ComicsAlliance Recaps ‘Smallville’ Episode 10.10: Luthor
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.
David: It's interesting, because I guarantee you some chucklehead was watching that episode and accusing it of ripping of Fringe, never mind Star Trek.
Chris: What percentage of Smallville's viewing audience do you think is made up of chuckleheads? Just at a guess.David: As our readers probably know, this is a story with a huge amount of DCU precedent in both the original Earth-3 stories and Grant Morrison's antimatter universe reimagining. The Luthor angle is a new touch, though. I kept expecting Lex to show up as a hero, but then I remembered Rosenbaum was still MIA.
Chris: Yeah, we'll get to this in a second, but that was simultaneously my big problem with the episode and something that I kinda liked: It's a mirror universe where the only thing different is Clark.
David: We start off with Tess finding out about this Luthor heirloom that they didn't find in time to give to Lex. So, since she's the heir to LuthorCorp at this point, she gets it, and it's a Kryptonian device that travels to a mirror universe. Now, first off -- why did the Kryptonians have this technology?! And why would it take you to a universe where the division point occurred after the destruction of your planet?
Chris: One would think that if they could transport people into a mirror universe, they would all just pop over to one where Krypton didn't blow up.
David: Well, that'd be pretty sh--ty to the Kryptonians from that universe, since they'd trade places.
Chris: If the Kryptonians were anything like what we've seen from Jor-El, they were an entire race of massive tools. So in a way, it does make sense.
David: In any case, Clark comes over and starts going on this insane rant about how Luthor blood was inherently evil. It was very mean to the not-yet-in-this-show-but-if-there-were-two-or-three-more-seasons-totally-would-be Conner Kent.
Chris: That more than anything else rang completely false to me in this episode. You would think that if anyone in the entire universe would side with nurture over nature, it'd be the alien from another planet who was raised by farmers in Kansas. I'm also not quite clear on how everyone except Clark suddenly knows Tess is actually Lutessa Lena Luthor.
Chris: Did she file paperwork to get her name changed? Because Lionel's estate lawyer sure does pop up a week after she figures it out.
David: You think if she's so ashamed of it, she'd keep it secret? Man, I have no idea, it really is sort of mystifying. In any case, after this, Clark decides to randomly use the mirror box without even asking what it is as soon as she sees it in Tess's purse, and shows up in the middle of a Soulja Boy video.
Chris: Uzi, at this point, can we agree that Clark is basically really dumb?
David: They say flight is the last power to show up, but at this point I'm just hoping to see regular intelligence, never mind super-intelligence.
Chris: Seriously, just picking up an artifact from a dead, technologically advanced civilization and goofing around with it as soon as you see it is quite possibly the stupidest thing we've seen Clark do, and that includes referring to himself as "The Blur."
David: But yeah, so he wakes up on this alternate universe and basically Lionel Luthor found him instead of the Kents. Now, Lionel apparently died a while ago and was a fairly major character for a while, but this is our first exposure to him, although it definitely won't be our last. And on this planet, Lionel Luthor is just an unrepentant asshole.
David: They really went all-out with making this universe feel totally screwed up -- first off, Clark and Tess are banging, even though they're adopted brother and sister, and they're plotting to kill Lionel and run away to the mirror universe. It ALSO seems that here, Tess got raised by the Kents.
Chris: There's a lot of this episode that plays off of stuff that's happened in previous episodes that would probably make a lot more sense if Uzi and I weren't just jumping on for the last season, but to his credit, Miller does a pretty good job of filling in the high points. We find out that Lionel's dead and Lex killed him, and while I honestly don't know, I can assume that in the regular Smallville universe, he was just as much of a jerk as he is here.
David: It's interesting, since Lex isn't anywhere near as much of a self-made man in this situation.
Chris: As much as I've criticized Smallville for being a slight to the character of Superman -- being that Smallville's Clark is wishy-washy and refuses to Superman up -- this episode made me think it's just as much a slight to Lex's character. The real villain would seem to be Lionel.
David: Yeah, that's a really good point. I mean, I guess it all has roots to whatever the show originally was, and I presume Lex was trying to not be a total douchebag and ended up becoming one anyway. But honestly, Lionel treats his family like Darkseid treats his minions.
Chris: I thought that too! His interaction with Clark and the blue Kryptonite-tipped fencing foils was a total Darkseid/Kalibak thing.
David: In any case, Clark looks at his shirt and it's the straight-up Ultraman symbol, the U in the upside-down shield. He also apparently has it branded on his arm from some childhood accident with gold Kryptonite.
Chris: For those of you who don't know, Ultraman -- not to be confused with the Japanese hero of the same name -- is the evil version of Superman from Earth-3, then Earth-2, then Earth-3 again, because comics, everybody! He's everything Superman isn't -- most notably a bully and a coward who uses his powers for personal gain -- and in Smallville, that translates into him also being confident and proactive, two things "The Blur" certainly lacks.
David: It certainly seems that Clark is more aware of his powers and heritage in this universe, especially since Lionel really encouraged him to push it, I'd guess. Also, again because Rosenbaum isn't around, they have to reveal that Clark killed Lex in this universe.
Chris: Meanwhile, Mirror Clark/Ultraman is running around regular Smallville's Metropolis, where the lighting isn't terrible, and I've gotta say, Tom Welling's pretty good at playing a villain. His acting comes off as less bland and emotionless and more as cold sociopath.
David: I really do think it's the scriptwriters, since he was fine as Clueless Clark in the Zatanna episode, too. But yeah, I agree, he seemed really cool and detached. Less of a bully, really; more creepy than directly imposing.
Chris: While "our" Clark is wholesome and prone to emotional outbursts, Evil Clark is just cold and sinister. The exchanges each has with Tess really underline this, the whole "Luthor blood is poison" thing being a good example to set it up, just to make a contrast for when Evil Clark grabs her arm without saying a word and she knows he's the kind of guy who would totally murder her and not think twice about it.
David: Also on Earth-2: Lois is engaged to Ollie, who's buying up all the farms in Smallville so he can find all the meteor rock so he can use it to take down Ultraman.
Chris: That's actually a pretty solid plan.
David: Yeah, although it makes him look like a big industrialist douchebag eating up a small town as a side effect.
Chris: Which, given what we've seen from this season about how Ollie values his public image, really highlights just how much he hates Ultraman and the Luthors. I really think this is seriously the best-constructed episode we've seen so far.
David: I was still a fan of the flashback/flashforward Brainiac 5 episode, but yeah, this is pretty damn good. It's basically the best I think I can reasonably hope for out of the show.
Chris: Eventually, Clark finds out from Lionel that Ollie has that universe's version of the mirror box that can send him back to the regular universe, so he decides to do the smart thing and... super-speed kidnap Lois from her engagement party.
David: Well, I mean, what else is gonna do, show up and be like "no, I'm the GOOD version of the genocidal maniac!" He probably figures it'd be easier to get what he wants by doing what Ultraman would do rather than trying to be himself. Then again, doing what he'd normally do would be doing literally nothing.
Chris: Continuing his streak of doing the dumbest things ever, Clark lets Ollie pick the place where they meet to exchange the mirror box for Lois, and of course it turns out to be a trap so that Ollie can shoot him in the face.
David: Meanwhile, over on Earth-1, Lois, Tess and Ollie have all teamed up to try to fight this crazy evil Superman who's douching around the place. However, the vast majority of this happens offscreen.
Chris: But Clark gets back, and thus the day is saved. ... OR IS IT?!
David: Clark comes back and destroys the Earth-1 Mirror Box, but then Lionel Luthor uses the Earth-2 Mirror Box to come over to Earth-1, presumably leaving Lionel-1's corpse behind him on Earth-2.
Chris: That's another thing I was wondering: When Clark goes to the Mirror Universe, he shows up in bed underneath a couple of prostitutes, which is presumably where Mirror Clark was when he made the switch, but Mirror Clark doesn't show up at Cadmus in front of Tess, he shows up in downtown Metropolis. Why? And why didn't Mirror Lionel show up buried in a coffin in a true EC-style twist ending?
David: Man, I dunno. Budget?
Chris: It's just strangely inconsistent in service of the plot. And yet, this is still the best constructed episode we've seen.
David: I'm really curious to see what kind of role Lionel's going to play coming up. We've had Darkseid on the backburner for a while now.
David: This was just a solid episode, a good implementation of the standard twisted-mirror-universe plot, filled with continuity nods like the U symbol without them suffocating the narrative. The biggest high point for me was Lionel, probably. He looks like he can chew up some scenery, and I'm looking forward to seeing him the rest of this season.
Chris: Definitely. Things were just way more fun when he was around, just arch-villaining it up all over the place and hitting Green Arrow with pipes.
David: This show really isn't at its best when it's trying to be subtle.
Chris: I also really enjoyed Tom Welling's Ultraman. I love that in Smallville, the opposite of Superman is a guy who bangs two hookers, makes out with his sister, vaporizes criminals with his heat vision and then acts like a jerk to Lois.
David: I love how he's just as whiny and ineffectual at evil as Clark is at good.
Chris: Beyond that, it's just really well-constructed, at lest from my perspective. I'm wondering -- and I'm sure we'll hear -- if the people who have been watching this show for ten years got a lot out of it.
Chris: I've gotta say, my low point has to be the scene where Clark makes it back to the regular universe, only to find Tess, Ollie and Lois about to kill him with Kryptonite-tipped arrows.
David: I really liked the moment, but they could have shown us SOME of that fight.
Chris: Exactly. It made for a great visual, but I really didn't think it was good enough that it couldn't have been improved with some scenes of the gang actually fighting Ultraman as he tore up the Watchtower. Instead, we got a shot of Our Hero backhanding an old man across a room.
Chris: Go Clark. Other than that, I was a little disappointed that the extent of the Mirror Universe had to be limited by the show's budget and cast. I would've really liked to see Mirror Universe Chloe, Lana and Pete to see how terrible their lives would've been without Clark, but then I figured that everyone at Smallville High probably died a horrible death when he wasn't around to stop meteor freaks from ransacking the place like super-powered Visigoths, so I guess that's actually a High Point.
David: Well, maybe the problem was also helped by Kryptonite not being a secret kept by two elderly farmers as opposed to a multinational corporation.
David: This is the second episode in a row I've enjoyed, third if you include our flashback to Zatanna. I think I'm starting to be able to figure out what does and doesn't work about the show with me -- it's not like this show is ever going to be great television, but it can succeed at being entertainingly over-the-top, and that's when I enjoy it most.
Chris: I think the majority of the problems we've had with the show have been a direct result of limitations, whether it's the limits of the show's budget making stuff that would look great in comics look lousy onscreen, or the limits imposed on Clark's character by the showrunners. The more insane things get, the more over-the-top they go, the more I like it. And scenery-chewing interdimensional Lionel Luthor is, aside from Darkseid branding Greek letters on Deathstroke the Terminator's forehead, about as over the top as we can possibly get
David: Yeah, exactly. Honestly, I love seeing them try incorporate the wackier stuff on a low budget, like that ridiculous Greek letter thing.
Chris: Well, I imagine next week the budget's goign to be pushed to its limits, as the IMDB promises an episode featuring Black Canary, Hawkman AND Stargirl, who was last seen on a show when she used cosmic energy to make a stick glow as she tried to hit someone with it.
David: Why is Superman such a big deal in this universe again where a sixteen-year-old girl runs around in a belly shirt with a glowing phallus?
Chris: You mean the world where "you will believe a man can fly" most likely refers to Hawkman?
David: That's the one.
Chris: I guess we'll find out next week!