Superman on Television
Superboy: Episode Reviews
Season 1 - Episode 3: "Back to Oblivion"Reviewed by: Scotty V
Back to Oblivion, the third episode in Superboy's first season, finds T.J heading out to an old scrap yard for an interview. There are cameras watching everything the young photographer does. T.J. calls out for a Mr. Wagner and a voice yells back (through an amplified speaker system) that T.J.'s a liar and that he needs to get off the property. Meanwhile, back at campus, Clark tells Lana that the reason he and T.J. are meeting at the scrap yard is because a fraternity pledge was sent to take a bumper sticker from one of the junk cars and he later made claims the place attacked him.
Soon though, T.J. finds himself the yard's next victim. He is forced into a collection of aluminum cans by a seemingly unmanned bulldozer, while a man stands watching and laughing in the background. Clark, who has just been pushed into a swimming pool by Lana, hears T.J. in trouble and launches from the pool to rescue him. T.J. recounts what happened to his friends and Lana, who states many reasons why Wagner should be viewed as a nice man, decides to go see him because he needs "a friend." When Lana arrives at the scrap yard, calling for Mr. Wagner, she is cornered by Wagner (Abe Vigoda), who thinks World War II is still underway, and trapped within his lair.
When T.J. tells Clark, who is in the gym, Lana went alone with some food for Mr. Wagner (Abe Vigoda) Clark slams an extremely heavy barbell down and exclaims: "She's going to get herself killed." T.J. and Clark arrive via van at the scrap yard and Lana tries to tell Wagner, who keeps calling her Lena, that they are her friends. Wagner, crazed and thinking that Lana is his granddaughter and in need of protection, uses his remote computers to trap Clark in the crusher but then the power goes out because Clark has fought back against the machine, shutting it down. Then, as Superboy, Clark rescues T.J. from being blown to bits in a minefield, tells the photog to stay put, and then goes after Lana.
Still arguing with Lana that the newspapers have brainwashed everyone into thinking the war is long over, Wagner suffers from concentration camp flashbacks and sets dynamite to explode when Superboy comes through the door. Superboy hears Wagner explain this will happen to Lana and detours in through the wall instead. Clearly suffering from a breakdown, Wagner passes out and Lana and Superboy agree he shouldn't be blamed. On the way to the hospital, Wagner seems to remember what time period he's in and that Lana is not his granddaughter but a girl from the school. In the end, a distraught Clark starts to walk, but Lana, who had earlier eaten Clark's hot dog, tells him she owes him one and he gets in her Jeep.
Rating - 2 (out of 5): This episode presents an absurd premise and follows through with some crazed acting from Abe Vigoda. First off, T.J. strolls through a junkyard searching for Mr. Wagner so he can ask him about a pledge who says he was attacked there. T.J. is then chased down by a bulldozer that is driving itself while a man, whom we later find out is Wagner, laughs in the background. This is meant to be creepy and dramatic, but it comes off a bit silly even though one of the mains is in great danger.
So now that T.J. is in danger and screaming for help, Clark must change to Superboy and rescue him, which he does. At the time, though, Clark is swimming with Lana and he simply flies out of his clothes and leaves her there holding his glasses. This is cool at first glance because the effect of Superboy launching from the pool is pretty good, but his clothes, which are floating in the water when he leaves, are not seen again and Lana doesn't really find it all that strange that Clark disappeared. She calls out for him and searches the water, but then when he returns and magically lands in his invisible clothing, she simply accuses him of having played a bad joke on her and he dunks her under the water.
Later, when Clark finds out that Lana has gone off to the scrap yard alone, Clark takes the slow ride over with T.J. in a van, instead of flying there as fast as he can. He does try to get T.J. to go call 911, which I assume was Clark's attempt to get T.J. to leave so he could turn to Superboy, but when it doesn't work, Clark just goes with T.J. in the van. This takes me out of the story because I'm thinking that Clark knows full well T.J. was almost killed, and would have been if Superboy didn't save him, and yet he isn't in a hurry to get to Lana, who is also going to the scrap yard uninvited. Then, when Clark does arrive, Wagner traps him in the crusher and it takes Clark forever to change to Superboy. I think they were going for heavy drama and trying to scare the audience here but instead I'm again wondering why Clark is taking so long.
I'd like to applaud the producers for trying to tackle heavy subjects like the holocaust and war flashbacks, but they really drop the ball here as well. Vigoda is really over-the-top in his crazed concentration camp survivor state, and since he's the villain of this episode, it doesn't really paint the victims of the holocaust in such a great light. Lana does say early on that he's a good man, and I get that he's finally having a mental break and must think the Nazi's are coming to get him, but it is a trifle absurd. Also absurd is the way his scrap yard does seem to have a life of its own. Several times, we see Wagner controlling machinery with a wired remote, but other times there are bulldozers that drive themselves as Wagner stands watching. It's also hard to swallow that Wagner has a minefield thrown in there as well.
There are a few decent effects strewn in here and there, but then some of the machinery effects aren't so good. I really like the way Superboy launches from the water and the way he dives back in when he comes back, but that one loses points for the whole clothes thing and the fact that he was gone long enough for Lana to know something was up. I also really like the gag where Clark slams down his barbell. At first he's spotting someone with the heavy weight and then when T.J. arrives to tell him Lana's gone Clark suddenly picks up the barbell and slams it back down. I thought he was gonna kill the guy he was spotting but mercifully the guy's no longer there. I'm not sure how he got out of there so quickly and why he wouldn't still be around to see Clark do what he does, but the gag is still funny. The way the barbell bends and bounces on the weight bench just add to the fun.
There are times in this episode where I really sit back and enjoy the acting. In fact, it's really the reason why I gave this ep a two and not a one. Of course, the crazed stuff from Vigoda could easily knock it down a point if the other people weren't so much better. In fact, Vigoda himself is impressive during the scene where he's calmly speaking to Lana as his granddaughter and when he's recovering on the gurney at the end and has regained his senses. Lana finally gets to play completely sweet with no jealousy or tantrums and I really, really like it. Like with Sara in A Kind of Princess, the episode before this one, Lana here makes me see why someone would want to date her. Her smile is infectious and her playfulness makes you want to stay and play forever. She also looks very cute running in her bare feet to the pool. Strangely enough, I even found Jim Calvert (T.J.) to be much improved in this episode as well.
Overall, there was a good deal of improvement here. I like the strides taken with Lana to move her away from the spoiled, jealous child she came across as in the first two episodes. Newton in my view is perfect in both his Clark and his Superboy and I think Calvert seems to be learning a thing or two as well. I go half and half with Vigoda on this one because sometimes he's pretty good and the other times he's flat out campy. There's one flying effect where Superboy is carrying T.J. and it seems those always come out bad and I think the whole idea for a villain who's a survivor of the holocaust is a bit of a faux pa.
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