Saturday, July 9, 2022

Return to Smallville: Season 9 - Where the show takes some big swings

Just re-name the show, you dopes

So, Season 9 of Smallville, which has absolutely no business being called "Smallville" anymore as it takes place 88% in Metropolis, does feel quite a bit like when the show grew up to be the show they thought or wished they were making in Season 7.

It's not the best TV you'll see, but it feels like they finally got pieces in place, logistics and characterwise, that were less awkward and like they were keeping one foot in teen-soap.  It's gone full serious super-drama, and is en route to being Superman.

Episodes We Watched

Savior - Despite clear instructions that the Legion ring was set to send Doomsday to the 31st Century, Lois returns from the future which is 1 year from when she left (but she has no memory of this for some reason?).  Clark decides he needs to give up being human at the worst possible time when his best friend is in crisis, making Clark the world's least considerate friend and reminding us he's both dumb and self-centered AF.  We also meet our Zod of the season, who is absolutely acting to the back of the theater in every scene.
Metallo - A reminder that Brian Austin Green is actually a really solid actor and should have been a main actor/ villain on this show for a season.  He's better than the guy they got for Zod, and his character's arc seemed way, way, way cut short.
Kandor - Julian Sands arrives as "Young Jor-El Clone" to basically cause a lot of trouble for everyone involved.  This whole thing makes Jor-El seem like (even more of) an inconsistent boob.  Sands is good, but the episode feels like a swing and a miss, like they forgot the impact that we may have had if he and Clark spent any time together.
Pandora - This is the episode where we find out this universe has an off-the-shelf technology that will allow you to see into someone's memories with a stick 'em pad.  It's AMAZING and never mentioned or used again.  We also see Lois in the future, and Clark shares her memories of them boning, which means Clark experienced what it's like to be fucked by himself.  Which is how we should all be feeling by this point in the series' run.
Absolute Justice Parts 1 and 2 - Geoff Johns takes on writing chores and shoves in every single JSA trope he can, plus Stargirl, and everyone new to show is acting at an 11.  Like, really, really hamming it up in a way that feels weird and incongruous to the overall tone of the show.  It also introduces Pam Grier as Amanda Waller, head of Checkmate.  It's very clear the actor playing Dr. Fate does not know what to do with his hands while in costume.  The girl playing Stargirl should have joined the overall cast, though.
Warrior - A cursed comic book (we've all got a couple in our collection.  Mine was Lady Death #1, and thereby hangs a tale) enables a street kid to become a superhero and in no way is this a riff on Shazam.  Chloe absolutely tries to rawdog a 12 year old, while Clark is faced with the challenge of throwing over Zatanna who is bodily forcing herself on him in favor of Lois in a Spirit Halloween "Amazon Warrior Princess" costume.  Shut the fuck up, Clark.
Escape - On a show that keeps ratcheting up the horniness, Clark and Lois go to an out of the way inn so they may bone for the first time, I guess?  Meanwhile, Green Arrow and Chloe also go to same inn to bone.  It desperately wants to be a sex-farce episode but is distracted by the appearance of Silver Banshee, low-key one of my favorite villain designs.  Lois also appears in negligee.  No notes.  A+.
Checkmate - All I want to know is what the meetings were like with the interior design firm asked to outfit a castle for a supposedly super-secret clandestine government organization when they were like "make this motherfucker look like a chess board, and spare no expense."  All in all, this is a competently told story, and has bearing and weight that make sense.  I was not cracking wise to Jamie throughout.
Sacrifice - Tess invades the watchtower, trapping she and Chloe inside where things get very sweaty, but not in a Cinemax latenight way.  Really my take-way is that Chloe's capture system (a) does not employ the way-overengineered HVAC system of the Watchtower, but (b) we learn that Watchtower has the world's most expensive and unnecessary HVAC system and the controls are right there, as well as the nuclear freon or whatever.
Salvation - After not watching most of the Kryptonian episodes this season and trying to remember them from my prior viewing, I think I'm pretty right in assuming this storyline was dumb as it looks, that the guy playing Zod needed to take it down about 8 notches, and Kryptonians seem dumb as hell for an advanced race.  The few good bits are undercut with stuff like the main trickster villain saying out loud "Yes, I did the one thing everyone here would find unforgivable and abhorrent."  Also, the stupid pilfering of "The Book of Rao".  But the fight choreography was pretty solid.

Where the actual @#$% is Smallville?

One of the things that doesn't feel *that* weird about Smallville as a TV show while watching it is that it slowly transforms from a show about young Clark Kent and his normie buddies living in rural America dealing with teen romance, tornadoes and the alien origins of one guy to becoming a show about a roster of mutants, vigilantes and aliens battling alien forces and dangerous covert paramilitary organizations across the planet and centered in something akin to Chicago.  

Like, it's a slow boil, but if you pit the episodes of Martha baking muffins (not a euphemism, but it is now) against the backdrop of Martha now a powerful operator in a John LeCarre vein...  this show is soapy and batshit insane.  Chloe's wall of weird writing articles for her school paper to Chloe as an overworked cyber-genius who bangs vigilantes while fighting constantly with her alien best friend.   

But, mostly, the one thing I want to know is:  where the @#$% is Smallville, Kansas?  And where is Metropolis?

During the season where Chloe was headed off for Met U (I guess Season 5?), she stated Metropolis was 3 hours away.  Not a huge deal for Clark to pass between as he briefly attended Smallville's Central Kansas A&M, and we could accept he was spending only a few minutes running at superspeed to pop in on Chloe.  It felt like in that season that Smallville was not a bedroom community of Metropolis, but an Abilene to my Austin.  It was a hike.  And it kept Smallville remote and rural.  When Clark got Red-K'd and had his hot-boy summer in Metropolis, it wasn't a 20 minute move into the city.

By Season 9, Smallville is treated as the suburbs.  I mean, this is well-known stuff to Smallville fandom, and it's just... why?  This is a confusing and dumb choice, but they also had limited sets - still, it's weird that everyone hangs out in the Kent barn/ Clark's high school masturbatorium.

In most versions of Superman, Metropolis is a coastal city, but it's not entirely unlikely the original model was maybe not New York as our teen-aged creators were not from NYC.  But Kansas seems unlikely.  I'll be honest, I know jack-all about Kansas.  But somehow I don't think Siegel and Shuster were like "imagine if an alien were in Topeka!".  But, you know, Smallville also wasn't originally slated for Kansas, either and wasn't really locked in there until Superman: The Movie kinda made that idea a thing, and it got locked in post-Crisis.  Before that, it was more of Grover's Corners kinda place.  

Anyway, I don't... care?  I guess I do.  But it is hilarious how the show just keeps moving the town closer and closer to Metropolis.

Literally No One Is Helped By Clark Withholding His Identity

By this I mean, the first thing Clark should have done when Lois returned from the future, memories intact or no, was tell her *everything*.  This is the season where they set out to make sweet, sweet love, and if you're getting serious about someone, it is vital you tell them your real name and where you were born.  It may seem like trivia, but I assure you, if at this point Jamie were like "actually, my name is Taffy and I'm from Wisconsin" we'd have a long conversation.  Probably about the lack of cheese curds in the house, but a conversation.  

While show is ostensibly *not* a comedy, as previously discussed in other posts, like, 75% of the issues that arise are because Clark didn't tell people his deal.  Now, the show does want to punish anyone for knowing - it goes way, way out of it's way to make sure it's a problem for them (see: Pete Ross), but it doesn't seem like anyone is better off NOT knowing once they're having to endure Clark's middle-distance staring.  And certainly a huge portion of Clark's personal woes would slip away if Lois knew (including her dumb yoinking of the Kryptonian doohickey in the finale).  Like, help people make good decisions, Clark.

A fleet of unknown Kryptonians show up, and Clark, tho, is like "Hi, I'm Clark Kent, and my dad was Jor-El, and I don't know you, but I am sure you will not paint this on the side of a building."  And thus the lack of info winds up hurting everyone involved when it didn't need to be that way.

Overall, I think this was the season where they intended to get the message across that Lois is what anchors Clark to humanity and keeps him grounded, but that got lost somewhere along the way, at least as far as I could tell.  Which is a bit of a disappointment.  The show only allows Clark close attachments when people know who he is, and it keeps Lois as a problem instead of a solution.  The love-story feels more like gaslighting than the quiet nobility of a hero sacrificing something.

Clark Loves Property Damage

I do not get why anyone thought Clark needed to Zorro his emblem into, like, glass and solid steel everywhere he went.  Like, if cops tagged every place they gave out a traffic ticket, the world would not be a better place.  And there's no *point* to the property damage.  Like, great, you stopped the bank robbers, but now the bank manager has to explain to insurance and their bosses why there's a goofy S scorched into brick and concrete in their lobby, and spend money fixing the lobby.  

It's weird, Clark.  

Zorro cut his "Z" into the occasional piece of wood, villain's home, jacket, etc..  but he wasn't, like, carving into the doors of the church when he saved the poor box.  "You can thank me later, citizens!"

I suppose the idea is Clark is telling people "I'm here, I take care of business, I care and I will protect you."  But ffs, Clark, leave a business card or something.  Send flowers.  If you want to make the world turn on you, make like a 16 year old with no appreciation of the cost of anything or the headaches you're creating.

And it's not clear what crime Clark is stopping.  Burglaries?  Car jackings?  Is he entering people's homes?  I am not going to say crime and mayhem don't happen on city streets, but I mostly see Clark's busy time between 1:30 and 3:30 AM as bars close and people get into fights on the street.

I mean, at this point, Clark would probably be aware of all sorts of stuff he *could* be doing around the planet.  And that's when the rubber hits the road for reality versus fantasy.  I mean, it's one thing to stop a jerk robbing a store, it's another to go stop human trafficking or whatnot.  And this was not that show.  I might add:  that's okay.  Despite the occasional peek-a-boo adultness of the final seasons of Smallville, it was still a family show and explaining the horrors of humanity to the kids in the context of Clark Kent, wooden hero, might have been, like, a lot.  

But it also would have been nice to see as much general rescuing on the show over ten seasons as we get in one reel of Superman: The Movie.  I mean, love it or hate it, all Superman does once he shows up in that film is *save* people.  

And, to that end, I kind of love that Clark sees a struggling Zod and the Kandorian Kommandos and decides "they are not a threat, I will help them."  Applause where it's due.  That is, honestly, my Superman.  

I've never quite gotten over the thread in Superman comics of, oh, twenty years ago where Superman came to very-well-established C-List Villain "Major Disaster" and was like "my dude, I can fight you.  We can do this.  I'll probably win and you'll probably go to jail.  But I want to offer you the chance to be the best Major Disaster you can be.  How about hero'ing up, instead?"

And for *years* in the comics, Major Disaster was working on his own rehabilitation, proving he was worthy of that trust and that opportunity.  

In the end, that's more or less how our season ended.  It wasn't the best written, it could have been better, the moment meant more, but it was kind of cool to see the Kandorians see Clark had their best interest at heart, and that they could be better and not head face-first into disaster for everyone.  Anyway, that's quality Superman-ning.  

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