Love it or hate it, the "Smallville" TV show has been one of the most popular mass media adaptations of a comic, reaching millions of viewers each week with stories of what Clark Kent's life was like before he became Superman. Now, we're marking its passing by having ComicsAlliance's Chris Sims and David Uzumeri, two guys who have never actually watched the show, watch and review every single episode of the tenth and final season.
Chris: This week's episode of "Smallville" was probably the least insane of the season so far. And considering that it involved Brainiac, the Legion of Super-Heroes, time travel, and a truly amazing explanation of Clark Kent wearing glasses, that should tell you something about the rest of the season.
David: Correction: Brainiac Five. Because, ladies and gentlemen, in the "Smallville" universe, when you need some advice on how to stop being so distant from people, the guy you call is Brainiac 5. For real.
Chris: In this week's episode, Clark and Lois attended their five-year high school reunion, which gave the producers plenty of opportunity to pad out 44 minutes with flashbacks to earlier episodes. Everyone's thrilled at seeing Clark, which is weird since he seems to hang out in Smallville pretty much every day, but nobody remembers Lois.
David: Lois is pretty sad that nobody remembers the super-hot girl who showed up for five days, but I guess in Smallville, Land of Meteor Freaks, that's not enough to hold everyone's attention. What happened to Pete Ross? Wasn't he in this show?
Chris: He graduated to the world of celebrity sex tapes.
David: ...oh, wow, I missed that and instead focused on the part of Sam Jones III's Wikipedia page where it says he "was taken into custody by Drug Enforcement Administration
"In October 2009, Jones was taken into custody by Drug Enforcement Administration agents who claim Jones was the "Hollywood connection" in a plot to illegally purchase and distribute over 10,000 oxycodone pills. He was charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute. He faces up to 20 years in prison."
I mean, damn. That explains why he hasn't been in Smallville recently.
Chris: Yeah, as much as I'm convinced we'll see Michael Rosenbaum before the end of the season, odds are pretty slim on Sam Jones.
David: So basically this high school reunion is for all the people who were background extras during the first four seasons. Lex Luthor's ostensibly dead, Chloe's off doing mysterious things and leaving mysterious messages to Marvin and Wendy, Pete Ross ain't there because he was arrested for distributing hillbilly heroin in LA, Lana Lang isn't there because ... why isn't she there?
Chris: I was going to ask you that same thing. There's a lot of mention of Lana, but I have no idea what happened to her. Again, it's not "Smallville's" fault that I'm only jumping on for the final 22 episodes, but as far as I know, Lana Lang changed her name to Chun Li and started fighting Shadaloo.
David: Wikipedia tells me she absorbed all the radiation from a Kryptonite bomb Toyman made, and as a result she can no longer be near Clark without killing him.
Chris: Wow. Back in the episode, someone who works for Smallville High is all mad at Clark and wants to kill him with a truly hilarious voodoo doll, but she's stopped and has her brain rewired by Brainiac 5, as played by "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" alum James Marsters.
David: The only thing better would have been if Zatanna showed up to mindwipe her. In like the second straight Christmas Carol reference of the season, Brainiac 5 takes Clark on a FANTASTIC VOYAGE through past, present and future.
THE PAST: Damn, son, you sure do whine a lot.
THE PRESENT: Here are all the people currently left high and dry while you spend all your time whining.
THE FUTURE: Look at how awesome your life is when you stop whining!
It's worth mentioning Jor-El apparently made Brainiac in Smallville, yet another thing he royally screwed up. The way he's been written, I'm surprised he didn't go out for a pack of Rao-smokes and never come back when Clark was two months old.
Chris: So much of the dramatic tension of the episode revolves around Clark not trusting Brainiac, which is weird for a couple of reasons. I mean, for one, if you've got the summary of the episode, you know he's the heroic Brainiac 5 from the Legion rather than the evil Brainiac (although I imagine the distinction might be lost on viewers with only a casual knowledge of the DC Universe). But even in the world of Smallville, we know he's a good guy as soon as we see him, because he's totally wearing a purple leather jacket.
David: I didn't even notice the jacket. Why do you say that? Aren't green and purple traditionally villain colors?
Chris: Yes, but come on. Every single super-hero on "Smallville" wears a leather jacket. The Legion. Green Arrow. Hell, Clark himself. You see a brightly colored leather jacket on a dude, you're in good hands.
David: That's a really good point I hadn't considered. Who DOESN'T rock a leather jacket? Smallville Bruce Wayne would just rock a domino mask and a leather jacket with a bat on it.
Chris: You know who would do great in "Smallville?" Mr. Terrific.
David: Oh man, yeah. I'm actually surprised they haven't thrown him in, although I guess having new-era JSA characters would defeat their narrative of the JSA being out of date or whatever. Then again, I guess they also have Stargirl.
Chris: Another reason Brainiac 5 is weird for me? James Marsters is 48, and while I think the goal of the lighting in this episode was to make him look "alien," the actual result was more that he looked "old." Which, you know, is exactly what you want from the Legion of Super-Heroes, a team of teenagers that both figuratively and literally represent the future: Old men telling today's youth what they need to do.
David: It would have worked fine for Brainiac 5 to be some young surfer kid who looks kind of like James Marsters. And probably worked better in the story. I can't think of anyone to play him offhand who'd be affordable, but I mean, it's not like Smallville can't get away with casting unknowns at this point.
Chris: Either way, Brainy ends up taking Clark to the far-off future of the year... 2017!!
David: Farther than I expected, honestly. This is when the Superman myth is well in place, shortly before... Hell, even in the show's established math, Clark's what, 23 here? So we fast forward to when he's 30. I mean, this is his 5-year high school reunion, and presumably he was 18 when he graduated. This must have been hugely relieving for Tom Welling, who, for the first time in the show's history, got the opportunity to act his age.
Chris: I really liked the interplay between Clark and Future Lois in this episode (who are a couple), but they had to do some crazy scripting gymnastics AND play Lois as amazingly dense to not have her understand that Clark was time-traveling.
David: That initial sequence was painful, painful exposition. I liked a lot of what came later, but there were about five to ten painful minutes there to catch up viewers who might not know that Clark Kent wears glasses when he's not Superman.
Chris: Once they get past that and Tom Welling shuts up, it's actually pretty fun conversation, and I liked that Lois just sort of rolls her eyes at all of Clark's weird emo bullsh*t.
David: I like how Clark is totally shocked Lois protects his secret, as opposed to going "Yo! Yo, right here! My husband is Superman!" I mean, Lois is ride or die here.
Chris: And then, we get this episode's absolutely hilarious money shot: Clark meets Future Clark in what is clearly an amazing use of the technology pioneered by "The Parent Trap."
David: He could have slouched a little more, but Welling pulled off Real Clark Kent pretty well.
Chris: I was originally turned off by the fact that Superman is a bit of a total jerk to his past self, but come on. Wouldn't you be?
David: I was thinking about it, and also consider this: During that conversation, Older Clark tells Younger to listen to him, go up to the roof and save Lois. Younger Clark then proceeds to stare out the window and go "damn, I'm badass" as he watches himself fix something else, and then runs up to the top of the Daily Planet building at the last second. This is the first episode of the show that made me believe they might actually pull off going from Point A to Point B.
Chris: We also get a really interesting look at Lois's side of the relationship after Clark ditches her to go on his time travel journey with James Marsters. It really underlines that rather than Superman falling in love with Lois Lane and having to earn her love as Clark Kent, "Smallville" tells the story of a Lois who's in love with Superman and wants to do what she can to help him. There's a part where a woman says to her "You're the moth, not the flame," and that's a pretty good summary of how they've flipped around the Clark/Lois dynamic.
Unfortunately, it is not a phrase that any actual human being would say out loud to someone else.
David: Very true, but it's also possibly a more mature take. One thing I've noticed in basically every recent Superman retelling is that they've dropped the love triangle completely. Not just "Smallville," but also Secret Origin and Birthright. It's gotten to the point where Lois and Clark getting together seems like an inevitable part of the character's history that's been around forever.
I also think Lois figuring it out is a pretty important part of any modern interpretation of the character, since otherwise she looks like a complete idiot.
Chris: Which leads us to the end of the episode, which, again, is a really satisfying conclusion: Since his "Superman" side cheats her out of a good time at the reunion, Clark gives Lois a dance in their barn and they both say "I love you." It actually does feel like a really big deal.
David: And I mean, this show basically explicitly marries the concepts of Clark+Lois and Clark becoming Superman. Lois is the missing piece in Clark's life he needs to accept to BECOME Superman. Superman needs help, he needs someone to run interference and listen to him. And the second he finally accepts it, dude starts flying.
Chris: Exactly. It's actually really great.
David: Also, the way Clark told Lois, it's pretty clear he knew that she knew. I mean, he just started floating and they didn't stop and freak out, they just kind of both knew what was going on and enjoyed the moment. And there were, as a result, like eight seasons of viewer blueballs finally cured, as Clark and Lois finally got together, Clark finally basically told Lois who he was, AND Clark flew.
Chris: I interpreted it a little differently. He's clumsy and keeps stepping on her feet, so she stands on his when they dance, so that when he flies, he lifts them both without her necessarily knowing.
David: There's also the "we gotta talk tomorrow" line, though.
Chris: Either way, it's a very solid resolution that actually feels like forward momentum that doesn't involve a Thriller jacket. And then the Next Episode teaser comes on and Lois gets possessed by Isis, as if to remind you that hey, it's still "Smallville" and it's still f---ing insane.
David: The ending, everything in the flashforward, Clark finally getting over his dad's death and making the past few seasons the longest "All Star Superman" #6 adaptation ever.
Chris: The climax of this episode is actually really fantastic once you think about it. There's two big disasters going on at one time (mirroring the first episode), but Superman trusts his past self to save Lois, which is a huge deal for the character. Saving Lois Lane is what Superman does, so essentially, Superman isn't just telling his younger self to go be Superman, he's trusting him to live up to what he can be. Superman's inspiring even himself.
David: Ollie! FINALLY, he's Oliver Queen for real.
Chris: I was convinced that Ollie was going to say "I'm not doing it alone. Hey, Clark, c'mere! Do you guys know Clark? He's the Blur."
David: Hahahaha, that would have been an amazing dick move.
Chris: Another really strong point in this episode: The former villain at the reunion who was reformed because Clark cared enough to care about him. That's just as much the "Real Superman" stuff as "All Star" #10. The only thing that kinda ruins it is that Clark totally thinks the guy's going to try to kill him.
David: Yeah, totally, that was refreshing to see. It's a side of superheroes often forgot. I mean, I guess like Hal Jordan doesn't have that side, but everyone else does. Bruce Wayne is the king of being a soft emotional target for his villains' reformation.
Chris: And once again, I am all about some Erica Durance Lois Lane.
David: Just cast her in the new movie, guys. Just do it. There's no reason to get anyone else. With a Nolan/Goyer-quality script, she'd probably destroy.
Chris: The only thing I don't like about her is that she's a little TOO in love with Clark. When she's around him, I feel like she's not nearly as assertive as she could be. LIke, she should be the one telling HIM to shut up when it's time to start making out. But seriously, when my only problem with a Lois Lane is that she loves Clark Kent too much, that's just straight nitpicking.
David: I'm willing to forgive that as just first-time jitters or whatever, since she was basically that for the entire flash forward. Also, I mean, she was stuck in a Goddamn Barn Disco. I'd be acting weird in Clark Kent's Romantic Barn Disco.
Chris: I like Nick Spencer's version of Chloe Sullivan in the Jimmy Olsen stories, but if we could take one concept from "Smallville" and make it continuity, I'd totally want it to be "Clark Kent's Romantic Barn Disco."
David: The BangBarn.
David: James Marsters as Brainiac 5 was pretty silly. Lifehouse sucks. And, really, so does most of the music in this show. A Superman TV show should have, like, a Daft Punk soundtrack while he visits the Xaxxians. I really hope those two kids at Smallville High aren't Marvin and Wendy, but knowing this show, they probably are.
Chris: Tom Welling.
David: I kind of didn't hate Tom Welling this episode.
Chris: He's all right in some scenes, but man. I mean, I don't know if that's just his way of being a morose Midwestern farmboy or what, but he is seriously the most unappealing actor.
David: Clark should have some ... some CHARM that Welling lacks, I'll admit. He just kind of stands there and looks pretty. There's none of that reassuring Superman smile.
Chris: And you're right about those kids from the Smallville High paper. "The Wall of Weird has gone VIRAL!" That was painful. First of all, that's not what those words mean, gramps.
David: Hahaha, "viral!" Just to make it clear that the first season of this show was actually ten, not five years ago.
Chris: Also, why would they digitize the content, but then leave the blank wall up?
David: Also, how is it even the "Wall of Weird" anymore? Why assume those are all the Blur when like countless other superheroes have been exposed by this point? Why isn't their theory that Supergirl came from Smallville, not the Blur? Why does anyone in the public even really care about the Blur?
Chris: And are there still weird meteor monsters showing up in Smallville? I assumed that Clark put an end to all that before he moved to Metropolis. And if there are, how are those kids even alive?
David: That's a really good question. Maybe Clark still handles all that crap off camera.
David: In the end, here's basically what I thought about Smallville, episode four, season ten: It sure was a whole hell of a lot more like Superman than "Superman," the monthly comic.
Chris: To me, this episode seemed like a huge tradeoff. We didn't have the crazy stuff that's been so enjoyable in the first three (I was really hoping for the Female Furies to crash the reunion), but in return, we actually got good television. There was the whole thing with Brainiac: The Ghost of Plotlines Yet to Come, but in the context of what we've seen, the most remarkable stuff was strong character work and plot advancement. This one actually felt like a Superman story and not just an episode of "Lois Lane: Girl Reporter, featuring Green Arrow."
David: It's worth noting this is the first episode this season written by the actual showrunners. At this point, I'd be pretty okay with Peterson and Souders just writing Superman as a comic. I hope their later episodes combine the strong writing of this with the batsh-t insanity of the other recent episodes. There's also still stuff from Bryan Q. Miller coming up, and a Booster/Beetle joint by Geoff Johns.
Chris: Yeah, I have no illusions that the lower level of insanity is going to last even for two episodes in a row. As I've said before, next week, LOIS GETS POSSESSED BY THE SPIRIT OF ISIS.
David: After this episode, I'm totally fine with something ridiculously campy. I'm sure a bunch of plotlines will simmer, too, like maybe Desaad and all the Ollie stuff. In any case, Smallville continues to be .... kind of worth it. I mean, this season it's about as good as, say, "Fringe," and I watch that show without getting paid.
Chris: I think that's the highest praise we can offer.
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