ComicsAlliance Recaps ‘Smallville’ Episode 10.8: Abandoned
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: It's been a rough couple of weeks, but with this episode, it looks like Smallville is back to the format Uzi and I have grown to know and... well, tolerate at least. DC Universe guest stars, Darkseid-a-poppin', and best of all, no Hollywood ripoff plotlines!
David: Yeah, this was goofy fun, which is the most I can reasonably expect of this show on a regular basis it seems. That 200th episode is a level we probably won't get back to until Peterson/Souders are writing again, I'd guess.
Chris: It's a crazy world we're living in, Uzi.
Chris: This week's episode featured two storylines, both of which were built around the idea of dealing with losing a family member, and both of which I thought were actually handled pretty well, right up until the end. In the main story, Tess Mercer, Lex Luthor's former Personal Assistant who is now the substitute Chloe for Clark's slapdash crimefighting operation, learned that she was adopted, and had spent some time in an orphanage as a little girl.
David: Dun dun dunnnnnnnnnnn! I love how "learned" we mean "suddenly started dreaming about."
Chris: Yeah, that's the all-obliterating hammer of coincidence at work, but at this point, I'm willing to deal with it if it means we don't have to see Smallville's version of, I don't know, The Fast and the Furious. Which, now that I've said it, I actually think would probably be pretty great.
David: I just want to see Lois dancing to Whitesnake on the hood of the Supermobile before we're through here.
Chris: As it turns out, Tess's orphanage, St. Louise's -- which struck me as hilarious because, in addition to being the patron saint of orphans, Louise is also the patron saint of "disappointing children" -- is a front for Granny Goodness, who is training an all-girl army in the basement.
Chris: You know, like you do.
David: This is the first time they referred to Darkseid specifically right?
Chris: For those of you who aren't familiar with her, Granny's role in the comics is to shape the children of the planet Apokolips into mindless soldiers of Darkseid, with an elite team of warriors known as the Female Furies. And I've gotta say, that's exaclty what they've got her doing here, except on earth, with the implication being that Darkseid's been preparing for an attack on our planet for years, if not decades. Which I actually liked a lot.
David: Yeah! She was kind of -- I mean, it's hard to find an actress where the point is like "yeah, you're ugly, old and fat." It was definitely Granny Goodness, though. It definitely felt like that character, unquestionably, although the Female Furies were more than a little bit totally ridiculous.
Chris: Oh yeah, they were completely ridiculous. For one thing, they just happened to have a bunch of green Kryptonite that they used to forge their weapons, thus providing a nice excuse for Clark to take off his shirt and get chained up, giving me the idea that somebody on the writing staff just saw Twilight.
David: I still miss the dulcet pings of the Mother Box, but I have hope that it's coming.
Chris: When Granny mentioned the "music box," I totally misheard it as "Mother Box." But to be fair, I was drinking at the time.
David: Smallville is really a show that demands lubrication to go down smooth.
Chris: I was actually really disappointed that they didn't put Ed Asner -- who did Granny's voice in the animated shows -- in a wig and dress for this one. That would've been amazing on so, so many levels.
David: I have absolutely no problem with this show's version of Darkseid so far. It seems to be totally fair to the character but making sense in a live-action, less overtly cosmic context.
Chris: Yeah, but really? If you want to do something that isn't overtly cosmic, maybe DARKSEID AND THE NEW GODS are not the characters to use.
David: I think where it goes wrong is that so much of the otherworldliness comes from the dialogue. If they were speaking like Kirby characters and talking about Anti-Life, it'd go a LONG way. It's what made Morrison's "real-world" take work so well, since they still spoke like myth. These guys just speak like possessed evil dudes.
Chris: There's a lot of it that could be done way better, but I'm enjoying that aspect of it, goofy as it might be. Maybe even because of its goofiness.
David: Even if we never hear Mother Box, I hope we at least get to hear the word Anti-Life before we're through here. But given this show's penchant for fan-wank, I doubt I'll be disappointed.
Chris: Anyway, while Clark is being chained up by the Furies, Tess learns that she was originally one of Granny's trainees before she was adopted, and was meant to be the leader of her army in "the coming war" -- which is a total Kirbyism. This also might be the thing that makes the least sense in the entire episode. Correct me if I'm wrong -- and I'm sure our comments are going to do just that -- but Granny Goodness only had Tess for, at most, a few months when she was five years old, right? How much hardcore Apokoliptian Warrior Training can you really do with a five year-old?
David: Well, that might have just been them being too lazy to recast the kid version of Tess. Maybe it was two or three years? That's enough, I... guess. wwwwww
Chris: I guess it's less about the amount of effort she put in and more about the potential that Granny saw in her, but again, how much warrior potential do you see in a five-year-old you've known for a week? I mean yes, Granny's a New God and all, but it feels like a stretch to make the timelines line up.
David: Was it just me, or was there no Big Barda around?
Chris: Uzi. Tess is Big Barda.
David: OK, I had the same thought, I just wasn't sure.
Chris: Yeah, Tess is clearly filling the role of Big Barda, the leader of the Female Furies who rejected Granny and escaped to Earth. Except that Barda did it for love, and Tess was just sort of picked up one day by her parents and given to the Mercers.
David: Honestly, I knew the last frame of this episode the second Granny said Tess came from a powerful family.
Chris: Yeah, once Clark has a nominal fight with the Furies, which actually did have a pretty good sight gag involving Lashina that essentially makes her the Smallville version of the swordsman from Raiders of the Lost Ark...
Chris: ...Tess discovers that her birth parents were, in fact -- wait for it -- The Luthors. And that her real name is LUTESSA, which is hilarious.
David: LUTESSA LENA LUTHOR, Chris. Don't forget about the fanservice in the middle.
Chris: The extra L makes her 1.5 times more evil than Lex!
David: To be fair, technically, "Alexander Luthor" only has the one initial.
Chris: Maybe he's actually Lalexander. Makes about as much sense as LUTESSA.
David: Does this mean that her name is Lutessa Mercer? I mean, her current legal name?
Chris: I don't think so. I'm guessing the Mercers adopted her, saw that on the certificate, and were like "Ha ha, no, definitely not." But that might just be because it's what I did upon seeing it.
David: Yeah, that name is absolutely hilarious. I Googled it, and almost all of the top results for the name "Lutessa" were to Smallville message boards and blogs.
Chris: Just in case any of our readers are actually named "Lutessa," we want you to know that we are sure you're lovely people. But come on.
Chris: The B-plot was a Superman actor guest star extravaganza, as Lois watched a VHS tape with a message from her dead mother, played by Teri Hatcher, who of course also played Lois herself in Lois & Clark, the previous Superman TV show.
David: Because everyone in Smallville who's a parent of a major character has to be someone who played that major character, or a relation, in something twenty years ago.
Chris: Which, if we didn't already know it, would've been abundantly clear later in the show, when Lois goes to the Fortress of Solitude and sees a hologram of Lara, Superman's mom, as played by Helen Slater, star of the Supergirl movie from 1984.
David: Anyway, Teri Hatcher had the most realistic prosthetic work on this show yet.
Chris: Going into this episode, I was DREADING seeing Erica Durance and Teri Hatcher face off in an ACTING! contest -- I figured that junk would go down like Aliens vs. Predator: no matter who wins, we lose -- but I actually thought they both did pretty well, considering.
David: Teri Hatcher was never that sh---y of an actress, she's just been in badly written roles, really. It's the curse of getting known for a single role on network television.
Chris: Lois basically goes into the Fortress of Solitude to give the Jor-El computer a piece of her mind on how he's being a terrible father, which resulted in this....
Chris: ...a .gif I plan on dropping every time something stupid happens from here on out 'til the end of the series. I predict we'll be seeing it a lot.
David: The entire sequence is basically an Erica Durance monologue, which is really hard to pull off since the setting is so ridiculous.
Chris: Yeah, but I think she pulls it off, and we get a nice moment from a Jor-El and Lara that echoes what Mark Waid did in Superman: Birthright, showing them as really loving parents who wanted Clark to be a savior for Earth. I liked it, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I liked it because this is my first year watching the show. If I had to wait ten years to get to the point where Superman's parents tell him that he oughtta go out and save people, I would not be happy.
David: Is it just me, or does that Jor-El seem totally different from the one who's a dick? Like, I think the computer Jor-El is Darkseid at this point.
Chris: Well, the normal voice for Jor-El is Terence "General Zod" Stamp, while this one was Julian Sands, who has no prior connection to the Superman movies and TV shows, but is THE F---ING WARLOCK!
David: Ahahahaha, that was a cover I always saw as a kid in the video store but never rented
Chris: I didn't realize that was who it was until Awesome Hospital co-writer Chad Bowers pointed it out, and now I want to see Clark fight a Jor-El who was sent from the past to destroy the future.
David: I just want to see anything like that in this show instead of remaking sh--ty movies. And I mean, cool, we got that this episode -- it was fun, if kind of light on content other than Lois's revelation and Tess figuring out she was Lex's sister, or at least half-sister.
David: All the stuff with Granny and the goofy Darkseid stuff. It's dumb, but I love it.
Chris: Yeah, I thought that was handled really well. I actually loved the crazy low-budget TV Female Furies, Freddy glove and all.
David: As weird as it feels to say, I did kind of respect the thematic resonance the two plot strands had; it didn't feel like two separate episodes, they both worked on the same themes.
Chris: It really did. And it's a resonant plot because so many super-heroes have those themes of abandonment and being orphaned built into their origins. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker. It's pretty much a universal theme that it's nice to see brought out to connect these characters, though it would've been nice for them to tie it into Green Arrow. Assuming, of course, that they haven't already dealt with that in an episode we didn't see.
David: Yeah, I'm guessing all of that stuff was dealt with in his origin episodes.
Chris: Ten years of Clark getting berated by Jor-El and you think Smallville's above dragging a piece of origin story back to make a point? But yeah, this was the most fun we've had in a while. And it was nice to see Granny, Desaad and Godfrey show up at the end to actually talk about paving the way for Darkseid. Like I said back in the first episode, he's one of the few characters they could put against Superman that warrants and deserves this kind of extensive foreshadowing. Even so, we continued the highly disappointing lack of Kanto.
David: We haven't seen him YET! We aren't even halfway through, man! Although I hope they go past this "unholy trinity." The inclusion of the Female Furies gives me hope.
Chris: Lutessa. Lena. Luthor.
David: The over-the-top flashbacks, the contrived ending ... and yeah. Lutessa. What the f---.
Chris: I thought it was bad when I figured out that "Tess Mercer" was a combination of Miss Tessmacher from the movies and Mercy from the animated series, but man. Now she's Miss Tessmacher, Mercy, Lena Luthor, AND Big Barda?
David: She seems so forced. I have to wonder what their endgame is for Chloe, too. Since they're turning their original characters into canonical Superman characters, it seems.
Chris: Oh right, she's also Chloe this season. Which really means she's Oracle. Seriously, Tess is like eight different characters, and Clark has yet to become one. Get that weak sh-- off my TV, Smallville.
Chris: Also, the last few minutes of this episode had what has to be the most horribly contrived excuse for Lois to say the word "Apocalypse" they could've possibly had. They might as well have actually had her turn to the camera, wink, and give a big double thumbs-up.
David: I really hope we get to see the Good Gods too, but it'd probably dilute things too much. Really, I just want to see Metron be a dick.
Chris: And then we have the lowest low point of all, not just for this episode, but the entire season and probably the entire series: The shot where Tess looks at the dresser and finds that when she was a little girl, she carved "SOMEBODY SAVE ME" into the wood, thus tying into ten years of Smallville's embarrassingly terrible theme song.
David: Oh God, yeah.
Chris: That could not have been worse.
David: I think that this is a huge upswing in quality, honestly.
Chris: It looks like my theory from last week holds up: The more of the Darkseid plot we get, the better the episodes are. Although to be fair, I thought "Isis" was a hoot too.
David: And really, it's a clear correlation: more Darkseid = better Smallville. Or, more appropriately, more wacked-out comic book weirdness = better Smallville. I'm looking forward to Booster Gold and more wacky DCU guest stars and this bizarre watered-down Superman TV show a bunch.
Chris: We're getting some wackiness next week for sure: Not only do we get the Smallville version of Deathstroke the Terminator -- as "Slade," which is what they called him on Teen Titans -- but we also get the return of Aquaman. Which is amazing, because I never thought I'd live to see "The return of Aquaman" used as a selling point for a prime-time network drama. Hell, they can barely get people excited about the return of Aquaman in comics.
David: Colonel Slade, it seems. It barely seems like Deathstroke. He's got two eyes and it's Colonel Tigh in army fatigues.
Chris: Well to be fair, it would probably be difficult to put that guy in an eyepatch, right? Oh. Wait.
David: Yeah, I imagine he'll get his eye shot out this upcoming episode, much like Ralphie in A Christmas Story.
Chris: You'll shoot your eye out, kid. And gain reflexes nine times faster than a normal man's!
David: Maybe he'll be infected by a meteor!
Chris: That's how you know God hates you: When you get your eye poked out by a meteor.