Friday, November 12, 2010

Sayonara, Smallville: "Ambush"

[Programming Note: Things got a little crazy during Halloween, but we haven't forgotten our favorite decade-long superhero drama. Look for back-to-back installments of "Sayonara, Smallville" this week! - KP]

Incredible but true: This year, The CW's "Smallville" embarks on its tenth and final season, making it not just the longest-running Superman TV show ever but the longest-running comic book TV show ever produced. Bananas, right?

To celebrate its final year, we're teaming up our collective powers of dumb DCU trivia, long experience watching and writing about the show and general obsession with serial TV to bring you "Sayonara, Smallville" – a semi-regular feature where we'll review the most notable episodes of the season whenever we can. Everyone is invited to play along.

Kiel: So when we left this we were talking about sex, right? Something like that?

Ben: HaHA! was actually pretty amazing that nearly getting caught having dirty outdoor sex by Michael Ironside didn't really even faze them. It was a funny gag, but they didn't bring it up again, they just moved onto being awkward about other stuff.

Kiel: it was a really awkward episode. I liked a lot about it, but they never really found a way to mix the humor with the heartwarming this time around, which "Smallville" is usually good at.

Ben: I blame a lot of that on the fact that despite both turning in good performances, Tom Welling and Michael Ironside never really seemed to click and find that chemistry. They're both good in these roles, but the magic should have come out in their scenes, particularly the last one, and I don't feel like it did. Have you seen the respective first appearances of Sam and Lucy Lane on Smallville? I have not.

Kiel: I did. They were both played up as bigger moments back in Season 4 when Lois was shiny and new and everything about her character was revelatory. I can't say this with 100% certainty, but I'm betting Loeb had a lot to do with those threads at the time. Anyway, the takeaway from those episodes was that General Lane is a tough love kind of guy who roles into Lois' life at odd times as accompanied by a tank or some absurd shit (she, of course, loves him but is frustrated by him) and that Lucy is the bad girl of the fam who is always running away from responsibilities, so in general this episode addressed both those takes. In fact, I'm surprised they got that much "longterm mileage" out of this ep in that respect.

Ben: I thought the General was a far more effective character than Lucy. Maybe Lucy was better in her own episode, but she was clearly second (or really fourth) fiddle here.

Kiel: No yeah, she and Lois reconnecting was horned in to an episode already packed with stuff.

Ben: It also seemed the whole time like she was hiding or something or had some ulterior motive, but she didn't...she was just kind of a brat.

Kiel: But coming back to what you were saying, I think that the real problem here with Clark and Sam was the early scenes setting a bad precedent. Like, Clark gets a cell phone call from Ollie, and he just looks right in the general's eyes with an "oh shit!" look? I think they were trying to play their first interactions for laughs when Clark should obviously be ready to make excuses for day-saving at this point in his life.

Ben: Like I thought her hitting on Clark was part of an agenda to test him or whatever. And I couldn't follow at all why she took the pen out of the General's pocket at Lois' apartment. I thought she knew something. But clearly I put far more thought into Lucy Lane this episode than the writers did. Yeah, it was definitely two steps back for the Lois and Clark team in this episode as they went from foiling the crazy cult a week earlier to not being able to even try and assemble a decent cover story here. I get that it's for laughs, but it also undercuts the dynamic still being built there. Providing cover stories for Clark is a perfect way to demonstrate how Lois helps him be Superman in a way nobody else can. She's quick-witted enough to be his shield, so to say.

Kiel: For sure, ultimately I think this ended up being an episode that was about Lois and her bigger character issues at the expense of the Lois & Clark relationship, but that's got to be expected from time to time.

Ben: That said, I liked the General not only because I like Michael Ironside, but because he presented the reasonable side to the "vigilantes are bad" argument as opposed to bubble head Cat Grant or Darkseid-fueled extremeist Godfrey. It was nice that Clark/Blur saving his daughter helped him see the other side, but he didn't totally cave, and of course this will hopefully ultimately be another contributing factor to why Clark stands apart from other heroes as Superman. Could I have done without another episode ending in Clark getting a lecture on heroism/morality? Yeah, if only because I thought we got that out of our system and it felt like a step back, but it did actually build the larger arc rather than feel tacked on like, say, when Kara gave the sermon.

Kiel: Agreed. This episode in a weird way made me notice how much they've been making Clark and Ollie feel right only because everyone who stands against their point of view is either EVIL or STUPID. It's like a Daily Show the same time, I would have thought for sure that at one point in the season, we'd get a DC anti-hero showing up who would be like "I will kill villains because that's what I feel is right" but I think that might be an argument that's stronger against Clark's way of behavior, if that makes sense. Also: I can't think of who that DC character would be.

Ben: Azrael!!! Oh man, if fucking Azrael were on this show...But yeah, I think in presenting General Lane as a rational and credible counterpoint to Clark and Ollie and even one who swayed Clark a bit, this episode did good work, and that's what I was saying last week about the show handling civil liberties better than it did religion. Also, to compliment that, having Rick Flag be the extremist extension of Clark and Ollie was also charitable in a good way.

Kiel: Yeah, it was.

Ben: Having Darkseid and the Suicide Squad as the two extremes with characters like Ollie, General Lane, etc. as the middle ground but still slightly to the right or left presents a nice spectrum for Clark to eventually place himself in the dead center of one would hope.

Kiel: It sets up a credible and engaging problem for the end of the show: not only does Clark have to decide whether or not to take his heroing public but how to make that work for the public, which is not as easy to answer with "Because I'm an awesome hero, that's why."

Ben: This was definitely a good building block episode in that regard, and it certainly helps that Michael Ironside doubles nicely as perfect in the roles of both terrifying father-in-law and gruff mentor figure. Thanks, Mr. Ironside! Y'know what I was missing though? Lois really did need a nice full-on yelling scene where she spoke up against her dad and declared her love for Clark as opposed to just the single tear and dramatic declaration. That feels more like something she would do.

Kiel: Yeah, maybe that vulnerability quality we were talking about last episode swung too far in one direction here. It's hard because they don't give you much for how her relationship with her father is supposed to work. For example, I could NOT figure out why she would care so much about her daddy's opinion on things beyond a general "it's my family" excuse, which was a failing here. Still, feel like I'm picking at nits by pointing all that out.

Ben: I was hoping you'd have more of a handle on that dynamic from seeing the first General Lane episode, but I guess it just wasn't very well-defined. Oh well.

Oh, and they blew The Talon up. That was kinda a big deal, right?

Kiel: Oh man! I was going to of my favorite bits of the episode! First and foremost, that set had long outlived its usefulness in the show since it moved mostly to Metropolis. It's essentially been "the place where people hiding from villains sleep" since Season 7 or so, and I never was too fond of Lana's "My parents are dead, but I can still run a business" plotline to begin with...but beyond all that, it's an early "last season" moment. A sign from the producers that they've got the ability to dump stuff that is part of the comfortable nature of a TV show out the window now.

Ben: Yeah, definitely. The goodbye to the early season baggage has begun, the march towards full-on Superman status continues. Beware, Kent Farm.

So hey, this may have been the first episode ever where I actively disliked Ollie.

Kiel: Really? What was it?

Ben: I never liked his relationship with Chloe because I don't see the characters together at all, but since she's begone and whining about her absence has come to pretty much entirely definite him as character, he's just been getting more and more irritating to me and this week was the breaking point. It's such a waste of a good character and actor when all he does is pout over the "love of his life" who he dated for a month being gone

Kiel: I mean, this is the first week we had a tangible piece of the Ollie/Chloe relationship to justify that kind of talk: the watchtower as "their place," and I thought this example of that stuff worked better than in past episodes, but as a cumulative effect, it's been pretty awful, yeah.

Ben: You're not wrong, but Watchtower giving him a legitimate excuse to just go full-bore on the "I miss Chloe" crap just made it worse for me. It dialed everything I've been loathing about the character up to 11. And his final acceptance of Tess had no impact when they just did that two weeks ago.

Kiel: yeah, it was like this was the best example of a bad scene we've had too much of this season, although it felt like they wanted us to look at this one like they'd turned a corner off of that thread for now. Fingers crossed.

One thing I really did like about that scene? I know these are fake, non-brand beers they're drinking, but the cans the actors were holding looked like some crazy mix of High Life and O'Doul's...either way, two billionaires drinking that shit is funny to me.

Ben: Haha, yeah, that wasn't bad actually. Ollie brought a shitload of Chinese food too. He should have brought chili.

Kiel: Oh, he so should have brought chilli!!!!!

Ben: Has there ever been a Green Arrow chili gag on this show?

Kiel: I don't think so.

Ben: That seems unfortunate. I mean, J'onn used to leave Oreos at the scene of where he killed bad guys. They could certainly work in Ollie making chili.

Kiel: The more we discuss this stuff, the more we should pass a note on nerd bits they must include by show's end to the producers somehow.

Ben: Totally. That's one! Oh, I forgot one thing: Why did the General not call Lois out on the fact that she basically makes her living writing pro-vigilante editorials or that she dated Green Arrow?

Kiel: Yeah...I noticed that and then turned my brain off. I...I got nothing for you, bro.

Ben: Ha! Good place to end.


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Bryon said...

I’m really going to miss Tess, and I know that the blow of loosing her too will be a huge crushing blow to Oliver. Perhaps loosing all of his ties will help him move on to be the hero he needs to be. He really created a terrible situation but never intended to continue as a hero, but now he’s stuck. I have to admit that I have been busy for the last 9 months enough that I wasn’t able to keep up with some of my favorite shows. My absolute favorite being Smallville I figured it was better to wait until I could watch them successively because there are long periods of time I can’t watch. Well I finally started watching them and I can’t stop. The only saving grace is that now I have time since I got my new Sling adapter for free that I use with my DISH Network employee account. If I hadn’t heard about the free offer I never would have tried the Sling that allows me to watch TV on any internet enabled device like my iPhone or Galaxy tab. said...

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