ComicsAlliance Recaps ‘Smallville’ Episode 10.5: Isis
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: Today, we're gonna be talkin' about the fifth episode of the tenth season of Smallville, "Isis," which continues to DCU fanwank all over the place by homaging both the original Isis TV show and her appearances in 52.
Chris: Before we get started, can I ask a quick question? Is there anyone at all who actually cares about Isis?
David: Geoff Johns? People who grew up in the '70s? To be fair, the answer to almost every single "Is there anyone at all who actually cares about [DC character]?" is Geoff Johns.
Chris: I mean, you could probably say that as far as TV goes, there aren't a lot of people who care about the Suicide Squad, but at least we know there's a small number of people who would be really excited about seeing them. But Isis? Does having a TV show for a hot minute 35 years ago really get you that much cache?
David: Honestly, though, I think more people know about her these days from her appearances in 52, and a lot of people really liked that storyline. Although my favorite part was when the crocodile ate the whiny teenager.
Chris: Fair enough. Let's get to it!
David: Yeah! This episode, the amulet Lois took from Egypt in the second episode possesses her and she becomes Isis, of Black Adam and Isis fame, and starts... man, honestly, refresh me on her evil plot? This was the first episode I saw with other people, and I was dying of embarrassment too hard to really keep track of the utterly ridiculous story.
Chris: She's going to resurrect Osiris, which got me really excited for a minute because I thought she meant Ol' Dirty Bastard from the Wu-Tang Clan...
...but it turns out she actually meant Osiris from Egyptian mythology. The side effect of this is that -- cliche alert #1! -- the dead will also rise, unleashing "literal hell on Earth." And, presumably, 93 more years of Blackest Night.
David: Clark would make a good Osiris; he likes to whine. In any case, this is overlaid on Ollie and Clark offering Tess Mercer a job as the "Oracle" of their Watchtower, and also Ollie being kind of whiny. Oh, and Clark tries to tell Lois that he's the Blur, but she's possessed by Isis. In a refreshing twist, he actually straight-up tells her at the end of the episode, and they proceed to make out on a bed of bags of shredded mail.
Chris: When you say "they make out," you are totally underselling it. As soon as he says "I'm the Blur" -- which would have been so much better as "I'm Superman," but that's Smallville for you -- she runs at him and tackles him into a pile, and straddles him like a mechanical bull. It's pretty great.
David: Hahahaha, yeah, the entire thing, like the rest of the episode, is consciously over-the-top. I think it's important to mentioned that Erica Durance's acting as the possessed Isis is kind of unfortunately terrible. I have a feeling she's hamming it up on purpose, but it's still ham.
Chris: I think we've hit the first big disagreement of Smallvillains: Aside from the usual complaints about Tom Welling, I actually thought this episode was fantastic.
David: I mean, maybe it was just my situation of watching it with people for the first time and being more self-aware about its flaws? I dunno, it really just seemed so self-consciously campy that it was obnoxious... The balance was off.
Chris: It was essentially the perfect television adaptation of an issue of Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane. I will readily admit that the plot made absolutely no sense, but everything about it was played so straight in that same earnest, Silver Age style. That, I think, is the key to Durance's amazingly stiff, stilted "Isis Voice." I don't want to give her too much credit because over the past month, this column has totally become "Chris and Uzi Crush on Erica Durance," but I think the only way this episode was going to work is if everyone played it as straight as possible, like Batman '66.
I mean, it's night and day between Durance's portrayal of Lois in this episode and Isis, to the point where it has to be on purpose.
David: I'm SURE the camp is 100% intentional. It doesn't make it any more watchable in my opinion.
Chris: I can understand it, but for me, the idea of a straight up adaptation of Silver Age Lois Lane is just too appealing to get around. I mean, even the resolution is right out of the '60s: They have to shine sunlight through the Isis Amulet. Why? That makes no sense. Can Isis only possess people at night? But it's just delivered with "hey, it's weird-ass magic, use heat vision on it." If I hadn't watched the credits, I'd swear Otto Binder wrote this.
David: I just think that kind of stuff works well on the printed page, as a novelty. Watching it acted out by grown-ups is just... man, I dunno, I sound like a total fogey.
Chris: "These kids today and their tributes to the Silver Age!"
David: TELEVISION SHOULD ONLY BE FOR SERIOUS DRAMA! Yeah, I mean, this felt like an episode of I Dream of Jeannie.
Chris: There's also a minor B-plot that essentially involves Clark and Lois just screwing with Cat Grant.
David: Well, I mean, she's pretty annoying. Wouldn't you?
Chris: Oh, totally. But again, it feels very much like a nod to the Silver Age, with a nosy girl reporter trying to suss out the Blur's identity, getting actual "proof" to back up her claim -- she thinks it's Lois because she sees Lois using her crazy, undefined, completely ridiculous Isis powers -- and then at the end, Clark just cold destroys her phone to keep her from having the pictures. The only thing that sets it aside is that they do end up telling Cat the truth about the possession.
David: Yeah, which she calls ridiculous. Telling her the truth might have been even more of a dick move than lying.
Chris: But again, I like that the characters freely admit that it's ridiculous. I love that Lois just straight up tells her, and I quote, "This is Metropolis. Weird things happen all the time. Get used to it." That should've been the tagline for this season.
Chris: But it is weird that they throw a tribute to the Silver Age in the middle of a season involving crazy Kirby stuff coming back around, and I will freely admit that there's a lot of this episode that feels like they were handed a list of characters to include for the final season and just had to figure out a completely inconsequential plot that would let them check off Isis, but man. Lemons to lemonade, as far as I'm concerned.
David: It just felt like a result of network television mentality, where in the middle of momentum they'll throw in some dumb one-off. I mean, I honestly thought Clark had told her he was the Blur last episode implicitly.
Chris: It really is two episodes in a row with the same ending, but I think with Smallville, we're going to have to accept that any kind of ambiguity is going to be explained in the most explicit terms possible. I wouldn't be surprised if the last five minutes of next week's episode were Clark going "So you knew all along?" since Lois shushed him in this one. Any other important plot points? Aside from Green Arrow trying to get Chloe to come back by having a theme party (?) in a museum (?) in which he will also do a sideshow as Green Arrow (?) with Green Arrow Cheerleaders (?!), I mean.
David: Yeah, what the hell? He suddenly turned into Tony Stark this episode.
Chris: I seriously have no clue what he's doing at the beginning of this episode, and I've watched it four times.
David: That's more attention than I gave it, but I'll take your word for its obliqueness. Oh, and how can we forget the continued rapid aging of Alexander Luthor?
Chris: Probably because it was largely inconsequential to the episode, other than to hint that a series of child actors are slowly going to evolve into Smallville's former Lex Luthor, Michael Rosenbaum.
David: I'd say that's an accurate assessment of the likely course of events.
David: Uh, the plot progression of the ending. I guess the...
David: It didn't physically punch me in the stomach?
Chris: So negative, Uzi. I thought there was a ton to like about this one. For one thing, the Lois Lane Costume Collection got another entry with her inexplicably cosplaying as Isis even before she was possessed.
Chris: She even had the knee-high sandals!
David: Hahaha, yeah! She had the armlet, too. It was, like the rest of the episode, inexplicable and ridiculous.
Chris: I also thought the interplay between Lois and Cat was pretty great. All the problems I have with Lois being less aggressive than I think she ought to be were out the window, because she was just brutal to her from the word "go."
David: I love how Superman stands up to bullies, unless the bully is his wife, and then he just stands on the sidelines and surreptitiously heat visions stuff to help her out.
Chris: In a lot of ways, it was Modern Age Lois vs. Silver Age Lois, and Clark picked a side.
David: Man, you make me like the show a lot more when you phrase things like that, but I know if I watched it again I wouldn't feel that way.
Chris: Also, even though Lois was in the sexy costume, after the scarecrow scene and the dominatrix outfit, it was kind of fun to see Clark get tied up for a change. He's clearly the doof of the story.
David: He's the doof of every story, but this time it was intentional.
Chris: It was nice to see the roles turned upside-down. Especially since it looks for all the world like he was bondaged up with Wonder Woman's lasso.
David: The special effects on that lasso were RIDICULOUSLY terrible.
Chris: Is that your first Low Point? Because I agree, it's sub-Xena level effects.
David: It might as well be!
Chris: One more high point for me: Super-Conservative Cat Grant is actually pretty hilarious. When she describes Lois doing a "Satanic S-E-X ritual," the line and Lois's reaction to it got a genuine laugh out of me.
David: My "Reese Witherspoon from Election" comment had to have been, like, in the actual character description.
David: Anyway, for me, "low points" are almost everything. I just thought the entire venture was ill-advised.
Chris: For me, the biggest low point was this one:
Chris: For those of you who don't know, Teth-Adam of Khandaq is the "real name" of Black Adam, to whom Isis was married in the comics.
David: You ain't down with the Black Adam?
Chris: It's not that, it's just that this shot lingers for ever. This is the nod-and-wink nerd stuff that we figured was going to be in every single episode. There's no subtlety to it, and without that, it's just pure pandering.
David: Especially since I imagine there's no way it's actually going anywhere. Have they done Captain Marvel in this show? I guess it's conceivable that they have.
Chris: Wouldn't that be crazy? I mean, it's one thing to have Green Arrow be a publicly known hero before Superman, but as crazy as that is, how nuts would it be if the guy who looks exactly like Superman and has the same powers showed up before him, too?
David: Maybe Superman can later sue him out of existence, even though he came first.
David: Total misfire. I know Sims disagrees, but this episode really didn't do anything for me, other than the plot movement the ending provided. I have no idea what next week is, but hopefully it's less painful than this. This felt like ... like the OLD episodes of Smallville I used to flip past on TV.
Chris: If this is what the older episodes are like, then maybe I've totally been missing out for the past decade. I can see why it would turn people off, but live-action Silver Age aesthetics are right in my wheelhouse, even with the terrible special effects that make Isis look more like Cannonball.
David: Yeah, that's totally fair. Also, it seems like everyone flies like Cannonball in this show.
Chris: As for the next episode, it looks like a Halloween episode. According to the IMDB, it's about Clark and Lois getting a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, and at this point, I honestly have no idea what kind of problem that's going to present to Superman.
David: Maybe it's the debut of the Smallville Supermobile. Which is just a Jetta with two fists on the front.
Chris: That would be the best thing ever.
David: Let's hope, man. Let's hope.