Superman on Television
Smallville: Episode Reviews
Season 8 - Episode 8: "Bloodline"Reviews:
BloodlineReviewed by: Douglas Trumble
Lois is moving back to the farm life when our Man of Steel gets a rigged package from some nefarious evil doer that ends up sending them both to the Phantom Zone. While in this otherworldly dimension Lois comes to believe they have been abducted by aliens as Clark stays square chinned and ready for trouble. Kara Zor-El is also trapped in the zone as well and she just so happens to be living in the same area Lois and Clark landed. Somehow, believing the guy who is dressed just like and looks just like her cousin is a phantom, she attacks them and gives Lois concussion number 214. Kara has stayed because she doesn't want to risk letting zoners out but Clark refuses to let her and Lois live that life and is willing to sacrifice himself to keep that from happening.
So Clark stands guard and fights off the phantoms as Kara and Lois use the El family escape hatch. A phantom sneaks past, knocking Kara sideways and following Lois through the portal. Luckily this time the portal drops Lois on the ground instead of at 25,000 feet like it did when Clark last used it or this episode would have been a lot shorter, ending in a meaty wet splat. Lois wakes up on a train track and is soon possessed by the escaped phantom who turns out to be none other than the Bride of Zod. If that wasn't awesome and cool enough she is searching for her lost child who turns out to be none other than freaking DOOMSDAY HIMSELF. Yeah, let's just pause a moment to say that again. Doomsday is the son of ZOD! I mean come on! Is that just plain cool or what?... Anyway, while Lady Zod is off hunting her kid the Chloe-I.A.C. enlists the help of the Green Arrow to help her jack into the Kryptonian Crystal. During her mind meld she finds a way to open a portal and Clark and Kara are freed from the Zone. Pausing only long enough to change clothes the super cousins rush off to hunt down the possessed Lois and stop the Bride of Zod from causing havoc across the land.
With a little help from the Martian's crystal they banish the phantom from Lois' body and the world is saved. Later that night Kara and Clark say their goodbyes and Kara leaves to hunt for the lost city of Kandor which she heard from other Zoners may have survived Krypton's destruction.
In the first episode of this season I mentioned how I felt the new "powers that be" were hitting a big reset button and moving on with their plans for the series by quickly wrapping up the old plans. Well I think we saw a little of that again here with Kara. She was a loose thread and needed to be delt with but I cannot help but feel like it was dealt with a little too quickly.
Don't get me wrong. This week's story was good with some fantastic twists to the overall plot, plausible situations based on the universe our characters are living in, and even some intense moments of drama which all turned out to be an entertaining hour of TV.
It's just... Well... We're talking about Kara Zor-El here. Did we really need to wrap up her story on Smallville so quickly? I understand why they might want to move on without her. I get it. They want to focus on Clark. That is not a bad thing. I even think the stated reasons for her leaving at the end were good. A nice little nod to the mythos that makes sense and also allows for her return to Superman's life in the future. It all worked but dang if it wasn't rushed.
I mean boom. Clark gets a rigged package that sends him to the Phantom Zone and within minutes Kara finds them. They escape, change clothes, crystal whammy the big bad, hug, and whoosh Kara is gone and it is likely the last time we'll see her on the show. It's almost enough to give you whiplash. I've enjoyed Kara on the show and not just because she's a pretty girl. I like Clark in the older brother roll and it would have been nice to see more of that. Even knowing that they want to move on without her I cannot help but think it would have been nice if they at least gave her a multiple episode story arc to wrap her up. She had such a small part of this episode when you really get down to it. Sure she was an important part but let's be real here, the bride of Zod finding her son was the real story and main focus on this one. Not the freeing of Kara Zor-El from the Phantom Zone and her departure.
Well okay, enough of that. I cannot complain too much because there was some totally awesome things that went down in this one.
First of all the crystal... Whoa. Is Lex Luthor sending loaded traps to our Superman from some undisclosed location or is Brain-I.A.C. still active outside of Chloe? They are the only two who could have sent that trap. I don't know but I do want to know who sent the "bomb" to Clark. Whoever did that wanted him gone and was willing to risk giving up their Kryptonian toy to get him and that cannot be good. Nice twist, I hope it plays out a bit more in the future.
Lois' reactions in the Phantom Zone were really good and quite honestly one of the highlights of this episode. I mean Erica Durance was on top of her game, considering she played two rolls here and did them well. I can't help but be really impressed by how she played Lois in the Zone. Lois was terrified out of her socks but also came off as strong and defiant. You could see and hear the terror the character was feeling but it never went too far and Lois never degraded to just helpless. Nicely acted.
What impressed me more was when they arrived at the portal and Clark was going to stay behind, she didn't want anything to do with that plan. This might be more credit to the writers but I thought this scene showed a really important thing about Lois' feelings towards Clark. When she said the line "I want to stay by you and your right hook." I couldn't help but take notice. A great line, nicely delivered that shows us Lois no longer sees Clark as the helpless country rube she did in the past. She wasn't a helpless damsel in distress by any means but she still somehow sensed that she was safer with Clark and he was not going to let anything happen to them.
It would have been nice to see Clark fighting off the phantoms as sort of a cool eye candy action thing but I think their choice to leave it off screen was smarter. Having us hear the action while Lois and Kara were at the portal it makes the moment more terrifying. At least it did for me. I know budget issues might have been involved there but this is a perfect example how a show like this can use smart choices to keep the super action going on a frugal budget without hurting the drama and tension of the story at hand. What we imagine Clark was facing is always going to be more intense than anything they could have showed us.
The scene when Clark was trying to save Kara was intense and I think Tom Welling did such a great job here with Clark's emotions. First by trying to lift the crystal off her then by begging her to take his hand when he was being pulled through the portal. Clark was fantastic throughout the whole Phantom Zone situation. Strong, protective, and totally not willing to leave things the way they were. He was more than willing to be left behind or even die to give Lois and Kara a chance to escape. That's our Superman. He might not have the cape yet but he's got the mojo.
Heck even in the end of the episode we see him not hesitating to volunteer to go with Kara to find Kandor and standing up to Lady Lex. I wanted to cheer when he told her she could just fire him but he was done answering her questions. That-a boy.
I also thought Erica Durance did a great job playing Lady Zod. Sure a few times it was over the top but then I think that's the kind of character the wife of Zod would have to be. I was totally floored by the revelation that Doomsday is her and Zod's son. Or at least something they created. I just think that twist is a really really cool and awesome idea. I also loved how she "killed" him to make him stronger. Nice nod to how Doomsday was created in the comics. It's also a nice twist that the genetic material that was to become Doomsday traveled to Earth with Clark. It makes you wonder if the message in the ship that talked about ruling the planet was actually for him and not Clark. Probably not, since Doomsday is more of a weapon of destruction. Not something you'd send to a world you want to subjugate but it does make you wonder since they have yet to explain why Jor-El wanted Clark to rule.
Chloe's part was somewhat interesting. I think it was a bit silly that Tess showed up seconds too late to see Chloe snatching up the crystal but it was still a nice scene between them. I like Chloe standing up to Lady Lex. Allison Mack can turn on the tough in her character and it's fun to watch. It was also nice that this part of the story lead to seeing the Green Arrow back in action as well, though admittedly his part was small. The airplane set is getting a little old though. Did they tear down the set for Oliver's apartment or something? It was pretty intense when the Chloe-I.A.C. jacked into the crystal and sent Oliver flying across the room.
The final fight was brutal. I know Clark's plan was just to stall the villain until Kara got there with the crystal but it was still rough to watch him take the beating. No one wanted to see him start hitting back when it was Lois' body we're talking about that is for sure but dang she wholloped him good. It's very similar to the way he defeated Zod but it makes sense when you're fighting something that has taken over the body of someone you don't want to hurt. Superman has no problems taking a beating to protect the lives of others.
It was nice that while Lois did not remember her time as Lady Zod as you'd expect, she did remember the Phantom Zone and just chalked it up to a dream. The amnesia thing can be used too much in these situations so it was nice that they only used it as much as absolutely needed. Besides Clark teasing her about being the knight in shining armor in her dream was just too much fun.
Lastly I really enjoyed the scene in the loft at the end even if it was a goodbye for the Girl of Steel. Tom Welling and Laura Vandervoort did a really good job with Clark's and Kara's emotions without going too far with them. You really do get the feeling that these two family members really care about each other almost as if they were brother and sister. It was nice. I also like that they came up with an actual decent idea for Kara leaving. One that fits with the Superman mythos but still allows for her to return sometime in this Superman's future.
If this really is the last we see of Kara Zor-El on Smallville I just wanted to say I think Laura Vandervoort was fantastic in the roll and it was a pleasure to watch her take on the challenge. If the world is kind to us we'll see her sometime in the future taking on the Supergirl roll, hopefully in costume and crime fighting, but if that never happens we can be happy with what we got. The Girl of Steel is not easy to do. She has the shadow of Superman over her big time. Some fans do not even want her to exist but she does and the way she was played here was great. Laura Vandervoort brought a great presence to the roll that really fit with the show and we ended up with a very interesting version of the character. Thanks!
So yeah. Not prefect sure but most of my complaints are just because I wanted more time spent on Supergirl so I cannot really complain too much. A few iffy choices but still a solid episode. I'll give this one a 3.5 out of 5. (somewhere in the B+ range).
Next week? Looks like the Chloe-I.A.C might be having a hard drive crash or something. We shall have to see where they are going with that.
BloodlineReviewed by: Neal Bailey
Preliminary note: Special thanks to Stephen G for allowing me to work from his place while I was down in Texas. It's because of his coolness and because he taped the show for us to watch that I have this review for you today and not Thursday... onward!
This season is, quite frankly, p#$$ing me off. Why? Because it vacillates so readily between epic greatness and utter detestable crap. But better that, believe you me, than constant crap, and when we get an episode like this last, it tends to make the crap worthwhile.
This episode went heavily into the mythology, even if it was aspects of the mythology that one might not necessarily agree with. It took risks, it went in odd directions, but ultimately they were compelling directions. Do I prefer Doomsday as Zod's son to Doomsday as the product of Bertron's genetic goofing? No. Does it work for TV in ways better than many other ways would have? Yes.
Why Faora and not Ursa? I don't get it. If they can use the Zod name, why not Ursa? It seems like an arbitrary, and rather lamentable change.
Beyond that, there was that whole brouhaha in season five's opener about how Zod needs the perfect mate, and Lana, because she's so perfect, was the only ripe candidate, right? That's an internal contradiction.
But these things aside, the story pulled me in, held me, and despite notable flaws, did a lot to keep me pleased.
To start the blow-by-blow, Lois again moves in. By the end of the episode, she has moved out, because of a raise. Not sure how any raise, aside from a nearly thousand dollar a month raise, could justify staying in your own apartment instead of not paying rent, but hey. Let's just look at it for what it was, an excuse to get people excited at the prospect of Lois and Clark moving in with each other. Lame.
They get a crystal in the mail from a villain who wins the dumb as Clark award. Because, you know, they go to these great lengths to steal it, only to mail it to Clark via the postal service. Ever lost something in the mail? I know I have.
So assuming the villain X knows that Clark will be instantly transported to the Phantom Zone, and assuming that the villain has somehow rigged the thing to do just that, because that seems the only way that this would occur given that Clark has used the crystal before in the creation of the Fortress without immediate Phantom Zonage. This still doesn't explain why, when he learns that he's about to go blooey and take the house with him, he doesn't superspeed away from Lois to protect her. IE he puts her secret before his own life. Woulda been better just to have them touch it at the same time and not be able to pull away. But it's just an excuse to go to:
THE OLD SPICE PHANTOM ZONE!™
One thing this episode never really explains is how the hell Clark would explain what happened to Lois. Interesting conversation, no doubt, even if Lois firmly believes that aliens abducted them.
"So, uh, Clark, I know we were abducted by aliens and all, but why would they send the abduction vehicle parcel post?"
"I eat paste!"
"Yes, I know, but... how is it that you and a very specific family member were both taken to the zone, and both of you had an ability to portal out, if you know nothing of the aliens involved hereto and forthwith?"
"I made a boom once outside of the bathroom!"
"Verily, Clark, but then, see, I got out of this abduction and lost my memory for a few hours, only to wake up on top of a crumpled car screaming orgiastically with you below me as I straddled you. Care to explain that, please?"
"Can we go shopping for more red jackets? When do I get to pet the rabbits?"
So, we cut to hours later, and Chloe's in the house, and Tess is in the house. Chloe indicated that the next time Tess broke and entered she would prosecute. Here she does not. She also hides the crystal in a way that any moron would see she had it. Tess would have seen it and no doubt taken it.
The river of blood was a bit hokey, but also suitably freaky. I'm still not sure why in the Phantom Zone some people are phantoms and others retain their bodies. Doesn't make too much sense.
Lois indicating that she thinks they've been abducted was actually pretty hilarious. Usually the attempts at comedy in this show fail, but that was good character for Lois, the original oblivious to glasses lady.
The Phantom Zone has suns? Why does the Phantom Zone... have...
"Jor-El is my daddy and I accidentally petted the doggie too hard and his head fell off and made red kool ade."
Yes, yes, Clark.
My notes: "River of blood cool. Lois Lane's half jacket from 1989, not as cool." What the hell? Am I just old? When did people suddenly forget that all that crap we wore in the eighties was stupid and still is? Half jackets. Torn sweaters. High socks. Emo bangs. Come on, kids! You're better than that! Now get off my lawn. The only thing that should have survived from the eighties are the movies and SOME of the music. Talking Heads, notably. But I'm with Ben Folds. No being nostalgic for the last ten years before the last ten years have past. And taking it further, for the love of God, half jackets look ridiculous, and I hate them.
(Caption: LAME. And I hate it.)
And half-jackets suck. In fact, I should, were I not a lazy man, make half jackets my analogue for sucks for the rest of this review. Like, "When Lana says, 'I am perfect in every way and I think you enjoy raping alligators because SECRET! LIE! BORK BORK!,' it totally half-jackets, man."
"No one's gonna mess with Lois and Clark." At first, I thought it kind of cute. At second, it half-jackets, because it's just fanservice.
So Lois gets knocked out for the first of three times. She's my first contender for taking Lex's all-high knockout crown.
And hey, get this, she's knocked out by KARA! Who apparently lacks the ability to look at people before trying to stab them in the eyes in the Phantom Zone. I am actually less disturbed by this than I am by the fact that in the whole of the Phantom Zone they just bump into each other randomly and suddenly start fighting. It half-jackets.
You know what else sucked? Fluorescent ballcaps. Why half-jackets over fluorescent ballcaps. At least fluorescent ballcaps said, "Hey, #$$^! I'm over here!" Half-jackets just say, "Yeah, I ripped my jacked, but I'm just too cheap to buy another so I cut the bottom half off and now I'm saying it's cool!"
Anyway, so Kara reveals that what happened to her over these long months was that the producers wanted to emphasize Clark and Lois more. I stood up and applauded. No, wait, that's the interview we're running this week. Rather, she says she stayed because even though she could have escaped, she wanted to protect Earth, so she stayed in order to not let any bad people through.
Which would be a great and noble rationale, were she not to then suggest risking that in order to send Clark home. I get the rationale in the writing. Clark is the main character and the hero. But in terms of sexism, it kinda fluorescent ballcaps, because to suggest that the world is better off with a dude who can't fly and has powers vs. a girl who CAN fly and has powers is a sexist suggestion. It arbitrarily prefers the male over the female. Now, if the rationale had been, "The portal only lets you through, Clark." That'd be grand. But it wasn't. It was El blood.
So even though Kara gets through, her reason for staying half-jackets. Unless you presume she was shocked out of her stupidity in staying by Clark's leadership, but I doubt that, given that her rationale actually protects the people of Earth and Clark's (the supposedly wise course) unleashed the Ursa analogue on Metropolis and perhaps presages the release of Bloomsday.
"They've abducted you too!" is another classic Lois moment. I dug it.
My next note: "No one ever wondered what happened to Kara!" I realize, she disappears, no one's upset, no one's searching for her. And yet Lex disappears, and an entire character is introduced to that end. You'd think they'd have paid lip service to it, anyway.
And come to think of it, Ma Kent was listed as the one who sent the crystal. Odd.
Another odd continuity thing... didn't Clark get rid of all his red clothes last week?
Chloe meets Green Arrow on a plane. This is like the third time that they have had Green Arrow meet someone on a plane. Does he not have a pad anymore? I know it got all busted up, but you'd think they'd still have the set somewhere. Or build him a new Metropolis apartment.
Chloe also has to go through the ungodly pain in the butt of getting to the plane on the tarmac as opposed to, I dunno, CALLING Ollie? That stuck out like a sore thumb.
Green Arrow, we see through a handy pause, is researching Davis' bloodwork through Luthorcorp. Interesting.
Still, all in all, the appearance of Green Arrow in this episode was WAY forced. What does he do? Helps steal the generator from Tess. Okay. I get that. But why does Chloe need the human made generator in order to access Kryptonian tech if she is inhabited by a Kryptonian machine? It felt really, really forced in there. Like a butt in spandex pants, another thing that should never, ever come back from the late eighties.
The word rad should survive. I approve of rad.
Little note for the show... you want to make a young gal important to the episode at hand, try not to make a device of the show turning a young anorexic looking babe into a cutter. Too far? Bad joke? She does cut herself. Meh.
AAAaaaaaaaand ANOTHER Lois KO. Explains her lack of logical faculties.
Tess happens upon Lois seeking her "son," and again we get the "combined resources" shtick from the Maxima episode. Rather than play up the tension of Tess possibly learning Clark's secret, again she's typecast as the protoLex, which is unfortunate. Still, here's where we first start seeing Lois acting as another person. As with the Clark as Lionel Transference episode (notably where the show jumped the shark), this episode gives Erica a real chance to bust a move (another approved wording from the eighties), and she does. I was quite impressed by her acting, and it's possibly what rates this episode as high as it gets with me despite its flaws.
I will even concede, even though it's uncharacteristic for me, I laughed and enjoyed the "surprisingly flexible" bit. Even though, like when Lois grabs her boobs in the witch episode, it's pure objectification for objectification's sake, it's still hilarious, and works well. Not that I endorse a drama making for the funny road, but it worked here.
As did Bloomsday as Zod's son, and the stabby McStab and resurrection with invulnerability. At least it's close to Doomsday. I dig that.
The sought after "generator" sitting unprotected in the middle of a room with a panic room and a safe and an armed staff of guards, however, struck me as half-jacked, fluorescent ballcap, and spandex. It was almost snap-bracelet.
And that Green Arrow voice mod, as always, was Hammer Time. Ring the bell. School's back in. (I broke it down).
AND AGAIN WITH THE SQUEAKY SHOES (2 legit)!
Ski vest jackets can stay. But only in the context of a camping trip. NOT in a yuppie high school or in California.
Sister Act is RIGHT OUT!
I think there have been many, many knockouts worthy of scorn and condemnation in the history of Smallville. The drown out. The hitting your head on a step out. There are a million of them. I think among the cheesiest are, in this episode, Green Arrow's SLIDE out. He slides, it knocks him unconscious. And I can't make the obvious Slip N Slide joke here, because I love Slip N Slide, so I will say it was utterly The Phil Donahue Show.
That's right, biches. I've lived almost three decades. Represent! (And represent can stay. But "You know what I'm sayin'? Has long had to go.)
So, Chloe, as Brainiac, goes all eye-whitey (creepy) and brings Clark and Kara back. Which begs the question, if Brainiac is inside of Chloe, why would he again save Clark? This means that Chloe must be mostly in control, because it would not make sense for Brainiac (who initially wanted Clark IN the Phantom Zone) to try and keep him out of it. So that means that when Chloe killed someone last episode, she WANTED to kill someone, and did, over Clark's secret. THAT is screwy.
Davis co-died. (Co as a modifier can definitely stay).
"You have feelings for this creature!" ROCKED. Wyld Stallions rad.
The fall and crash onto the car even worked for me, sexual imagery and all, given that it looked like a battle situation, then added a layer of symbolism when Lois wakes up on top of Clark utterly exhausted. That's the kind of dramatic convention that can awkwardly lead to romance, not "I suddenly love you! Let's screw!" which is adroitly NKOTB.
The Clark and Tess scene worked for me, and the closure with Kara was, I thought, excellent. Clark encountering Kandor doesn't rankle me so much, given that I would consider the beginning of this year as the start of his career as Superman.
Okay, so he doesn't travel the world for seven years and gain perspective, and that sucks. I will miss that. But I can accept this as the beginnings. This season is very good at convincing me of that. And as soon as I am fully convinced, I imagine the plug will be pulled when it starts getting good.
The mach effect, and the flying, both worked. Goonies never die.
And the knifestab? Dug it.
All in all, despite the many things that could pull you out of the episode, it flowed, it kept my attention, and was strong in most respects, from the acting to the effects to the plotlines to the intention to the mythos. That's all you really need, and though I'm knocking a point for all of the simple errors that could have been corrected, I wouldn't be surprised if it bumps up in the re-review. I'm gonna go with 4 of 5.
Alas, no letters this week, as I was in Texas cooling my heels at the Wizard World with Stephen G and trying to get my head on straight after moving to Vancouver, WA and finishing my sixth novel. Which was tiring. And now that I'm done, I gotta come up with another novel, which, while it's not half-jacket, is edging snap-bracelet.
Don't forget to check out the updated KO Count.
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