Superman on Television
Smallville: Episode Reviews
Season 9 - Episode 15: "Conspiracy"Reviews:
ConspiracyReviewed by: Douglas Trumble
Smallville Episode Review: Episode 9-15: "Conspiracy".
Super short summary: Couple of the Krypto-Clones are kidnapped by one of their earlier experiments which causes some tension between the Blur and Zod-Clone who both decided to investigate on their own, which ends up with Clark in an "epic" showdown against the villain of the week involving chainsaws and power lines. In the mean time Oliver learns that Chloe has resorted to grand larceny and kryptonite stockpiling in order to turn herself into some kind of anti Krypto-Clone punisher.
Some major plot points for the ending of the season were thrown down in this one so it really is a must see. It's just too bad they were tied in with an A plot that was a bit less than spectacular.
I found it very interesting that Zod-Clone didn't come out and announce his power-up to Clark and the other clones right away. I am certain we all expected Zod-Clone to get powered up at some point but the fact he is keeping it secret makes you wonder how much of his "our people" blabbering has been the truth. They have done a good job making you question if his intentions are for personal power or if his people are really first on his mind. I think keeping it secret pretty much answers that question.
At this point I could see him giving a few of his people powers as muscle but I can't see him giving them to them all as long as he thinks some have been won over by Clark. If it was really about his "people" he would not be playing it like that. He'd give them to all. We'll see. Maybe I am wrong but I thought that fact was important.
I liked that they had a credible way for Zod-Clone to gain powers via Clark's blood but I didn't buy the lie Clark told Zod-Clone about it. We know Clark knows his blood can heal so it makes sense that Clark did what he did but does anyone really think that Zod-Clone would believe Clark didn't know? No one randomly decides to just drip their own blood in an open wound like that. That was a bit hard to swallow.
Chloe's certainly in an interesting place. I didn't like the fact she's still going behind Clark's back and I was greatly pleased that Oliver called her out on that but I cannot really fault her for what she is doing. I can see why being prepared in case the Clone Army got powered up would be a good thing. Heck, she's seen Clark go bad enough times that having some Kryptonite on hand is a good thing. An army of Kryptonian Clones would require a bit more than a few rocks to throw at them. I like how she had Kryptonite arrows ready for Oliver to use. Good to know she's aware of who would be leading the fight. The 50 caliber machine gun might have been a bit much though. Just saying.
I also like the relationship developing between Oliver and Chloe. I would have liked to see the Oliver/Canary relationship developed on the show but for now this one is entertaining. Let's just hope they can get past Chloe's theft of funds. (As a note I wonder why the funding for Watchtower didn't show up in Lady-Lex's little audit.)
That whole side plot did have me wondering though. Does Lady-Lex know Oliver is the Green Arrow? She knows Clark is the Blur and I am pretty sure she knows Chloe is watchtower. She also knows Clark and Chloe are friends of Oliver and that the Blur/watchtower work with the Green Arrow. It seems pretty obvious to me.
Glad to see they at least mentioned that the towers exploding last week was viewed by the world as an accident. I think they should have maybe took a moment to clear it up that no one was harmed and Clark was safe when blasting them. Still don't like the visual but that is in the past now. I am just mentioning it here because they missed their chance to improve somewhat on a questionable choice from the previous week.
One thing kind of said on the fly in this episode that I liked was the fact that Clark and Lois did come to an agreement that it was ok to have some secrets between them. I know Lois was thinking more along the lines of things to do with stories and journalism but at least they took the time to have the couple acknowledge that they exist. That they are not to the point where they are telling each other everything. I might be in the opinion that it is somewhat cruel to keep Lois in the dark about Clark's "blurry" side but at least they are making a small effort to reconcile that topic between the two of them.
Of course Lois is going to wonder why Clark's leads and investigations without her are not producing big stories at some point so this little insert into the relationship will only last for so long in my opinion. I hope the idea is not forgotten otherwise I won't be ok with this approach. (Hint hint Smallville peeps.)
I was glad to see Metallo mentioned again. If this is a sign he will return then all the better but at least they were able to tie that part of the story in and at least give us a different look at the Clones involved. Why? Because it was rather brutal what the Clones were doing and it was making it difficult to feel sympathetic to them. Yet now I find it at least somewhat redeemable that they were only working on cadavers. Lois had a good point, if they brought the man back to life he should have been grateful and I agree with that to a point. Maybe not the best way and maybe with some unintended side effects but he was alive. Same thing with Corben really.
Still Clark also had a point that none of those people agreed to be part of the experiments so the Clones were wrong to use them. I am just saying maybe it wasn't the horrible monster-iffic situation we were lead to believe initially and that it might not be fair to say the Clones involved were doing something out right evil. We shall see. There may be more to that story to come. At the very least I was glad to see it was people who were actually dead being worked on and not just people injured which I actually believed to be the case from earlier. Maybe I took it wrong and that is my fault but there it is.
So Lois got knocked out again. Poor girl. I admit I am getting tired of it. Let's give the poor girl's brain a rest shall we? I mean the NFL is taking steps to limit concussions in players. Maybe Smallville could do the same for our favorite gal? I doubt the ratings police would let them put Erica Durance in a helmet for the rest of the season. Seriously though. Enough with the knocking her out bit. They could have had Clark blur her across town or something.
And now for something that came up in discussions from last week will be my WTF moment of the week. (What The Fudge!)
This week's WTF moment of the week goes to the villain and total blatant stupidity. I know he was nuts but he was a doctor for crying out loud. The sheer level of stupidity the man showed was beyond anything I could imagine being credible. First he comes in, shoots Zod, and then LEAVES with Zod still breathing and Lois still in possession of the handcuff key. Where was he going? Why? Then to top that stupidity the villain goes and takes HIMSELF out of the fight by swinging his chainsaw around the power lines. Seriously? That's how this guy goes down? I know Smallville likes to have villains kill themselves off when fighting Clark which is good because none of us want to see Clark kill anyone but this was well beyond an impaling on a random sharp object.
I give this one a 3.5 out of 5. Nothing really amazing or exciting. Maybe even a bit boring for your average episode with some beyond credible stupidity by the villain but some important movement with the Clones and Chloe story lines that count it a bit above average. You do not really want to miss it.
Looks like we are taking March off and won't see any more new episodes until April. Oh well. Have a good month and I'll see you all then.
Neal Bailey's Farewell LetterSMALLVILLE: "Denouement"
By Neal Bailey
Is this worth a watch? Yes. Hell Yes. Super Hell Yes.
Is it worth a watch every week? That remains to be seen.
That's from the first review, 10-20-2001. I was twenty-one, still in college, and apparently hadn't yet learned not to capitalize mid-sentence and/or that "super" before anything gets old fast. Haw!
9. That is 5 years past 4. 5 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bichy. No fun - for anybody. 5. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax - this won't hurt.
I feel guilty for that appropriation already. But it fits, given the style, and given the sadness.
Bias is a reviewer's greatest enemy. It is the irrational disregard of evidence counter to their own goal, an HONEST review.
I've corresponded with many of you over the years and cultivated many important friendships. The Smallville review, outside of what it is, has been a great wellspring for me. I've learned how audiences react. I've learned how to write something that provokes. I've learned where the line of good taste is, even though I often choose to cross it anyway.
One of the most common pieces of mail I received was the person who wanted to tell me how I needed to be fair, by way of being balanced. It is abhorrent, they state, probably thinking of journalistic standards over editorial standards, to write a thing whereby you don't state something positive, something negative, and then something interesting.
I encountered this mentality a lot in college. The PMI scale. Plus, minus, and interesting. It was so you wouldn't hurt the feelings of the person whose story you were critiquing, provided it sucked. I disliked it, and it's one of the largest reasons I left the creative writing program, despite having the credits to graduate.
To me, if a thing sucks, it sucks, and there is benefit in analysis of all manner of things, the grand and the mediocre. Study of the grand shows you what you wish to emulate, and complex examination of suckitude helps you avoid sucking like a half-clogged drain.
The reason I mention this is because bias is a complex animal, and it's one of those things that you can only recognize when you encounter it. It's like a good punch in karate. You think you're punching well, and then on a certain day, you get a good snap, that snap that the higher belts have. And then it's gone again. But you saw it, you know what it was, and you try and find it again so you can understand it.
You do the same thing with good writing. The first time I came to the conclusion (before I read it in a thousand writing articles over the years) that adverbs are the death of good fiction, it was like seeing God.
The first year I wrote Smallville reviews I was criticized for being too positive, believe it or not. And that continued for two years until the show started turning. Once the fourth year rolled around, and I started giving negative reviews on a regular basis (this was five years ago), note, I was accused of being negative, which continued.
Either way there was an ample, rad, continuing supply of readers who adhered to LURK MOAR and understood that you should read a thing before enjoying it, but there are always teal deer to fill the gap. Google it, kids.
Or hey, Let me Google it For You.
It's meme week here at the Smallville goodbye review.
I continued reviewing Smallville out of a sincere desire to produce profitable analysis, an honest hope that the show would get better despite a 99.99 percent certitude it wouldn't, and because the ratio of cool people reading the review to bums was pretty high.
Still is. You guys rock.
I continued because I had no bias, all commentary to the contrary wherever it may have come. I was able to look at each episode and, repeatedly, justify my assertions with logic. It got so boring, repeating myself, that I culled the review down and removed the notes, because that gave me a bunch of stuff I repeated over and over. There is biting commentary, and there is redundancy, and at a certain point I realized that it would be best to pick a few points and go with them, citing previous essays as my ibid, if you will. That worked fine, and could have continued to the end of the show.
As you may have read (or should read, if you haven't), last week I took great umbrage to the depiction of twin towers being destroyed at the hands of a 23-year-old Clark Kent.
Responses to this were varied. Most of the commentators on the boards, typically the squeaky wheel exceptions to the civil discourse that can prevail, had wonderful things to say, like "Good to finally see Clark Man Up!" and "I don't care if it looked like 911! Good job, Smallville writers!"
There were also a lot of people (I noticed especially on other boards) who were savaged for pointing out the symbolism.
The visual presented, in the context of 9/11 or not, was inappropriate. It was either Clark seeming to be responsible for a terrorist attack if you look at it through the lens of history, the lens of context, or it was an act not befitting Superman's character, in that he could have killed or injured any number of people. I read the comments that said that he would have cleared the building, of course, being Superman. But did he not blow up a building, of course, being Superman?
The fact that I haven't seen much uproar beyond my own comments tells me that a broad bias FOR the show exists among its fandoms. And good. As I've always said, I'm glad you're enjoying something, even when I'm not.
But now I am biased.
Last year, when Ollie killed Lex, I declared that I could never consider his character a hero again. I was permanently biased against his character, but I declared it, and could still review the show in a larger context. Same with Chloe. She was accessory to murder, but she is still a character without permanent definition in the mythos, and as such, heck, maybe she becomes Lex Luthor's assistant, for all I know.
Clark and Lois are another matter entirely. Martha is another matter entirely. Pa as well. These are characters that absolutely, categorically, and emphatically, I state (butchering adverbs because what the hell, it's my last day on this job) would NEVER do certain things. Rape. Murder. Steal.
Once THEY do, being the characters that will ultimately matter (even Lana was, to a degree, morally flexible in terms of what she might do), the show has entered a phase where it is, to me, no longer Superman.
I can take Superman with a kid. I can take Superman in an alternate universe as a Soviet dictator. I can take a Superman who quits for ten years, or even a Justice Lord, all in their proper context.
I can't take a Superman associated with the twin tower attacks. It permanently colors my perception of the show.
To be fair, and in the name of due diligence (and also because a few of the long term readers asked me to), I watched this most recent episode in order to make sure it didn't open with Clark gathering all the dust and stopping the towers from hurting anyone. I did it to make sure that the papers didn't proclaim "WORST TERRORIST ATTACK IN METROPOLIS' HISTORY!" and put a consequence to the actions. I did it to make sure that Clark wouldn't stand outside a hospital watching people with respiratory illness hacking into an oxygen mask. I did it to make sure he didn't watch the television and all of the pundits making hay of the fear and get upset with himself.
Of course he didn't. The only consequences were one headline that seemed more devoted to mystery than fear, and lip service to how the media was spinning it as a freak accident.
It confirmed for me my suspicions, that the show did it for the cool explosion factor, not to make any story points, not for a purpose. They made Clark mimic 9/11 heedless of context or consequence.
I gave it more diligence than I should have, honestly. But I wanted to be fair to the cooler readers I promised I'd finish the series reviews for. Upon contemplation, I realize that whether they believe it or not, they'd rather have no review than one that was based on vitriol.
And this review is not. It's always been honest, because I'm not paid, and never have been. If I make people hate the show, less people read my reviews. If I am arbitrary in any way (be it positive or negative) it is leapt upon without a moment's hesitation by teal deer who want to have my head on a platter.
This review is maybe five percent of what I write. I'm responsible for nine novels now, a metric but-ton of poetry, a goodly number of comics now, and heck, I've done fifty radio shows and about a hundred video essays.
I don't edit it. I leave in mistakes. It's first draft best draft, and quite honestly, I did it for fun, not out of any expectation of regard.
I say this to alleviate any criticism along the lines of "Oh, too much work for him! What a lazy idiot!"
I also say it to introduce the idea that it was the conceptual purpose behind the work, not Smallville as an entity, that drove it. I just wanted to putz around on a collegiate level with higher concepts, and using a show that bows to LCD most of the time made for a good springboard.
Rest assured, I have my own springboards, and to that end, maybe in one week, maybe in a month, I will be starting another analysis column to replace this one. I'm going to hard edit it, so it won't be as raw, but I am also going to cover a broad swath of ideas, which should make it more versatile and fun (and brief, thank Rao) than the Smallville review, even though it'll take about as much time to do.
The current plan is to have the column come out bi-weekly. I'll let you know more about it as the first column gets closer to publication.
I'm going to produce this column, and I promise you the same quality that this column had. Sith rules, as ever. You don't like it, Steve's gonna replace my work. That's how it's always been. It's my job to entertain.
I've given nine years of free work. It's all there. I gave it knowingly.
Now I'm gonna make a column just as good that I can hopefully sell, given that it won't have video links or explicit licensed property. It will be pure essay, as essay goes. And I will save some that I won't give away. The plan is to sell those to interested readers. If you like the column, I hope you'll consider buying the book.
And please note, this is NOT me quitting the Superman Homepage. If anything, provided the column comes out as planned, I will be adding to the amount I do on the site.
But I cannot review Smallville any more without selling out, because I can't believe in it or support it any more. That's still honest, but it's a finale without bias.
I'm confident you will respect that. Or if you don't, well, heck, you're probably not the kind of reader I want going forward anyway.
The kind of readers I want are the ones who I have always had here. The ones I am grateful for. The ones who, unbidden, have sent thank you letters, love letters, pictures, manipulations, fan fiction, their own reviews. The thousands of people who have taken a few minutes out of their day to give this review a shot. The thousands of people all with different interpretations of Superman.
The ones who gave up after season one, the ones who gave up after season four, the ones who are still here today and will be long after I'm gone (I predict the show will end after sixteen seasons, and the only two characters left will be Oliver and Shelby, and they will wake up in bed with Bob Newhart, but I don't know, because I won't be there). (This week on Smallville: Ollie takes BESTIAL K, in an attempt to tell Shelby his "secret!")
The KO Count will be taken care of, I have been assured. I may be replaced with another guy or gal, not sure. Steve might even step in and fill the gap, and I encourage it, because he's always a good ambassador of regard, and he's kept me out of a lot of trouble.
I wanted to end this with a big thank you, a la "Thank you, Will! Thank you, Rob! Thank you, Bruce!" But the internet doesn't really have enough bandwidth, and I always hate looking at albums that have fifty thousand names of people that mean nothing to anyone but the thanking.
So thank you, all. You know who you are.
And thank you, Steve, for being indulgent, and defending me, and for telling me when I'm indefensible.
And thank you Smallville, for while you were good, you were something I will never forget. And I already miss you.
Thank you, Erica Durance's hot body. I keep leaving messages. Why don't you ever call?
Thank you Monkeybella. Goodbye. Or as they say in Smallville France in the 1600s: "Goodbye."
And Neal, again with the squeaky shoes? Again?
Steve? Time to break out the whip.
Well, okay. Maybe one last slow dance, for the romantics:
DEAD LETTER OFFICE:
Bruce Kanin Wrote:
Several random thoughts on this dull and silly episode...
The valentine girl looked like Zatanna's younger sister.
Actually, she had a twin, but it was born inside-out.
(Sigh) meteor rocks. Just what was Pixie Kryptonite supposed to do, anyway? Its effects were inconsistent. Yes, it made Clark influence people, but it only seemed like an initial effect. And then it caused Clark to succumb to wanting to kill Tess, who as it turns out wasn't Jor-El's killer. If Pixie Kryptonite has a hypnotic effect, even to Clark, wouldn't his Code against killing override the hypnosis? And if Zod was compelled to tell the truth, why did he lie about Tess? What a mess...
I didn't catch it influencing Clark. Other people say they saw it, though. Very convenient, regardless.
Speaking of Jor-El being murdered (by Elia, the Kryptonian/Kandorian woman) - this is still a HUH? Jor-El perished on Krypton, with Lara by his side, as the infant Kal-El rocketed into space. That's a Superman fundamental that SHOULD NOT be violated, except in an Imaginary/Elseworlds story. "Smallville" should be presenting some semblance of a mainstream Superman story, not something way off the tracks.
This is, I think, referring to that episode that was set on Krypton.
The Lois-as-the-lovestruck-happy-homemaker subplot did not mesh well at all with the deadly serious Zod-Tess-Elia-killed-Jor-El subplot. It was like two sets of writers (all dumb) wrote two stories that they tried to Velcro together.
With a big offensive cherry.
Yay! The (brief) return of Shelby the Golden Doofy Retriever! And yay! The return of Martha Kent! Twice! Albeit ... on the phone and we don't hear her :(
I hate the CW logo and ad in the lower right part of the screen. It's annoying, distracting and often in the way of something I want to see. Bad stuff.
Luthor Mansion Security - once again - NOT at your service! If I'm invited there, I ain't takin' no bath! Zod has no powers - how did he circumvent security???
Lois crying in her dress reminded me a little of Laura Petrie's "Oh Rob" sobbing from the "Dick Van Dyke Show".
Emil Hamilton affected by Pixie Kryptonite - he's one Wild and Crazy guy! (NOT...)
Another problem: One must have developed character in order to be out of it.
The Lois-in-a-wedding dress music video scene made me gag.
I spontaneously produced a Red Lantern ring from the vomit.
Say, I thought it was Lana who took fighting lessons. What's with Chloe holding her own for awhile in a battle with Tess? Tess, who we know is a trained fighter? Excuse me????
Clark makes a ring of fire (they should have played the Johnny Cash song) around him and Tess, which was semi-cool (well, hot), but just what was he igniting? Yes, I know that they showed gasoline pumps in the background. Was that to make us think that the ground was soaked in oil? And wasn't Chloe trying to steal stuff from Tess's PC at the Daily Planet? How did they all suddenly show up in a gravelly area with gas pumps? Yesus Yeist!
As nonsensical as it is that Elia killed Jor-El, the whole bit about the tower's completion blocking the yellow sun's rays in favor of red rays - causing Clark to lose his powers and the Kryptonians/Kandorians to gain theirs - is like saying that if two people jump in a lake, one will get wet and one will remain dry. It's pure nonsense. Clark, Zod and the other Kryptonians/Kandorians are all from Krypton. They get powers under a yellow sun and lose them under a red son. That's another Superman fundamental. Whoever wrote this rubbish never read a Superman comic book.
I wonder if they ever read ANY book, or at least one that had consistency as a factor of coherency.
Lucky of Chloe to carry that handy Green Kryptonite around, eh wot? And when she shined it on Clark, HER eyes also brightened, as if the Pixie Kryptonite effect was leaving her? Maybe? I dunno. But why would that happen? Because Clark was losing HIS pixie effect? Maybe. I dunno.
Is the Earth translation of Rao, "Ralph"? I like that. I'm going to use that, i.e., "GREAT RALPH!" But watch out ... that exclamation might precede a heave...
That ceremony for Elia at the end was incredibly dopey. And Keanu Kent never looked and sounded sillier. Did you notice that yellowish diamond-shaped traffic sign hanging with the curtains? Looked like it might have been a Kryptonian school crossing warning. Where was that ceremony, anyway? Did the Kandorians rent a hall or something? Was there a rabbi or priest there to say a prayer?
I think they needed Stephen Hawking to be all like "YOU CAN'T KILL SOMEONE WHOSE PRESENCE IS PREDICATED ON HER COMING BACK IN THE FUTURE!" But then, Stephen Hawking is probably too busy thinking, unlike us.
But then ... the ending ... Clark destroying the tower. First, it reminded me of Indiana Jones shooting the bad guy menacing Indy with twirling knives in "Raiders of the Lost Ark". It's the obvious thing to do - the tower is a threat, so get rid of it. Cool. I like that. But wait - HOW does Clark do it? He heat-beams it, causing it to fall to the ground. HUH? I didn't see him super-speeding to the scene, making sure that no one was about to be crushed by falling building parts. And Clark was no longer under the influence of the Pixie Kryptonite, so basically, he was doing something emotional and really DUMB - ENDANGERING people below. That's NOT AT ALL like Superman. The comic book Superman would simply fly the tower into the sun, but since Clark can't fly yet, apparently, why didn't he just dismantle the tower at super-speed?
As is obvious, I found that question especially cogent. Wish they'd answered it.
So with the tower gone, is this "game over" for Zod? Zod, I hope so. But next week looks like more crapola with Zod & co.
Aw, what the heck... give the episode an "F" for "Frankly, my dear, it's a load of F***ing crap!"
Sir, you are too kind.
It's been my privilege.
You are absolutely right.
That first paragraph of your review covered everything.
The imagery and everything... Whoever allowed the 'twin tower' scene to be even included and then DESTROYED in the overall story arc should be FIRED to beyond a crisp.
Holy crap that was bad.
Yes. That's about all I can say. Yes.
Jeffrey T wrote:
I have been waiting breathlessly for this review to post since 8pm Friday night. You did not let me down. Like you, I was SHOCKED that they would purposefully create a situation where Terrorist Superman knocks down Twin Towers in front of Live News Cameras in one of the largest cities in the country.
It breaks my heart. I mean, it really does.
I totally understand where the plot is going. Checkmate is coming in under Amanda Waller to take down a force that devestated the entire country to its core. Americans will fear what brought this situation. I would not even be suprised if they reference the parallel to 9/11 on the show. All this to make Superman an absolute villian. No different than those that crashed planes into buildings.
I attempted to post my concerns on another SITE's message board, where fellow viewers were SHOCKED that I would even consider Clark's movies as a bad idea. Reactions were everywhere from "Way to kick### Clark" to "the special effects were cool". Yet no shame that the writers and producers, the WB, and the CW all allowed the episode to pass.
I saw a number of people shouting down and flipping crap at people who pointed out the tower thing. This is before my review was posted. Not very Superman-y. But then, if your reaction to Superman destroying twin towers is "RAD!" you're probably not thinking about things enough.
Which, people, is not something to be proud of. I got that letter a lot. "You think too much!"
You know what? Think too much. It does a body better than Cheerios.
Thank you for being a sane rational person that does not believe that they should be entitled to do whatever they please to stir up reactions and claim that it is art. This episode's finale was not art. It was sickening that they would ever push Superman as justified in commiting the same destruction as September 11th, 2001. Especially for a show that is linked to the events of September 11th, starting exactly 5 weeks after the event.
Oh, they are entitled. That's the screwy part. They can do whatever they want with Superman. They own him. But we don't have to watch it if they go too far.
And I won't.
And yes, Superspeed Clark, with Superspeed Flash, a powered up Martain could easily take down the towers in nice pieces in about an hour as the "3 Blurs" without the destruction.
It is a gimick, and a sick and twisted one. I do not like it at all.
Thank you, Jeffrey, for the letters.
I read your "Persuasion" review. My friend and I agree with you completely. He's offended by the 9/11 imagery, at the hands of Superman, and I'm angry that Clark failed to consider the short- and long-term consequences of destroying a building and antagonizing Zod this way.
Amazing! From comment boards, you'd think I was the only one who came up with the notion. But of course, I agree.
If you swear off Smallville, I don't blame you, because I'm thinking of doing the same. I stuck with Smallville, even though it kind of sucked during S7, part of S8, and part of S9. "Persuasion" is the last straw.
If you stop watching because you don't want to watch, cool, but don't stop just because I had an issue with the show. I encourage you to enjoy what you enjoy no matter what I think. It's just one opinion.
But if you do stop, I understand. I really do.
I'm a longtime reader, scarce writer, and a big fan of your column.
Thank you ever so much.
I'm sure, and I hope, that you hear this a lot, but sitting down to read your review of Smallville is always a highlight of my Monday. I get out, I promise. But no joke, I love the comedy and even harsh criticisms that your writing provides. I admire your work and dedication, and I share your exceeding and often devastating disappointment with the show. I've been wanting to write in for a long time, both to express gratitude to you, and to vent my feelings. As someone who enjoys writing, I wanted to use this letter as an outlet. I hope you understand, and that this doesn't come off as creepy or passive aggressive in any way.
Nope. I appreciate it. I hope you come along to the next column.
I've been a fan of this show for most of its longevity. I picked up seasons 1-3 on DVD prior to watching Season 4 when it originally aired Wednesdays on The WB, and continued to the present. That was, for me, 8th grade. I am now attending a university as an undergraduate student, and through the past 5+ years, Smallville had defined part of my youth. Despite the crap tank of a network where it now resides, I have watched this show. I have purchased all of the DVDs, watched all of the episodes, and dedicated myself to the universe. The show initially attracted me with its interpretations of classic Superman characters, its action fantasy concept, and its relatability. Clark Kent was a great role model for a kid in high school who wanted to fly and get the pretty girl too. Clark's struggles were, despite the crazy situations, relatable. I also found his relationship with Lex fascinating, something the show hit right on the money. All of that is gone now, and I feel like I am continually getting sucker punched in the face. I'll elaborate a little later.
That's about what Lois and Clark was for me. I was in my third year of college when Smallville started. Now I've been out of college for seven years. Yeesh. Time.
I loved seasons 1-5. Every season, even the dreaded season 4. Possibly because of my age, because it was the first season I watched while it aired, or because I like cheesy stone arcs. Anyway, these seasons were about a superhero growing up on a farm with his parents, and dealing with extraordinary circumstances. For the most part, they stuck with the mythos, and Smallville fulfilled its dual purposes, in my opinion: To please most of its fans and to serve the character of Superman properly.
Season 4 is better than season 6, 7, 8, and 9, for the most part, so relatively speaking, it's the fifth best season of the nine for me. That's not bad in the long term.
Season 6 is where the train began to leave the rails. The show was not a towering inferno of crap yet, but they introduced a full-fledged superhero before Clark had become Superman and had Lex Luthor knock up Lana Lang. I don't have a problem introducing a young Flash, or a young Cyborg, or a young Aquaman, because they hadn't fully formed their identites as superheroes yet. To me, Superman is the be all, end all of superheroes. He was THE first, and led the way for others. In a show about young Clark Kent, it seemed a discredit to Superman to suggest that he wasn't the first, or the best. As for the Lexana story, I hated it because it was arbitrary trash created simply to dramatize Clark's story. And Clark gets back together with her! If the once love of your life called you a liar and slept with your mortal enemy, would you be that eager to forgive her? Season 7 was bad simply because I don't remember much from it. It was the end of an era certainly, for Al & Miles, Kristin, and Michael, but they went out with a whimper. Despite their flaws, these seasons still had redeeming, even brilliant episodes placed sporadically.
Season 8 came, and I ADORED the first half. The show had a lot of crime to be cleared of, and the head honchos clearly looked like they were really trying to make a difference. Lana was gone, Clark was in Metropolis with Lois, and Chloe got the position she deserved as second in billing (I had been deeply in love with Allison Mack and the character she created from seasons 4-8). And it still, with some justified forgiveness, made sense in the context of the Superman universe. But after the episode Legion, the train fell off the tracks and into a deep ravine. The writers changed the priority of crediting Superman to crediting themselves, and decided to put their own spin on the show. Like by having Oliver Queen kill Lex and buy Luthorcorp, or making Lana a superpowered diva running around the world doing who knows (or cares?) what. And then they killed Jimmy Olsen. Yes, Jimmy Olsen. Not Henry James Olsen. I will never EVER believe that Aaron Ashmore was brought to the show in 2006 to play Henry James Olsen. So explaining the death of a canon character in a few lines at the end of an episode after 3 years doesn't justify squat. Nor does it justify making stupid decisions to create twists. You have to earn these things, and the writers haven't earned any moments they've created in a long time. Why? Because they're arbitrary, and it feels like a toddler wrote these plots.
Still wholly agreed, and very well articulated.
Season 9 has been absolutely atrocious. I have not enjoyed one episode fully. One! Clark's character arc is gone forever; it is completely shot. Making him turn his back on humanity is just another wasted effort by the writers to freshen the character, despite repeated attempts at doing the same thing every other season and having the same result. Hasn't Clark learned by now? He is also a violent thug, who despite aspiring to save humanity, beats up women and destroys buildings in the middle of a crowded city ala 9/11, as you have alluded to. But it's okay if it looks cool, right? Please. I honestly saw someone in a forum try to justify the action by saying that Clark destroyed the buildings at nighttime, when no one would be around. Chloe is a shell of the kind, sensible person she used to be. Lois, despite extra screen time, is still an afterthought. And Oliver is someone who can apparently recover from alcoholism in one day, and continue to drink afterwards like nothing ever happened. Zod and the plot surrounding the towers would actually be pretty cool if the whole thing made any sense, which it doesn't. This method of creating a story with no effort and no explanation, and then expecting viewers to understand it, is absolute garbage. And then when people criticize the story, they say, "Well, it's fantasy. If you don't like it, don't watch it." No, that's not fair. Especially to viewers who put food on your table.
Yeah, because no one walks the street at night! Heh. I generally believe you have the choice to watch or not to watch, but I don't think it's a crime to continue to watch just for a context. Or even to complain if you're watching something you haven't liked for a while. Storylines come and go. The comics suck, then rock, then suck, then rock, constantly. It's the fate of ongoing narratives.
This all brings me to the creative side of this show. Sometimes I think that the writers just don't care what others say anymore. Or they could be so brainwashed by pre-teens that they think they're actually doing a good job. After nine years the writers feel justified in creating sub-par stories because it's hard to perform at this distance. However, I think that they genuinely love what they're doing, because they think it's good drama and that they deserve big pats on the back for lasting this long. Other times, I can hear them laughing to the bank. I hate the attitude I get from juvenile fans and the writers who poke fun at people like me. That fans who don't like this show anymore aren't really fans, and that they should just stop watching. That I'm a greasy nerd in a basement who just hates the show, which I'm not. This attitude, and the refusal to listen to criticism, is why this show sucks so much now. The fact that so many inconsistencies and ridiculous character changes have become the norm is disgusting, and have runined the show that I used to love. Smallville is a shell of memories now. And it still has a season to go after this one. I mean, don't Welling and Mack even realize the slide this show has been on forever now? They seem to be helming this ship with all of the other heads, so why are they content with shelling this garbage out?
Take it from a guy who gets a ton of letters from people with just the attitude you mention above. Bullies who try and poke fun at you for having an opinion are at least twice as pathetic as anything they can say about you.
And another fallacy is the "true fan." I'm sure Lee Harvey Oswald thought he was a true fan of the United States in killing the president. Don't let anyone tell you what to think or be or like.
And if they try to? Ignore them and do what you were going to do anyway.
Unless that's kill the president, I should caveat. Bad example, I guess.
Despite what has happened, I wanted to express my sincerest thanks to you Neil for all of your hard work and unrelenting duty to fans of this show who still care. I hope most of the struggle has been worth it for you.
It has, or I wouldn't have done it.
I know that you're thinking about leaving the reviews now, and if it isn't worth it anymore, then you should leave. For whatever it's worth, I don't think you owe anything to anyone but yourself.
And I owe myself at least a week off, but I won't take it until I need at least two.
I hope my own ranting hasn't bothered you, and I thank you if you did read it all. God knows I needed to get it out. Once again, thank you Neil, and good luck in the future.
Thank you for one of the best letters from all nine years. A very nice, kind thing to read on my way out the door.
Save some gator for me. I'll make it back to Florida some day.
Truth be told, I've missed a great deal of this season, (should I be thankful for that? Sounds like it by this review) and I've been reading your reviews to catch up on what's been coming down the chute. I too am now shocked at what I've just read. I know that I've written to you and commented on being a New Yorker and the pride I have for this city. I also wonder with every passing year just how many people who weren't directly affected, still treat the 'anniversary' with reverence.
I don't necessarily revere the date, nor do I let 9/11 change my methodology of thought at all. But then, you don't take a child who's been abused, hold up your hand as if to hit them, and call it art when she flinches.
Or to put it finer, I've never been on a farm, but I know the smell of cow crap.
Or to put it blunt, since I'm still being oblique, you don't have Superman destroy twin towers.
What I remember: The 'I love NY' commercial campaign with various celebrities and political figures;Derek Jeter throwing a baseball. Though I am a Yankee fan, as born and raised with that as I am a New Yorker, I do find it odd that the replays of their 'miraculous' wins seem to be thought of and praised, more so than the police officers and firemen that were cheered on that same field.
You know what I remember? I remember this ad:
I remember seeing a very grim subtext there that no one else seemed to. Where you were either WITH US or AGAINST US and there were no shades of grey. A lot like you're either a TRUE SMALLVILLE FAN or a FAKE SMALLVILLE FAN on a message board.
It's crap there, it's crap here, and it's why Superman can destroy twin towers and some people won't bat an eye. Smoke and mirrors. I see it because I use it. I write fiction. But others can't see it, and don't have the patience to examine a thing fully or with a critical eye, and they're taken advantage of. They see a bunch of flags appear out of nowhere and they think, "USA! USA!" not "Wow. Our country has changed into some kind of nationalistic fervor in the wake of a tragedy. Maybe we should look at that." Even the most cynical anti-nationalist doesn't mind a flag and belief in their country. It's when it's used as an excuse for bad behavior the nut cracks.
I remember the NYPD and FDNY caps on so many heads, that you could not pick out 'real' police or firemen in a crowd. There was not just a pride to our city, but a real feeling that we were in this 'fight' or 'struggle' together.
And THAT was the change I loved the most. Sadly, it's like that Christmas feeling. Kinda went away in favor of, I dunno, bombing Iraq.
Smoke and mirrors.
We were 'New Yorkers' and that term defined more than just where we were from. It was and (for me) is a very part of my being. So many of my hopes and dreams have been tied to New York, images in my mind that at this moment I can remember seeing (as a little girl) in Superman, among other movies. Call it one of my last links to Fairy Tales. That's what the city is to me. Career goals, life goals, memories had and those yet to be. It's one of the last pieces of magic that I hold on to.
New York is easily as originally American as Superman. That's why it was targeted. If they'd taken down the Space Needle, even though it was closer to my house, it would probably have meant less, because that's a wonderful piece of architecture, but New York is the heart of America, good, bad, and indifferent.
Back around the time that we were hit (because that's how the people in my life refer to it-- if it's too raw or sounds over the top, I really don't care) there was a news piece about how other people around the US felt about the attack. Did they feel as though it involved them too? I believe it was some folks on the West Coast that were asked that said (paraphrasing) it felt like they weren't really a part of it. It was a New York tragedy. They felt somewhat detached from it. Obviously not everyone had that same sentiment, but at the time I was shocked that they didn't think it was an 'American' issue, needless to say a 'human' one.
I am the most cynical man you may meet, and I felt very close to it, despite being in Washington State.
I remember being told there were missiles coming for the west coast. Closed storefronts. Hoarding gas, believe it or not.
I refused to let it change my life. But I had total empathy. It defined a lot of our lives.
I remember the banned songs, 'when can we really have music?', the special programming, and the round the clock news that I'd sit up watching, hoping that they pulled someone out of the rubble. I remember never ending smoke, and rising death tolls. Now we have various arguments surrounding the memorial, and a plan to shut down close to 20 firehouses, and of course the war is over. Tell that to the thousands more troops who continue to protect ourfreedom, without any real endgame planned to bring them home.
You remember when the death toll was suggested to be as high as 150,000? I think that made me most aghast, because that's about the number that died (by some estimates) as a result of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I always had trouble wrapping my head around that number.
I don't know what you think, but I'm very disappointed we haven't rebuilt yet. But then, I have no position to speak in that regard.
I've seen a lot of social services gutted in the wake of the last five years. Funny how one day a politician can parade around in front of the most selfless among us and get a high approval rating, and then continually shaft them.
I, like you, defend peoples' right to say what they say, do what they do, make a lame joke, kiss or marry whoever they want. My full take on that? Just don't hurt anybody.
Hell, I even think hurting somebody helps them sometimes. I'd modify: Don't hurt without a purpose.
If what you're ('you' as in anybody)doing isn't hurting anybody, and hopefully not yourself either, more power to ya. I'd say that to anyone. Not my place to tell you what to do. You and I are from pretty much the same generation ( I think I have a few years on you- I'll be 33 in October) so I know you'll get what I'm about to say:
In our generation kids did pretty much the same things then that they do now. You've got your quiet kids- shy and respectful, sporty kids- always running around, trouble maker kids--always ticking somebody off and your dumb kids, no short supply there. But one glaring difference from todays' generation is that no matter what your parents told you about respecting other people and their rights, or freedom of speech, there were just some things that you don't do.
I don't even know about that. But I will concede there are always things that are beyond the pale, and they're pretty obvious. Like saying a dude with Parkinson's is faking it. Or treating 9/11 imagery like it's not a big deal. Etc.
My Point- the phrase 'politically correct' or 'don't ask, don't tell' and my personal fave 'time out'. Although the time out, if used properly (keeping good kids from getting the crap beat out of them) isn't all bad (the people who inproperly use it are). All phrases in this generation to help make things 'nicer' for us to deal with. You don't like what somebody said, they hurt your feelings? We need a political correctness check. So those same people who truly speak in hateful tones can just do it in private and mask their true feelings publicly.
Or hide behind message boards. I don't believe in being politically correct. I say call it as you see it. But I don't see the point of having Superman destroy the towers without any sense of irony, without any major purpose, without any strong corollary between its destruction and major good (and to wit, it leads this week to Zod having powers again, so hey).
And for the next one- 'you don't like gays? Well let's just shove them in this little closet over here, all better now?' In today's society, these things don't make us better, they just shove aside all the true feelings so that the world SOUNDS better. This kills the discussion and advances NOTHING. All with the phrase 'Oh, you can't say that!'
Hey, if we wanted to be edgy, we could have Superman beat a gay guy to death because he's Zod's evil brother, right? And leave him tied to a fence by the side of the road?
Or do we remember Matthew Shepard?
Heck, it might look really cool having a villain tied up and left for dead on a fence, though! Right? Or does that cut to the bone too much? I think it does. I think nothing is inviolate. I think everyone has the right to say or do whatever they want, and I support them (to the death) in expressing themselves in any way they wish.
However, I do not have to buy their merchandise.
Your point is well stated in this regard. We are a society that on the one hand fails to allow freedom when it's a tough subject, but on the other hand is thereby afraid to call out BS when we see it, for we are shamed when we do so as censors.
This is the price of freedom of speech, and I gladly accept it.
When we were kids, there was a code of conduct, a fine line, things you could do and not do. Certain things just were not done. You were supposed to respect and protect children and the elderly, listen when you were talked to, and not embarrass yourself or others by acting like a fool. Ignorance for sake of entertainment was not acceptable.
I don't know if I'd go that far. Where I grew up there were a bunch of people who didn't respect or protect children. My girlfriend in third grade magically disappeared after daddy molested her, and acting the fool brought applause from the other students in middle school, to the point where I saw teachers punched in the head for punishing students walk right back into class the next day. I saw drug deals between ten-year-olds. We've been screwed up for a long time, and I don't think the suburbs necessarily realize it so much.
But your broader point stands. Ignorant entertainment, and entertainment that belittles important ideas (like traditionally white hat heroes associated with terrorism) is made of fail.
Back to now and how it applies: This episode moment that I thankfully did not see, nor do I wish to see it, falls into the category of the tried and true phrase that parents did not hesitate to say to our generation. (I mean this as a generalization based on our youth, not specifically--because I know what you've written about when you were growing up. But I know that you get my point of the difference of parents and 'society' before this current era we live in) The phrase is 'You can't do that.' Sounds simple right? Someone would do something offensive, that crossed some moral boundary, in that code of ethics that we'd hear about. Mocking the elderly or physically/mentally challenged; hurting a child, taking something because you think you can. And when asking 'Why not?' (To which, I would think that person an imbecile, but I digress) The person of authority would say 'Because you just don't do that. DON'T
I don't think it's a generational thing. I think it's an eternal, pragmatic thing. You just DON'T do certain things from the beginning of time.
A good example of a similar scene would be if, instead of having Clark on the "cross" in the premiere, they put Lex up. While I might titter at that irony if they made hay of it, being non-theist, if they didn't make hay of it, if they simply asserted Lex to be a Christlike pariah, I could see Christians coming out of the woodwork to be offended, and rightfully so.
Or more appropriately, imagine the finale of Lex's run on the show was having Clark tie him up for the police on a cross.
But then, even that is loaded with potential double imagery (particularly given Clark's depiction on this show). There was absolutely zero ambiguity on the towers for me.
There are some things that you just don't do. Common sense, be more creative, decide to take another path. Don't just take the easy route on something just because you CAN. Don't just skirt by on something because you think that enough time has passed, or your viewership doesn't care. And please don't let it be that they did this because they wanted the shock and awe of people who would remember 9/11, and thought those same people would find this dramatic, without being disgusting.
My youtube logo is Superman's 'S' symbol, and my channel is the drawing of Superman looking up with awe at the firemen and police. It's been that way for as long as I can remember.I'm proud of those images and will always wear my New York pride on my sleeve, continue to believe there are just some things that you just DON'T do, and will continue to look upon moments like 9/11 and all the lives connected to it (past,present,future) with reverence.
I have been one of those fangirls on the soapbox, not just for keeping Superman who he is (not big-budget/big profit Batman) but for keeping your reviews alive. Something else that I remember hearing from my youth, 'finish what you start', but that no longer should apply here. On a fangirl level (destroying the image of Superman) viewer level (unimaginative and insulting storytelling) and human level (desecrating the memory of a horrific moment in our history) I am shocked, disgusted and spent. Though I've asked that you stay, count me on the list of people that agree with your decision to leave. I for one have no reason to watch anymore. Selfishly, I loved the reviews, for their honesty, creativity and wit. You are a fine writer and a good egg from what I've read here.
Thank you, darling. Now you must follow me to the next column! (Jedi mind trick)
You've dealt with so much of this with grace and I appreciate your words for all of the joy they brought to some dreary days. I look forward to reading more from you Neal, in all that you pursue. I wish you the best of luck, because you truly deserve it. Once again, your words have expressed exactly what I feel. I've never been to Comic Con, but if I ever get a chance to go, I'd love the chance to say 'hi' and thank you for your creativity, wit and humor. I'll be the short chick with the Green Lantern ring. (maybe a Supergirl t-shirt)
With any hope (and I'm wearing my blue ring) I'll soon be asked to cons and not have to break my bank. I do have a few irons in a few fires I can't talk about. We'll meet up some day.
Read Ya Later Neal,
Thanks so much, Ann.
My first time writing, and I'm sorry it has to be on such a sad occasion. But that's why I'm writing at last - to express sympathy. 'Cause honestly, I'm no Superman expert, never read the comics (one of the reasons I haven't written is that I don't get all your references and don't feel I have anything worthwhile to add about the things I do understand) ...My knowledge is limited to the Christopher Reeve movies and Smallville. But even I know, even the most casual fans know, what Superman represents. I'm so sorry that yet another symbol of Good has been tarnished by the undeserving custodians of our popular culture. I've had my own childhood heroes defiled...my capacity for hope and wonder, severely tested. I know what it's like. And yes, we need these symbols and heroes, even in adulthood. Something to believe in and aspire to, however "unrealistic" or futile it may be.
I think there's a hero for every circumstance. When I want a detective, I go for Batman. When I want a pure moralist type, I go Supes. When I want an anti-hero, I like Charlie Huston's Hank Thompson.
When a hero grows broad enough (as Superman has) there are certain immutable truths, or the character becomes another character entirely.
Okay, I'll get to the point. I agree with you that no reasonable person could blame you for quitting Smallville. I've often been amazed you stuck it out this long, and I think you've been more than fair. I haven't been able to watch for years now. I keep reading reviews and spoilers, hoping for good news that will encourage me to come back (still love Allison Mack, especially, and want to support her excellent acting/directing efforts...but...I ****don't** want to see her punched in the face 6 times, as I heard happened in this episode. Like many Chloe fans, I now wish they'd killed her off long ago, and put her out of her misery. But no, first must come character assasination, then literal assasination. The showrunners are so incredibly mean-spirited and punishing of this actress/character/her fans. I can't stand their misogyny in general - the contempt for women is obvious, even with the ones they "like"/lust over.)
I don't see misogyny. I do see rampant sexism. Remember, the cry of misogyny is on a par with racism, and shouldn't be cried without clear evidence. Hatred of women is far different from the often accidental valuation of one sex over another.
They don't come from a place of malice, I don't believe, only one of ignorance. If they knew what the message of a girl slapping a guy for an idea represented in any way, they'd probably stop. But they don't. There's a general air of not thinking things out in that regard on most shows.
So, I still know what's happening on the show, and it still upsets me, but I'm shielded by not watching live, unprepared, trusting and then getting, well, punched in the face. I could quote the song "I Am A Rock" right now, but I'll refrain. Point is, I'm not gonna trust people who haven't earned it, and let them hurt me. I'm truly sorry for you and anyone else still watching Smallville and hoping for the best, and getting hurt.
It's not gonna be my burden any more.
This 9/11 imagery is inexcusable. All the incidents you've criticized in your reviews, like Clark misusing his powers/using unnecessary force, waffling on whether murder is okay, etc, etc. All inexcusable. But this episode really does seem to be the last straw. I'm not a New Yorker, not even an American, but I'm sickened. This episode hurts so many. Superman is being used for evil, not good. When I read about it, I knew I wouldn't be watching the seasons I've missed...not ever. (I'd kind of assumed I'd buy the other DVDs someday... I guess that means I hadn't quite lost all hope, or interest, after all, huh? But I have now.) I have no heart for it. Or for earlier seasons, which have been ruined by knowledge of the future. And I'd be ashamed to give such immoral bastards any more money/support.
I think the point is that the rest ARE excusable. You can look at Clark throwing a guy onto spikes in a way that looks intentional and say, "Hey, maybe they didn't realize how screwy that is."
I honestly can't do that with the end of Persuasion, so now I've achieved a bias.
The ONLY way the Powers That Be can redeem Superman, their show, and THEMSELVES (if they have any conscience or souls left to save), is to makes it clear that what Clark did was wrong. If he actually has to deal with the consequences of his actions ...or if we learn that this isn't the real Clark Kent (a theory I've come across a lot lately, from desperate fans looking for a way out of the nightmare!) It's impossible to un-see the horrifying imagery, which should never be associated with this character. But if the show acknowledges what it MEANS, that would be...something. I'd be shocked though, since the Powers That Be never seem to acknowledge their mistakes, or care about the fans reactions.
If they had done anything like that, I might still be reviewing, honestly.
Once again, you have my sympathy. I respect your endurance, and I'll miss your analysis, but that's just a selfish and irrelevant point. The show ain't gonna last forever anyway (thank goodness), so we'll all just have to get used to NOT thinking "ooh, I can't wait to read what Neal thought about ****this** episode!" :) You're under no obligation to endure more torture and transmute it into reviews for our "amusement". (Wow, we readers really are selfish and sadistic tyrants!) Thank you for the hours of reading pleasure (well, y'know, as much pleasure as can be derived from something inherently unpleasant).
Come along to the new article. I'll make it rain. Cough. Adverbs.
It's a damn shame the people responsible for Smallville chose Darkness (you're right that everything is a choice - no excuses!) instead of respecting the uplifting story that Superman symbolizes, and which the world needs pretty badly. I guess this is what happens when people are only in it for the money and personal ego trips. No real love for or understanding of what they're doing, and how their work affects others... Or do they enjoy hurting people, thinking they're being so "dark and edgy"? Writers (hacks) who believe that shocking (nonsensical) television means more buzz/better ratings/the approval of those who are too cool to appreciate the intrinsic goodness of Superman. Heroes like that are boring, man! Immoral, incompetent storytellers, misusing ****their** power... so is it any wonder their warped version of Superman, misuses ****his**?
Lex Vader wrote:
Neal, I also gave Persuasion a 1 out of 5 (five being nonexistent). But the one was actually FOR the scene of Clark doing something visually interesting (with Geoff Johns fire-vision) and proactive for a change. The quality of the rest of the episode was why it only got that one star.
Yet, you're harping on and on about a possibily unintentional reference that, in the context of the fictional universe, has nothing to do with what's going on, at least for the moment. I'm not angry about this. And if in fact it even occured to me, I didn't see it like you're seeing it. In fact, Metropolis is NOT New York City. New York exists on Smallville as a separate place. The solar "tower" is NOT the Word Trade Center. The Blur is NOT a terrorist. And as far as we know, there were ZERO casualties. This is a fickle show with no concern for physics or realism. If it's not on screen, it doesn't happen. There was no one in the building. Zod was obviously safe from where he watched the towers fall. There will not be any dust or debris or damaged gas lines or power outages. If there were, hypothethically, The Blur could easily remedy any such unforeseen consequences. That's what he does. If he has to put in some extra work to stop a supervillain, so be it.
That's one way to look at things. On the surface, Huck Finn is a story about a silly black guy and a river. Of Mice and Men is just a boring story about two drifters with a down ending. For Whom the Bell Tolls is just the story of one failed skirmish in a much larger war.
Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it's a simple adventure story.
If you want to be that puck, by all means, be the puck. But don't complain when the hockey stick comes for you.
I will concede that it was possibly unintentional. My argument is that if it was intentional, it's a horrible thing. If it was unintentional, and yet it's still there, it's criminally bad storytelling.
Of course, the shocking events always happen at the end of an episode, with no chance to follow them up with any insight or after effects. It's possible, if unlikely, they did this specifically to tarnish the Blur's public image, giving a tragic twist to the fact that he saved the entire world and no one can thank him for it. I would be somewhat surprised if no one mentions this extreme act in future episodes. But right now, it's impossible to judge the consequences before they have time to be shown.
I'm not judging the consequences in the review you're responding to. At all. I'm judging the act.
The single thing that makes your rant justifiable is that they planned for a very long time for this to happen, and specifically made the "solar tower" into TWIN towers with no story reason for doing so. I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Vehemently, I am not. Because I did for nine years, and they never followed through.
The only reason they'd not recognize the similarity to 9/11 is if they had a separate agenda. And of course, only the visual effects team would have actually seen the sequence itself.
But the writers had to write, at least in some form, "Clark heat visions the towers, and they fall."
Everything else would have been in script form, where possibly the towers are refered to as "evil, like in Lord of the Rings." We are taking the obvious, modern reference here, and ignoring all the Nazi parallels with Zod's army and their red and black flags that was established here and in previous episodes. It's quite possible the designers thought a single, rectangular skyscraper didn't look high-tech, alien, or evil enough, and perceived their design to be different enough from the WTC (if they even thought of it) so as not to reference it.
I know from experience (without violating my NDA) that they would have written the script for this episode after the first visual appearance of the towers (where it clearly had two large, rectangular spires).
In all fairness, these were black towers we first saw in a flash-forward against a red sky, draped with Nazi flags, with a strange bridge between them, odd architecture, and ever foreshadowed as being ominous and a threat to the entire world. That couldn't really be too much further from the shining towers that were an iconic part of the New York skyline greeting all newcomers to the land of the free.
And had THOSE towers been destroyed, we'd be having a different conversation. This is those towers BEFORE they had the Nazi style flags, long before, and as far as the rest of the world would be concerned, they would be akin to the WTC in location and scope.
The only similarity is that there are two building being destroyed.
Two SKYSCRAPERS in an analogue for NEW YORK FLAMING from the TOP FLOORS before IMPLODING. Don't diminish the similarity, man. You're simplifying this to prove your point, but I won't let it pass without correction. There were many, many similarities, at least that much has to be conceded, or you're obfuscating. That's not realm of opinion, these things are obvious and fact.
Of course both events happened in a big city. Where else would tall buildings be? If filmmakers don't have the right to destroy evil towers at night in the only city available to their story, then we're all still being terrorized. And I think you're being terrorized, Neal. You're allowing a single real-world reference to intrude upon an escapist wish-fulfillment fantasy and turn your beloved character into nothing better than the worst terrorists in history, which he is definitively NOT, in the story or otherwise.
So now it's MY fault they did this, and I'm afraid of the terrorists if I take umbrage to Clark being compared to one? What a load of crap, all due respect. The items are mutually exclusive, and your logic screwed.
If you read my review, I state they very clearly have the right. But I find it personally repugnant that they chose to, that's all.
I am not terrorized. I was against revenge attacks against the wrong country. I was against the jingoism that pervaded, the us or them mentality, in the wake of the attacks. I didn't cancel my travel plans. I was never afraid on a plane. I do not jump to the defense of anyone and everyone who gets offended about a 9/11 reference. If you had read my review (or if you did, if you had comprehended it), note the part where I passionately decry changing our media to deal with the fear associated with 9/11.
I do not believe we should change at all, and I have not changed.
At the same time, there are things that are beyond the pale, things that Superman would never do. It's not because this is 9/11, it's because it is so far out of character as to inspire rage. There are many things that could cause such rage, but they never do them, because they DO inspire such rage.
I would have written a similar essay had Clark, in the Swann episode, thrown Christopher Reeve out of his wheelchair in rage. I would have written a similar essay if Clark had murdered someone to silence them. I would have written a similar essay if Clark visited a prostitute and then robbed her.
There are things that Superman just doesn't DO. He is a HERO, dammit.
I hate to be so vehement about it, and usually I would give you the benefit of the doubt, but that suggestion just boils me, man. That's disingenuous.
As a critical analysis, it's completely fair.
And then you say this? Seriously?
But in the context of a careless, cheap, and ridiculous fantasy series, you're putting way more thought into it and significance behind it than is worth the effort. More than they ever put into the show itself.
In this we agree, which is why I'm stopping.
That said, if the outrage is even remotely universal, I would love to see them either publicly explain themselves or, in lieu of that, blame Canada. I'd much prefer that this was a planned part of a larger upcoming storyline that intended terrorist analogies and that they refuse to apologize for it. But in reality, they're probably just dumb and were too busy and distracted to notice until it was too late, and should apologize not just for the imagery but for the show in general.
It's not universal, because honestly, a good portion of the people still watching are people who would not bat an eye if Clark murdered, if Clark threw people off buildings.
A good portion of the people still watching are people who will watch regardless. And I know, because I would have put myself in their class almost indefinitely. I have very few lines.
That shot was one of them.
Thank you for standing up for what is right. That imagery was WRONG. I support you in your decision to stop reviewing. What does that really mean? IDK. It's not like there is a "support Neal not writing" fund but if there was you'd get my $5.
There is, actually. Paypal me at email@example.com
I am also going to have a new article, where I will be asking for donations, and likely making the articles contingent on donation.
Superman stands for heroism under the most difficult circumstances. They really are trashing the Superman image with the show. I feel like a slowly boiled frog and last week's imagery just made me realize the pot is boiling.
Likewise. A good simile.
Good luck with whatever you decide.
Gary Robinson wrote:
When I watched the last scene of "Persuasion," I thought something like, "Finally! Something riveting after all the fluff!" I'm ashamed to admit that I never once considered the implications, either of the danger this Peter Pan Superman, the boy who won't grow up, put people in or, worse, of the suggestion of the Twin Towers. I just saw the flash and the roar. Cool. Your review hit me hard. It made me realize how much I've put up with over the years, how numb I've become through regular use of my drug of choice.
It's there. Whether folks see it or not isn't really my concern. If you can just disregard it and keep watching, more power to you guys, I just can't.
It's easy to become numb with all of the information we have. But if we do, it'll wash over us with no impact, no point, no cognizance.
This a badly written series, has been for years. It started out interestingly enough. Back then, I saw it as a Tale of Two Sons. I saw it as a meditation on the presence and power of a father. Now...I don't know what it is. It's a hodgepodge of random DC elements heedlessly thrown together. Sigh. I hate to admit it, but these people just don't give a damn. So why am I still watching? Anyway, I greatly appreciate the moral clarity with which you think and write. I'm a Christian, a pastor in fact. But, here, you've put me to shame. Bless you.
Thanks. I do miss the two sons aspect as well, quite a bit. Heck, it was even two daughters, to a degree, with Chloe and Lana.
As for moral clarity, I thank you. I do try, a lot.
In response to your "Persuasion" review:
While I respect your argument very much, I do believe that there is one thing that you are missing. And that is that Smallville is essentially a cartoon. I don't mean it is sometimes, or it has been recently, I mean it always has been. From the very beginning, we have been inundated with bad science and plotholes. Why did Lois & Clark fail? Because it was meant to be serious, but then degraded into camp. Why has Smallvile not failed? Because, right off the bat, we could see that it wasn't meant to be taken too seriously. Put Christopher Reeve up next against the Super Friends, and which one do you care about more?
Speedy Gonzales is a cartoon.
I used to love Speedy when I was a kid. I'd go "ARRIBA, ARRIBA!" and go running across my lawn. I had no idea what the heck Mexican meant when I was five, or why the adults were tittering.
But now that I'm an adult, I can look back and say, cripes, there were an awful lot of racist stereotypes in there that colored my vision toward Mexicans, they gave me a context I used for much of my youth before I knew better.
Do I still watch Speedy Gonzales? You bet. Why? Because I wonder why it was popular, I wonder why people forgave it because it was just a cartoon. I even watch it to titter at the guy with a knowing wink sometimes, because stereotypes sometimes hit home.
But can I diminish the argument that Speedy Gonzales is a racist caricature that might have done more damage than good, simply because it's a cartoon? Buffoonish?
BS doesn't get a pass because it's BS. BS is BS, he said empirically.
Just as crap with a flowery bow is still crap.
What does all this mean? Essentially, in my view, the implications of Clark taking down the towers are meaningless, because the logic that has always been used on Smallville is simplistic at best. Was there anybody in the towers when he brought them down? No. Will there be a big dustcloud that will hurt a lot of people? No. Will there be any damage to Metropolis's economy or infrastructure? No. Will anybody lose their jobs? No. Will this act affect anybody beyond the main characters in any way? No. A year from now, will Smallville even mention the destruction of the towers? No. How do I know all this? Because Smallville is a cartoon, and that is all cartoon logic.
And thereby will I watch?
This is essentially the same situation as when Milton Fine unleashed a computer virus which shut down the world's power, causing mass rioting and destruction. On a show like Law & Order, or 24, or another show that does not use cartoon logic, an event like that would be expected to be mentioned often, and have long-lasting repercussions. However, on Smallville, it got mentioned a couple of times in passing and was then forgotten. Because that's the type of storytelling on Smallville.
Ah, but see, here's the key difference. Bear with me if it's not obvious:
MILTON FINE IS A BAD GUY AND CLARK IS A HERO.
Had Clark caused the computer virus intentionally, out of malice, I'd have left the show then, too.
This is not meant to say that I don't like Smallville. I love it. But I don't expect the level of maturity I see on other shows. From the beginning Smallville aired on the WB, later the CW, and those networks cater to younger crowds who don't like too much depth in their storytelling.
And so this is an excuse for mediocrity? That it's mediocrity?
All that being said, I had a similar reaction when I first saw the scene, until I realized that the implications were basically nil. I understand and respect your anger, but I think we need to take this in context. Had a similar event occured in Superman Returns, a production that was meant to be taken much more seriously than Smallville, then I might be right there with you. But this is cartoon-land, where Clark, a college drop-out, can get a job as a reporter in the best newspaper in the world, where nobody questions how he can live three hours away from his job, and where there is apparently only one street in Metropolis. We're not supposed to read too deeply into the implications of those things. Why read to deeply into the implications of this?
Why go through life not reading into anything?
The answer is simple. Because if you do, you won't be a critical thinker, which is its own reward.
Anyway, that's my two cents. Take it for what you will.
I no longer watch Smallville, but I still read the recaps on TWoP. And I read that last scene in horror.
The recapper said, "Clark watches as the metal structure of the towers gives way, collapsing as the fire spreads. It's just a horrible, horrible, disturbing image, purposefully evocative of the destruction of the Twin Towers. I remember when the show first started, there were some media types who speculated that part of the show's success came from people looking for something hopeful and wholesome so soon after September 11, 2001. Whatever the show is now, it's not looking terribly hopeful or wholesome anymore."
No, it's not.
Just reading about this offended me to my core. I was 24 on 9/11. I remember those images so vividly. And to now have a show that's SUPPOSED to be entertaining have their superhero protagonist coldly, deliberately copy the fall of the WTC sickens me.
I am likewise sickened.
Smallville has finally succeeded. This idiot they've created will never become Superman. Superman isn't a terrorist. But, if he is now, if he's supposed to represent "The American Way," what does that say about us?
By my read that we accept mediocrity and we've fallen to the level where, for our heroes to seem heroic, they must be powerful and wrathful, not wise.
Sounds like a certain ex-president, to me.
I've read so much, praising the "cool" explosion. And, now I want to throw up. That's not cool. It's sickening.
I think mechanically, the shot was done well. I'll give it that. But that's far beyond the point of the thing. It's not cool.
As you said, just because these writers HAVE the right to write something doesn't mean they SHOULD.
I've only watched a couple of Smallville episodes this season. Even though I thought if Annette O'Toole and Michael McKean come back, I'd watch that episode. Now, I'm done.
If they bring back Lex, Martha, Perry. Hell, if they spend the GDP of a small county and bring in Darkseid, I will not support this show any more.
They've gone too far for me.
Thank you for your review. You put in words what I couldn't express.
Thank you for a great letter.
Hey Neal. Just read your latest review. I feel your pain. As I have said in the few emails I have written to you in the past, I thoroughly enjoy your weekly reviews and have for several years now. So from a selfish standpoint I wish you would continue.
Check the upcoming article. I will follow in spirit what I have done before.
And I don't think you are a clown for Smallville; I think you continue to write for a worthwhile purpose - your fans. And while I admit I have not read any of your non-Smallville writings, I don't think that means I am not a fan of your work. I don't read your reviews because it's about Smallville - I read them because I enjoy YOUR writing on this particular topic. Would I enjoy your writing on non-Smallville related topics? Possibly - and when your novels come out there is a very good chance I will pick one up to see if it's my cuppa. And I for one would be willing to make a donation if it meant you would continue writing reviews until the show ends. In fact, even if you stop writing reviews I wouldn't mind sending a little something your way to thank you for the nine (!) years of reviews you have given us so far. I certainly got more enjoyment out of your writings on this site than I have from a lot of comics I read during that time.
If so, that'd be rad, I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org
BUT, if you are still upset as you sounded in your last review I don't think anyone can blame you for opting to end this chapter of your life and moving on. If that is the case thanks for the time and effort you put in all these years, and I will keep an eye out for other works by you in the future.
Thanks! Hopefully I can get you some good articles here and then hook you with a few books... mwu ha ha ha! I have a mystery series in the pike as we speak.
I read your review on "Persuasion" and agree with you 100% about THIS IS NOT SUPERMAN.
I can see how you would be disgusted and stop writing reviews.
Please keep on writing. Your reviews are always trenchant, witty, and point out the logical inconsistencies and lack of continuity that plague the show.
I will keep writing, in another capacity. Stay tuned.
I guess I'm asking you to keep on writing just because I enjoy reading it so much.
Will do, and thanks.
Hey Neil, I have to agree with you about Clark Kent. IMO, that isn't Superman, from the beginning of Season 9 he is acting out of character. I'm really hoping they reveal something is wrong with him, really do.
Too late for me. I've reached my capacity. :)
And in Smallville I have issues with Lois Lane too, since she joined the show for many reasons. How the future winner of pulitzers worked for a tabloid and even stole stories because she couldn't get her own? (Actually there is a list of things she did and ILL would never do).
And neither college educated.
I'm still around but I watch for Chloe, a character that they trying to destroy too this season.
I'm really disappointed because it seems I've wasted nine years to get this.
I understand, and relate.
Mark Sposato wrote:
Don't give up hope! Isn't that what superman's essentially about. Hope and goodness even in the face of adversity and insult.
Yes, and like Superman would, I put due diligence and heart and faith into hoping this show would turn around. When it devolved fully into villainy, I regretfully pound it into paste and drop it off in prison reserved for special baddies.
That scene from last week's definitely was insulting on many levels, but in the world of Smallville I can't blame Clark for behind-the-scenes stupidity.
Why not? They make the show.
It was very careless and lazy of the writers/ post production people not to catch the visual parallel. But they were by no means suggesting that Clark is no better than a terrorist, or careless with human life. I have to assume that he made sure everyone was safe. He could have even used his position as a reporter for damage control, to ensure the public didn't panic.
You don't have to assume those things. You choose to. And that's fine. But that doesn't make it logically sound.
Yes, this should have been shown or at least hinted at. But to me, it was just a glaring omission. I respect your opinion though, and while I don't go as far with my own, I completely see where you're coming from. As a New Yorker living about 20 miles from midtown I am by no means removed from the tragedy of 9-11. Watching that scene I immediately drew visual parallels, but wasn't particularly offended. This is because i blame the show runners for lazyness behind the scenes, but in the context of the show, can't blame Clark for what he did. I have to believe the parallel was glaring, yet unintentional.
But... doesn't that make it even worse?
Yes, there were more effective and logical ways for Clark to deal with the situation, but in the end it was all for the greater good (to prevent a Kryptonian despot and his army from enslaving humanity).
But... he just got his powers back.
And really, it only served to move the plot forward. That's just my 2cents anyway. I still think Smallville has enough good left in it to end with a bang. I started to see some of that in tonight's episode with the tease of bringing Metallo back, a coherent story (by Smallville standards), characters like Ollie finally looking up to Clark as a hero, good L&C banter... and the fanboy in me was jumping out of my skin during the final scene culminating in a newly powered Zod taking flight!
So in other words, Clark making the mistake of trusting Zod and then Zod becoming more powerful than Clark is thereby... good?
Wish it was Clark, but still pretty damn powerful and awesome to look at. I look forward to ending the rollercoaster ride on an epic note with the hopeful return of Rosenbaum. I haven't given up hope, and deep down, maybe you haven't either.
I have. Sorry.
To all the hateful cowards who wish to attack you personally (through the veil of the Internet) because they disagree with your opinion and analysis, all I can say is Superman would be ashamed! If that really was your last review, I want to thank you for your diligent service. I think I've read and enjoyed every review since season 1, and want you to know your efforts have been and are appreciated. You've come this far with Smallville. It would really be a shame to lose you now. I really believe (or at least hope) that good things are yet to come. Best of luck to you either way, and take care!
Thank you very much. I'll worry about internet cowards when real people in real life approach me to speak with me coherently about how I suck. Hasn't happened yet.
To bigger and better things!
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