Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sayonara, Smallville: "Collateral"

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.

Kiel: After weeks off...let's talk the 'Ville!

Ben: Yeah! Or rather a lower-case-no-exclamation-point 'yeah.'

Kiel: Ha! Not a winner for you this week I assume.

Ben: If only you were a betting man, sir. Truth be told, I didn't have high expectations for this episode since it was all about Chloe's return and I can't stand Chloe, but I think it still managed to underperform. I was bummed out since that cliffhanger had so much potential though.

Kiel: Yeah, I knew ZERO about what this episode was about going in, but my hope was for the action to pick up somehow rather than having the first episode back be a wrap-up of the lamest plot threads from the season.

Ben: Yeah, exactly. I'm thankful the government stuff kinda had a bow put on it so we can hopefully focus on all-Darkseid all-the-time moving forward, but it was a momentum killer. And it made me question more the wisdom of having two really big arcs like that overlapping the middle part of the season. I think they succeeded at first as they were tying the two together, but the government stuff seemed to take on a life of its own away from the Darkseid stuff and now I feel like it really knocked the season off course to an extent

Kiel: I mean, on the one hand Smallville has a knack for pushing a lot of random plot out in a small number of episodes...On the other hand, with more time they could develop the Darkseid stuff in some crazy ass ways...On the gripping hand, anything is better than another "let's try a genre" episode at this point, and this one totally was "let's do the Matrix."

Ben: It really is almost like battered wife syndrome with us and "Smallville" and hoping it will take the time to do what you said with the Darkseid stuff but knowing we'll get a multi-episode season-jack of the military somehow taking down the Justice League with knockout gas and pantsuit Alison Mack needing to save the day. Somebody on the staff at "Smallville" must be the world's biggest Matrix fan. First you get Clark's pre-pleather jacket Superman costume, and now this episode.

Kiel: I've got to say, there were little bits of it I liked. I was fine with Allison Mack in a pantsuit, really. And the two or three times they let it just be a goofball action ripoff of the Matrix, it was enjoyable. But the real problem here was that I felt I was about ten minutes ahead of the episode at all times.

Ben: How could you not be?

Kiel: I KNOW, right? Just SO MANY cliches set up like tee balls. But like I said, if they would have spent more time with crazy dumb fight scenes I would have been fine.

Ben: Crazy dumb fight scenes can save just about any episode of Smallville

Kiel: My fav moments from the episode were Chloe coming through the wall of the hospital rubber room, the Black Canary fight and when Lois has superpowers for like three seconds. More of any of that shit would have helped.

Ben: Chloe coming through the wall was my least favorite moment because it meant Chloe was back on the show
I seriously loath that character, Kiel. She was amusing in the early seasons when she was just Clark's nerdy friend with a crush on him, but the more they've built her up, the less sustainable the character has become.

Kiel: Aw, she still has a chance of dying by season's end!

Ben: It's the classic case of trying to promote the drummer to lead guitar when everybody else leaves the band but the singer. Her horrible dialogue and lack of charisma is fine when she's running the Wall of Weird, but when she's the center of the story, it falls apart. And it feels like they try to push her SO HARD.

Her just being the conspiracy nut who was kind of clever wasn't enough once she knew Clark's secret, so they had to make her this uber-hacker who can break Green Arrow's heart and order Rick Flag around like a pussy. It's just...it's just too much for me, Kiel. I think the only way they could salvage her would be to have Nick Spencer on the staff exclusively to write Chloe's dialogue. Ok...ok, I think I'm done.

Alison Mack got this part over Kristen Bell, Kiel!


Ok, I'm really done.

Kiel: Well, I understand how deep your hatred lies, but again I point you to the bright side...I think it's safe to say that the hero registration shit is well and dead now, right?

Ben: I don't know, man. Even though Slade and his female lieutenant are out of the picture, I feel like this had a lot of support built up in the government, right? And we're gonna see Senator Martha Kent next week, so unfortunately, no, I do not feel we've seen the last of registration. I think it will run through the end of the show and it will take the heroes saving the world from Darkseid to show the public they're not a menace. Which feels right as an arc, but will also probably lead to a few clunker episodes.

Kiel: I think that it'll be a very minor piece of the Darkseid background...more people yelling against heroes in the streets and shit, but with Darkseid and Luthor still out there, there's no way we'll see another soldier-type character promoted to the top by the end.

Ben: I think they'll be the cannon fodder. Because I don't think we're getting Parademons. And Darkseid needs an army.

Kiel: Oh shit! but people mutated into Parademons would be RAD!!!! I don't care if it's a line of dialogue here or there for Lois is what I'm saying, just so long as there are no more big episodes that make zero practical sense.

Ben: I hope not.

Kiel: But bah! I'm not letting this show let me convince myself they'll pull off cool Kirby shit anymore.

Ben: Ok, how about this: The military or whoever is Darkseid's goon squad until the finale until he unleashes the Parademons and Female Furies, and then the army teams up with Clark and company. Maybe? Yeah, it's dangerous to hope too hard.

Kiel: Could be. I still have no idea how the Luthor shit is going to cross over. Does Darkseid become Luthor, or does Lex show up to be the voice of humanity and help kill Darkseid?

Ben: In my mind it's far more satisfying and faithful to how the show started that Lex ultimately stands side by side with Clark one last time before they become ultimate enemies. I could more see Darkseid taking over Lionel.

Kiel: For sure. That makes as much sense as anything in "Smallville."

Ben: By the way, a lot of fucking people know Clark's secret identity. I know they had a throwaway about locking them up, but that was a pretty significant number of folks.

Kiel: And I really think that the show has to end one way or another with the establishment of the Superman status quo...so again, revisiting that idea isn't in the cards, I'd say...maybe a mindwipe will show up!

Ben: Hehe.

Kiel: Either way, that poster they released a few weeks back pretty much promised Clark in the cape soon, and I'll admit that I thought the flying seen above the Planet was kind of fun. Though again, I wish they'd just shit or get off the pot with him really using his powers.

Ben: They won't do that until the last episode if they can. The last shot. They will taunt us in every conceivable way

Kiel: God damn them.

Ben: One thing they didn't really explore here and I'm interested to see where they pick it up next week is the whole "underground" idea. Even though it was a Matrix world, Clark and Ollie seemed to still be living their lives pretty much as they normally would. And apparently by the end Tess was back operating Watchtower, so is that idea already done?

Kiel: Yeah, we got no real idea if Watchtower is still down or even what really happened to any of the other heroes...

Ben: The follow up of the shadowy figured at the funeral becoming obscured figures in glass tubes was a bit funny. Like, Aquaman, Cyborg, etc. were all totally there, just off camera.

Kiel: And I understand that they don't have the money to put Kyle Gallner in every episode or whoever else, but picking Black Canary in the spot made no sense...I must have missed an episode where she was established as interesting.

Ben: Man, she is truly the blandest of the Justice League. Have you ever seen her intro episode?

Kiel: I think I did, but I may be confusing it with "Birds of Prey."

Ben: Haha. Her whole gimmick is basically that she's Republican, if I understand it correctly (and I probably don't). They certainly seemed to hammer at that with the dialogue between her and Lois. I guess they just needed somebody there to plant the seeds of doubt as far as trusting Chloe, and she's both worked with her the least that we've seen and of course girls hating other girls always makes more sense. Impulse had a crush on Chloe, so he wouldn't have said anything, and they refuse to use the Famous Jet Jackson.

Kiel: UGH. "Can we trust Chloe?" What a shit plotline. And they didn't even let them fight their way out of it. It's going to be a gamble to see which Black actor they don't care about they'll bring back by the end...Famous Jet Jackson, Jackie Chiles or kid who never played anyone bigger than Pete Ross.

Ben: The whole "The reason it seemed like I was experimenting on you was because I was trying to help free you" thing seemed like such a blatant lie for something more sinister. And then it wasn't. Which was lame.

And Pete Ross is in prison for massive drug charges, dude. That one second shot of him in the picture frame towards the end is as close as he's getting to a cameo.

Kiel: Yeah, in my "guess what scene is coming three scenes from now" game, I kept hoping they'd throw another wrinkle in there but didn't

Ben: I hate to keep bagging on her, but I think the problem really is Alison Mack/ She can't convincingly convey subtle emotions, so her "I'm being brutally honest with you" delivery is exact same as her "This is a clever lie" delivery. And she also seems to be the sole exception to the "they get better when they're playing evil" rule of "Smallville."

Kiel: Ah, I think she's cute so I'll give her a pass.

Ben: Haha.

Kiel: Also because you hate her so I feel like she should have one supporter on the blog.

Ben: I'm sure she's a very nice person and I truly do feel bad for saying nasty things about her. We strive for better here on The Cool Kids Table.We're the one place on the Internet that will tear you to shreds but let you know we feel truly awful about it.

Fun Fact: Pete Ross made a sex tape with one of the twins Hugh Hefner was banging a few years back. One to grow on.

Kiel: I'm not sure there is anything more interesting I can add to this conversation than that fact

Ben: It's a tough one to top.

Y'know what I did like about this episode?

Kiel: Whazzat?

Ben: The 30 seconds we got of steampunk cowboy Deadshot. I really do love that guy. And I dig the idea of the Suicide Squad being the volatile wild card ally as opposed to yet another villain in a season that already has too many.

Kiel: Say...which random suicide squad member did we drop this week?

Ben: It was just Flag and Deadshot I believe. Chloe is apparently their Amanda Waller now.

Kiel: I thought there was a third in their group...a chick?

Ben: Yeah, Plastique. She was MIA. Let's assume she was getting Aquaman, Impulse, Cyborg and Stargirl to safety

Kiel: Good call!!!

Ben: Look at me, I'm the next Bryan Q. Miller!

Kiel: It'd be great if "Smallville" decided to be like "Lost" this season and just have a random episode telling the b-side of this story with the other characters.

Ben: Oh man what a great idea! I would love to see the last few seasons solely from Martian Manhunter's POV. Or Dr. Emil. I do hope now that Chloe's back we've seen the end of mopey Ollie.

Kiel: This show is built to have at least one spinoff, for serial and yeah, maybe now that he's getting some, he'll just kill a bunch of people. Or she'll get capped and THEN he'll kill a bunch of people...both acceptable outcomes.

Ben: I love that Ollie uses his voice modulator even when everybody around him knows his secret identity (which is now all the time since he went public). He's like a kid with a pacifier.


Ben: I'd love a cut scene where they're all planning an intervention for him. Or for somebody to switch it to autotune so he sounds like T-Pain.

Kiel: "Ollie, look...you just sound retarded. Even Dr. Light is laughing at you."

Ben: There's a lot comedy mileage here. And WOW! How would they do Doctor Light on this show?! He would NEED to be played by Steve Buscemi!

Kiel: More likely: a guy who once played Steve Buscemi's stunt double on an episode of "Pete & Pete."

Ben: Yeah, much more likely. Or John Waters. I think I'm about ready to bid this episode adios and move onto hopefully bigger and better. Any final thoughts?

Kiel: Nah, just that I'm totally unprepared for Blue Beetle/Booster Gold to fit into all this shit whenever that one comes up.

Ben: It's like the third to last episode. I feel like it's going to either be a total one-off or really important

Kiel: oh wow. A while then...huh.

Ben: Like it may be the last calm before the storm or it may be crucial set up. Who knows!

Kiel: Well, fingers crossed all around!

Ben: In conclusion, I'd call this a disappointing return, but hopefully just a necessary evil where they cleared out the deadwood so we can get to the good stuff. John Glover's back next week, so that's at least one pretty much guaranteed mark in the plus column. And I missed Annette O'Toole's guest shot last season, so I'm looking forward to that as well. Optimism!

Kiel: For no reason!

Ben: Totally unearned! Totally unearned! We love you, "Smallville"! Please love us back!

Kiel: Bryan Q Miller...please wear our pin!

Ben: Hehe. He's back in a few weeks too.


AdamT81 said...

I'm not so much a hater of Chloe as you Ben, but the producers really have tried to make her a catch all character in seasons past that when they add dimensions to her character now they don't really ring true IMO. I thought the episode was good for what it was and I hope this back burners the VRA subplot for a while. It also reminded me of a half-Matrix/half-Inception homage with the VRA going into Clark's mind to find out how his powers work and creating illusions of his life; and the Matrix stuff just spoke for itself

Ben Morse said...

Chloe really is a remnant of the early seasons where Clark was just a "normal kid with a big secret," and the show has changed so much that she doesn't fit anymore, the same way the Kents, Pete, Lana, etc. became out of place. I feel like they've tried to keep her relevant in a world where Clark is a proto-super hero by having her constantly "level up," but it doesn't work for the character in my opinion.

AdamT81 said...

I agree with that 100%

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