Post Game: Smallville 8.1 & 8.2 Reviews

Post Game: Smallville 8.1 & 8.2 Reviews

Greetings, Smallville viewers! Apologies all around for coming into this a little bit late. Starting this week we have every intention of keeping a regular schedule where new episodes of Smallville are dissected shortly after their initial airing. Since this is a new segment, feedback is welcome in terms of content and aspects of each episode that you may feel need more coverage (characters, subplots, etc.) so that Newsarama can make this an enjoyable and engaging regular feature.

This new season is significant for many reasons. For starters, precedent is minimal that a program originated on the WB network could reach an eighth season, no small feat. Shows like Gilmore Girls, Seventh Heaven, and One Tree Hill enjoyed tenures of similar length or longer, but Smallville is indisputably the CW network's (CW being the 2006 merger of the fledgling WB and UPN networks) veteran program now. It stands to reason that the ratings success, or lack thereof, will determine the likelihood of a ninth season. What's probably got Smallville making press in various entertainment publications the most right now, though, has got to be the major turnover in the starring cast like nothing they've experienced before. By the end of the seventh season, the elder statesmen of the show, Lionel Luthor (John Glover) and Martha Kent (Annette O'Toole) were phased out of the scene in one way or another. Lionel was killed by his son, Lex (Michael Rosenbaum) in one of the more riveting episodes of the series ("Descent," 7.16, Lex finally gave in to the dark side), and Martha took her role as a Kansas state senator to Washington, D.C., her farm life well behind her after being widowed in Season 5. Also absent, though there's indication that she'll turn up at least more than once before the end of the year is Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk), legendary in Clark Kent's (Tom Welling) life as "the one who got away." I think Lana spoke for most fans in last season's finale when she suggested, via a "Dear John" letter that she was holding back Clark from his heroic destiny. It is also a toss-up whether the show's biggest loss was Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor or the show creators Miles Millar & Alfred Gough jumping ship as Season 7 came to a close. Rosenbaum opted out altogether of a new season, and it made for the most questions between seasons as to how last year's finale was going to reconcile itself with a new era sans Lex Luthor. As we delve into the first two episodes of Season 8 of Smallville, we will look at the three major additions to the show that have made even the opening credits look drastically different from those of only two years ago -- heck, one year ago.

I've love to say that things get off to a brilliant start, but the transition from last May's finale and this premiere ("Odyssey," 8.1) is anything but seamless. Last season ended with Lex finally realizing that his father's shadowy Veritas cadre was protecting the Traveler, and of course that was Clark/Kal-El. Lex confronted Clark at the Fortress of Solitude with a Kryptonian talisman that was a fail-safe meant to rein in the Traveler, should he or she go rogue. In using this Kryptonian gem against Clark, the Fortress imploded and the two rivals disappeared. Cue to weeks later and neither can be found, LuthorCorp on a search mission up north to find their boss, and the Justice League scouring the globe looking for Clark. LuthorCorp's assignment is hijacked by the debut of a new series regular, newly appointed CEO Tess Mercer (Miss Teschmascher, get it?). Apparently Lex stipulated that she was to run the show in his absence, and it takes all of Lex's faithful completely by surprise. Her ability to take over was way to easy and convenient, but I have a certain amount of faith that the more we get to know her (Cassidy Freeman) the more her role will guide the story in an interesting direction. Looking past her crazy eyes, she may start out annoying with potential to grow.

Of course knowing that Lex was going to be creatively phased out due to behind-the-scenes activity, his disappearance made sense. What didn't make sense was how Clark found himself imprisoned in a Russian labor camp. Knowing how his biological father, Jor-El, has toyed with him over the years for a destiny I'm not even sure the show producers know how to map out, it's the least suspenseful aspect of "Odyssey" that Clark is powerless. They don't even try to explain Clark's relocation, and it's a theme found throughout this new episode. In their search for Clark, Green Arrow (now series regular Justin Hartley), Black Canary and Aquaman bust up the LuthorCorp search party way up north, but they don't get any closer to their goal. What does eventually bring most of the characters, good and bad, together is a newfound ability by show stalwart Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack). When we last saw her, she was hauled away by the DCU version of Homeland Security on some trumped up charges, but it was actually a ruse of Lex's to hold her in captivity to harness her green meteor-induced abilities. Only thing is, her original talent was a healing power, but when we find Chloe here in a Montana facility being used like a lab rat, she's like a human computer and able to process numbers quicker than Windows Vista. I don't even know where that change came about, and neither does she as she discovers at the worst possible time that her healing touch is no more.

But, as I said, her new skills with lots of numbers comes in handy when she unwittingly gives up the cell phone numbers of her Justice League allies, and two out of three of them end up where she is in remote holding cells. Fortunately for Green Arrow he was busy coming through and tracking Clark down in Anwherevsky, Russia -- even that plotline wrapping up before it even began -- and the two heroes were on their way back to the States with a plan to get the whole gang back together. Fast-forward a bit to Montana and Oliver, briefly under Green-K control to find Lex by all means necessary, lands two arrows in a de-powered Clark's chest, and it couldn't look more dire, especially since, remember, Chloe can't patch up Clark like she used to. Like a shining angel, John Jones (J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter to those paying attention) swoops in and escorts Clark into outer space to take a much-needed yellow sun bath to not only survive his wounds, but to regain his Kryptonian might. Deux ex Machina at its finest. Convenience aside, what I liked the least is that in no way do they address the good guys holed up in Montana again (including Erica Durance as Lois Lane, forgettable when she's not altogether useless in this epsiode) and we are left to assume that when Jones and Clark bust out and later have a leisurely chat at the Kent farm, Chloe, Oliver and everyone else escapes safe and sound without so much as another dust-up with the LuthorCorp baddies. Overall they cram a lot into this first episode and it rarely gets fleshed out as it should have. This story really deserved two or three episodes to give it all its due rather than tying it up neatly and moving on to the next chapter in Clark's life in 42 minutes, which brings us to...

The second episode ("Plastique," 8.2). Clark has finally come to the realization that he has outgrown his life in the town of Smallville, and his destiny stands a better chance of fulfillment in Metropolis. Clark took up Lois on her Season 7 suggestion to find work at the Daily Planet, and she's shocked to find that he got a plum position in news reporting right next to her. "Plastique" kicks off with Clark's first full day at work, barely out of his farmboy plaid and into a new shirt (nice shade of blue, by the way -- a phone booth??) before Metropolis' latest calamity occurs right outside the Planet office. A bus explosion has made a wreck out of a city block, and Clark's ultimate reason for joining the newspaper has come to the fore: getting instant access to news that will let him know where he's most needed. This first few minutes of relief and recovery brings together much of the season's cast, and it's symptomatic of how this episode worked where the previous one came up short. We're introduced to paramedic Davis Bloome (Battlestar Galactica's Sam Witwer) as tending to the episode's eventual protagonist (the story's titular character to DCU scholars, referred to here as Bette) who appears initially as another victim of the bus explosion. Davis also has this occasion to meet Chloe for the first time and there are sparks a'plenty between the two. Never mind that Chloe is newly engaged to Jimmy Olsen, and when she shares her news with Clark later on it's clear that neither are 100% certain it's meant to be. What promises to be a key element of the new season is the relationship between Lois and Clark. They are frequent partners now, and "Plastique" displayed what can be good and bad about the union. The less they portray Lois as a know-it-all the better, seeing as she's only been on Planet payroll for a year longer than Clark and significantly less than Chloe (who has gotten out of journalism and taken over Lana's Isis Foundation, a sort of meteor freak counseling group). The flirting can be cute, though, Lois having the toughest time keeping eye contact with Clark as he's growing up before her very eyes.

"Plastique" had all of the makings of the oft-maligned "freak of the week" theme that's had about a 1 to 1 success ratio on the series. But the creators keep things a little more interesting in that Bette is not immediately recognized by the characters and casual viewers as the source of the explosiveness. The investigative process conducted by Clark and Lois keeps the story moving at a good pace too. What also looks promising is that it appears that future meteor freaks we meet will find themselves being LuthorCorp recruits whether they want to or not. A mystery in the story early on is that the first bus victim rescued by Clark turns out to be Tess Mercer, so of course it begs the question why a CEO is taking the bus at all. When she reintroduces herself to Clark as the new head of the Daily Planet (you know, because LuthorCorp obligations can get a little boring), her BS excuse is that she's "going green," ironic in that she privately calls out Clark as a liar when his story regarding Lex Luthor's whereabouts was more truthful than her own story. We get a pretty good handle on her machinations throughout the show, especially at shows end when Bette's coming out party results in her being the latest addition to a team that will likely spell trouble for Clark & Co alter in the season. Speaking of which, for a change with their meteor freaks, Smallville actually went with an established DC property in Plastique for this episode. I hope they continue that trend. And Davis displayed at the very end of the episode what he's here for as a new iteration of Doomsday. Charming by day, not so much at night? Seeing as there is some sort of physical transformation that he's capable of, I hope it proves effective for a TV show with anything but a bottomless budget.

So thanks for enduring two episodes worth of recaps here, everyone. Starting later this week the recaps will be leaner and more specific to the episode rather than the series as a whole. Episode 8.3 looks especially cool if you fancy yourself a fan of Green Arrow. The "next week" teaser showed nothing but old school origins for the Emerald Archer (again, a series regular now), so that should be fun. What do YOU think of the new season so far?

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