Friday, February 25, 2011

Sayonara, Smallville: "Masquerade"

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: On to the most recent episode...Bryan! Q! Miller!

Ben: Yeah! And he didn't disappoint! Desaad! And...other stuff! I'm trying to recall what you missed in the first ten minutes. Where did you come in?

Kiel: I don't know for sure. Chloe and Ollie were already on the trail of Desaad, so I'm assuming I missed some murders for sure and I hear I missed something about Clark's photo getting taken?

Ben: Ok...Episode opened with Lois bitching at Clark over the phone because he's not there to help with wedding planning, then she sees that he's on the face of Big Ben because some camera caught him and now every network is video streaming him, but fortunately nobody gets his face.

Kiel: OK...that makes more sense than what played in my mind on that score.

Ben: She then cautions him about the fact that he's not only a journalist on the frontlines of the super hero stuff, but also doesn't really make much of an effort to hide the fact that he's a super stud and sooner or later somebody is going to put two and two together. Meanwhile, Chloe meets Ollie at a fancy dinner joint where he is undercover because he can't go out in public since everybody knows Oliver Queen is Green Arrow. And as a result, they can't get a table, but when a Mr. and Mrs. Jones no show, the swipe their reservation. Then they're eating and the waitress comes over with Mrs. Jones on the phone, assuming Ollie is out with a mistress (Chloe) and Mrs. Jones screams a bit over the phone before getting murdered by Desaad.

Side note: There's a bit in the open of the club scene where it's all first person camera view with people's jaws dropping and head swiveling, the implication being that somebody super hot has entered and gotten everybody's attention...and it's Chloe.

Kiel: HAHAHA! How did you respond to that turn, Ben?

Ben: Hey man, Alison Mack is cute...but c'mon. She's the attainable cute nerdy girl, not the room-silencing bombshell, which is perfectly fine. Anyways, Ollie and Chloe figure out something is wrong and try to investigate by stealing the Jones' limo, but then get kidnapped by guys who turn out to be the FBI, as the "couple" was really a pair of FBI agents investigating Desaad who went missing. Were you watching at this point where Ollie and Chloe discover this after kicking the FBI team's collective ass?

Kiel: YES! It was such a strange moment to come in on, but I will say first impression was that the whole set up of them getting "Date Nighted" seemed a little crazy, but I thought they pulled it off. If your number 1 complaint against the two of them is that the love for her thing is forced on Ollie's part and bland on her part, I think the two of them proved you a little wrong here. They were crackling in this one, and the dialogue was cute by any standard.

Ben: I think this was Alison Mack's best episode in years. And yes, I felt their chemistry particularly in the final scene bought back a lot of my annoyance over how the relationship has been handled over the past season or so. For one, whether he intended to or not--I choose to believe he did--Bryan Q. Miller actually addressed the whole "This Chloe is nothing like the Chloe we started out with" thing and that made me feel better about it to some degree. And I'll buy the idea that part of why I couldn't invest in them fully was because Chloe wasn't either, and her reasoning was sound and defined the character in a much more flattering light for me.

So yes, Bryan Q. Miller is a miracle worker: He made me tolerate Chloe (for a week).

Kiel: For a week. It should be noted. But yeah, that plot thread was really strong throughout. When Chloe gets captured and they cut to her hanging with her toes just off the ground, it hit me like whoa. Again, Desaad remains the New God whose been pulled off the best in this whole run.

Ben: Strangle he's not that much like the comics Desaad, but again, I think that's generally a formula for success on Smallville: Focus on keeping the character's most key traits and fitting them into Smallville rather than trying to get them to match the comics exactly even though it's a different ballgame. Desaad's defining traits are his sadism and loyalty to Darkseid, both of which were kept intact despite him being British and smooth as opposed to a creepy old crone. It's similar to how they didn't try to make Granny Goodness an Ed Asner-voiced joke because it just wouldn't have played right on live prime time TV.

Kiel: I love Asner Granny though, I should note. But I take your point totally.

Ben: I do too! But it wouldn't work here.

Kiel: The one slip up I felt in that thread was a really unfortunate case of Smallville's explaininess cutting in.

Ben: Oh I think I know where you're going here...And I was just about to go there myself.

Kiel: After the Clark disappeared, I got that it was the different sins coming temp her. And I was totally down for seeing them show up, but Chloe's total ability to call them in advance and know so much about herself rang false and got preachy. It reminded me of a Star Trek episode I watched recently in a bad way.

Ben: Yep. Bingo. I mean, aside from me not having watched that episode of Star Trek recently I'd presume...

Kiel: Unless you're in the middle of DS9 Season 3!

Ben: Smallville does have a tendency to talk down to their audience in that way and it can be annoying. It was the Icarus metaphor deal all over again. Just let the viewers piece it together. As I refuse to lay any blame at Bryan Q. Miller's feet, I choose to believe that was an edit from somebody else.

Kiel: It seems like that style of writing is a top down concern, for sure.

Ben: Let's circle back to the Desaad/Chloe/Ollie stuff, but also take a moment to tackle the running Clark/Lois "You need a fucking disguise" subplot. I loved it. Again, as with Super Chloe, it was Smallville/BQM addressing something *everybody* complains about head-on and handling ti nicely, I thought

Kiel: See, I want to watch that whole part again. I got the broad strokes, but I felt like I wasn't paying enough attention. I couldn't tell if Welling nailed the acting nerdy bit as much as I'd have liked him to. I really like him as a leading man in general, but his range needs a little more playfulness in it at times.

Ben: Moreso than Super Chloe, really, since people have been questioning how the fuck people aren't supposed to know that ultra handsome and confident Tom Welling Clark is Superman at day's end. He didn't pull off the acting nerdy part quite yet, but that's the beauty of it: He didn't need to and doesn't need to by the end of the series the way they set it up. Lois has to totally argue all episode that he needs the nerdy Clark secret ID and he's still not onboard until events conspire all around him to convince him otherwise. So the idea that he knows he needs to do it, but doesn't really want to and thus is easing his way in totally gives him carte blanche to suck at it at this early stage in the game.

Unlike the Clark/Superman we know, this guy has already made it to Metropolis, bagged Lois and aged to adulthood without ever really having to hide how awesome he is, so the idea that it's going to be a huge adjustment for him and not an easy transition worked for me at least Although the Planet guy no longer fearing Clark at the end because he is now wearing glasses despite the fact nothing else has changed was a nice wink.

Kiel: Yeah, it was comical in the right way. I almost kind of went, "Why in the fuck is this even here?" but like the ass hole coffee guy scene in Miller's last episode, it was just a kind of wink at the audience, and an appreciated one.

I think my one big problem with the whole VRA plot was that it took itself way too seriously.

Ben: That was certainly a big part of the problem. The bit at the crime scene with the guy basically playing the audience and screaming at Clark "We all know you're The Blur! It is fucking obvious!" and then getting saved with the cheesy CGI was also playful in the right way, I thought. I think at the end of the day you just need to kind of accept that Tom Welling's Clark Kent is not the guy we know from the comics. He's similar, but he's not as much of a paragon of virtue and can be a bit of an asshole with an ego. He's a character on a prime time soap first and a super hero second.

Kiel: Yeah, the one thing that kicks me out of this show every time though is that name. For some reason, The Blur just doesn't do it for me. Even though I know all the names that I do accept on the show are stupider, it never seems to fit the world right to me.

Ben: I think it was actually easier to swallow when everybody else didn't already have their proper super hero names and were all just going by their real names. But now that we actually have Green Arrow, Supergirl and Aquaman as opposed to Ollie, Kara and A.C., it stands out that we don't also have Superman.

Kiel: Yeah, I'm falling more and more into the "just get there" camp, but if they keep up the cuteness with the last bits falling into place, I think I can swing it.

Kiel: Though before we shift to cuteness there is the question of the episode's end.

Ben: Quite the game changer. And not one I was really expecting.

Kiel: I knew that it was coming from the second we cut to Ollie beating up motherfucker in the alley, but I thought this was just understated enough to work

Ben: Yes, as soon as he was beating up Desaad I had a feeling, but before this episode I would never have pegged Ollie as being the guy they'd need to watch out for going over to the (forgive me) dark side. It makes sense though. Dude killed Lex Luthor.

Kiel: Yeah, and just like last week's flip on Lionel showed, the show is really proving that they'll make you guess to see how the finale works out. The lines are going to be drawn in all sorts of crazy directions, and I hope that'll make it exciting.

Ben: Ollie being a wild card makes for some interesting potential to be sure. He's the one guy Clark has thought he could trust through it all, so that's going to sting, of course. And it also makes me believe even more Chloe probably ain't coming out of the finale alive. But I see Green Arrow as being more of a herald for Darkseid, not his vessel

Kiel: For sure.

Ben: I feel like we're going to see him and Lionel as the lackeys and Lex coming back to team with Clark against them.

Kiel: I just think that once big man is here, the battle lines will literally get drawn through the cast.

Ben: Yes. And it will be awesome...I hope.

Kiel: I watched Shawshank last week...hope is a powerful thing!

Ben: Haha!

Ben: Hey, random question: Since the VRA is dead, does that mean the Suicide Squad basically has no further reason to exist? Are they done? Or is Chloe more likely just holding them in reserve as cannon fodder until the final fight.

Kiel: That's a great question. I can't imagine they're just going to abandon them hat out of hand, but who knows? They definitely aren't showing up next week!

Ben: What's on tap for next week, Kiel?

Kiel: Oh man...did you not see the preview? I can't even spoil it for you, bro. You'll have to see to believe. But I will paste it at the bottom of this post this week to pump you up.Non-spoiler: Jami watched this week with me, and when the preview came on, she turned to me and straigh up said, "You have got to be fucking kidding me."

Ben: I think I did somehow miss it. Is it the one in Vegas?

Kiel: YES! It looks SOOOOOOOOOO ridic! I was wondering when the groaner comedy episode of the final season was going to show up, and now I know for sure in my heart.

Ben: I've read about that one. I am excited! Swinging from a quality BQM episode to a ridiculous campy one is Smallville gold!

Kiel: It's going to be something, I'll give it that.

Ben: Thought that just came to me: Adrianne Palicki should really show up before the season ends so they can bridge the gap of how she went from being fake Kara to the villain of "Mercy Reef" to Wonder Woman. IT ALL NEEDS TO FIT. AND THEY NEED TO TELL US WHAT STATE METROPOLIS IS IN. OK, I'm done.

Kiel: Here are two questions of seriousness on that fake joke bit though: 1 - Did they even call Kristen Kreuk about coming back for an ep? 2 - I can't believe they didn't once try to squeeze Bruce Wayne in here. I wonder if they still got shot down on that.

Ben: 1-I'm sure they did and I'm pretty sure she said no for reasons that will be forever beyond me. 2-I've got to believe they were denied legal clearance. It has to be a rights issue. I'm sure they wanted to. Millar and Gough have said as much.

Kiel: With the "Creation of DC Entertainment" you'd think this shit would be getting easier, but maybe not. This was our best closest chance to seeing a live action World's Finest. We won't get another for 20 year if ever. Bleh.

Ben: I think DCE probably came about too late in the game to untangle the ball of yarn that is DC merchandising rights in time for the end of this show. Maybe they'll appear together on Wonder Woman or on Raven--coming next fall to The CW. Hopefully featuring the Famous Jett Jackson in a recurring role.

Kiel: Oh God, I don't think I can handle any serious thought around David Kelly's Wonder Woman right now...I'm...I'm perplexed by that entire endeavor. No other word to describe it.

Ben: My mother is excited for it, which isn't necessarily a good sign.

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