Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sayonara, Smallville Extra: I Can't Believe We Haven't Seen...

Kiel and I have not had a chance to touch base on "Booster" (or for that matter "Dominion") quite yet, but rest assured, we've come this far on the runaway train that is Smallville, and will be finishing the ride, albeit perhaps with the timeliness of a New Jersey Transit evening commute (show of hand for who got that one...thank you, Rickey).

In the mean time, here's a lazily assembled visual gallery of all the Superman/DC characters that I can't believe didn't somehow make it in some form or another into a decade of Smallville, a show that has featured, aside from their regular cast that includes Green Arrow...

...Supergirl, Doomsday, Zod (twice), Brainiac, Impulse, Aquaman, Cyborg, The Martian Manhunter, Black Canary, Zatanna, Amanda Waller, Rick Flag, Emil Hamilton (twice), Morgan Edge, Perry White, Maggie Sawyer, Mr. Mxyzptlk, Krypto (sorta), Jimmy Olsen (sorta), Bizarro, Lara, Zor-El, Plastique, Maxima, Faora, The Persuader, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Dan Turpin, Toyman, Bruno Mannheim, Metallo, Roulette, Speedy, the Wonder Twins, Icicle, Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Stargirl, the Justice Society of America, Checkmate, the Suicide Squad, Silver Banshee, Maxwell Lord, Cat Grant (twice), Deadshot, Glorious Godfrey, Darkseid, Isis, Granny Goodness, the Female Furies, Desaad, Deathstroke, Mera, Ultraman, Amos Fortune, Superboy, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle... yeah, here are some other folks they sure could have worked in:


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Forge: The Worst X-Man Ever

The title of this post implies far more disdain for the character Forge than I actually have.

Did it annoy me when he constantly said “Plasma coil charged” as my buddy Jordan and I played X-Men: Mutant Academy 2 in college? A bit. Despite Chris Claremont’s best efforts do I remain more or less unconvinced that his mutant power of being able to build cool stuff is of any use in actual combat situations? For the most part. Do I feel that fringed cowboy boots and a ponytail clash with the standard blue and gold X-Men uniform? Y’know what, jury’s out on that one.

But ultimately, I don’t have strong feelings towards Forge, and those I do have tend towards thinking he’s not a bad character with some good stories to his credit—he was awesome in Lifedeath and was actually quite a stud in my beloved Muir Island Saga—and untapped potential for somebody with a good idea.

However, simply observing objectively, he is the worst X-Man of all-time in terms of damage done to the team. Forge makes Dark Phoenix look like a drunk girl who knocked over a drink and then passed out as far as being a plague upon his own allies.

Let’s examine (and to be nice I’m even going to jump right over the part where his entire platoon died in Vietnam and his response was to go nuts, order a bombing of the area, and use a Cheyenne spell to unwittingly unleash The Adversary—I’m glossing over that):

After Tony Stark stopped making weapons for S.H.I.E.L.D. because he was a on a peace kick, Forge subbed in and designed some goodies including a power neutralizing thing meant to be used on Dire Wraiths but that Henry Peter Gyrich co-opted to de-power mutants with. To his credit, Forge wasn’t pleased with this decision—y’know, being a mutant and all—but his good intentions didn’t help Storm when she got zapped by the device trying to protect Rogue and lost her powers as a result. Forge actually attempted to romance the now former X-Man and did a decent job of it until she realized it was kinda his fault she lost her powers. Whoops.

Forge did a decent job making amends in the war with the Wraiths and even got Storm her powers back, but then that pesky Adversary, the Native American god of evil he had freed awhile back—said I wasn’t going to mention it, but just realized it’s kind of crucial—showed up to try and destroy the world. Fortunately Forge had a solution: He could reverse the spell and banish The Adversary, he just needed nine people to sacrifice their lives, and wouldn’t you know it, there were eight X-Men and Madelyne Pryor.

So yeah, Forge totally killed the X-Men. They got better, but it bears repeating: Of all the enemies the X-Men have faced over the years, only one has ever killed all of them and it was Forge.

Being the forgiving types, after they came back from the dead, the X-Men let Forge join the team, but since he wasn’t much good in a fight other than to get them killed or take away their powers, they smartly relegated him to “Mansion Support Staff”—the way you let the scrawny kid be the mascot—where he promptly blew his one responsibility and allowed Professor X and Moira MacTaggert to be captured by Magneto, who just wrenched the room they were in into space while our buddy was out for a stroll.

Years later, long after leaving the X-Men and getting dumped by Storm then Mystique then Mystique again, Forge popped back up as a mentor to some of Xavier’s younger students, like Surge, and the go-to tech guy for the team; it was honestly a great and useful role for him. Of course the poor bastard still couldn’t catch a break and was attacked by Nimrod, who revealed an alternate reality Forge had created him; the New X-Men saved our guy, but in the process he sent Nimrod back in time to menace the X-Men in the first place, creating one of their deadliest foes essentially twice (I think; it was a rad story, but truth be told I got confused at parts).

Somewhat understandably, Forge seemed to want to be left alone after this, probably realizing he was as much a danger to the X-Men as they were to him, but Bishop needed his time machine, so he gave him a concussion and took off with it. After this, our boy went a bit batty and locked himself in his house (literally).

Most recently, a completely unhinged Forge—at least partially round the bend because Storm married The Black Panther—came up with a plan to save the world from an other-dimensional invasion by sending the X-Men on a suicide mission; when they turned down that offer, he nearly blew up the planet by opening a portal, but fortunately Beast shot a big laser through it and ended the invasion threat. There was a big explosion afterward and Forge may or may not have died in what would have been possibly the ultimate mercy killing for both him and the X-Men.

In short: took away Storm’s powers, brought a ridiculously powerful bad guy to Earth, killed the X-Men, got Professor X kidnapped, created another ridiculously powerful bad guy, allowed Bishop to pursue Cable and the potential mutant messiah through time by not paying attention, tried to kill the X-Men again, then nearly destroyed the world before getting killed in an explosion.

Did I mention he killed the X-Men?

Forge: A snappy dresser, but seriously, the worst X-Man ever.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Five Comics Worth Reading - April 2011

Following Grant Morrison’s initial foray, I thought perhaps some writers might find it a bit challenging to distinguish the Dick Grayson version of Batman from the Bruce Wayne incarnation beyond the slightly tweaked costume, but for the most part I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how it’s gone down. Dick has been played as the extremely competent hero he was as Nightwing, yet with a higher level of confidence to match his new position and distinctive whimsy to perhaps combat it; few places has this new Batman shined as nicely as in the retooled Detective Comics written by Scott Snyder, which has hit on quite a few cylinders for me. Besides nailing a great protagonist in the Grayson Batman, Snyder has also embraced the book’s title with genuinely compelling—and frankly creepy—mysteries that he layers nicely with a mix of forensics and super hero stuff. Snyder’s secret weapon has also been his nuanced use of Commissioner Gordon, either as the back-up or lately star of the story, giving this stalwart a nice stage to play on and enough moral murkiness to remind you he’s no angel, just the best cop in a bad city. Having the distinctive and striking art of Jock and Francesco Francavilla certainly doesn’t hurt this title’s case either.

Since its inception, Incorruptible has been a fun companion piece to Irredeemable, telling a more lighthearted morality tale off to the side of the rampant tragedy and destruction of the parent book—and seriously, I’m not joking when I say the story about the former super criminal with the underage female sidekick named Jailbait is the “softer” side of the Irredeemable Universe. As Irredeemable has moved towards a broader story and resultantly brought some its characters over into Incorruptible, it has only made the latter title stronger. It’s quite interesting to watch what Mark Waid is doing in contrasting the heroes of Paradigm with their egos and neuroses against the simple single-mindedness of Max Damage, reformed villain; Max may have been a jerk and worse in the past, but he operates on a very simple field of “this is how we fix things” with no room for grandstanding or political posturing, whereas the “good guys” overanalyze their every move because they’re so much more concerned about keeping their images intact. The side stuff where Max is falling for his old archenemy’s girl even as she moves to portray him or putting off dealing with the trauma-fueled psychoses of his new sidekick is good stuff as well, but as ever, I just enjoy reading Mark Waid pick apart the mechanics and dynamics of what’s behind super heroes and villains.

Nick Spencer writes comics that I feel like should be too smart for me, but makes sure I get them. With Iron Man 2.0, he’s covering all sorts of political, social and economic issues as he sends War Machine into the government and around the world dealing with conspiracies and WMDs, but even though I’m more or less useless when it comes to any news items not posted on the AOL homepage when I sign in at work every morning, I’m not only getting it, but getting into it, as he’s using these building blocks not to talk down, but to create a world that resonates with stuff really going on and at the same time carves out an interesting corner of the Marvel Universe for his cast to explore. I dig his characterization of James Rhodes—a tougher character to nail down than most people think in my opinion—as a guy committed to his country, more committed to doing the right thing, driven by a sense of duty, but not a total starched shirt as you would imagine years of hanging around Tony Stark would loosen up even the staunchest military man. I like the mix of big explosions with whole issues that are just supporting characters introduced only months ago talking about other characters we’ve never met—and that issue had me riveted! I think Spencer and my buddy editor Alejandro Arbona are dead on with their assessment of War Machine needing to be not just lots of guns, but whatever the next cutting edge way of waging war is; again, it’s a smart book, but not too smart for a dummy like me. And intelligence aside, scenes of Tony and Rhodey talking like kids about their armors as toys are just plain fun.

I suppose this can be filed under “too little too late” with the book coming to an end next month, but I’ve been meaning for awhile to mention how much I enjoy Tony Bedard and Claude St. Aubin’s take on the cosmic DC Universe. They way Bedard manages a large and eclectic cast, shifting the focus every page or two and keeping things fresh, reminds me of how Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen nailed a somewhat similar premise on Legion of Super-Heroes back in the 80’s, and there are few higher compliments I can give. Bedard has once again made Vril Dox the kind of guy whose arrogance and cleverness I look forward to following—if for no other reason than to see how he’ll cheat his way out of the latest situation his mouth got him into—while on the total other end of the spectrum he writes a great smart ass and crazy Lobo while also finding nice spots for Adam Strange, Starfire, Captain Comet and the rest of DC’s displaced space stars. To St. Aubin’s credit, his clean art does a great job of making the many overlapping plots easy to follow and the action pop off the page. I should also note that their take on Starro creeps me out to no end. Pick this one up in trade!

It takes talent to mix nostalgia and continuity service with genuinely intelligent stories as well as character-driven development plus throw in a decent amount of shooting and stabbing in one book; fortunately Rick Remender is talented as well as smart with a knack for enjoying his work, so he is more than adept at serving up delicious comics stew with Uncanny X-Force. I can’t say enough good things about this book, one of my top favorites as I tear through my comics. I love Remender’s long game as he’s both playing off existing mythology when it comes to Apocalypse and also building something entirely new. I’m invested in Psylocke’s quest to save Archangel’s soul—and her own. I’m intrigued by what Fantomex is up to and how he interacts with the rest of the team. The different take Remender has on Deadpool from just about anybody else I’ve ever read is fascinating. All that aside, you’ve got Deathlok versions of the Avengers—not to mention Deathlok himself as a supporting cast member—great old school X-Men villains like the Reavers and The Shadow King coming back, and a return trip to the friggin’ Age of Apocalypse; it truly is a perfect storm and I also really appreciate Remender’s commitment to acknowledging that every single this that has happened in past stories did in fact happen and will be addressed. Did I mention the murderer’s row of artistic talent that includes Jerome Opena, Esad Ribic, Mark Brooks, Rafael Albuquerque and Billy Tan not to mention Dean White? There are few comics out there right now I am a bigger fan of—if there are any.

Rasslin' Ramblings: Draft Picks

This Monday night on Raw, it’s time for the 2011 WWE Draft, the annual swapping of stars between Raw and SmackDown—and once upon a time the yearly raping of WWECW—done to “shake things up.” I always love the Draft, and have in all its incarnations, from the mega lottery versions in 2002 and 2004, to the drawn out week-by-week process of 2005 and most especially through the template they’ve used since 2007 wherein representatives from the brands compete in matches with the winners earning picks for their side enacted immediately. For more history of the Draft stuff, I’d kindly direct you to IWantWrestling, where former WWE writer Dave Lagana has been doing some neat retrospective pieces.

Usually the Draft is a three hour long special and meticulously planned, but the buzz this time around is that it’s only the length of a typical episode of Raw and somewhat rushed, in both cases because WWE is scrambling to fill the void left on SmackDown with Edge’s abrupt retirement. Even without that element there are usually some obvious picks with this deal we can see coming a mile away coupled with a few “keep them guessing” wild cards (poor Jim Ross). I’m going to do my best Saturday evening quarterback routine and give 10 picks I think at least make sense whether they go down or not, but first…

A quick word on the brand extension: I am and always have been a fan. It seems like people have been calling for it to be abolished ever since it went into effect nearly a decade ago, but I don’t get that. Is WWE’s adherence to keeping it intact fairly flimsy with people jumping from show to show and appearing on both whenever? Sure, but who cares! Is it a bit strange that guys become crazy loyal to their show around Bragging Rights even if they were on the other brand a month earlier? Of course, but this is friggin’ wrestling—suspend your disbelief!

The fact is the necessity of having to maintain two mini-companies has led to the creation of more stars and work for more wrestlers. Have there been lean years that would have been less so had there been no brand extension? Yeah, for sure, but the tradeoff seems miniscule to me. Without the brand extension, guys like Eddie Guerrero would likely never have gotten a shot to play on the main event level. You wouldn’t have had desperation lead to the creation of a classic character like John Bradshaw Layfield. The dice would never have been rolled on somebody like Sheamus. Heck, we don’t even know if WWE’s top dogs like John Cena, Edge and Randy Orton would have been able to succeed as they have before the brand extension. And you think we’ve seen Cena vs Orton too many times already? Imagine if they were both on two shows a week!

The Draft has also proven a viable way of making stars. Traditionally, you’ll see guys who might not have gotten the time and attention to succeed on the star-crowded landscape of Raw go to SmackDown and flourish; I honestly doubt C.M. Punk would be the main event caliber guy he is today had he not moved to Fridays back in 2009, getting away from the Cenas and Ortons and getting to steal the show with Jeff Hardy for a summer. On the flipside, being put under the bright lights of Raw sometimes brings out the best in guys eager to prove they belong, with current WWE Champion The Miz—who had gone as far as he could on ECW when he got shipped to Raw—being the best example of this. You could further argue that John Cena stepped up huge when he went to Raw in 2005 and that while Edge was already a former champ when he headed to SmackDown in 2007, he became far more dominant there.

Of course, sometimes it doesn’t work. Going to Raw in 2009 more or less stopped MVP’s ascent to stardom dead in its tracks. Any momentum Kofi Kingston had at this time last year had dissipated after spending the last 12 months spinning his wheels on SmackDown. Rey Mysterio was a bust on Raw. Triple H never seemed at home on SmackDown.

We shall see what hits and misses this year’s Draft produces, but here are my picks for moves that could work nicely…


From what I’ve read, the consensus seems to be that this will be the big pick of this year’s Draft, with Orton being sent to SmackDown to shore up its star power and become the new top good guy with Edge’s departure. It makes sense as Orton is certainly a big enough deal to carry the brand and he’s only ever going to be Randy Savage to John Cena’s Hulk Hogan over on Raw, despite being arguably more popular. I’d be mildly concerned that Orton lost a step when he last appeared on the show back in 2005-2006, but he’s a far more mature and professional performer these days and I think he’ll be up to the task of helming his own show.

In his year and a half on Raw, Sheamus has accomplished pretty much everything he could hope to, and it feels like he’s run out of things to do there, so a move to SmackDown would freshen things up for him. Also, despite a relatively short WWE career, he’s a two-time WWE Champion who has feuded with top stars from John Cena to Triple H and proven himself on their level; he brings another credible A-list talent to SmackDown. Lastly, they seem to like shifting the titles around now and again, and with Sheamus being the current U.S. Champion, I believe he’ll swap places with a fellow champ (more on that later).

Assuming WWE still had a fraction of the faith they have in Bryan they had late last year, it would make sense for them to give him a run on Fridays and see what he can do with it much as guys like C.M. Punk, John Morrison, Kofi Kingston and Cody Rhodes have been afforded the opportunity in the past. SmackDown has traditionally been seen as more of the pure wrestling brand versus the entertainment-heavy Raw, so Bryan fits the bill; it’s all about whether WWE wants to give him the shot or are content with him as the guy who makes other guys look good.

After a terrible solo run on Raw during what was supposed to be his breakout year, DiBiase desperately needs a change of scenery of he has any hopes of rebooting his career and making something happen. Since he’s a second generation competitor with such a widely-respected father, I think he’ll get the chance, and hopefully he can do as well as his old Legacy buddy Choy Rhodes has.

They always throw in a Diva swap, and moving Melina to SmackDown makes sense on a few levels. First off, Layla seems set to turn babyface and break up Lay-Cool, which means the show is going to need a new female heel so Michelle McCool doesn’t have to go it completely alone. Second, but perhaps more importantly, from a cold business approach, Melina is supposedly killing the rising star of her boyfriend John Morrison, who has all the tools to be a main event guy on Raw if he can clean up his act backstage; separating the two of them may be a bit cruel, but it would also probably be in WWE’s best interests.


I was going to go with the obvious Big Show pick here, as he seems to get swapped between brands every year, but Kane actually isn’t that far behind him in that regard. Joking aside, Raw will need a babyface to fill Orton’s spot and somebody to provide a feud for The Miz aside from Cena and Morrison, so Kane fits the bill. Show seems to have finally found his niche in his current SmackDown role, but Kane has become a weird presence on Friday nights; his babyface turn after months as a sadistic villain came out of left field and it’s odd to have him on the same show as The Undertaker after their bitter feud, so best to get him away from all of that and over to Monday where he can be a solid role player.

The other half of the title switcheroo I discussed when talking about Sheamus, I’d say the Intercontinental Champion heads to Raw. Corre simply hasn’t worked and will be broken up one way or another within the month, so it makes sense to salvage Barrett by moving him away from the fallout and back to the show where he flourished throughout much of 2010. Barrett has a ton of potential, showed far more promise on Raw than he has on SmackDown, and really wasn’t around long enough to burn through all his potential feuds, so both he and the IC title would be welcome back on Monday nights.

A year ago he was World Champion, but Jack Swagger is arguably more on top of his game today, with his in-ring skills improving all the time and his angle with Michael Cole getting him majorly over as a heel in a way nothing else they tried seemed to do. He deserves another shot at being on Raw, but more than that, he should be moved closer to Cole regardless as he can either continue to leech off that heat as a prime bad guy, or turn babyface in a big way, providing another potential challenger for The Miz down the line.

This one is a bit of a hail mary, but Kofi showed such promise on Raw and has gone nowhere on SmackDown, so though a move back to the more crowded roster may seem counterintuitive, he’s got too much talent to waste so really I’d just keep jumping him until you find a comfortable fit. Also, I’ve said this twice already, but again, it’s another babyface challenger for Miz, and when you’ve got a strong heel champ you can never have too many to extend that reign as long as you can before pulling the trigger on the right successor.

Over on SmackDown, perhaps WWE’s best in-ring Diva is playing second fiddle to Kelly Kelly and will soon be third on the babyface totem pole below Layla as well. Beth belongs on the prime show where she can feud with the likes of Eve and the Bellas until the dream match between her and Awesome Kong can go down.


-They’re going to be tempted to move Cody Rhodes to Raw, but they need to fight that urge; he’s growing into a star at the perfect rate on SmackDown, and he belongs on Fridays until he’s completed the transformation.

-I wouldn’t be shocked to see R-Truth head back to SmackDown as it would seem the better testing ground for his new heel act, but I figure they’ll feud him with John Morrison first, so he probably stays put.

-For a bit I had Drew McIntyre in Swagger’s spot before ultimately going that direction, but I still think he could rise to the occasion if moved to Raw and actually make a decent babyface if they wanted to go that route; ditto Justin Gabriel.

-Conventional wisdom may say that Sin Cara should be moved to SmackDown because it’s taped after blown spots in his first couple matches on Raw, but I think keeping him and Rey Mysterio on separate brands until they’re ready to do something worthwhile with them remains the smart move.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sayonara, Smallville: "Kent"

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: I'm actually excited for this as so far my "every final episode should move the needle" paid off this time!

Ben: I took notes!

Kiel: OK, so you get the ball rolling. First note...

Ben: Do you want to start off big picture or details?

Kiel: Details...let's not blow it just yet.

Ben: OK. Let's start from the start with Lois and Clark getting the deed to the farm.

Kiel: Weird plot thread, but I liked it because I actually had no idea where they were going with it. I thought they wouldn't write the farm out of the show, but they've blown up so many other locations lately, I couldn't be sure.

Ben: I'll start with a nitpick, since that is how I roll: Didn't Clark just enroll Conner in Smallville High last episode and then he shipped him off to Washington DC, in the process sticking his powerless mother with a teenage demigod with half Lex Luthor DNA? And who's to say we didn't see Lionel this week because he was in Washington DC stealing back his "son" from the woman he spent years lusting over? Bad move, Kent. The floods in Bangkok have nothing on your own lack of longterm planning.

Kiel: Yeah, you wished they either tried a little harder to make the disappearance of certain characters make sense or just ignored their existence completely like they've done with Kara.

Ben: Back to the deed, we'll get more into the larger implications as we go, I'm sure, but like you said, it was another step in moving the needle from Clark to Superman. He can't be Superman if he's living anywhere but in the heart of the people, which is certainly not Smallville. It was a nice touch having Ma be the one to get the ball rolling on this bit of maturation and then Pa in a way finish it off as it allows the Kents to impart one finale lesson before we finish the show.

Kiel: Yeah, I REALLY like the stuff with Pa Kent this time out. Not only was it a solid performance, but it was one of the few things we've gotten this season from Smallville that was based in real situational drama and not just beating you over the head with a simple metaphor. I also really liked that they went back to a final scene for him and alterna-verse Martha. No reason to put that in but emotional impact, and they nailed it.

Ben: It was a nice capper. And the whole Earth 2 (can we call it that?) section showing that really Clark did as much for the Kents as they did for him was a nice touch. Whether it's intentional or not--let's choose to believe it is--I've really enjoyed how the last episode and this one have upped the ante on presenting Clark as a mature adult finally, first as the older brother/father to Conner and then here as the son who has grown enough to actually guide his dad as opposed to only being guided.

Kiel: 1 - Yes, Earth-2 really is the only way to refer to this. 2 - Agreed on Clark. And it's not just that the character has matured up...Welling has really brought it of late. In particular, Ultraman Clark was GREAT this episode. Very restrained and smarmy and evil in a believable way.

Ben: Well, this is probably the last time we'll get to say this, but as we always note, Tom Welling plays a decent good guy, but a way better bad guy. I hope he gets an opportunity to play some full-on villains in his post-Smallville work aka next season on "Hellcats."

Kiel: HOLY SHIT SIDE CONVO: Did you see the promos for the zombie episode of "Hellcats"? In my mind, that show is "Community" for cheerleaders, but I can't bring myself to watch it and be disappointed.

Ben: At the beginning of this TV season, myself, Megan and our friends Jordan and Chloe looked over the fall schedule for a show we could watch together knowing it would be so bad it's good and we wouldn't mind talking over. We picked "Hellcats" and have not once regretted that decision. I can't wait to watch the zombies episode. If you're looking for a show you can enjoy making fun of, I highly recommend Hellcats. But don't watch it alone, it's only good with a group.

Kiel: Noted! But back to the episode: another thing I thought was winning about Evil Clark was that this wasn't a one-off episode the way a classic meteor freak bit could be. It actually worked to be relevant to who our Clark is now and did it nicely.

Ben: Ultraman is a great adversary for Clark and I be they're kicking themselves for not introducing him earlier on (or they should be). If you look at him and at Earth-2 Pa Kent, both shared the thread of being cautionary tales to Clark about how he could turn out, and in both cases he not only righted himself but helped them in the process, which felt far more like Superman than Smallville Clark. I did feel a bit cheated out of a full-on Superman vs Ultraman fist fight though.

Kiel: Yeah, the one real knock on this outing is that I'm ACHING for some full-on superhero action. I really hope the finale isn't all close-ups and tearful farewells.

Ben: It can't be. It CAN'T be.

Kiel: Although after this week, if that's what happens with Tess, I'm IN.

Ben: How has she kept that cleavage hidden for three seasons?!

Kiel: I KNOW!

Ben: I brought it up way too many times for a show I was watching with my wife, but COME ON.

Kiel: But also in less "hubba hubba" terms, this was the best they've done in playing up that "Are you a Luthor? tension. I felt she could have gone either way up until the end, and's because they didn't beat us over the head with it.

Ben: I'll be honest, I never bought her turning. Not because of any great flaw in the acting or script, they've just made such a big deal of that character running from that past that I couldn't see her doing a 180 in one episode, even though that's pretty much Smallville protocol. I never got the sense that she wasn't just terrified and telling Ultraman what he needed to hear.

Kiel: True that I didn't think she'd turn flat out, but the reality of the situation made it feel like self-preservation might kick in for me.

Ben: I was actually a bit disappointed by the revelation that she's apparently crushing on Clark if only because it seems such an obvious route to go down and one they had nicely avoided up until now.

Kiel: But the chemistry worked have to admit it!

Ben: With Ultraman? Sure. With our Clark? I have my doubts. Plus it's a weird revelation so close to the finale and with Clark and Lois so set in stone. If it's just setting her up to sacrifice herself to save Clark in the final moments, that will feel unearned to me.

Kiel: I really hope they find a few ways to twist the finale around with characters like her and Chloe and other "non-canon" folks. To me, the more complicated this thing goes out, the more entertaining it'll be.

Ben: We've said often that the non-canon folks will just be cannon fodder in the finale (see what I did there?) but I think I'd be more interested to see some less obvious endings to their stories.

Kiel: For sure! But yeah, the only other thing that I wanted to note from this week – and it's another pet topic of ours – is how much Erica Durance crushed it in her brief dual role this week. When Ultraman was like, "Let's get rid of this star gazer crap" I LOST it, man. Her face was so perfect.

Ben: That scene was awesome! She was great in it. And I like that after ten seasons characters on Smallville are finally catching on that if a friend or loved one is acting weird, they are most likely possessed or an interdimensional doppleganger or something. It happens weekly to all of them, so you think they'd be more paranoid, thus I liked that both Lois and Tess realized what was up more or less immediately.

Kiel: Yeah! It's weird. I was talking with Nick Spencer (oh I'm so cool on CBR) about his influences on "Morning Glories," and he mentioned the influence of "Scream" and how characters in situations like this should just KNOW what the tropes are in some ways. "Smallville" wins that idea through long term development more than pop culture, but the idea is the same. You have to acknowledge the ongoing plot tropes in a show like this at some point, otherwise you lose credibility.

Ben: We'll see if it was just a one episode deal or not since even with only a few weeks left I'm confident there will be at least one more case of identity theft before the series ends. How long did it take for Clark to figure out something was up when Lois was Isis again?

Kiel: At least 15 more lines of dialogue than he should have.

Ben: Maybe it's more that Lois and Tess are just smarter than Clark, Lana and Chloe, all of whom were consistently clueless when something was up. I remember there was some point during the middle seasons where Lana was possessed for some reason one week and was a total bitch but never apologized for it and then Clark was a dick because he was on Red K or whatever the next week and when he did apologize she didn't accept. Drove me nuts, Kiel. I'm glad she's not coming back for the finale. I said it.

Kiel: Yeah! It's so funny how no one is crying out for her return in fan circles either.

Ben: They got their Lex fix, they're fine

Kiel: I can't tell if it's the performance people don't want back or if it's the tabloid take on KK that has turned everyone off.

Ben: All of the above. Lana Lang was always meant to be a placeholder. At this point Erica Durance has blown her out of the water in every conceivable way. There's no need for her. Lex never got replaced, thus the void remains and demands to be filled.

Kiel: Totally.

Ben: It's the same way Ollie is 100x cooler than Pete so there's no outcry for the producers to pay Sam Jones III's bail to get him on work release for the finale.

Kiel: HAHAHAHA! I always forget about him in general and his crazy conviction, but I love how you're always there with it.

Ben: It's my crowd pleaser. So to wrap things up, I actually didn't mind that they did beat us over the head with the moral this week as it was a good one, that being that Clark needed to learn that people matter more than places/things, obviously another key lesson on the road to becoming Superman.

Kiel: Yeah, the tail end was a nice emotional capper to what was really a crazy sci-fi episode. A good solid start to the final five. I'm just wondering where the bottom will fall out in this run. Fingers crossed!