Superman on Television
Superboy: Episode Reviews
Season 1 - Episode 17: "Birdwoman of the Swamps"Reviewed by: Scotty V
An overturned earthmover at a construction site prompts Clark and T.J. to investigate. Mr. Hogan (James MacArthur), the foreman in charge at the site, tells the boys he believes some college students did it to save the environment from further destruction at the hands of progress. Clark meanwhile, notices an old Indian woman (Marlene Cameron) nearby and while T.J. heads back to campus, Clark speaks with the woman. She tells Clark her people have lived on the land since the beginning of time and that the birds would not allow the construction to destroy her home.
On the way back, Clark asks T.J. to drop him off so he can have a look around. After T.J. drives off, Clark changes to Superboy, rights the bulldozer and goes to speak with the Indian woman. She calls Superboy "the enemy," saying that he fixed the bulldozer and that he's helping to destroy the land. But Superboy assures her he isn't anyone's enemy and that he's trying to help. He then promises that a compromise will be reached.
At school, T.J. asks some students if they know anything about the bulldozer and he gets no response. Clark asks Lana and T.J. for help choosing a gift for his mother and then tells T.J. he set up an appointment with Hogan that he must go to during journalism class. Clark tells Hogan about the Indian woman's plight but Hogan calls her crazy, saying she's tried to hold up the project multiple times and that he's way behind schedule. Through Clark's persistency, Hogan is convinced that he should hold up the project a little longer until a compromise can be reached. When Clark leaves however, we discover Hogan isn't the nice guy Clark thinks him to be, when he tells one of his crew to get rid of the old woman.
Superboy goes back to tell the woman that construction will stop until an agreement can be made, but she already knows Hogan has not stopped the project and again calls Superboy the enemy. Superboy protests, but the woman calls upon Indian mysticism and seemingly puts a spell on Superboy. The hero collapses in pain as the woman chants, shaking her staff and saying he'll pay for being a liar. Superboy manages to roll away and then fly weakly to safety, but he knows something isn't right about Hogan. After he flies off, Hogan's man drugs the woman and lays her near a swamp filled with alligators.
Clark and T.J. go to investigate further and discover that the company Hogan works with is charging top dollar for building materials even though they're using metal grade that doesn't even hold up to safety standards. While T.J. takes pictures of the evidence, Clark turns to Superboy and heads to stop Hogan. On the way, he finds the Indian woman and rescues her. She tells him she was wrong about him but he assures her she was right about other things. He says he'll keep his promise and he takes off to do so.
Superboy confronts Hogan at a building site and tells him he knows he lied about stalling the wetlands project and that he knows about the materials and that he knows Hogan tried to kill the Indian woman. Hogan denies everything and then signals for one of his workers to ram Superboy with a bulldozer. Superboy is uninjured by the attack and captures Hogan in a rolled up fence. Moments later, T.J. takes pictures as Hogan is arrested and Clark shows up to mock Hogan's new "home" with his friend. In the final scene, Lana and T.J. reveal they've sent Ma Kent a present unbeknownst to Clark but in his name, when Ma calls to thank her son.
Rating - 2 (out of 5): "I made a promise to you...I'm on my way to make good on it."
Whatever I've said about this show in the past or whatever I will say about it moving onward, the above quote teaches me that they've at least got C.K. down pretty well. Superman is all about keeping his word and doing the right thing. Even to someone who has wronged him, odds are against him and he's seemingly got no options. This show may often skimp on finances or come up short on plausibility, but at least they get Superboy pretty right. As with anything, there are times when I wonder why they've written Clark out of character, but more often than not, this show certainly has the right idea. If a scene in the middle of an episode filled with poorly written characters that have little to no motivation for doing what they do can make me feel proud to be a fan of Superman and even satisfied to be watching "Superboy," then someone's doing their job right.
Mr. Hogan is a horribly written villain and he really makes no sense as a character. From the beginning he's claiming he builds homes for the poor and that he's a caring guy. But then suddenly he's a homicidal maniac who orders some goon to kill someone. From what we're shown, he's not even the owner of the company. When T.J. and Clark go to the office looking to speak with Hogan, they talk with a man who seems to be the boss. All of the above is important to motivation because:
Why would Hogan be so interested in seeing the project through (enough so that he'd kill a "crazy" Indian woman) if he is just a foreman who's getting paid an hourly rate or salary?
If Hogan's company is building homes for the poor, then they'd be under a government contract and they'd basically be making their salaries only and it wouldn't be a profit situation anyway.
Furthermore, I hate how shows like this often lump everyone together in one evil group. Late in the episode, Clark remarks that his story makes all construction workers seem bad. That's a great point and it's one the writers of this episode should have heeded. It really goes for any episode but it's particularly poignant here because Hogan nods at several guys at various different intervals during the show and the men simply know he wants them to kill. I suppose there have been and probably still are mob run institutions that sometimes kill or maim to reach their goals but it's just completely unbelievable that over-worked mid-wage earners would simply kill or be willing to kill so that a project building houses for the poor can continue.
On that note, why is Superboy even slowed down by the bulldozer hitting him? Let me set this up for you. Superboy lands and accuses Hogan of his wrongdoings. First, Superboy should have no idea that Hogan ordered the Indian woman killed but he just throws that in with the crimes he actually has proof of. Okay so then Hogan, while denying the charge, nods at one of his cronies who starts up an earthmover and then proceeds to drive it toward Superboy who has his back turned. As I was watching, I kept expecting Superboy to turn around and grab the scoop on the thing and just grind it to a halt. He finally does turn around, but instead of stopping the machine he falls into it and is thrown in a dumpster and covered with dirt. He's unhurt and flies right out but I couldn't buy any of it as it was happening.
Superboy has Superhearing. If a bulldozer were started ten miles away he'd have heard it, let alone if it had to drive ten yards before it could actually hit him.
Superboy has Superstrength. If a bulldozer was about to run him down and he saw it he'd simply stop it. Or when it hit him it would push him a bit until he stopped it. What it wouldn't do is scoop him up and have the time while he was dazed to drop him in a dumpster.
Superboy has Superspeed. If a bulldozer was about to run Superboy over and it was driving at any normal earth speed and Superboy knew it was there at any point before it hit him, he'd simply out maneuver it.
Superboy has some measure of invulnerability. I don't think bulldozers have ever been listed as some otherworldly force that could render Superboy powerless. The bulldozer could never scoop him up due to his strength, hearing and speed, but if it somehow could (for instance if it were faster than light and made no noise), he'd certainly not be dazed by it.
And that's all I've got. I'm going to make an effort to keep these reviews shorter because it seems to be something you guys want and because I'm probably over-accentuating certain points anyway. I actually enjoyed this episode and I enjoy the show for what it is as well as for what it could have been. I kind of like the silly corniness they employ at times. I also like the simple, humble nobility they correctly imbue Clark with. The writing is often poor where secondary characters and villains are concerned and they often make compromises when it comes to placing our hero in "danger," but I still enjoy it.
Next up, we have another oft overused convention of finely written fiction when, like Indian women who chant spells on the swamplands, dirty cops rear their ugly heads in: "Terror from the Blue."
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