ComicsAlliance Recaps ‘Smallville’ Episode 8.17: Hex
Love it or hate it, the “Smallville” TV show has been one of the most popular mass media adaptations of a comic, reaching millions of viewers each week with stories of what Clark Kent’s life was like before he became Superman. Now, we’re marking its passing by having ComicsAlliance’s Chris Sims and David Uzumeri, two guys who have never actually watched the show, watch and review every single episode of the tenth and final season.
Chris: This week, the CW took Thanksgiving off and re-aired “Ambush,” the pretty forgettable Smallville Meets the Parents episode, so Uzi and I decided to take a look back through the archives for a round of Smallvillains Classic!
David: This week, we saw Season 8’s “Hex,” starring Serinda Swan (no seriously, that’s her real name? Because she already sounds like a Spider-Man or Batman girlfriend) as Zatanna and written by current Batgirl writer Bryan Q. Miller.
Chris: That’s right everybody: Smallville Zatanna. And it’s fan-friggin’-tastic.David: This is what I wish Isis was, man. It’s the fun, stupid romp done right, and the difference is all in the script.
Chris: While this episode centers largely on Chloe, a character that we’ve barely seen in Season 10, we still somehow manage to avoid seeing a whole lot of Allison Mack this time too. It all kicks off at her birthday party where, feeling a little disappointed with how her life has turned out, she wishes she was Lois. Of course, she makes this wish in front of Zatanna, and if you thought Smallville was above dropping a Freaky Friday riff on you, you may want to stop reading this review right now.
David: The best part about the Freaky Friday riff is that it’s only a half Freaky Friday, since Chloe becomes Lois but not vice-versa. There’s a pretty great twist to the duration of the magic, but I’ll let Chris get to that later.
Chris: Right. Lois is conveniently in Mexico for the duration of the episode, so that when Chloe wakes up in the body of Erica Durance — and I’m taking the high road here on that set-up — she actually gets to pretend she’s the genuine article. Plus, we get to see Durance display what I can only describe as her “Chloe Face.”
David: Chloe also just straight-up dresses in her regular clothes in Lois’s body, so everything is entirely too tight, once again proving Smallville‘s dedication to mixing Superman with base titillation.
Chris: No kidding. Would you say this counts as one of Smallville‘s Many Costumes of Lois Lane?
David: Does it show her cleavage? Then yes. Somewhere in the Smallville Fortress of Solitude plus ten years, Clark’s just gonna have statues of all of them in the Hall of a Thousand Loises. A.k.a. “Damn, bros, look at my wife!”
Chris: I want to go to there. Anyway Despite being a little freaked out, Chloe decides to make the best of a cliched situation and actually pretend to be Lois, which leads to some genuinely hilarious back-and-forth sniping from Clark.
David: I actually really liked Clark in this episode, especially later, but it’s like not constantly interacting with Lois allows him to breathe as a character. I wonder if that comes out more in earlier episodes, but I have a feeling it’s more likely Lana just takes that place.
Chris: Really? Because I felt the interaction with Chloe/Lois was the real strength of this one. For the first time, I felt like we had an actual reason for Lois to fall in love with him other than Smallville’s apparent ongoing plot of having her hook up with every dude in a cape. Clark was assertive and funny, he figured stuff out, and while he moped and whined about having to be Superman, it was actually pretty in character.
David: Yeah, but then it wasn’t Lois, was it? It was Chloe.
Chris: Well he didn’t know that.
David: The fact that Lois didn’t run over everything he said, as she usually does, was what got him a chance to actually speak and voice opinions.
Chris: When you put it that way, yeah. I can see it. But again, I liked that he clearly came off as frustrated by the fact that “Lois” was so flustered at first. It really speaks to Lois’s character that Clark’s just completely used to her being the Intrepid Reporter of the pair. Which, again, is something the script handles beautifully. Bryan Q. Miller makes no bones about it; Lois’s life is awesome.
Chris: I seriously laughed out loud at that. In fact, I laughed out loud more watching this episode than any other, even the ones I liked.
David: Even the references were smarter, you know? When Chlois is walking out of that car to tell the random crazy end-of-the-world screaming dude that he’s being Sophoclean, I mean, I never thought I’d see Sophocles dropped up in this piece. I mean, this was a corny episode, but it was corny in a very, very self-aware way — yeah, we’re doing the body switch episode, what the hell of it?
Chris: If you watch that scene again, there’s a great moment where “Lois” drops the line about “a Sophoclean Town Crier” where the cop she’s talking to looks at her like she just said the dumbest thing he’s ever heard, and that’s great.
Chris: It really is a product of self awareness. Like they’re telling us “Yeah, we know Chloe says dumb stuff, but that’s because she’s Chloe. Nobody else can get away with that.”
David: Yeah, Lois also looks ridiculous in those ugly-ass hair-clips as well. To be fair, though, everyone on this show has an exaggerated personality. I love how we still haven’t seen a single episode with Pete Ross or Lana Lang.
Chris: I’m pretty okay with that. Back to the plot, though, believe it or not, there’s a point to all this: Zatanna was at Chloe’s birthday party trying to talk to Ollie about getting what essentially amounts to her father’s diary back after Lex Luthor bought it from an estate sale when he died, which you have to admit is a pretty Lex Luthory thing to do.
David: Yeah, it totally is, and this leads to a Standard Modern Fantasy Book-Finding Subplot until they finally track down Zatanna.
Chris: Which is when Miller’s script adds a plot twist by having Zatanna grant Clark’s wish, which — at the time — is that he only had to deal with being Clark Kent rather than the responsibility of Superman. So not only do we get Chloe in Lois’s body and Ollie trying to track down a magic book, but we have a Clark who has no idea he has super-powers. And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Tom Welling sells the hell out of it.
David: On top of that, we discover the only way to get out of it is to WANT to get out of it, which leads to a great scene where Lois is like “yeah, well, I don’t want to be Lois anymore!” and… kept being Lois.
Chris: Well honestly, Uzi, if someone came up to you and said you had to be one of the characters on Smallville, you’d pick Lois too. Well, before last week you would’ve. I’m pretty sure now you’d be more than happy to be Aquaman.
David: I dunno, man, Mera might not be worth having to become a fish hippie.
Chris: In either case, it all leads up to a scene where “Lois” takes Clark up to the roof of the Daily Planet building and attempts to beat him with a pipe, which is when it enters the full-on range of wish fulfillment for me and Uzi. I would tune in to watch Lois Beats Clark With A Pipe every week.
David: Also the scene where Chlois tells Clark he’s a superpowered alien and to please believe her, and he just tears the handle off of a locked door and goes “what I believe… is that this door needs BETTER MAINTENANCE!”
Chris: It’s seriously like a really clever sitcom about super-heroes broke out in the middle of an episode of Smallville.
David: The thing is, a lot of it is the dialogue. Like, I can totally see how this episode was by the same dude who wrote that hilarious Dracula 3-D issue of Batgirl. The story in itself is somewhat promising, but he really nails the execution for the most part. And that rooftop set gets reused later to mystifying effect, as well.
Chris: Yeah, once Ollie recovers Zatara’s book from Lex Luthor’s Raiders of the Lost Ark-esque warehouse — during which time he decides it’s too dangerous and tries to burn it in what pretty much amounts to a total dick move on Ollie’s part — Zatanna tries to use it to resurrect her father by sacrificing her own life. Which inexplicably happens on the roof of the Daily Planet.
David: That was an absolute WTF moment for me watching it. Why, of all, places, did she choose there? The #1 most likely place where she’d A) be seen and B) be stopped?
Chris: I honestly wonder if Miller had some sort of insane logic for that sequence in the original draft. Like, some crazy Nostradamus quatrain from one of Zatanna’s ancestors about how “thee myracle of returninge thy dead soulf to true lyfe must happyn ‘neath a modeled globe.”
David: I figure they ran out of sets, honestly. I mean, it’d make way more sense to do it at… Stonecraft or whatever the name of her place is. Ravenloft. Shadowkeep?
David: Shadowcrest. Man. That sounds like the name of a place I should be throwing my controller at.
Chris: Since you said Ravenloft, it’s got me wondering: Has Smallville ever done an episode with Dracula?
David: If so, did he shoot vampires out of cannons from the moon? If Smallville did Dracula, it’d turn out that Dracula was, like, Drak-Lah, escaped time-travelling Phantom Zone convict.
Chris: I would not be opposed to that. Seriously, Smallville: The dude is public domain. Get on that while there’s still time. Anyway, Chlois ends up convincing Clark that he has super-powers and his desire to save lives makes him want them back — or, in the show’s logic, not want to not have them — so he’s able to save the day.
Chris: Also, Chloe turns back into Chloe for… a reason of some kind.
David: She realizes that her day is totally a pain in the ass and that she doesn’t actually want to do that on the reg, I guess.
Chris: Also, Green Arrow and Zatanna end up making up, and to his credit, Bryan Q. Miller manages to go an entire script without ever once having Ollie make a crack about fishnets. Well-done, sir. We know it was hard to resist.
David: Well, they did flash to an actual Black Canary in the Watchtower scene. The same scene where Bart Allen looks like he’s starring in a Kevin Smith movie.
Chris: Oh, right! I almost forgot about that when, in the overarching plot of the show, it’s probably the most important part: Chloe decides she doesn’t want Lois’s life after all and puts aside her dreams of being a reporter so she can run the Watchtower, becoming the show’s first analogue for Oracle.
David: She’s accompanied by what sounds like the Quake II soundtrack.
Chris: Yeah, the thrashing guitar solo was the last time I laughed out loud at this episode, but the only time where I think the comedy was unintentional.
David: The dialogue. Tom Welling, for once — he was totally hilarious as oblivious Clark. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… calling 911 on a cellphone!
Chris: This whole episode was a high point for me. When we found out we were getting a rerun, Uzi and I went back and forth on which episode from the previous 9 seasons we wanted to watch first, and while we decided on this one because we figured we’d be able to get some crowd-pleasing shots of a hot girl dressed as Zatanna (like so)…
Chris: …the end result was seriously great television.
David: Zatanna, unlike Mera “last” episode, was not painful to watch as an actress. Durance is clearly having a ton of fun aping her coworker’s entire acting style, as well.
Chris: Durance was ON FIRE in this episode.
David: I don’t know about “seriously great”, but I’m generally a TV snob. It’s good, but held back by being part of the overall plotline of Smallville, honestly.
Chris: Honestly, I think this was good enough to be an episode of Superman: The Animated Series, which for me is high praise. Just swap out Chloe for Lana.
David: It’s the best episode we’ve seen; I mean, don’t get me wrong.
Chris: Also, the fact that Clark framed Lois’s Rules for Reporting was actually really sweet.
David: Man… I dunno. Seriously. I mean, that dumb music, but the overall direction in Smallville is always hokey like that.
Chris: The only thing I really had a problem with was Clark wishing he wasn’t Superman, which is pretty antithetical to my understanding of the character. But again, that’s par for the course in Smallville, and Miller actually made it work well by having his desire to help people overcome his reluctance at the end. Other than that — and the couple of completely unexplained things — I thought this episode was top notch all the way. Tight script and fun acting, even from Welling. He was a little stiff and clunky, but in a fun 1950s Musical sort of way, you know?
David: I was fine with that, since it was mentioned as whatever was on the forefront of your mind, not your deepest desire. Clark really wants to be Superman, but sometimes, on a surface level, he’s like “aw, DAMN it, not THIS again.” Not so much when it comes to saving or helping people, but when it comes to the gymnastics around his identity.
Chris: Exactly. It could’ve easily gone the other way and been everything I’ve talked about not liking about Smallville Clark before, but it was spun into something that really did right by the character and the theme of the show.
David: I totally believe that Clark is never happy having to lie to his loved ones, even in the comics, you know? Not that there are any loved ones left who don’t know he’s Superman. In the show, too, at this point. I think the shifting focus of Smallville has become symptomatic of an overall trend in super-heroic fiction to get rid of the whole secret identity concept for a while. I mean, it’s still kind of around, but it’s effectively neutralized by everyone Clark gives even remotely two sh–s about knowing he’s Superman in the comics, not to mention Batman Incorporated. And I don’t even know what the hell is going on with Diana anymore. And in this show, Green Arrow, Tess Mercer, Lex Luthor, Chloe Sullivan, Lois Lane, Ma Kent, the ghost of Pa Kent, Darkseid’s goons (apparently), Aquaman and Mera all know exactly who Clark is. And Lana Lang, and Pete Ross.
Chris: And Hawkman!
David: And the entire JSA! And the Legion of Super-Heroes! And Supergirl! And Kid Flash!
Chris: Yeah. But really, that’s not this episode’s problem..
Chris: When we talked about it before, you said it made you look forward to seeing Bryan Q. Miller’s episode this season, and I’m right there with you.
David: Well, guess what, buddy? You get to wait seven days. So yeah, I liked this a bunch.
Chris: It was solid stuff, although now that I think of it, there wasn’t much reason to actually have Zatanna involved.
David: Well, who else casts magic in the Smallville Universe? Did you really want this to happen because a piece of meteor rock was coming to Chloe’s party and looking for the book of meteor rock dads? I mean, I can’t think of any other character who could play that role offhand.
Chris: Really? It would’ve been the same episode with any sort of magical MacGuffin. The Demon, Felix Faust, hell, it actually almost fits better with John Constantine, although the chances of that ever happening are slim.
David: WERE slim! I think you forget the mechanics of the Geoff Johns Age.
Chris: “You’re BLAZING a trail, John. A trail straight to HELL.”
David: “Look at the way he moves! He’s transforming into some kind of…. DEMON!” But seriously, none of those things look good in fishnets.