Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sayonara, Smallville: "Fortune"

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: Well, I don't know, man...coming into this episode my bar was set pretty low, and I think they managed to hit even lower than that. It just felt like a total waste of an episode to me.

Ben: I will parry your thrust by saying I thought it was the definition of a throaway episode done right! There are two types of "Smallville" I enjoy: When they succeed in spite of themselves and when it is so bad that it is comically good, and this was certainly the latter. I will take delightful trainwrecks like this over middling episodes that take themselves too seriously like, say, the Aquaman/Mera episode, any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Kiel: I guess? I just couldn't enjoy the comedy of this episode. I hate when actors play drunk because there's almost NEVER a time when they appear as real drunks act. And as for the crazy "Hangover" twists, I just wasn't bowled over by "There's a lemur who eats chips!"

Ben: So bad it's good, bad it's good. I truly did feel like most of the actors sensed they were way out of their depth and decided to genuinely have a good time with it. Like that final reel of all the goofiness screamed to me "Tom Welling isn't even going to try this time, he's just gonna goof off with his friends," and after a decade of this crap, I felt like he had totally earned it! On the flip side you had somebody like Justin Hartley who totally has the chops to pull junk like this off and basically showed he could be a poor man's Bradley Cooper if he so chooses.

Kiel: I will say this as a way of getting into the specifics of each character this week...Hartley CRUSHED it in drag, man. I lost my shit when he was shimmying. That was honest humor.

Ben: Oh man, total highlight. He owend that scene. It was the first time in a long time I felt like he showed why we fell in love with that character/actor. And hey, he was great in his genuine scene with Chloe at the end too. But yeah, whether it was the drag thing or waking up with Lois or whatever, Hartley was the guy who felt like he didn't see this as a throwaway episode or if he did he was determined to show he could still bring it. He's a funny dude. The humor with watching Tom Welling is that he's not very funny and thus makes a good straight man, but Hartley has comedic chops.

Kiel: Yeah, I think the difference for me is in the performances as much as the writing, though I thought the script should have given some more business for folks to do than look at shit and go "Wacka?!?" a lot. One thing I also really liked about the ollie/Lois thread was that their hair seemed to remain slightly messed up as the show went on, unlike Clark and Chloe who just got perfectly quaffed before going out on the case. the third scene in, Chloe looked like a backup singer in a Tiffany video with that bob and those fingerless lace gloves

Ben: Well they were newly married, Kiel. They had an obligation to show they were committed to making the relationship work past the honeymoon. You'll understand some day.

Kiel: Will I? ;)

Ben: I hope you will, my young friend, I hope you will. I already have you Smallville-themed gift picked out.

Kiel: Oh God! No hints! I want to be surprised!

Ben: Let's just say Kristin Kreuk is easier to book for weddings than season finales and move on. So I guess the "serious" thread of this episode was Lois feeling like she can't live up to Clark's expectations because he's "perfect."

Kiel: At this point, she may be easy to book for bachelor parties.

Ben: I'm not going to spoil the surprise.

Kiel: So...Ollie we liked. What else stood out for you as charming?

Ben: "Tess needs to sing more...and smile more." And those are actually quotes from her number one detractor, Megan. She has a really nice voice. And wikipedia revealed she and her brother have a band, so there you have it.

Kiel: Good for her!

Ben: But in general, I like her more when she's a bit sunnier.

Kiel: I think the song and dance number worked as a piece by itself all right, but EVERYTHING around it had me going crazy. Even with my "Smallvile suspension of disbelief" thrusters to full, I could not stop going "But...How?" Examples: how in the world did Emil get a job headlining a club as a fake Elvis impersonator? How did those Japanese girls find out about him so quickly? How did they get fucking T-SHIRTS of his show one night in? And how in the hell did the two of them continue to forget who they were well into the next morning?

Ben: Aside from the Japanese fan girls, who are superhuman in their ability to make and propagate pop culture even in the real world, anything that didn't make sense in this episode I chalked up to Zatanna's magic and called it a night. Magic champagne can have a buzz that stays with you while into the next day. Speaking of charming and the result of magic champagne (TM), I actually rewinded and replayed Clark drunkenly running into the corner of that building several times on my DVR. Best comedic use of FX maybe in the history of the show.

Kiel: Yeah, good timing for the FX animation crew at least!

Ben: What else was charming? Honestly, the whole viewing of the video at the end was pretty feel good for me. I liked how even drunk Clark did the right thing and saved that security guard. Actually, Clark might be ten times more likable if he was drunk all the time while heroing

Kiel: Oh wow. I had like one of those "American Idol"/so awkward I had to look away moments during that...especially when it came to sexy time with Tess and Emil. I hate watching people be embarrassed, Ben! Why is it such a huge part of pop culture now?

Ben: Probably because the Internet and social networking has erased all semblance of privacy if you want to get deep.

Kiel: WHOA.

Ben: I know..."Smallville!"

Kiel: Well, here are two things I will say for this episode: one, I'm glad to see that they used a Justice League villain for funsies, even if it was a villain I had to look up on Wikipedia.

Ben: You didn't know Amos Fortune?

Kiel: I looked through bro's Comic Vine appearance chart, and he appears in one comic I own in which I have no recollection of him.

Ben: Man, he's a classic Silver Age JLA villain. Brad Meltzer would have your head

Kiel: I'm going to come right out and say it...ALL CLASSIC SILVER AGE JLA VILLAINS SUCK BALLS.

Ben: Most JLA villains suck. Because there is no villain big and bad enough to fight the JLA. The best JLA villains are teams.

Kiel: possible exception is maybe Despero, and he didn't get cool until way later.

Ben: He was also the villain of that massive JLA Classified/JSA Classified crossover Steve Englehart wrote while we were at Wizard.

Kiel: And I remember that Englehart crossover from Wizard only because you and Brian Cunningham sat around one day trying to convince yourselves that it might be really good somehow.

Ben: It's not like the Silver Age Avengers where their bickering/egos are supposed to be the actual villain that allow Kang or Ultron to kick their asses. The Silver Age JLA all got along like the best friends ever AND were super powerful, so no one villain should be able to touch them.

Kiel: I really love Silver Age DC for its wackiness on a character-to-character level, but that JLA book was the greatest concept ever with the lamest execution. It didn't get any fun until Denny briefly wrote it.

Ben: JLA is my least favorite Silver Age comic because all the characters have the same personality and even the same power levels (Green Arrow will just have arrows that allow him to do whatever Superman can do) so it reads like the laziest book ever. Silver Age Superman and Batman are goofy enough to be fun, FF and Spider-Man are actually good, blah blah blah.

Kiel: I also genuinely love the John Broome GL and Flash comics.

Ben: But yeah, Amos Fortune is a lame villain and didn't really match up with the guy on the show other than that they're both evil casino owners, so why not.

Kiel: Exactly right! I'm all for the point of Smallville being "If there's a DC character we can use here, let's do it."

Ben: This of course gets into the question of how Metropolis has legalized gambling, an issue near and dear to my heart as my father-in-law was in the casino business for years. It's really really hard to get legislation to allow legalized gambling passed unless you have indigenous Native Americans in the area. But at least now we know what Senator Martha Kent spends her time doing!

Kiel: Gots ta get that cheese up if you want to get reelected,,,BUT! This all reminds me of what my point 2 was going to be: Can you believe that this was the episode where they let Chloe drop the Wonder Woman and Batman references???

Ben: Oh man, I was hoping we'd get around to that! But yeah, there's really nothing much to say but "Wow." Just the idea that in her half a season of not being on the show she somehow found out Bruce Wayne's secret identity and maybe made her way to Paradise Island is...yeah. Again: There is nothing Chloe cannot do.

Kiel: I'm also completely curious as to this whole "I'm going to Star City" thing. Is that just an out to get Ollie into normal Green Arrow mode eventually? Could those two have a happily ever after?

Ben: There were a lot of ambiguous things I didn't quite get this episode, that being front and center. I also have no idea what Clark and Ollie were talking about re: rings in the Men's Room (I thought Ollie was going to propose to Chloe), but obviously that's less important. Yeah, I guess the idea is that Chloe is off to Star City, they're married and will presumably reunite if she doesn't bite it in the finale. And hopefully we don't get mopey Ollie for the rest of the series again. Instead we'll get evil Ollie, but I digress.

Kiel: For sure. But I guess the last thing on the episode is the Lois and Clark stuff? Honestly, I felt like this was a manufactured plot thread even for a throwaway episode. Wedding jitters I'd get, but after the sweetness of the proposal, there was nothing saying "We need to make sure these two are dedicated to each other!"

Ben: I gotta say, I'm really disappointed with the arc trajectory of Lois this season, and I blame it primarily on the writers. She was such a highlight at the beginning of the season, really kicking ass and showing why she's the one Clark needs to be Superman. But ever since they finally got together and really since the episode with her dad, she's been shoved to the background, and it seems like whenever the writers remember they have to use her, they come up with the weakest plots that always just make her seem like a neurotic bride. They were doing a great job of showing why Clark + Lois = Superman early on, and now she's getting to seem like more and more of a nuisance. It's a regression from the John Byrne era to the Silver Age.

Kiel: At least we didn't have to sit through a ton of episodes where she's "just so doggone sure that Clark is the Blur...but how can I trick him into admitting it?"

Ben: Right, exactly, that was part of why the early part of the season was such a pleasant surprise, because they blew through that way quicker than we expected, but after the awesome back-to-back endings of them dancing in the barn and them in the mailroom after he reveals his ID, what have we gotten? She was almost a stronger character when she knew but was letting him get to revealing it in his own time. Now we get her quoting Samuel L. Jackson from Pulp Fiction, launching a viral video campaign or crawling after her engagement ring in a ten minute "chase scene."

Kiel: I guess my problem is that as a character, everything she wants is for Clark. We never get a real idea of what she wants to accomplish on her own terms. She's rudderless.

Ben: Agreed. Totally agreed. We could really use a nice Lois-centric episode right about now, but I don't think we have time.

Kiel: Yeah, overall I'm just waiting for full blown Darkseid stuff to hit. I don't care about anything else in the show except that because I know whatever character sendoffs they want to do they can thread through that big story.

Ben: Actually, can I be totally true to form for a second?

Kiel: Yes.

Ben: I think the last few episodes which in large part had the uber-arc of "This is why Clark needs Chloe" probably undid a lot of the good "This is why Clark needs Lois" stuff from earlier in the season. Because now all the stuff since the return from hiatus has positioned Chloe as being the key figure Clark needs to be Superman and Lois has receded further and further into the background. Chloe has gotten multiple end of the episode barn scenes about how important she is while Lois has gotten zip. Chloe is the driving force behind him being a hero, Lois is "just the love interest."

Kiel: That is a solid theory. I'm curious to see what they evolve Chloe into as they get ready to sign off, but not as curious as I am to see Darkseid punch Clark in the face.

Ben: Haha. If it were the type of thing I was inclined to do, I'm sure I could find a deeper meaning in why the episode more or less began with Chloe in the wedding dress and how it means on some level Clark/the producers want her to be Lois. I'll throw one last thing out there that segues into next week's episode: Where was the conflicted clone demigod they've been keeping in the barn during all this time?

Kiel: Holy shit. I didn't even think of that. Maybe he was getting high and playing XBox like most teenagers?

Ben: I made the assumption based on the end of "Luthor" that after the Luthor Mansion blew up he and Tess were living on the Kent Farm. I know we'll likely get an actual explanation next week, but that's certainly been nagging at me this week and last. And even if they're not, since Tess is the sole person responsible for keeping an eye on him, who the fuck looks after him and makes sure Lionel Luthor doesn't come back and clone nap him when she and every other person who knows of his existence is busy getting drunk on magic champagne and doing Elvis covers?

Kiel: Now you've got me wondering if any of them will reference this drunken night in future episodes. "Alexander...put the knife down! I didn't forget about you, I was just sleeping with your doctor when he was dressed like The King of Rock N Roll. It's a long story, OK?"

Ben: Is it still too late to get you on the writing staff?

Kiel: I may be moving to Vancouver, but not that soon,

Ben: Hopefully they'll be starting up the Superboy series around then.


Jason Kerouac said...

Ben, I see what you're saying about going all in (see what I did there?) for an episode like this, but...

This season? In the midst of everything else they've got going on? THIS is how they use one of their last hours on television? FAIL.

If they want a light-hearted diversion episode, they ought to get one through Blue and Gold. If that's not how that's going to play out, fine, but... this just felt like a total waste to me, when there's so much they COULD have been doing (see last week's episode).

Kiel? I'm with you on this one, sir.

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