ComicsAlliance Recaps ‘Smallivlle’ Episode 10.17: Kent
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: After five weeks of reruns, Smallville has returned for the Final Season, and from here on out, it's a straight shot to the Series Finale on May 13. Or as David and I have come to think of it, freedom.
David: This series finale is literally on my birthday. I will be celebrating this fact by not watching Smallville and instead getting drunk -- not that the two are mutually exclusive.Chris: I think our readers could probably already tell. Anyway, this week's episode was called "Kent," and while I have to admit that there's actually some stuff to like about it, for me it just felt like a reminder of how completely insane this series has gotten.
David: After some of the really terrible past episodes we've been watching, this was almost competent. Decent performances, fun plot, actually pushes the show forward... I mean, it wasn't awful.
Chris: "Almost competent. It wasn't awful." Not exactly a quote for the DVD box.
Chris: As usual, we open up with the "Previously On Smallville" recap, and like I said, it's a great reminder of how ridiculous things have gotten. Not only is this season nominally about Clark fighting Darkseid -- who we've barely seen -- and the return of Lionel Luthor and Clark's clone that was evil for a minute but isn't anymore because, uh... let's go with "science," they also introduced the concept of an entire parallel universe and an evil version of Clark. Apparently someone felt like that was a loose end that needed to be tied up, so here we are.
David: I honestly didn't think we'd come back here, especially since they made a point of breaking the mirror box way back in "Luthor," but then the episode ended with Lionel on "our" Earth, so obviously they must have meant to return. But then this episode is written by a totally different dude than the first one, which was penned by Bryan Q. Miller. I dunno. It was a frankly mystifying decision.
Chris: It really was, but we'll get to that in a second. First, we have to deal with Clark and Lois attempting to be cute about the difficulties of their relationship. And shockingly, for the most part, they succeed.
Chris: Lois needling Clark about missing her being at home because he was off helping people in China and Clark's casual "They had floods" was a really nice bit of banter that was both in-character and underscored the fact that Lois is a Busy Career Woman On The Go. Well done.
David: It's also hugely refreshing to actually see Clark saving people for once. "They had floods!" There was also the implication, at least I thought, that he'd actually grabbed that food from there too. Which is always a nice Superman trick, the whole "Hey Lois I brought you a baguette.... FROM PARIS" thing
Chris: Yeah, I liked it. Especially since Clark actually helping people and thinking of others is a monumental rarity on this show. The big thing for the series in this scene, though, is that Senator Ma Kent has given Clark and Lois the family farm as a wedding present, meaning that finally, ten years into the show, Superman no longer lives with his parents.
David: If nothing else, at least they gave the fans a Superman they could relate to.
Chris: Again, it makes for an interesting moment: Smallville represents Superman's childhood, while Metropolis is his future, and they really did something nice by having him be the one who suggests they sell it so he can finally move on. Of course, there's probably something to be said for keeping ownership of that cave where the techno-ghost of your alien father killed a teenage girl with a laser tentacle, but whatever.
David: Haha, are the Kawatche caves actually on the Kent plot? I just assumed they were around Smallville.
Chris: I assumed they were under the Kent fields, since that's what bursts into flames to form Kryptonian symbols, but I could be wrong and don't really care enough to check.
David: Oh, true, but I was never clear on ... oh, hell, I have no idea what happened in that finale. Let's just pretend we never saw Clark Kent in the Superwomb and move on.
Chris: Right. Anyway, while that's going on, the actual plot of the episode shows up: Clark "Ultraman" Luthor has crossed over from the parallel world using the Mirror Box.
Chris: Can we talk for a minute about how the Mirror Box makes absolutely no sense?
David: Most definitely. The previous mechanism was that it would reverse you with yourself in the other universe.
Chris: Right, except that obviously, Lionel didn't get switched, since Lionel-2 didn't show up buried alive in a coffin six feet under Smallville.
David: It was just off-screen, man. The superior man thinks of evil that will come and guards against it. Seriously, they could have had a totally badass scene where Lionel puts on a breather and grabs a shovel and uses the mirror box, lands in the coffin, and digs up.
Chris: He just put that magnificent mane of hair against the coffin lid and let it do the work, I guess. But this episode just makes things worse: Clark Luthor uses the mirror box to come to Regular Smallville, and his Mirror Box comes with him. He says they don't switch places because Clark destroyed the Mirror Box. Then, he somehow manages to trick Clark Kent into going to Evil Smallville, but for some reason the Mirror Box stays behind. Why doesn't it go with him, like it did with Clark Luthor?
David: DID his Mirror Box come with him? I thought they were only able to fix it with the resurrected old Mirror Box.
Chris: Nope. Clark Luthor smashes his own mirror box, and then later Emil Hamilton rebuilds the one that Clark Kent -- hang on, this is getting annoying. Let's just call Clark Luthor "Ultraman." Agreed?
David: Honestly, that's what I've been doing from the very beginning.
Chris: Right then. Clark smashes the Earth-1 Mirror Box earlier in the season. Ultraman uses the Earth-2 Mirror Box to come to Smallville, and then uses it to send Clark to Earth-2. Then Ultraman smashes the Earth-2 Mirror Box. Then later, Emil Hamilton rebuilds the Earth-1 Mirror Box, and somehow uses it to bring Clark home, which makes even less sense than the rest of this bullsh--.
David: I love how Emil just repairs it with this magic laser.
David: Like, he just puts it under the laser, and the laser is like ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZT and then suddenly the mirror box works. It makes no sense. Why isn't Emil blown away by this thing anyway? Wouldn't he have tried to make his own by now?
Chris: It's confusing as hell, and I'm a guy who's been reading comics for more than 20 years. I'm totally willing to give you Mirror Boxes and parallel universes and dudes who can fly and all that goes along with it, but Smallville can't even be internally consistent for more than five minutes at a time.
David: It's the internal consistency, or lack thereof, that really kills it.
Chris: The point of all this is that Clark is once again dropped facefirst into Earth-2, where everything is shot through a blue filter, and where Grieving Widow Lois looks amazing.
David: I honestly didn't recognize her through that veil. I mean, I figured out it was Lois pretty quickly, but it didn't seem anything like her face to me for some reason.
Chris: She wasn't using puns or alliteration.
David: That ... was weird.
Chris: Just an example of how wrong things are on Earth-2! As it turns out, since the last time we saw the Blue World, everyone has figured out that Clark Luthor's an alien super-criminal and in true Smallville fashion, there's enough Green Kryptonite laying around that EVERYONE IN THE WORLD is carrying around a chunk to ward him off like Transylvanians with garlic.
David: It would have been awesome if Ollie Queen had told them all that Ultraman was a vampire, so they all started carrying Kryptonite crosses. The thing about Smallvillains at this point is that it's very difficult for us to discuss it without reflecting on how we'd basically do it better.
Chris: Also, while clark's creeping on Widow Lois at Ollie's funeral, Pa Kent shows up ripped on moonshine to talk about how much Ollie sucked and spit on his coffin. The man who raised Superman, everybody!
David: That scene was amazing. He was just SO angry. I love how they make it clear that this is actually what would have happened to Jonathan Kent if he hadn't had Clark, too.
Chris: Yeah, it's kind of awesome. Like, we've seen Pa Kent being a total dick about the Luthors in previous seasons, but apparently the only thing keeping him from becoming an alcoholic hobo with a ruined marriage is having an alien baby.
Chris: Even more hilarious is when you find out that he's been squatting in the Kent house for, I don't know, years? And that he thinks that the meteor was made of gold, and that's how he's going to get his farm back. Seriously, Big Ups to John Schneider for playing a complete drunken madman this episode, he was great.
David: Oh my God, the entire gold speech was fantastic. Even Tom Welling managed to get some great double-takes in there. He was a legitimately great crazy homeless squatting deluded gold panner. Unfortunately, that's not much like Pa Kent.
Chris: Yeah, exactly. They seriously halfass the idea of the Mirror Universe, where some of the people are still good, and some of them are just ludicrously evil or weird. Lois, Lionel and Ollie are absolutely no different in the Mirror Universe, but suddenly Pa Kent's a raving lunatic who wants to beat Ultraman to death with a hammer because he values his farm more than his wife.
David: I have to wonder if they're leaving things unresolved with Pa Kent so they can bring him back in the finale -- I mean, this is the only way to bring back John Schneider, right? And they seem to want everyone else in it.
Chris: Yeah, but why bring him back at this point? Haven't we moved on from that -- oh right. Smallville. Sorry, forgot for a second.
David: They have to bring back ALL of our favorites for the finale, man! Or else it isn't a real finale! I'm surprised they didn't touch on Lionel Luthor at all this episode.
Chris: Anyway, back in the real world, Ultraman is smarming around and trying to find Tess so that he can have Interdimensional Semi-Incestuous Relations with her, which has turned out to be a bizarrely specific recurring theme of this series. He talks to Lois and she goes through this big speech about not really wanting to sell the Kent Farm because it's the first real home she's ever had, but she realizes that home is the people you love, not the building you're in, and it's very sweet. Then she realizes that he's Ultraman because he doesn't recognize the telescope that Clark used to spy on Lana changing her clothes.
Chris: Sweet moment: successfully ruined.
David: Yeah, the fact that Lois made a point of bringing that telescope over was hilarious. That was always the creepiest part of the show, because he never ever actually gazed at any real stars with it. It was totally just so he could be a voyeur. Why he even needed a telescope for that is beyond me, but I guess he didn't have all his powers at the beginning of the show.
Chris: I think it's kind of the best joke in this series that Lois completely doesn't realize that's what he was doing with it. It's like, she sees it and thinks "Awww, he feels so alone and looks up at the stars for comfort! How sweet and introspective!" Meanwhile, she could barely get it out of the barn because it was stuck to the floor.
Chris: Thanks everybody, I'll be here all night.
David: Wisely, though, she doesn't immediately freak out, and Ultraman starts getting pretty sweet on her, including making an absolutely hilarious face mugging for the camera while he's hugging her.
Chris: Tom Welling really does his best work when he's playing a smarmy villainous jerk. I'm starting to get the feeling that's the only reason why they brought him back for a second episode. Dude's executive producer of the show, when he has fun doing something, he probably wants it to happen again.
David: Yeah, there's a total joylessness to when he's actually playing Clark as opposed to when he's playing a dick. He's just going through the motions. It makes you wonder why he's stuck around on the show for so long, including to the point of getting some degree of creative control.
Chris: Speaking of joylessness, Clark spends some time with Drunken Hobo Pa Kent...
Chris: ...and does this thing where he convinces him that he's actually a super-good guy by saying something and then letting Pa complete his sentence in this wide-eyed surprise, which is exactly what he does with Lois about ten minutes earlier. Note to writers: This is dumb and lazy. Stop it.
David: Well, but how else is he supposed to win their trust? I love how he never thinks of just showing his arm and being like "NO SCAR! NOT ULTRAMAN!"
Chris: Eventually, as we've already mentioned, Emil repairs the Mirro Box with his magic laser (because at this point, sure, why the hell not) and Clark comes back just in time to keep Tess from being chokeslammed out of a building by Ultraman.
Chris: Uzi, do you think there's a team of maintenance men who are JUST assigned to repair the window in the CEO's office at LuthorCorp? Because we've seen it broken like fifteen times.
David: To be fair, it gets broken about as much in the actual comics. I was mystified as to why Tess and Emil didn't have some kryptonite handy since they knew Ultraman was going to come after them, too.
Chris: I'm going to guess it's because the brain space they use for planning things was taken up with the lyrics to their smash hit rockabilly single "How Do You Do" a couple months ago. Anyway, Clark finally faces off with Ultraman, and shockingly enough, this is where things actually get really good.
David: In a shocking twist, Clark actually shows some moral proactiveness. Seriously, Clark basically reforms Ultraman by not talking down to him and treating him like an adult. It's insane.
Chris: I know! Clark drags Ultraman up to the North Pole and his Fortress of Solitude, and tells him that he doesn't have to be evil. He can go back to a world without Lionel, learn about his powers and his heritage from the computerized Jor-El int he fotress, and be a good guy instead of a total dick. He tells him he believes in him and that he knows he can do good, and then sends him back. It's actually awesome. Except for that part where the computerized Jor-El totally killed a teenage girl that one time, but we'll take what we can get.
David: It also opens the door for the "real" Ultraman to show up later in Superman's career. The infinite possibilities of the multiverse!
Chris: And then Clark, after seeing how the loss of the farm -- his "birthright" -- drove his father insane and how he spent his life and became a broken shell of a man trying to get it back, totally decides to sell it and move to Metropolis. Screw you, old man!
David: Well, to be fair, Jonathan does the same thing in the mirror world, finally shaving and getting a haircut and going to see Martha in the Big City.
Chris: Yeah, I know. Either way, it's another big step on Clark's road to actually leaving his childhood and becoming Superman. Just in time for his mid-life crisis.
David: Keep in mind he's technically only 25 in the show!
Chris: And has already fought Doomsday, met Supergirl, met Superboy, outlived Lex Luthor, fought Darkseid, formed the Justice League...
David: Flown.... oh, wait.
Chris: Give it three weeks.
David: John Schneider, Evil Tom Welling, the ending... this was actually a pretty decent episode of Smallville. If this were the baseline of quality for the show, I'd probably be a lot less dreading of it every week.
Chris: John Schneider was great and absolutely hilarious as bitter ol' prospector Pa Kent, but man, that ending was genuinely shocking in how true it was to the character. Convincing his own evil twin to become good just by the poewr of setting the right example and knowing what to say is the absolute essence of Superman, and it was pulled off really well. I even liked the transition where the Mirror World actually got brighter and more colorful when Clark Luthor turned good.
Chris: It was a total Wizard of Oz riff, but it really worked.
David: Honestly, I don't get why you were so negative about it initially.
Chris: Why was I negative? Well, remember how nothing about the plot makes any sense at all? There's no internal consistency in the show's dumb plot devices, there's no internal consistency to the idea of a Mirror Universe, and Clark's dialogue was even sloppier than usual in every scene except the opening and the closing. We're in the middle of the final season after five weeks of re-runs, right at the start of the lead-up to the finale and everything about this episode felt like a filler to wrap up a plot thread that didn't actually need to be wrapped up.
David: Man, I dunno what I can add to that.
Chris: Oh, and then there's that part at the end that we completely glossed over where Lois says "Smallville is my home. Not that one. This one." And she points at Clark. Because HE'S SMALLVILLE. GET IT? GET IT?!
David: Oh man, let's not forget my favorite part about the end: Lois and Clark sitting down on the porch to have a beer, and then nowhere in the entire scene do we see either of them actually drink that beer, and on top of that we see both of their faces for the entire scene.
Chris: And also Clark wears his dad's dumb jacket, bringing Clark's Total Dumb Jacket Count up to 4.
David: He just wants to feel closer to him, man!
Chris: This show should've been called Superman's Dumb Jackets. Maybe there's still time to get that on the DVDs.
David: Like, who does he think he is, Barry Allen?
Chris: All in all, this is far from the worst episode we've seen, but it's nowhere near the best, either. Next week, though, we finally get to one that people have been looking forward to for the whole season, with the return of the DC Universe Guest Star.
David: Do you mean Geoff Johns, Booster Gold or Blue Beetle?
Chris: That's right, everybody: Next week, Geoff Johns returns to Smallville to write up an episode starring Booster Gold and Blue Beetle!
David: At least we'll get internal consistency.
Chris: I have to admit I'm actually looking forward to this. I've had my difficulties with Johns's comics before, and lord knows we haven't been that keen on his Smallville episodes, but his run on Booster Gold was probably the most fun comic he's done in years.
David: Honestly, if nothing else, hopefully we won't get any more filler for the next few, there being, like, only three or four episodes left. I guess Booster is kind of technically filler, actually, since I can't imagine this'll tie into any of the ongoing season plots. Which will probably be a good thing.
Chris: We also need to start figuring out how we're going to celebrate the final episode.
David: Global armageddon?
Chris: I was thinking more like cake.