Superman on Television

Smallville: Episode Reviews

Season 8 - Episode 17: "Hex"



Reviewed by: Neal Bailey


  • Zatanna appears, and gives Lois and Chloe the Freaky Friday treatment.
  • Zatanna seeks to bring her father back from the dead.
  • Clark convinces her not to.


    Was that Zatanna? I dunno. I've never been intrigued enough by the character to read up. Grant Morrison's recent series didn't help. The only time I really cared was when she was put through an arc leading up to Infinite Crisis, which focused on good intentions vs. personal rights.

    The costume was there. It looked like Zatanna. She didn't have wide yellow chalked-on eyebrows, she wasn't wearing sunglasses. They didn't call her "Zattie" or Zatpulse.

    She did, however, use her powers with blue eyes, for some reason, which was ridiculous.

    She has a father issue and seeks his writing, per the Wikipedia history.

    And yet, despite all of this, and a dead-on bombshell for the character, I feel no connection between this and the DC universe. You know how sometimes you see a guy in a Superman suit doing a video, and the suit is awesome, but you just don't get the character feel? That was kind of it here for me.

    I think it might be that the story was so ham-handed, awkward, and poorly done that made me not like what is from the outside a pretty spot-on burgeoning Zatanna. It felt like half of the episode was played for yuks. And to be honest, the yuks were kind of insulting. "What is your fondest wish? Smallville characters?"

    Green Arrow: "I wish my parents had never died!" Instead, we're led to believe it's "I wish I hadn't killed Lex."

    Chloe: "I wish my mother could be cognizant again! I wish I knew where my father was! I wish I could find a place on this show!" Instead, we're led to believe it's "I wish I could be Lois!" (Because, as the rest of the show illustrates, she lives the envious life a hero would desire, treating other people like doormats and turning down easy, evident love).

    Clark: "I wish that Jimmy weren't a drug addict. I wish Lana were still around and could kiss me. I wish the more than 100 people who have died in my varying adventures were still alive. I wish my father was still around. I wish my mother were here. I wish my home planet hadn't exploded, because that'd save a couple of billion lives. I wish I had gone to college. I wish that dude Lana was dating was still alive, and that other dude Lana was dating, and that other dude Lana was dating. I forget his name. Oh! And that Alicia chick. Dude, she was hot, I forgot her." Instead, we're led to believe it's, "I wish I didn't have these powers that give me the ability to save lives."

    Or, to put it more plainly, the Clark Kent on Smallville's fondest wish as he's about to become Superman is that he wishes he were not Superman.

    Of course, this isn't really their character. It's what the character was changed to be in order to justify the plot. Which is, to put it bluntly, bad plot. Dilemmas need to spring from a logical position to be coherent.

    Add into that the premise that Zatanna, whose power is to say things backward and have them occur (a power she displays) is undermined when her power is reduced to being able to "only" grant a person's fondest wish. Which is subjective, ill-defined, and contradicted when she reveals herself to have multiple other powers, like pulling books, disappearing and reappearing, wrapping people in chains, as is convenient to the plot.


    Clark and Impulse are described as dealing with something in Keystone, in a piece of extrapolation through dialogue. Wish we could have seen that.

    Chloe complains about how much better Lois has it, despite the fact that Chloe hasn't done squat to try and get back her journalistic career since she abandoned it. It destroys the sympathy for her character and makes her look like an idiot, when she's supposed to be the level-headed one, traditionally. Save when the plot calls for otherwise.

    The dialogue is, per typical, filled with poorly written and contrite continuing metaphors, including "Bippity Boppity Booed" as a verb. Kid you not.

    Lois is now being flown to Mexico on assignment for less than two years of work and very few major headlines. She's jumped from sideline hack to front page (despite an adversarial relationship with the editor) in less than two years. Wish real life were that easy.

    Freaky Friday as a storyline is really rather stupid when the characters that swap are essentially the same outside of body type. Trying to make this appear not the case by adding in superficiality to Lois makes Lois look like a bich. For instance, when you have her getting her drycleaning and coffee done when she doesn't even know the name of the guy doing it for her (presumably because of her beauty). That makes her someone I would never identify with or want to know. Compounded by this is the ridiculousness of her being away in Mexico as far as everyone else knows, which means A) She sent some schmuck with a crush on her to do her drycleaning when she didn't need it, or B) The writers forgot their own plot point. Which do you think it is?

    I'm glad everyone is so worried about Jimmy and his addiction to drugs, hysteria, hallucinations, and disappearance. Great folks to have for family. They forget things a week after they happen.

    Clark doesn't call Chloe on her birthday. Out of character, and also an arbitrary construction to make the Freaky Friday thing more shocking where it's not. Also bad for Clark's character, because it makes him look like an imbecile chasing a shallow woman over the one who actually cares for him and looks out for him. But she hot, so it's forgiven, right?

    The music for the end of the teaser, where Chloe realizes she's Lois, reminds me of a Merry Go Round in hell. It completely drew me out of the scene, and said, "Take me as a joke as opposed to seriously." Which is, I know, the intent of the "hilarious" notion of Chloe being Lois, but I watch Smallville as a DRAMA, not a comedy, so it just says to me, "Take me as a joke as opposed to seriously" with different intent.

    No one notices Lois is not in Mexico, in a place that paid to send her there. Sigh.

    Ollie looks at a paper with Lex's picture that says they're still searching for him, the implication being, he's afraid they'll find out he killed Lex, or that he's ashamed. As a villain now, I'm glad he worries as such. However, the intent of the scene appears to be to make him seem sympathetic. It utterly fails in this regard.

    Particularly given, if you pause and look at the article, it refers to a Lex that is still alive who has just given 1 million dollars to education. They just changed the "Donates" in the headline to "Donated."

    Chloe can speak Latin, suddenly. Amazing.

    Clark and Chlois walk in on Zatanna talking to herself. Because people do that.

    Arrogant presumption of this episode: Chloe would want to be Lois. As if Chloe, for some reason, hasn't done enough, or been enough, to be worthy. I mention this again because it infuriates me. Would I sleep with Lois over Chloe first? Yes. Does that mean she's a better person? No. Point of fact, all contradictory storylines aside, Chloe is the most selfless person on the show, AHEAD of Clark, who has endangered his friends and family innumerable times in the name of his own desires. Including in this very episode.

    Oh, it's so funny that Clark can't fly and that could be one of his powers. Or not.

    I realized, as soon as Zatanna took the book and gained powers, that this is essentially the witch show (Spell) all over again. Characters not themselves so a book which gives power can be sought and used to bring back the dead. Only instead of three chicks in an S and M/cheesecake motif, there's only one. Inferior to inferiority.

    Why the Daily Planet roof for the ceremony? It's like, "Oh, people don't want me to do this! Let's do it in a place that's highly visible."

    Why did Chloe change back? What was the catalyst? Why did she not want to be Lois anymore. I understand she knew the situation was urgent, but she did before, and it didn't change her.

    Why did Clark get his powers back? Presumably, he'd still want not to have them. I see no catalyst that would drive him back to his powers if he was so resolved despite the obvious. IE, if he, knowing that the powers would save lives, would give them up as his fondest wish, why, knowing that he could save a life, does he suddenly get them back (IE it's not his fondest wish)?

    There is absolutely, on the constant, NO thought into the coherency of the conflict resolution on this show. Constantly.

    Chloe gets through the massive locks shown on the door with no effort. And yet, if Clark doesn't LEAP to the roof, she can't be stopped. Clark's the only one that can do it! Despite being completely vulnerable to magic. Uh, yeah. That's not a shallow excuse to show a jump.

    I'd say the jump effect was cool, but we've seen it so many times it's old hat. Nothing new in exploding planes or jumps. How about a second use of superbreath, two years later?

    Lois has a Jersey tan, and we get a shipper scene to close things out. Clark and Lois, after a completely asexual Chloe and Clark, despite her revelations she's been attracted to him. One requires character development. The other takes two hot people, puts them in a room, and assumes that's all we'll need for a connection.

    Zatanna's closure is, "Well, I'm sorry I tried to kill you. I promise to be good with unlimited power." Ollie's response, "Great! AND I got her phone number!"

    Lois, LOIS, suggests an interoffice romance might be bad, with a straight face, in this show. Wonder what Gabe might say about that. Oh wait. He's dead. They sure miss him.

    And then, we learn that CHLOE IS WORKING WITH OLLIE AS A COMMUNICATOR! Zomg! That's, that's like a Watchtower! It's like she's playing the role of Oracle.

    Except she's been doing that for two years. It's not a story change. The guitar music seemed to make it a big deal that she was now calling it "Watchtower." Did I miss something? Wasn't this already done?

    This "OOOOOH" moment is just Smallville emphasizing that the JLA would have been up and running without Superman. Which kind of sucks.

    1 of 5.


    I've got a preface here, and I've gotta put it plain, because that's what honesty necessitates.

    I've decided, after a lot of thought (a LOT of thought) that the letter column is still open, and I'm still going to do it. But it comes at the head of a set of culminating circumstances that have changed my life and my approach to this column.

    For eight years on this column and more than eight in others, I've labored under the delusion that honest inquiry from the internet is something that is deserving of respect and response. This thesis is true. The problem is that on the internet, there is no mechanism possible for discerning honest inquiry from trolls, given that you do not know the people you are talking to, given that they are beholden to no concept of honor even if you yourself are, and given that all it takes is thirty seconds to no longer be culpable for your actions or words by proxy.

    It's something I'm against, and it's why, systematically, for the last five years, I've removed proxies of myself and signed my name to everything honestly, culpable for my words. The lone exception, which I'm loathe to reveal but will for the sake of honesty, was the time when the Questions for Kurt column didn't get enough questions, so I made up a few and posted them under another name to help bolster the column, because I believed in it. Beyond that, I sign my damned name, and it seems no one else does.

    In this column I find my rare exceptions, or in the people I come to know through interaction over the course of months. And I treasure the people I have grown to know and love over the internet via Smallville and this site. The truth remains, however, that for every one Steve, for every one Jeff, for every one Barry, Stephen, Alessandro, Shaun, Patrick, Joe, Trev, Bruce, Scotty, David, Daniel, and literally hundreds of other people that have bolstered and supported my internet communications, there are always at least one, and usually tens of people who cannot simply accept that a work is simply a work.

    It has driven me, in a rather foul-mouthed rant (ergo you've been warned it's NSFW) on my personal site to declare CAVEAT EMPTOR at the top of my site.

    The notion being, if you cannot understand or comprehend the thing I am selling you, whether you paid for it or not (but especially if you did not), then I encourage you to check the product before you consume it, or don't consume it at all. It's a notion that's been around for thousands of years, and for a reason. I imagine people who buy apples and complain that they're not oranges get annoying to merchants. They certainly are to me.

    My column is a literary analysis of Smallville. It's not a promotional piece, and it's not a spike piece, it is simply my honest interpretation of the show, and frankly, and I cannot emphasize this more, I DO NOT GIVE A SOLID DAMN if you do not understand what I am doing here, or want to change it. Were you paying for this service, I would have a wholly differing attitude. But as it stands, if you guys want me to make good on my promise to continue to review a show despite it not being the same show it was in the beginning, and for free, I must make changes for my own sanity, because the class of my readers has largely devolved and evolved into people who love the show and wish to change my mind despite it being my own, and the good people I love who read the review and enjoy it.

    To this end, and because of repeated antagonism, I'm not going on the comment boards any more. It wasn't any one person, it was a series of people who could not let things go. It was, primarily, a series of people (as people are want to do) who couldn't be bothered to listen, read, or comprehend, the seeming bane of the internet.

    People who, when you type, "I like blue in Superman's suit" think it means you hate the red. People who have never taken five minutes to peruse the law of logic as it is applied to criticism. This is not to say it is inappropriate to debate shades of subject matter, or that it is not valid to say, "Hey, Neal, maybe Smallville's not trying to push back the cause of feminism." This is to say that to misconstrue words as stated into falsehoods is, to my mind, endemic to the internet. Which is self-evident to anyone with common sense, but for the last few years, I openly admit I have lacked this common sense.

    So I'm stepping back. I will answer letters to this column if they are cogent, and I will still take email at my usual address, but I'm going to stop knuckling in and trying to justify myself to people who aren't willing to listen. My justification is caveat emptor. If you feel my product is objectively inferior, you may have your money invested back. In other words, caveat emptor. Buyer beware. You can change the channel. You can close the browser.

    But I am frankly sick and tired of people who do not make their own creations telling me how to make mine on the constant. I held out faith that the internet, if you led by example, could be a place of civility. I have abandoned that hope. I believe there are good people, but I do not believe that by addressing rotten people and showing them the error of their ways I can change them in a way that's more productive than simply not addressing them at all.

    And this is not an indictment of YOU (statistically speaking), the 99 of 100 readers who are great people, and send thoughtful letters, and keep me going. I have, quite literally, fifteen thousand letters from amazing, selfless folks that have given me the will to go on. It is NOT you I criticize. It's an indictment of the one guy who feels some lack of power in his life and decides to pretend he knows what an intellectual endeavor is by harassing someone in the midst of one. I am so sick of that person, and letting them take up the time I could be spending with my family, or writing, or eating, or pooping. So they're excised, like a tumor, from my life. Finito. Done.

    So why no more comments? Why not just ignore the idiots? Because it's impossible to know, as I said, which are trying to bait you and which is honest inquiry. Here, in this letter column, it's a shot a week to inquire and interact, and then I can set it aside and move on. In a comment, it's often like this:

    TROLLWHOPRETENDSTOBECOGENT: Hey, Neal! Just wondering, why do you hold Smallville to such a high standard? Why can't you just enjoy it, LOL?

    NEAL (thinking it an honest question): Well, as I've said before, my work is analysis, my intent is not to spike it, etc.

    TROLLWHOPRETENDSTOBECOGENT: OIC. Well, don't you think you can just lay off it, and let it be for a bit? I think it's a great show!

    (note this person has not read what I have written)

    NEAL: Well, I'm glad you enjoy it. I'm just trying to look at it as a piece of literary analysis. I hold it to the college standard.

    TROLL: But dude, it's a TV show! It's not supposed to be analyzed!

    NEAL: Anything can be analyzed by the standards of higher education. Even comics. There's nothing saying that even something like a porno can't have some value as a social commentary. Notably, Sarah Palin has...

    (here's where I pause, and realize I've been baited without realizing it. But by this point, I've invested a lot of time and effort into justifying myself to someone who, had they taken the time to ACTUALLY READ three of my reviews, would know all of this by now).

    Usually, I would finish that phrase and stop responding. Now, I will not respond to these types of phrases at all. Talk to me about how to write a review and declare a purview over my craft when you have created 700 articles and not been shut down. Or even one novel. Then I'll consider your qualification. If Steve criticizes me, I know to back down. He's done this five times as much as I have, and he's talked me off many a stupid ledge over stupid rocks where I would fall, be bloodied, and thereby declared STUPID in all caps. But I will no longer backstep for KALIaC52335 or his similar anonymous derivatives.

    This is not me saying I won't be personable or won't be held account if I say something incorrect. It's just saying that I will no longer be an apologist for my own work. Take it or leave it. Seems obvious, right? But then, writers write from a position lacking self-esteem, and feel the constant need to justify themselves (he said, three pages into justifying his actions). It's a good inclination, because it leads to well-thought out work, but it's a bad inclination when it leads them to sacrificing their own lives to please turds.

    I just lost my grandmother and a brother I was very close to. I just went bankrupt for writing. I moved into an apartment from a house so I could continue my work. I do NOT need to kowtow to some turd who wants to give me crap for syntax. I put in my work, and you can like it, or you can leave it.



    There. I've said enough. I'll pick up the letter column next week, and let this digest.



    Reviewed by: Douglas Trumble

    Super-short run on sentence summary: Chloe get's a magic cupcake that turns her into a Lois look-a-like so she decides to live a day in her cousin's life, while Zatanna tricks the Green Arrow into finding her father's spell book and along the way manages to whammy Clark into forgetting the Kryptonian side of his life.

    You know. This was a pretty gosh darn good episode. Not the best of the super guest star episodes but that certainly doesn't make it a bad episode. Smallville has always done very well with their guest heroes and they do not disappoint with Zatanna.

    Now I am not a Zatanna expert by any means but this one seemed to fit the bill pretty good. Guest star Serinda Swan certainly has the look and I think played the part extremely well. It was nice to see Zatanna in a pre uber-powerful magician stage of her life. Her powers are not fully formed yet and we actually get to see the final steps she takes in obtaining access to her full powers which was rather nice. Other heroes on the show were already "powered up" so in some ways we get a Zatanna origin story here. She's got some power but not much and now after this story she has her father's book and notes which will give her the rest of her powers. One can assume the next time this Superman crosses her path she will be a full on super magician speaking backwards and turning bad guys into seinnub, or as other people would say; bunnies.

    But as much as the title and stunt casting was about Zatanna the episode was really all about Chloe. Really when you look at it deeper this could very well be a defining episode for Chloe Sullivan. That is rather funny when you consider how little Allison Mack was in it. Erica Durance played Chloe for 90% of the episode. I really do think Erica Durance did a fantastic job here. Not perfect exactly but there was no time during her time as Chloe that I felt we were not watching Chloe in Lois' body. There were a few times where I would call the performance neutral but then those were when Chloe was actually pretending to be Lois so neutral is likely a good thing during those times. It would have ruined it if she was too Lois like.

    This episode did a lot to redeem Chloe in my eyes. I admit after the last episode my opinion of her was at an all time low. Those issues are still present but they were acknowledged here and actually admitted as mistakes and wrong turns in the character's life. I would have been mad if they were ignored or treated in a different way but they were not. We see Chloe reacting to them realistically.

    I also think they did a really good job wrapping up the whole "Chloe wanted to be a reporter" story line. Speaking as someone who did do the whole dream job wasn't the dream I thought and had to move on to something else I can relate to that. Sometimes a person gets to where they are going and realizes that it just isn't what they thought. Sure Chloe had moved on to Isis but there was always the lingering idea that she gave up the reporting too soon and that Lois was living her dream. It makes sense that she would feel a little jealous about that. It makes sense she would have regrets. Yet in the end she realized that deep down that wasn't what she wanted anymore and we see her accept that and move on.

    Actually a rather realistic character arc when you think about it. Well okay. Realistic in a sense because we all know there are probably only a few people in the real world that went from reporter at the world's biggest newspaper to working for a billionaire's personal team of Superheroes.

    Maybe one or two anyway. (I know it is my backup plan in case my current career doesn't work out.)

    I was amused by the revelation that Clark and Lois had been bickering over Jimmy and Chloe's break up. Clark's stance makes sense because we already know he doesn't trust Davis. I was glad to see he was willing to take the word of his friend Jimmy over that psycho but yet to his credit he was nice enough not to go out and chastise his other friend Chloe directly for it. Lois on the other hand was obviously defending her cousin over anything and everything and that fits her character as well.

    That little exchange was just a couple of lines of dialog but something that really stuck out to me. In fact when you really sit back and think about it there are many little things like that that really sold the episode to me. A line of dialog, a short scene. Small touches and character moments that brought a smile to my face. Sure the stuff about Zatanna and Chloe I mentioned above were the main points of the story but little moments are why this episode was great and not merely good.

    Things like the fact Lois was calling Clark repeatedly from her assignment (all while Clark was off with Bart on some emergency). Plus the fact he took the time to answer her and the fact that Clark was off doing super hero stuff with Bart. Just too much coolness to handle.

    Clark going to the "rescue" of the mugging after losing his memory of his super side. Tom Welling moving into the classic hero pose with the chin out just before reaching for his cell and dialing 911 was fantastic. Maybe even the funniest moment this season.

    The revelation Clark framed Lois' list of reporting rules. Cute and touching when you know where those two are heading.

    Oliver's comments about Zatanna's card and not realizing it was just her phone number.

    Chloe having trouble walking in Lois' heals.

    The consistency in Universe in regards to the consequences of changing a death.

    The reaction by Clark when Chloe started going off about Clark's powers when he thought she was Lois.

    Chloe's trying to convince Clark he had powers after Zatanna's mind whammy. The swing and whiff with the steel pipe was the best part of that whole gag. Yes it was similar to the episode "Blank" from season 4 but was still very entertaining and played in a way that didn't make it feel done before. It helped that it was only a small part of the bigger story and not the main story of the episode.

    Chloe's self realization that her place in life was as the Watchtower for the League was geeky coolness to the extreme. The scene with all the heroes checking in was awesome even if the music cue was just a little bit over the top.

    Chloe's up up and away comment that was shortly followed by Clark's sidewalk cracking leap of a tall building.

    All these things were short little parts of the story that worked extremely well and combined to make a very entertaining episode of the series.

    On top of those positive things the fact they took a moment to show Oliver having guilty feelings over Lex's "death" was good to see. He needs redemption from that and his regretting it is a good way to start.

    Really there were only two negatives to this episode I can think of and I had to look really hard to find them. These are just nitpicks in the grand scheme of things.

    One. Why did Zatanna go to the roof of the Daily Planet to do her resurrection spell? I mean it was good that we found out she wasn't risking other people's life. She is a hero character after all. She was willingly going to trade her life for her dad's and lucky for her our Superman (who has been there done that) was there to talk her out of it but why the Daily Planet? She had no connection with that place. As far as I can tell LuthorCorp is taller so it can't be a height issue for the spell. It's like she just picked a random roof top that just happens to be the coolest building in town for Clark to leap up to. I'm okay with that but it is a nitpicky kind of 'huh?' thing.

    The other thing was Oliver's de-masking. I mean dude. I know chicks dig your deep dreamy eyes but can you keep your mask on in front of girls for at least a little while? First Chung Li kicks your mask off in 20 seconds a few months ago and now all Zatanna has to do is claim she knows who you are and you give her the proof? Like she couldn't have been bluffing on a wild guess? Not too smart there Ollie. It was cool when Zatanna did the whammy that chained him to the pole though. After the dumb move with his mask he had that coming.

    So really a good episode. Almost flawless in my eyes considering I just had two minor nitpicks and they were really minor. Zatanna was well used as a guest star. Chloe's story wrapped up some major lingering issues about her reporter dream and moved her in a positive direction. Plus the episode was filled with great character moments through and through.

    I am giving it a 5 out of 5 because my nit picks are not enough to deduct any points over.

    Next week I am not so sure of. Some of the clips in the preview looked to be from this episode but it does look like Clark and Davis will be getting to know each other a little better. Can't wait to see that.


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