Friday, January 28, 2011

Sayonara, Smallville: "Icarus"

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?

We've been off as it's been off, but 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.

Holy lord, we never got a chance to post this on the holidays, but after the totally rad "Luthor" episode, there was one more blowout Ben and Kiel chatted up. Catch up below before the latest new episode hits tonight.

Kiel: FIGHTING! This felt like a "mid-season finale" to me, if that makes sense.

Ben: Dude, it totally does. I was understandably skeptical about how this episode would compare to the greatness that was "Luthor," but seriously, it really held up well in a totally different way. It was good shit. And yeah, it really drew a line in the sand about the opening ceremonies being over.

Kiel: Yeah, I think two things really crystalized for me in general in this one: first, that the show is different than something like "Lost" because since a sizable chunk of the audience already knows where this stuff is going (i.e. Darkseid) they can dole out a lot of the key info over several episodes rather than saving it for here...making this finale one big ass beating.

Ben: I get you: this was not an episode about revelations. It was about fucking action.

Kiel: Second, I've gotten to the point where I've just stopped caring about the silly plot holes that jump out at me. I still think the whole "Patriot Act as pure evil" thing makes zero sense practically, but now I'm just kind of enjoying the obviousness of it.

Ben: Agreed on both. It's still a dumb plot, but if the writing, acting, etc. is good enough it doesn't bother me. I can't believe Lois & Clark got engaged in the cold open!

Kiel: OK, well let's talk about that for a minute...did it work for you?

Ben: It did work for me. I love the fact that after nine years of teased out bullshit when it comes to Clark's personal life, this season has been all about an accelerated courtship. It's been a refreshing change of pace. We spent so much of the first half of this season with both of them learning how important the other is to their mutual success and happiness, that I dug the way it just happened and she said yes right away. It made sense to me. We've heard all the reasoning and so have they, so no need to drag it out any more. And they were both so them in the moment.

Kiel: The build up of the whole scene was really cute, and I liked it, but killed me when he actually proposed. I mean, why did Welling put on his "Big Hero Voice" to actually ask? I felt like any moment, some crazy hidden camera show was going to pop out

Ben: Haha. Yeah, that was a fumble. But it was a funny fumble in a well-executed scene.

Kiel: I agree. It was like a strong B+

Ben: They covered it. I have a lot of respect for Tom Welling, but there are certain things he just can't pull off; this was one of those things, so they smartly let Erica Durance and the storytelling carry him. I was cool with it.

Kiel: And I also really liked the Watchtower party scene!

Ben: The Watchtower party scene was great for a number of reasons. First, it was just funny and tender, but second, it didn't shy away from the ridiculousness of Lois having her big heart-to-heart with Stargirl of all people because they're girls and Alison Mack isn't ready to come back yet.

But mostly just the writing and interplay was funny. Green Arrow and Hawkman's banter was tremendous! And I have to give credit that I honestly couldn't tell if Tess was just being a bitch or planning a surprise part at first. Well-played, Cassidy Freeman.

Kiel: Green Arrow and Hawkman in the whole episode was fucking killing it. SO GREAT. In some ways saved Hawkman for me as a whole. I mean, I thought dude was all right before, but he was really great here. And yeah, I didn't see it coming either, which is nice in this show.

Ben: Hawkman was the MVP of an already great episode. I don't know if we want to talk about him now or circle back, because I have plenty to say there.

Kiel: Well, before we get to it, let's start on the hero registration stuff because everything about it was fun for me in that "so bad it's good" way. For one, I almost died when Slade's goon squad showed up, and they were dressed like straight up Nazis. It was some Hitler Youth shit with ZERO pretense.

Ben: And in case we forget later, it NEEDS to be mentioned that Hawkman retconned Darkseid into being responsible for Hitler. You really can't beat that. And the Spanish Inquisition, but mostly Hitler.

Kiel: I love how they've just used the fact that we as an audience know what Darkseid is to let the heroes make ALL the right assumptions about who he is and what he's doing.

But the #2 thing I loved about that whole plot thread was the scene where they shut down the Watchtower. Like, when they had the party scene, I was thinking to myself "Where is Black Canary?" because I thought she was supposed to be showing up around now...And then they had her on the monitor, and I laughed so hard when Clark was like "I'm shutting it down" and BOOM! he pulls the voltage switch with no warning. I imagined here back in her apartment like, "Fucking Comcast dropping my WiFi!"

Ben: HA! That's pretty much word-for-word what I was going to write.

Kiel: Also: side note. Wasn't it sad that when they had the most wanted poster of all the heroes, they had ever JLA member except Cyborg Poor The Famous Jet Jackson.

Ben: And that dude has also never been back since the Justice League episode, so either he's been turning them down or they've got beef.
Either way, I'm not expecting Cyborg to save the day this season. Was Martian Manhunter on there? I just remember seeing Impulse and Aquaman.

Kiel: Oh man, they forgot Jackie Chiles too!

Ben: The lack of Martian Manhunter this season has been a tremendous disappointment. Maybe they're saving Cyborg for the "Raven" series.

Kiel: Well, I have to go back and look at this, but in that funeral scene at the end, it LOOKED like Cyborg was one of the fake guys who was "there" but they didn't show his face. I know I saw Aquaman and Impulse there for sure.

Ben: I've read there were "fakes" in that scene, but I totally missed it. I thought it was Black Canary and Lois up front, Clark and Ollie in the middle, then Stargirl wherever she was and that was it. If it means they need to open in January with Alan Ritchson and the kid from "Nightmare On Elm Street" passed out with everybody else though, I'm game. But yeah, Hawkman's 1940's racism extending to his funeral invitation list is disgusting.

Kiel: HA! Wait...was Beaver from "Veronica Mars" in "Nightmare on Elm Street" too?

Ben: That or "Friday The 13th"...I think I'm mixing them up. One of the big ticket remakes. He was also on "Jack & Bobby." He was on like every show I was watching for a bit.
Kiel: He's become quite the horror movie kid. He's coming up in Kevin Smith's "Red State." Anyway, the third thing I loved about the anti-hero plot was the fight scene where the mob comes after Ollie. It was kind of a standard attack scene until that moment where dude just reaches down and picks up a brick, and then it was like the biggest "Shit Got REAL" moment of the season.

Ben: Yes yes, absolutely. It was a brilliantly paced and choreographed scene. I kinda goofed on the opening scene where there was all of a sudden a curfew that wasn't there the episode before and the heroes had been declared terrorists, but then during that scene I came around to the idea of Metropolis going from being just kind of tense to full-on crazytown that quick was both appropriate and eerie in the right way.

Kiel: Sure. and like I said, I could complain about how the scenes with the lady who interrogated the hero allies were kind of undramatic or how the Cat Grant turn was pretty forced, but the whole time I knew big fun action was coming, and all the rest of that stuff was just there to set that up more, which I could easily go along with.

Ben: Exactly. Though I actually didn't find the Cat turn forced.

Kiel: Really? I didn't think it was poorly acted, but it was just so fast to me.

Ben: I feel like it's been established that she's a lot of bluster with a good heart and felt like Lois' argument was really convincing. Obviously you're not going to devote THAT much screen time to the salvation of Cat Grant, but I think hitting the big point of her being saved by a hero and bringing up her kid felt lime enough.

Kiel: See, I REALLY wanted Lois to say "Remember that time your car exploded? That was the Blur" or some such thing, because the whole "you've been saved before" thing was the one plot hole that did take me out of it,

Ben: And I think Lois appealing to her ego and letting her feel like part of the gang made sense. She seems like the type of girl who just needs to be told "Ok, you can hang out with the cool kids." I feel like she railed against vigilantes as much because everybody else who loved them treated her like a spaz as anything else.

Kiel: I guess I'm just realizing that because of this convo...this is like TV therapy. That's a good point! You're winning me over on this on, Borse!

Ben: With the "The Blur saved you" stuff, again, I felt like Lois kne deep down Cat was fully aware of what happened there--she's not that dumb--she just was holding back admitting it for whatever reason. She didn't need to have it explained to her, she just needed to be forced to acknowledge what she already knew.

Kiel: No yeah, that makes sense. I'm going to have to go back and watch that scene again...and not just to hear Cat's heavenly voice again.

Ben: I can't believe we devoted this much space to Cat Grant for an episode where we have so much else to talk about!

Kiel: Move to what's next on the docket!

Ben: I'll take a second to mention that for an episode that really was all out action, there were some incredibly funny lines.
Pretty much anything with Green Arrow and Hawkman, like we said, especially Hawkman trying to use a computer.

Kiel: And I'll also say that the moment they shared when Hawkman was talking to Ollie about Chloe was not just funny but a great character moment for both dudes. But I also hope that on the "Serious" side of things, we get more on the "We've gone underground" front. That's a great direction to take the heroes in as the Darkseid stuff gets cooler, even though it is an old trope.

Ben: I'm skeptical about "Clark Kent going away" and us not getting scenes on the farm or at the Daily Planet. I just don't see that happening.
I see Ollie going underground with the guest star of the week and Clark checking in on them.

Kiel: That could be cool too! They really are burning down some of their biggest sets this year, which as we've discussed makes it feel more like a final season.

Ben: I think the biggest change will be they just don't use Watchtower. I hope we get X-Force-style black ops variations on their costumes. Though I guess for Smallville that's just like black t-shirts or something. They'll look like emo kids.

Kiel: YES! Sex and Violence!

Ben: Sex + Violence

Kiel: Apologies.

Ben: Forgiven.

Ben: I want to talk Slade and then I want to talk Hawkman.

Kiel: The two coolest elements of the episode, even though they only had one big scene.

Ben: So you feel like Michael Hogan redeemed himself as Slade in this episode?

Kiel: I think he was MUCH better. I don't know that in the end it really makes me think of him as Slade (that's Ron Perlman), but I won't look back on him as a total failure.

Ben: I didn't feel like he did much, to be honest. And what he did didn't wow me. Maybe just because I've never seen BSG so my expectations for him were totally based on hype. But he felt like just another dude.

Kiel: Actually compared to BSG, he was awful. It's so odd how material can lift up actors sometimes It may be that I just felt EVERYTHING was an improvement from last time...good delivery, better dialogue, a cool look to him

Ben: Like anybody with a gravely voice could have played that part. Yeah, he definitely looked cool and I did like his dialogue. In fact, you may hate me for this, but I absolutely fucking loved the "I'm beyond death's stroke" line. I'll admit I totally giggled all giddy.

Kiel: I saw on Facebook that that line was coming and was expecting to hate it, but he pulled it off!

Ben: Yeah, actually his delivery of that line elevates him for me

Kiel: But damn, the fight was cool, right?

Ben: What I didn't love was him explaining the whole Icarus metaphor of him naming his big plan that (and that the episode was called that) and then Hawkman plummeting to the ground with burning wings. It was self-explanatory, dammit! Make your viewers read a fucking book! Yeah, one of the best fights on Smallville period, and it was between Hawkman and Deathstroke!

Kiel: No yeah, they didn't AT ALL need to spell that out, but even though I still think Hawkman's costume looks dopey, when the wings are out it works much better, and the sword Vs. mace thing was well choreographed even before they got to the "holy shit" moment. Shot well the "Smallville" action style but stylized just enough to heighten the better elements.

Ben: I'm actually kinda pissed because Hawkman biting it was spoiled for me before I watched the episode, but the fight still worked for me.

Kiel: oh man! That's so sad! We've been talking about who's up for the chopping block for a while on this last season, but I never expected Carter.

Ben: I think a big bonus as well is we're so used to Clark just hitting dudes or using his powers with all the CGI, that a down and dirty mace vs sword fight with no real effects was a cool change of pace. It worked though, because he was the one guy who really knew the score, who had been through this before, and him getting taken out makes things even more dangerous, but it also gave him the chance to pass the torch to Clark in his last scene, and Michael Shanks had done such a good job all episode that it really meant something when he did that. It really was the Golden Age giving way to the Silver right there. And it didn't feel like Clark losing another father figure, which would have been played out, it felt like his coach or idol going down

Kiel: And I liked how they tied it back to the Lois and Clark relationship at the same time. It really has become a show about both of them as they've moved towards the marriage, and we've discussed before how much I think Superman as a concept works as a partnership story of man and wife.

Ben: Absolutely.. And if there's any other DC hero who can get that, it's Hawkman.

Kiel: I can't recall exactly, did they ever explain when this most recent version of Hawkwoman died?

Ben: I think what I liked most about "Smallville" Hawkman and how Shanks pulled him off was the way he played him so grizzled and honestly sick of it all on the surface, like he was really just ready to fucking die and see his wife already, but you saw that glint in his eye or little smirk and could tell part of him really loved that these kids were picking up a legacy he laid down and he dug being out there with him.

Kiel: Yeah, the gruff stuff didn't play for me earlier on, but he found some depth in the character since the Isis episode, and that got me on board

Ben: I really loved how his death scene was really not a sad moment for him, but a happy one where he both knew he was headed towards a reunion with wife but also that, despite the horrible peril the world was in, he was leaving it in good hands. In short: Hawkman's endorsement meant a lot to me and really gave Clark some cred moving forward. Getting back to your question, if I recall correctly, they established that Hawkgirl was a casualty of the JSA/Checkmate war recapped in the two hour episode last season.

Kiel: So...the ending. What do you think the light means for the heroes next and for the second half of the season?

Ben: I have NO idea. Seriously..Caught me completely off guard.

Kiel: My theory: METRON!!!!!

Ben: WHOA! Would not have thought that at all, but it would be awesome!

Kiel: It would be pretty sick, bro.

Ben: I would love if we get some good guy New Gods to kick off the second half. I was sure we'd go into hiatus on a pensive shot of Clark on a rooftop holding Hawkman's chest symbol or something, so I liked the swerve cliffhanger. But even if Clark just has a quickie spirit vision of New Genesis then they all wake up, that would own.

Kiel: I mean, it really feels like a lot of the issues we've been talking about in this column – the Clark and Lois relationship, the registration act, Clark fighting his darkness – have all been wrapped to SOME extent with this arc. Lex is still hanging out there, but I wouldn't want that to die out. So my hope for the next half is that they really embrace the New Gods shit for a while

Ben: I feel like the way they ramped everything up here to the point of forcing the heroes underground it needs to be all balls to the wall from now until the finale, no more room for one-off gimmick episodes. That said, I'm sure we'll get a few.

Kiel: Clark's never switched bodies with someone in this show!

Ben: Are you joking?

Kiel: Kind of...I'm assuming they've actually done that, but I'm forgetting it because of blandness

Ben: I know Geoff Johns' episode is a Booster Gold/Blue Beetle guest shot, and I'm not quite sure how that will fit in the tapestry.

Kiel: yeah, the Booster stuff will be REALLY interesting to see how it works out. Maybe they'll see a future where "Darkseid Is"?

Ben: Hmm, that would certainly rock. I tell you, Kiel, right now for the first time I'm getting bummed this show is ending! It only took two really good episodes in a row, but I'm there.

Kiel: Yeah, the goal line is in sight, and it's a sad thing. But I kid you now that you owe it to yourself to go back and watch the better parts of the first four seasons.

Ben: I mean, I usually always feel that way when a show I liked is headed toward the finale, but it didn't click in here until now, maybe because I never quite gave Smallville enough credit to realize I'd miss it some day.

Kiel: Jami said to me the other day while I was watching "I miss the old Smallvile where they were in high school" and I found myself agreeing with her even though I like this new iteration.

Ben: Since Megan actually looks forward to the show now, I'm gently trying to nudge her towards some sort of marathon, but I don't see that day coming.

Kiel: But yeah, I feel you. After ten years, we're taking it for granted that we've had a legit superhero show on TV for this long.

Ben: I would like to revisit, but I feel like it would be more fun with somebody who is seeing them fresh. It's true. We really didn't know what we had until it was (almost) gone.

Kiel: Still there's some left! January 28th isn't far away!!!! [Editor's not: it's actually right now, stupid.]


AdamT81 said...

Cyborg was in last season's finale, "Salvation" and we now have to wait another week for new episodes because the CW sucks

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