosphere, right? Science nerds?
Still a cool flight, which makes up for the badness to me.
Beyond that, if Martian Manhunter has no powers any more, shouldn't he have an elongated head and green skin? I thought shapeshifting was one of his powers. Not that he uses said power, or even remotely resembles the Martian Manhunter beyond flight and telepathy.
Clark decides to go to Metropolis... and live in Smallville. Oooookay. So he too is doing the "three hour" commute. Righteo. Why stay in Smallville? Because it's the title of the show. Note that almost none of the show happened in its namesake, and I'm guessing this will continue. I may poke fun at that, but you will not find me complaining at PROGRESS in this show. At all.
Lex's office is MIGHTY dusty after two months. Dock that maid's pay. And find out why everything is so charged with static electricity. And where all the dead skin's coming from. Oh! I know! The prop department.
The crystal returns as a plot device! Because Jor-El destroyed the Fortress to kill his son and Lex, but decided to leave the way to build it in an easily discovered crystal that was, uh, on the ice, when it's activated by, uh, putting it on ice. Whatever. Not a biggie to me.
My first note: "Oh God. More Jimmy/Chloe breakup BS."
There was even a line, "Great! Things'll go back to the way they were!"
Chloe: Negatory on that, red rider. Hopefully they're cutting the crap and getting straight to the story. I don't mind that the thread still exists, so long as they're cutting it and moving forward.
Clark taking the job at the Daily Planet is implausible. No experience, no college, no real reason to be given it, and yet he's BANG, right where Lois is. It's an excuse to start the Lois and Clark show over again. THAT. SUCKS.
At the same time, we have Lois and Clark starting up their rivalry per the comics. They pulled it off. They don't expect each other in the positions, and they're rivals, and it's got the tension the original Lois and Clark reveled in. Good times. If they make this work, I will forgive the gawdawful conceit that spawned it.
He still needs glasses.
All in all, a hell of a beginning to a new start for this show that I've panned for almost four years now in the hopes of an episode just like this. I hope it continues, I hope character begins to develop, and I hope everything comes full circle. There would be no better reward for suffering through the crap than to be rewarded with an awesome finale to the show. Maybe a ninth season can even be justified if they bring this thing to a head and start driving a point with it.
Color me surprised, and perhaps soon to be disappointed. 5 of 5.
I am going to Portland this weekend, so I will have to delay letters a week. Apologies, and thank you for your patience.
I'll also update the KO Count when I return.
OdysseyReviewed by: Douglas Trumble
Hello everyone! Welcome back! I hope Summer was nice for everyone in the north half and I hope you folks in the south half had a good winter.
The new Smallville season is upon us. When we left off last year Lex had won the day. Not only did he discover Clark's true identity but he also found a way to defeat him pulling down the Fortress of Solitude on top of them both. On the internet we would say Clark got PWNED. Which makes sense because well... he's Lex Luthor and that is what makes him Superman's most dangerous enemy.
Also of note during the summer wait we have to acknowledge the fact that in the "real world" many changes happened in the Smallville production department. New "Powers that Be" are on the scene and a few new cast members are being tossed into the mix. Many changes were promised but not so many that we wouldn't recognize our favorite show.
Despite losing Michael Rosenbaum and Kristin Kruek I found myself really excited for this season to begin. Everything I've read tells me that the show is going in a great and fantastic direction and I couldn't wait for that ride to begin.
So let me tell you how disappointed I was to see the new season fall flat on its face coming out of the gate.
Yeah. You read that right. Fell flat... Maybe not so much as a splat but more of a thud.
Maybe I was too jazzed up. Expectations can be a killer. Maybe the new direction caused them to take the corner a bit wide and hit the guard rail. Maybe they just kind of painted themselves in a corner and needed to just press the re-set switch... I don't know but boy did this episode go thud.
Now I am being critical here because that's kind of my job. It wasn't terrible on the scale of some of the worst episodes of the series. This was no hour-long gum commercial with stretchy Pete. But darn it! This is a season premiere coming off a major cliffhanger. I expected more than just average I guess.
So what were my problems? Well first of all the League's search for Clark was really disappointing. I mean first of all they never said how or why they got on the trail in the first place. They just were. And second they sneak up on a base camp in the middle of the arctic how? They just showed up there like poof. Then they split up after the arctic and magically Oliver finds Clark in a Russian black market... Another poof.
How did he find him? Did he just decide to go shopping for caviar and get lucky? Russia is a pretty big place last time I looked at the globe and even if you assume it was some place in the arctic circle you are still talking about a lot of land to cover. But poof... he finds him and after a bit of male mud wrestling the 'Clark is missing' switch is re-set and they are off back to their real world. Why were they holding Clark? Clark says he was found by a fishing boat? Okay but how did he end up a prisoner?
(Note: I get the whole idea that the magic apple took his powers. Him being powerless was not an issue here. That actually makes sense.)
Then we switch our focus on Chloe. Turns out Oliver kind of knows where she might be so he and Clark head that way. Why did he wait? I mean sure, Clark is the priority but would not finding Chloe give him a higher probability of finding Clark than going to random black market shops?
Just before that though Chloe's superbrain kicks into gear and she unknowingly tags the Canary and Aquaman and they are captured easily. Too easily. Plus gosh... Did they ever think to give AC some pants before flying him to Montana?
So Green Arrow and Future Superman are searching the compound and they split up. Dumb but okay since it shows Clark is a no fear man. Clark runs into Lois who is also there on the trail (this part was cool) and they fight their way to Chloe and save her. Lois is knocked out but that is okay since it explains her not knowing the Green Arrow and other heroes are there with Clark.
Oliver is juiced up and told to do whatever it takes to find Lex. Umm, Okay... but... Somehow Oliver's mind convinces him he needs to go shoot Clark to find Lex?
WHAT? HUH? WHERE? WHEN? Oliver KNEW Clark did not know where Lex was... He just spent HOURS on a jet talking to him about it. Why in the world would find Lex = shoot Clark? It makes no sense to me... other than.... well... to set up the next re-set switch. So the Green Arrow puts a few holes into big blue and he's about to check out. Chloe cannot do her healing whammy because whatever Brainiac did to her took her power away and some how gave her his. Or he's in her head... I don't know which, but that is besides the point right now. I assume that story will be told later. She cannot heal him and Clark is about to die.
So Clark is dying and cue the Martian Manhunter who comes in out of the blue picks up Clark and flies him to the Sun to recharge his powers re-setting that switch. How exactly did J'onn find him and if he was tracking him all along why did he let him sit in Russia for so long?
Okay... So sunlight charges Clark. I get that. Was there no sun in Russia? It was summer. Northern parts of Russia have 24 hours of sun in June. Did he just need a big jump start. Extra juice? Okay fine but you'd think after a month he'd be at least partially powered up then right? Plus what point was taking his powers away if they would just charge back up?
Also if Clark was powerless how exactly did MM get him to the sun without him doing the whole explosive decompression thing in the outer atmosphere? If J'onn lost his powers doing it how did they get back? No tech, no healing powers, or nothing. Just flip... Clark has powers again and the Manhunter does not.
Am I thinking too much? Maybe, but all that added up to one big thud.
It was not all bad though. I like the fact we got to see Canary again and she's still working with Oliver. I hope they bring her back. Lois' part was really good too. She was hunting Chloe from the get go and nothing was going to stop her. That's total Lois Lane. I also enjoyed Lois and Clark fighting together to save Chloe.
Plus there is one thing that totally saves this episode and, despite my over-long explosion above, makes this a must see... There was another re-set switch flipped (a big one) and this one is totally for the better.
Clark... I am telling you Clark Kent was a totally different man and I absolutely loved how he acted throughout the episode. He was super defiant to the men keeping him prisoner, even if we don't know why they were keeping him... He was dead-set on finding and saving Chloe NOW... Powers or no powers it didn't matter, he was going to save his friend. Now THAT'S Superman.
I loved the whole shot of the Manhunter giving him his red jacket and him putting it on to the swelling music. It is basically his Superman costume on the show and I found the symbolism there to be fantastic. Then to add icing on the cake he goes and gets the job at the Daily Planet Lois had told him about so he can be in the middle of the action. As a bonus we learn he will be working across from Lois which I could not help but notice she liked.
Clark on the farm is no more. It's Metropolis Clark from now on. One step away from total Superman and I loved it. It's about time! Even if getting there was rushed and fell flat, now that we are there I am totally looking forward to seeing where they go from here. Hopefully this was just only a little trip out of the gate. It's a marathon... The race is not going to be won at the starting gate so my hope is still alive. I am ready for the ride.
So this episode gets a C- from me. (Worst premiere ever). There was some good things set into place that give me hope which is why it did not get a D. Call it 2 out of 5.
Next week we get our first glance at this new Clark in action. I cannot wait. Thanks for coming back and I will talk to you all then.
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