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Smallville: Fortune (2011)
This is one of Smallville's love it or hate it stories. The basic premise revolves around Clark and Lois having their Bachelor/Bachelorette parties. Throw in a brief mention of Zatanna casting a spell on them, and we have the first ever Superhero knockoff of the movie The Hangover.
To enjoy "Fortune" one has to go into it understanding that this is intended to be the most over the top, blatantly comical, ridiculous, absurd and silly episode, probably in the history of the 10 year run. I liked that instead of just filming 45 minutes of goofy gags, they actually wrote a highly complex plot involving mobsters, robberies and missing rings. Sure the plot is ridiculous, but the writers knew that. I laughed a lot and really had fun watching this episode. One major complaint I have comes from the final scene. This episode works only because they treat it like an hour long joke. Why they felt they needed to add the final moment between Tess and Emil, I have no idea. That moment at the end seemed completely irrelevant and tacked on, and spoiled an otherwise ridiculously fun story.
In the end many may find this a tough episode to like. if you don't suspend disbelief and throw away any hopes of a serious story within the first 5 minutes, you'll end up frustrated. If you watch "Fortune" as the near parody that it is, it can be a lot of fun to watch.
Smallville: Supergirl (2010)
Kara returns for the first time since a throwaway appearance in the season 8 episode "Bloodline" which was little more than a glorified cameo. Finally her character is given a proper return, and proper closure. This isn't Kara saving people secretly the way her and Clark always did on Smallville, this is Kara as a public superhero for the first time. Kara had been one of my favourite characters, but I felt the writers tanked her in the second half of season 7, with lame amnesia stories. As I already said, I was equally frustrated by her glorified cameo in "Bloodline" so it's such a relief to finally have a proper send off for her in "Supergirl". This wouldn't be her last episode in the series, but it is the one that gives her character closure. I also felt after several episodes in season 7 they missed the whole point of having Kara on the show in the first place, which should be as a mentor to Clark. This episode finally gets back on track with that.
This episode isn't entirely about Kara. The main plot revolves around Gordon Godfrey, otherwise known as Glorious Godfrey from the comics, a minion of Darkseid. The majority of Smallville portrayals of DC villains are heavily altered in their adaptations. In the case of Godfrey, he's as close to his comic book character as I believe they could have gotten. His purpose is exactly the same, to stir up hatred towards Superheroes, or vigilantes. This would mark the beginning of the Vigilante Registration Act story, which later in the season would lose its focus and become too much of an X-Men imitation. Here the plot is at its best, with Godfrey steering the ship. I loved the actor's portrayal of Godfrey, and how they use him to give us our first proper introduction to Darkseid was very effective.
In the end, I can't think of anything to complain about with this episode. Godfrey was a fantastic supporting villain, as Desaad and Granny Goodness would be in later episodes. Most of all, this is a straight Superhero story, featuring a proper send off for Kara aka Supergirl. She would return in one more episode by the end of the season, but there again it would be as an irrelevant background character in a wasted cameo. This is one of the best episodes of the final season, and after many disappointing episodes near the end of season 7 and one in season 8, a story that gets Kara's character back on track for one final time.
Smallville: Beacon (2011)
There is more going on in "Beacon" than almost any episode of Smallville. Martha Kent returns, while Alexander Luthor and Lionel both re-emerge. While these character make enough of an impact to carry the entire episode on their own, there's also the VRA story to be tied up, and an assassination attempt. Smallville often suffers when trying to tell multiple stories, but in "Beacon" everything is juggled flawlessly. Alexander, Lionel and Martha all have huge roles in the plot, and despite having to share screen time with a couple of side plots involving the VRA, none of the characters returns suffer.
Season 10 had a strong start up to episode 4, then hit a slump until the return of Lionel in episode 10. From this point on it's all one fantastic build up to the end. From Alexander's dramatic turn, to the destruction of the Luthor mansion, the show is taking huge gambles to set up the finale. The unpredictability alone makes "Beacon" worthwhile, but adding Martha and Lionel in there helps remind any viewer of the gap that was never successfully filled when they left. No matter what the writers tried to do with Tess, Doomsday, Zod or any other villain, nobody can top Lionel Luthor. It's a joy to have him back on the show.
Only minor complaint is that I would have liked a more extensive scene between Martha and Lionel. The home video clips in the end were a little corny, but it accomplished what it needed to in terms of pushing the story forward.
Smallville: Icarus (2010)
I'm not a huge fan of the Vigilante Registration Act story, but the writers have managed to keep it interesting, even if it's not original. While the VRA would play a role in some later episodes of the season, this is the episode where it really hits its climax.
"Icarus" is what you might call the mid season finale of Smallville season 10. The final episode before mid season hiatus has always been one where Smallville would go a little bit bigger, but it was with "Bride" in season 8 that the producers started treating this pre-hiatus episode as a real finale sized epic. "Bride" went big and left with a huge cliffhanger, then in season 9 "Pandora" took it to the next level. While I don't necessarily think that this episode tells a better story than "Pandora", it is much larger in scale, thanks to the inclusion of a half dozen major guest stars, and a shocking cliffhanger. In all honesty, it's hard for a show like Smallville to really have a truly shocking twist, but I was completely surprised by the final 15 minutes of this episode.
General Slade is alive and well, and going all out in his mission to stop the Justice League characters. Most of "Icarus" unfortunately is spent following his underling, Lt. Trotter. Considering how strong Slade's past appearance was, I was looking forward to seeing more of him. In the end the stakes remain high even with him taking a backseat. The League disbands, leaving Clark, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Stargirl and Black Canary all on the run from the government. I liked the fugitive aspect to the story, even if it has been done dozens of times before in superhero stories.
The shocking twist comes courtesy of Hawkman, who sacrifices his own life during the climax. This was one of the most dramatic moments I've seen on Smallville since Jonathan Kent's death 5 years earlier. I didn't care for Michael Shanks in the role of Hawkman originally, but since he got over his bad Rorschach impression and built a great character, I've become a huge fan of Hawkman in this show. I wouldn't have thought that they could have pulled off such a dramatic death from a character that had only appeared in two episodes prior to this, but they did. Credit has to be given to the director Mairzee Almas, who brought the same level of drama and emotion to the episodes "Metallo" and "Supergirl". Shanks also deserves a lot of credit. I have a feeling if the episode had been filmed the same way, but featured Styargirl's death, nobody would be praising the drama.
The final cliffhanger at Hawkman's funeral left me in suspense, but not necessarily in a good way. It was far too vague and unusual to make sense. Too bad the next episode "Collateral" couldn't successfully conclude this cliffhanger, or continue the solid drama of this episode. "Icarus" ranks as one of the best episodes of the season.
Smallville: Collateral (2011)
There's not much I can say that hasn't already been said about "Collateral" an episode that kills every ounce of suspense, drama and emotion that "Icarus" built before the winter hiatus. This wasn't the first story in season 10 to rip off another popular science fiction story, but it is the one that hides it the worst. They made no attempt to separate this episode from the Matrix at all. Season 10 had been doing a good job of integrating more science fiction like elements into the show, like Hawkman's origins, the mirror box, etc, but this is just too absurd to enjoy. This was a wasted return for Chloe as well. Her explanation of her absence for half of the season not only lacks logic, it makes her come across as a cold and unlikeable character. Every season has at least one infamously bad episode. "Collateral" is it for the final season.
Smallville: Abandoned (2010)
In the series of season 10 stories dealing with tying up family issues, "Abandoned" is a step in the right direction after the unoriginal "Ambush". Lois watches a video her mother made for her before she died, Clark sees his birth parents Jor-El and Lara one more time, but surprisingly for the first time ever, Tess carries the show.
After 3 seasons of Tess being nothing more than a boring replacement for Lex, and then a boring replacement for Chloe, she's finally given some individuality as a character, and a proper back story. Tess' childhood is tied directly to Granny Goodness, a DC comics villain with a strong connection to this season's main villain, Darkseid. For one, I loved that the producers chose not to make the main villain front and centre for the whole season, something that I feel ruined the tension is seasons 8 and 9. Instead Darkseid is always a menacing presence in the background, with his minions taking centre stage. Of all of Darkseid's minions we see this season, Granny Goodness was probably the best written, best acted, and most terrifying. Lots of credit goes to the actress for being able to stand next to Desaad and Godfrey and be the one to give you nightmares.
Smallville: Luthor (2010)
Alternate universes, alternate timelines or glimpses at the future are nothing new to Smallville. Some of my favourite episodes follow this formula. What works with alternate realities is that it gives the viewer a chance to look at the show and all of the characters from a completely different point of view. Of the many episodes to use this formula, "Luthor" is one of my very favourites.
The show opens with Tess coming into possession of a Kryptonian mirror box, which Clark later comes by and activates. When the mirror box is activated, Clark Kent switches places with his counterpart in the alternate universe (Smallville's take on Earth-Two) named Clark Luthor. Of course the twist is that in that universe, Clark was found and adopted by Lionel Luthor instead of the Kent's, and he's grown into a super villain by the name of Ultra Man, whose shield in an upside down Omega symbol, which viewers of this season will recognize as the mark of Darkseid. Unlike past episodes like "Lexmas" or "Apocalypse", this isn't just a hypothetical view of what could be, but an actual swap of realities, so while Clark Kent is stuck in a world where Lionel is his father and Lois hates him, the same villain Clark Luthor is transported to the world of Smallville, where Tess and Lois discover that there's something different about him. We get to see both sides of the story. Thanks to some great editing, there's tons of suspense leading into the climax.
Of course the biggest treat in "Luthor" is the return of former cast member John Glover as Lionel Luthor. This marks the first appearance of Lionel since he was killed off in season 7. In my opinion, Lionel is hands down the most interesting character on the show. Here we get to see him more villainous than ever before. Nobody can steal a scene like Glover, and no character is as interesting to watch as Lionel Luthor. To make it even better, this is only the beginning of what we see from Lionel.
At the same time, we see Clark in a villainous role as well. Tom Welling has played evil Clark before, like the many episodes where he was exposed to Red Kryptonite, or the series of episodes where he played Bizarro, this is totally different. Tom Welling rarely gets the kind of credit he deserves as an actor. There are so many variations to Clark's personality that he has to play every week. Bumbling Clark, hero Clark, Clark opposite someone who knows of his powers, Clark opposite someone he has to hide his powers from. His performance needs to change literally for every character he interacts with. It would be very easy to play Clark Luthor the same as Red K infected or Bizarro Clark, but Welling has managed to create totally separate characters for each of these evil personas.
After a string of weaker episodes revolving around the VRA, "Luthor" finally hits the high point that season 10 was striving for.
Smallville: Patriot (2010)
I don't know if I was dying to have Aqua Man back. In my opinion he was the weakest Justice League character portrayed on Smallville, mostly due to the actor's lack of personality. Thankfully it's not an Aqua Man story, but a story about the Vigilante Registration Act where Aqua Man, his wife Mera and Oliver Queen all share the story with Clark. AC and Mera's presence is mostly in place as an example to move Lois and Clark's relationship forward, and in that I guess it succeeded.
The VRA plot was far from original, but I have to give the writers credit here in making it a little more interesting than "ambush" did. Slade was a good villain to introduce, even if he was a little over the top. The main action plot with Slade and the VRA is more or less an exact remake of the plot from season 6's "Justice" with even the action coming across as strikingly similar. Still "Patriot" has its exciting moments, and like many episodes this season, Slade as a villain brought a lot to a generic story. I can't say I love this episode, but it accomplishes what it intends to.
Smallville: Ambush (2010)
The episode "Ambush" starts a series of stories that serve one purpose, and that's to tie up loose ends between Clark and Lois and their families. "Ambush" brings back Lois' father, General Lane, and her sister, Lucy Lane. I don't think there were a lot of people dying to see the return of Lucy, but this episode is worth viewing just for the opportunity to see Michael Ironside in the role of General Lane. Unfortunately the writers seemed to have forgotten the dynamic that had already been established between Lois and her father. Nothing about the relationships in this story seem to match what we've seen before. On the plus side, it's still amusing to watch Clark try to impress his future father in law.
There's more going on here than just a pathetic family thanksgiving dinner. Rick Flag is back for the third time this season, and his purpose starts to become clearer. While I like the inclusion of Flag, I'm not so thrilled about the Vigilante Registration Act plot. One of the issues season 10 has is a lack of originality when dealing with the superhero aspect of the show. Everything is borrowed from past superhero movies. Oliver going public with his identity as the Green Arrow was just ripped off of Iron Man, and the Vigilante Registration Act is a direct copy of the Mutant Registration Act from X-Men. I would have liked this episode, and that overall story a lot more had it not been almost identical to what X-Men told over 3 films and who knows how many comic stories.
Smallville: Harvest (2010)
Lois and Clark find themselves trapped in a village that time forgot. Since M. Night Shyamalan was nowhere near the script during writing, or set during filming, this episode doesn't fail nearly as colossally as the movie The Village did. That's not to say that it works on every level either.
After revealing his identity as The Blur to Lois in the previous episode, and spending the opening scene catching her up on the real history behind many of their encounters with Kryptonians, Clark is suddenly stuck in village where his powers are obsolete. This obviously isn't the first time the show has told a story where Clark was without his abilities. It's been done countless times before, and it usually makes for good TV, but this episode itself isn't nearly interesting enough on its own merits. I actually kind of liked the premise, and the looks of the village was interesting. Even the story isn't all that bad. The best way to explain my issue is by comparing this episode to the previous one, Isis. Both are far fetched, cheesy, and over the top in concept. The difference is "Isis" knew it was B-Grade entertainment, and never treated it as anything other, while this one "Harvest" takes itself far too seriously. If the director had shot this with more of a sense of humour it would have come out better.
The second half of the episode deals with Tess and the young Lex clone. I usually have problems with episode like this that tell two completely unrelated stories, and this is no exception. There is a way to do it right, but it involves at least a similar tone or theme to tie the two stories together. The Tess and Lex footage has zero relation to the Crucible style Village plot. It was almost like it was directed by two different people. I actually loved the story between Tess and the young Lex clone, and as its own episode it may have been able to carry the story, but pairing it up with the other plot was a mistake.
Smallville: Isis (2010)
This is just a standard filler story for the most part. Smallville has produced many episodes in the past with characters possessed. Some are a lot of fun like "Spirit" from season 4, some are terrible like "Spell" from season 4, and some are just average like "Bloodline" from season 8. "Isis" falls under the 'Slightly Above Average and Passably Entertaining Smallville Character Gets Possessed By a Spirit or Entity' episode. For the record, I guarantee that will never be a major award. This episode was written by Genevieve Sparling, who usually misses the mark on her scripts. On her resume, "Isis" is a crowning achievement. After the opening 4 episodes of this season, which all built a strong story, throwing a cheesy filler episode could have been a mistake, but everyone involved seems to know just how cheesy the idea is, so the finished product never comes across too serious. If you want to see an entertaining Smallville possession story, this is a good one to check out. If you hate these kind of episodes, be sure to catch at least the final scene, which will go down as one of the key moments in the history of Smallville.
Smallville: Homecoming (2010)
During the season 5, Smallville aired it's 100th episode "Reckoning" which was one of the most serious and epic stories, if not THE most epic story in the show's ten year history. It had drama, action and tragedy. Many people still believe "Reckoning" was the greatest of all Smallville episodes. It may have been possible to top it for the 200th episode, but in the end the producers chose not to try and compete. Instead we have "Homecoming", which is a fun throwback to the early seasons of Smallville.
Two major characters from the past return, Brainiac and Greg the bug boy, who appeared all the way back in the 2nd episode of the series "Metamorphosis". Brainiac takes Clark on an It's a Wonderful Life journey to reflect on his past, present and future. There are moments where the tone is heavy, but for the most part this is a light hearted story with many nods to past seasons. It was great to see the Smallville High set again, and the twist with the bug boy was a refreshing surprise.
Even though I've been watching Smallville since the beginning, and continue to go back and watch old episodes, it's easy to forget how far this show has come, and how much it's changed over the years. "Homecoming" is a nice reminder of the simpler show from classic seasons.
Smallville: Shield (2010)
"Shield" was both one of the best episodes of the season as far as character development goes, while at the same time being among the worst for overall stories. I'll explain my opinion on both.
Season 10 did what should have been done many seasons before. It was time to scale back the full time cast and spend more time focusing on fewer characters. Look back in the history of Smallville. In any given season you can find characters that were constantly being forced into the plots just for the sake of using a permanent character. There was no need for Pete during most of his run. Lana was around at least a few season longer than she had to contribute as a character. Even Lois spent at least a season or two just floating in the background with no purpose. In season 10 there are only 4 major characters from start to finish. I love that the producers allowed for more time on fewer characters. Just to fill the gaps, they brought in a handful of recurring characters that ended up being used only as needed. Cat Grant is the main one, who appears here in the same type of role as she had in the comics, but the actress portrayed her in a perkier way. The character is slightly different from the comics, but a lot of her backstory is here, and she still succeeds as a new character to interfere in the Clark/Lois relationship, without making it a love triangle. Hawkman returns here with his back story being told properly. I wasn't a fan of how he was portrayed the first time around in "Absolute Justice" but Shanks does a much better job here. I not only thought Hawkman was an improvement, but now he's become one of the best characters on the show. Finally, there are many villains introduced here. I hated how seasons 8 and 9 wasted the entire seasons on just one villain. We already know Darkseid will be the villain focused on this season, but instead of dragging him out all season, we have several minions to fill out the season.
With so many great characters introduced, and all of them introduced so well, it's disappointing that the story is so uninspired. There's just too much going on, and no real hook to keep the story interesting. There's too much of a divide between the two stories as well. It sometimes gets frustrating when you have multiple stories with no connection. When the action is light as it is here, it plays out too soap opera like.
"Shield" is forgettable in the end, but the season would continue to get better from this point on, thanks in part to the character introduced here.
Smallville: Lazarus (2010)
For the first time in several years, a Smallville premiere acts as a direct continuation of the previous season's finale. "Lazarus" picks up exactly the second where "Salvation" ended. I prefer the direct continuation premieres, as I think it's evidence of a much stronger story being told in both seasons. There's no need to start with a clean slate, because the finale was told properly in the first place.
This is the final season of Smallville, and the producers knew it. I always got the impression that the reason seasons 8 and 9 had so many down moments is partly because they were running out of ideas, and even more so because I think the producers have always had an idea of how the show would end, but they had to save so many of these ideas for a final season. "Lazarus" introduces season 10 as if they'd been planning it for years. The best example is having Lois know about Clark's secret, but hiding her knowledge of it from him. This added a new dynamic to their scenes together. Another good example of stories that I feel like the producers have been saving is the return of Lex Luthor. At the time they obviously had no idea that Rosenbaum would return, and needed a way to reintroduce the character without him. The Lex clones was a fantastic way to work around his previous exit from the show. I don't know if I was a huge fan of the older Lex clone. The actor did a good job, but it's too much to accept another actor in Rosenbaum's role for only a short guest spot. I did enjoy his master plan of giving Clark a dilemma with 2 saves to make at the same time. It reminded me of Lex's plot in the original Superman movie. Handled better however is the young Lex clone. The possibilities were endless for where the show could take this, and by the end of the season they threw a great twist in there.
This episode also features returns and departures. The departure in this episode is Chloe, who would be back for a handful of episodes later on in the season. This was obviously the one thing the producers didn't count on, otherwise they would have either done something with her in season 9, or found a more clever way of writing her out. The way she's written out comes across as being rushed and poorly planned.
John Schneider returns as Jonathan Kent for the first time since season 5. Like when Martha was brought back at the end of season 9, these scenes with Jonathan were a great reminder of the earlier seasons, and the unbeatable dynamic between Clark and his parents. The show was always built on that, and the drama that comes out of their scene together was just what season 10 needed remind viewers of what made Smallville great to begin with. Between Jonathan, the return of Lex (or at least a version of) and a repeat of the iconic corn field shot in the original pilot, there are plenty of reminders of Smallville's history as they head into the final season.
Smallville: Salvation (2010)
Just as the opening sequence of the season 9 premiere helped redeem the show from a terrible season 8, by giving fans their closest glimpse yet at a Superman from the comics, the finale does the exact same thing, but with even more of an impact. Any Superman fan will want to cheer during the opening sequence, as it not only teases the Superman from the comics, but actually flashes forward 3 years to see Superman in action. Although what we see of Superman himself is just a quick reflection. It's still the best thing I'd seen all season.
Season 9, just like season 8, started off very strong and fizzled out at about the half way mark. Just like with season 8, I think it was a mistake to dedicate an entire season to one villain. One improvement the producers made over season 8 was instead of forcing the villain into almost every episode, whether it was relevant or not, they saved Zod only for key scenes and episodes. This was a better idea, as Zod never had a chance to get old like Doomsday did, but because they introduced him right at the beginning, and spaced out his episodes, the entire Zod story arc was too scattered to fully enjoy. Another issue with the Kandorian story arc was that they teased such an epic conclusion, with the apocalyptic look at what would happen if they gained control with the solar tower. This was ditched mid way into the season, and replaced with a dull plot involving the Book of Rao. I don't know whether the producers chose to drop the original idea at the last minute or not, but the way it played out felt that way. I do want to say that despite my dislike for how Zod and the Kandorians were handled in the second half of the season, I'm a huge fan of Callum Blue as Zod, and the way this episode ended the story was perfect.
My favorite twist leading into the finale was how Zod took on the role of The Blur to manipulate Lois, and Clark being aware of this but still hiding himself. This could have very easily just been a repeat of how season 5 and 6 played Clark and Lex off of each other with Lana in the middle. This was much more original, timed right in the season, and not unnecessarily dragged out. Waiting to have Zod reveal himself to Lois until the finale made all the scenes more dramatic.
Now for the cliffhangers. Every Smallville finale is packed full of cliffhangers. Sometimes they add little more than a tease for the opening moments of the next season. This time there are 3 cliffhangers, scaled back from previous seasons that may have over done it. Oliver Queen is cornered by beings that "are not Kandorians" which had me guessing like crazy what setup that was supposed to be for the final season. It took me a second viewings to catch all the little seeds that were planted. Lois and Clark have a more personal cliffhanger that not only teases the 10th season premiere, but actually plays out over several season 10 episodes. Finally there's Clark's final confrontation with Zod and the Kandorians. This extended sequence is the best dramatic TV produced by Smallville in years. Instead of how season 8 wasted the finale with a lifeless and over in 10 seconds action scene, in "Salvation" we have a lengthy dramatic dialogue scene between Clark and Zod. I can't say enough good things about this final scene. Perfectly written, brilliantly acted, flawlessly filmed. The final moment of the cliffhanger not only caught me off guard, but had me dying all summer for the show's return.
Season 9 does not rank among my favorite seasons. It had a lot of weak and poorly planned moments, but the finale ranks among the best in the show's 10 year run.
Smallville: Hostage (2010)
After leaving 3 years earlier, Annette O'Toole returns to Smallville as Martha Kent. This episode helped remind me of something that had been lost since her departure. If you've ever heard interviews with show creators Gough and Millar, they've always said that the show was built around the Kents, and the idea that Superman became who he was because of his parents. What Smallville added to that was Clark's need for an emotional connection to someone who he doesn't have to hide his powers from. Season 7 tried to fill that void with Kara, but she was too often the one needing support. Season 8 had a brief return of Lana, but her exit from the show was long overdue. Chloe has always been there, but her relationship to Clark has always been more professional. To write Clark's character realistically, you need to give him some problems to deal with, but without someone for him to look up to and get advice from, Clark tends to come across as whiny. I don't want to imply that the show couldn't work without Martha and Jonathan. This episode just helped remind me of a strong presence that had been missing.
The other story in this episode involves Michael McKean's long overdue return in the role of Perry White. Although he plays the character very different from the comic version, he brings so much enthusiasm to the role, and I loved his first episode. In "Hostage" we get to see him and Lois one step closer to the comics, with them working together on a story. Perry even utters his most famous line.
My one complaint would be putting Martha in the role of the Red Queen. It was a little bit over the top. At the same time, it's not completely unbelievable. I always found it hard to believe that Martha would be so far removed from Clark's life for 3 years after being so incredibly protective for close to 20 years, so it's at least plausible to have her assume that kind of role. Thankfully this episode improves on, and brings the boring Checkmate story close to an end. Of all the DC comics characters or organizations that Smallville brought in over 10 seasons, this was by far the worst execution.
Smallville occasionally tends to lose momentum leading into the finale. In seasons past, there have been far too many times when pointless filler episodes are put back to back with overly complex plots. Between the previous episode "Sacrifice", and this one "Hostage", the show reached a good balance of character development and story progression, while ditching most of the filler entertainment.
Smallville: Sacrifice (2010)
Season 9 of Smallville hit a bit of a slump as it came near the end, in part due to the poorly executed Checkmate story. Season 9 had a big comeback with "Sacrifice". Sometimes the writers forget that you don't need an overly complex plot to make an exciting episode, but rather a simple and basic plot like has been written here. Tess tries to infiltrate Watchtower, and both she and Chloe get locked inside. The other half of the episode is less exciting, but again a simplified story involving Clark trying to stop the Kandorians who had been given their powers by Zod, by aligning with Faora and those Kandorians that were left behind.
As 24 proved, it is possible to make an exciting show in real time format. I'd go as far as to say it's easier to make a show exciting in real time. There's not a lot of action here in "Sacrifice". Basically a couple of extended scenes. The excitement of real time is built into the time demand itself. On top of that, with so many back to back scenes without story gaps, there's a lot more room for character development. A perfect example of that is with Tess' character. She has a big shift here, the biggest character shift in all 3 seasons she was involved in. I can't see it being as believable with time jumps in the middle of the episode. The interesting thing is that Clark actually takes a back seat here. This episode is about the development of Chloe, Tess, Zod and his wife Faora. Aside from the finale, this may be my favorite episode in the second half of season 9. This was exactly what the show needed to boost interest heading toward the finale.
Smallville: Checkmate (2010)
This is a tricky episode to review, as I thought the writing was decent, the direction wasn't all bad (minus the slow-mo stuff) and the performances were solid. I think my issue is partly with the story, and partly with the execution. The simplest way to put it is that "Checkmate" is kind of boring. I was never a fan of the Checkmate story, and this episode may be the main reason why. If you're going to escalate a storyline this late in the season, and place the kind of stakes on it as they write here, the introductory episode needs to have an enormous hook to it. It needs to be kicked off with a bang. "Checkmate" just kind of drags. The pacing for a story like this should be much more exciting. There are moments in the story that demand more impact, but every major scene just falls flat. Maybe it is a direction issue, but the editing doesn't help matters either. Not the best of season 9, that's for sure.
Smallville: Escape (2010)
Every season has at least one infamous episode that's laughed off by the fans. For season 9, "Escape" is it. DC comics villain The Silver Banshee makes a truly awful appearance here. In all fairness, the way the character was brought into the story, and how she interacted with the characters wasn't that bad at all. The fault for this disaster goes to the producers, for not axing he footage of the Silver Banshee when she's finally revealed in form on screen. The character design looks bad enough to have walked out of some tacky Roger Corman horror film from the 70s. Seriously, SOMEBODY must have looked at the footage on a monitor and thought to go back to the drawing board. The plot doesn't necessarily help matters either. To put it simply, this is a boring story.
The only reason I'm giving this a rating as generous as 6/10 is because there are some genuinely amusing scenes when Clark and Lois awkwardly meet Chloe and Oliver at the couples retreat. I do have to comment that the love story between Chloe and Oliver was very poorly developed and never felt believable until well into season 10. You can't just tack on 2 flirtatious scenes in preceding episodes and expect a relationship to be believable. But believability aside, I have to acknowledge how well this show handles subtle comedy. My favourite scene is the one where Clark and Oliver are awkwardly trying to make small talk at the breakfast table. The actors on this show don't get enough credit for how well they handle comedy. These scenes aren't enough to save the rest of the "Escape" train wreck. Here's one infamous episode that deserves most of the criticism it gets.
Smallville: Conspiracy (2010)
The storyline for Zod and the Kandorians in season 9 was far too scattered from the beginning. By the end of "Pandora" it hit a major height, and I had high expectations of where they could take it. The concept of the solar tower changing earth's atmosphere to allow for the Kandorians to receive powers was such a cool concept, and a perfect setup for what could have been an exciting second half of the season. Since "Pandora" there were very few scenes that dealt with this plot, and at the end of the previous episode "Persuasion" the entire story was dispensed with from out of nowhere. To me it almost seemed like the producers changed their mind by this point in the season and just decided to write it out as quickly as possible. Now in "Conspiracy" they briefly deal with the consequences of the tower destruction, and dive into a generic psycho/ kidnapper story instead.
I guess my biggest problem with "Conspiracy" is that it's nothing more than ordinary Smallville. Random psycho with justifiable frustration takes unjustifiable actions. Another real problem is that Zod and the Kandorians were boring. I'm shocked that writers Turi Meyer and Al Septien, who had scripted some of the biggest episodes since season 5 could write a character as powerful as Zod so poorly. Even in some of the weakest episodes of this season, the writing for Zod has been top notch. Here Zod's dialogue is just as plain as any random villain. I also felt the writing for Faora was weak. When her character was established as such a hardcore villain in the previous season, you'd think they'd at least plant a couple of seeds. Even in "Kandor" when Zod was shown in flashbacks as a hero, there's still that feeling that there was something evil developing. Faora is written more generically than Zod here.
Still, there are a few redeeming scenes between Clark and Zod near the end. The first where Clark is forced with the decision to save Zod's life was unexpected. The second, the final moment of the show where you see the consequences and Zod's powers are revealed was shot well, and finally made me excited that they were doing something with Zod, but anyone who'd watched even a single episode of this season saw it coming a mile away.
Smallville: Warrior (2010)
Zattana returns to Smallville after an entertaining first appearance in "Hex". This time the plot revolves around a young boy who ages and gains powers after coming into possession of......... get ready for it....... a magic comic book. The concept is just as corny as it sounds, and for the most part this episode would be more appropriately placed in the 80s Superboy series than here in Smallville, but it's not entirely out of place thanks to the comedic tone in the writing. Nobody should be expecting even the slightest degree of seriousness or drama in "Warrior", but then again, I doubt anyone involved in the show were attempting that. No storyline progresses here. You could skip this episode completely and not miss a single thing in regards to the overall season. There's nothing wrong with a fun filler episode every now and then. This isn't perfectly executed, but as I already said, the tone of the episode is funny enough that it doesn't come across as too goofy. Thanks to the setting at a comic book convention, there are a few amusing nods to the sci-fi/ superhero culture. The story does get a little too serious for its own good closer to the end, but for the most part "Warrior" is acceptably cheesy fun.
Smallville: Dominion (2011)
Clark returns to the Phantom Zone, for the third time in the series, after the season 6 episode "Zod" and a briefer appearance in the season 8 episode "Bloodline". This time Clark is joined be Oliver Queen in the Phantom Zone, where they both find a a returning Callum Blue as Zod.
I've said it before, I'm not a fan of how the Phantom Zone is visually portrayed. In my opinion it should look and feel more surreal, like being caught in a nightmare. Instead it's a post apocalyptic wasteland. I have no problem putting aside my complaints when it comes to the environment, as long as the story is good enough. Unfortunately, "Dominion" has little story to fill out an hour of TV. In some ways "Dominion" fails, but in other ways it succeeds. I'll give my opinions on both, starting with the negatives.
The previous trips to the Phantom Zone were much shorter in duration. "Zod" spent about half of the episode there, while "Bloodline" only spent about 1/3 of the episode in the Zone. In this episode, almost the entire episode is spent in the Phantom Zone. You'd think with that much more time there would be plenty of opportunity to show more of the environment. Unfortunately we see a LOT less of the Phantom Zone than either previous episode. Th majority of the time is spent inside of a ratty old tent. Visually this is the least interesting trip to the Phantom Zone.
One other issue I have is regarding Zod's return. I'm a huge fan of Callum Blue's performance of Zod, but this story did very little to bring something new to his character, other than giving him a bit of a chance to act like a jerk toward Clark, and give him a beard to look closer to Terence Stamp. Really, there was no reason to bring Zod back this season. Between the episode start and episode end, nothing new is brought to the table. Zod is no different of a character. The main reason is that there is no plot here. It's just Clark and Oliver meeting Zod in the Phantom Zone. This was a wasted opportunity. As much as I'm a fan of Zod, I would have rather not had him return at all than to return in a wasted opportunity.
There are a few fight scenes in this episode, but of course being in the Phantom Zone, nobody has powers, and everyone looks like they walked out of Spartacus. In 10 years of watching this show, I've never thought to myself "Gee, I'd love to see these super powered heroes and villains swinging swords and shields at each other while wearing armour from some sword and sandals epic of the 50s." Bridging between the strengths and weaknesses, the cut scenes back on Earth with Tess and Lois were both ordinary and uninspired in concept, while at the same time actually succeeding in bringing some tension to the show. The Phantom Zone conflict never had an ounce of tension, since it's been done 2 times before, and came across far too cheesy. The few moments between Tess and Lois on Earth had legitimate tension. It's just too bad they couldn't come up with an interaction that was a little bit more exciting.
Now onto some of the good points of "Dominion". While the action and plot are very weak (almost non existent) the performances are fantastic from start to finish. This is the first episode directed by cast member Justin Hartley (aka Green Arrow) and I have to give him huge credit for bringing out the best performances from the entire cast. This episode has some of the longest dialogue scenes I've ever seen on Smallville, and thanks to the performances, the dialogue scenes never drag. In fact, the scene between Oliver and Zod was one of the best moments I've seen all season. Usually when a cast member directs an episode, they take a back seat role in the acting department. That's not the case with Hartley. Aside from Zod, it's Oliver Queen that's really the focus of this story. While I felt this episode did nothing new to further the story, and in Zod's case was completely unnecessary, the evolution of Hartley's own character is what saves this episode from being forgettable. The position his character is put in by the end of "Dominion" has me just as curious to see the story arc revolved as I am with Clark's personal story.
One of the weaker episodes of the season, but saved by some great moments from the cast.
Smallville: Absolute Justice (2010)
DC comics writer Geoff Johns, who successfully brought the Legion of Superheroes to Smallville in season 8, returns with the two part movie "Absolute Justice". This time Johns is bringing the old school Justice Society to the show, including Hawkman, Dr. Fate and Stargirl.
First I'll cover the goods. Geoff Johns knows comics better than anyone, and it shows, as this story not only matches in tone and structure to the comics, but the plot is fantastic. "Absolute Justice" is epic enough to be a big screen adaptation. This is a massive episode. Not only do we have a handful of new DC characters, but John Jones comes back as well. The production values are possibly the best Smallville has had yet. Everyone went all out on this episode, and it shows. The real star though is Geoff Johns script. Even though this is my least favorite episode Johns has written of the three he's done, behind "Legion" in season 8 and "Booster" in season 10, it is the most engaging story he's conceived. As a fan of DC comics I loved that Johns never hides some of the corniness of these superheroes, but there's a downside to that, as I'll cover next.
Now the negatives. Yes, as a fan of DC comics I love that Johns writes this like a comic book story, but having so many characters, and refusing to dumb down their complexities makes this harder to watch if you're not familiar with the comics. What Johns did differently in "Booster" and "Legion" was play up on some comedy. That made it easier to see these characters in live action, whereas here it's very serious, and much more dramatic. That causes the characters to come across as a little cheesy at times. Although in defence of Johns, the fault with that lies with the rest of the crew. Some of the costumes look super cheesy, and not in a way where it's intentional. Hawkman especially looks ridiculous at times. I don't want to fault the costume designers, as I think they did a phenomenal job, but with a TV show budget on the WB, it's next to impossible to make a character like Hawkman look as good as he should. Even though many fans will hate me for this, I also thought guest star Michael Shanks from Stargate:SG1 gave a weak performance. He has some great dramatic scenes, particularly those opposite Dr. Fate, but most of the time it seems like he's doing a bad impression of Rorschach from Watchmen. I don't want to knock him too much considering when he returned in season 10 I thought he did an amazing job as Hawkman. On the topic of Dr. Fate, again as a comics fan I liked how well his character was adapted, but it is extremely sci-fi in a way that doesn't fit the overall tone of Smallville. Again, that's a complaint that will effect non comic book fans more.
This 2 parter is a great achievement for everyone involved, but as can be expected when you go this far out on a limb, there were bound to be some minor flaws.
Smallville: Disciple (2010)
If anyone wants to know what a Green Arrow spin off would be like, this is pretty much it. Mia (aka Speedy for anyone familiar with the comics) returns. Her character was handled much better this time than when she was first introduced earlier in the season. Her original appearance was awkward and out of place. Seeing as this is a Green Arrow episode, it was easier to accept her. I liked that the producers brought in a character from Green Arrow's history, since they dropped the ball with Black Canary. It's just too bad they never followed through. Mia/Speedy had a lot more potential than the two episodes she appeared in. I also liked that the villain of the week had a physical appearance very similar to the comic book version of Green Arrow.
This was a good episode, but the only problem is that it plays out like a back door pilot for a Green Arrow spin off. Clark, Chloe, Lois and Zod's presence in this episode are very out of place.
Smallville: Pandora (2009)
The Zod/ Kandorians on Earth story arc, Tess' solar tower, and Lois' trip to and dreams of the future all come together in "Pandora". All of these story arcs were too scattered and under developed in the first half of the season, yet the show recovers from these mis steps with an epic episode.
This is post apocalyptic Smallville. Partly because of the poor build up, I had low expectations for where they were taking these stories, but this episode had a huge pay off that I wasn't expecting. This is Zod's chance to shine. As frustrating as it was to watch at times, in theory it was necessary to have Zod on the back burner for the first 8 episodes. Limiting his interactions with all characters except for Tess made for a more dramatic episode here. I'm still shocked that some people weren't wowed by Callum Blue as Zod. This guy gives a mesmerizing performance.
"Pandora" steps away from typical Smallville formula, even more so than similar episodes like "Lexmas", "Labyrinth", or "Apocalypse". This is about as dark as Smallville has ever gone, and I loved it. The plot and writing is excellent. It's not easy to hold the attention of an audience with such long dialogue scenes. But it's the performances, particularly from Callum Blue, that really sets this episode apart.