Saturday, June 25, 2022

Return to Smallville - Season 4

Move, Clark.  You're in the way.

Well.  We finally got to Lois.  

We also finally got to the season where Smallville went from teen-romance to "they're 18 now, so it shall be SEXY".  

It's also the season where, back when it aired, I started giving up and didn't watch everything.  

Season 4 episodes we watched:  
  • Crusade - the one where Lois arrives and Clark returns from null-space with his memories wiped clean and he flies on camera to get a plot device MacGuffin stone that will do whatever it's gonna do when he collects all three.
  • Transference - the one where Lionel Luthor Freaky Fridays with Clark
  • Spell - the one where 17th Century witches Freaky Friday with Chloe, Lana and Lois
  • Spirit - the one where a Mean Girl ghost possesses/ Freaky Fridays the cast, Martha is hilarious, Chloe wins prom queen, and Lois looks smashing in a pink gown she has for some reason
  • Blank - the one where Clark loses all his memories and Chloe has to lead him around for the day
  • Commencement - the one where Clark and Chloe graduate, Jor-El is a parent who just doesn't understand, Lex is betrayed by everyone in his life, and then a meteor shower falls on Smallville.  Again.

Look, doing "they aren't themselves" is cheaper than actual make-up or special FX, and it also gives the actors something else to do, which seems fun for them.  See Annette O'Toole's version of a Mean Girl in Spirit.  Fantastic stuff.  But if what you wanted was Welling somehow more wooden, boy, have I got some episodes lined up for YOU.

But like "mind control" in prior seasons, amnesia and possession get old fast as plots when you watch them back-to-back.  It's mostly just waiting for the characters to resume their normal lives and *never mention it again*.  

By the way, I was absolutely wrong that heat vision would not come back tied to boners.  It came up twice in just the few episodes we watched.  I mean, fine.  I'm not above a good boner joke.

Mercifully, by skipping so many episodes, we missed a lot of Clark/ Lana drama.  16 years ago when these episodes aired, I was exhausted/ bored by the show leaning so hard into their drama, and stunned then and now at the writers room's utter inability to give us a reason to root for them or care while utterly centering on those characters.  

What's funny about the "possession trope" episodes is that it reveals: Kreuk isn't a bad actor.  She CAN do a lot more than what we see episode after episode given the chance. So, if you find Lana annoying - it's highly likely because Kreuk is given nothing to do except for be demure and as much fun as a bowl of yesterdays boiled spaghetti noodles, and maybe it's just straight up bad writing.  I'd argue there's absolutely no plan here from the staff - just show two people not connecting week after week.  

I don't understand how the show didn't understand this was a problem and take drastic steps to address it.

It *does not help* that the show included one much better written character (Chloe)* and introduced yet another more appealing character (Lois), and then made Clark oblivious to both.  It makes it seem more like Clark is obsessive or some part of his alien physiology has imprinted on Lana like a baby chick.

In order to keep the Lana thing going, we have to also set up the premise that Clark and Lois do not get along - which the show keeps telling us, but they seem incredibly chummy when they don't seem flirty.  Still, the show refuses to *do* anything with that, which would be, dare I say, interesting.  

But, look, it's a tough one as the show knows we know where this is all headed, so it's...  Look, no one is more pleased for more Lois Lane than yours truly.  But maybe we should have kept Lois in pocket til college or, better, when he hit the Planet.  But then we'd get less Erica Durance, and I can't support that.

If I'm really going off on this, it's because the Clark/ Lana relationship went from a B-Plot to the all-consuming plot to, by here, becoming a swirling black hole, sucking everything else in.  You can't ignore it as one of fifty things happening.  And it's happening at the expense of some good things not happening.

It is true that by the time one graduates high school, parents are already a bit less in your life, but it's not hard to see the writing on the wall for Jonathan and Martha.  O'Toole and Schneider's parts are reduced to background roles that are a better fit for local Canadian talent.  It's a weird and expensive choice to keep them around, and makes me wonder what O'Toole and Schneider were told and what they were paid to be on the show once they were relegated to a scene or two per episode.

I complained about this last time, but it just feels like such a waste of potential.  Instead of centering on freaks of the week and pursuing cheerleaders, the show could have been about two parents guiding a kid into heroism, and I think you do see that in the first two seasons.  But by this season?  

It is impossible not to note that Lana's romantic interest this season is a college-aged fellow who then (somehow?) obtains a job as an assistant coach at the high school she attends.  And if I thought this was wrong back in 2005/6,  now it's mind-bending as an artifact of standard stuff shows would do back in the day in 2022.  It's a weird promotion of the teacher/ student relationship thing teen-soaps always wanted to dabble in, and here they go nuts defending the idea and telling everyone else they're wrong.  

Season 4 also featured the start of Jonathan's heart trouble I guess as an artifact of the whammy Jor-El's ghost put on him, but Schneider clear told the producers "also, I want to be in action sequences", so he's routinely flying through the air and getting into scrapes. 

The season finale is actually kind of... good?  They pushed a lot of budget into it, character beats make sense, it pushes the overall narrative forward, and since they had contracts in place and a renewal set, it wasn't a cliffhanger written to get people off the show.  And at the last minute, they remembered that Lana and Clark are supposed to be high school sweethearts, so even though they've graduated, they do manage to profess their love.  At last.  Nearly 100 episodes in.

Oh, and Lana isn't even officially broken up with her boyfriend, and he dies by meteor, and nobody talks about them ever again.  It's wild. 

*I know saying anything positive about Allison Mack is problematic, but...  Look, she is not funny looking.  

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