LAist Watches: Smallville
Whoever thought that a show often referred to in its infancy as "Dawson's Kryptonite" would still be managing to glue us to the boob tube at season five? Smallville is doing just that. LAist watched the premiere episode last Thursday, and while it had some problems, we have to admit that it was much better than the lackluster premiere of Alias.
If you haven't ever seen the show, you've probably heard about it. The basic log line is, "Superman In High School." Although this Superman doesn't wear a cape or fly around, he still does superhuman things on each show, whether it be running extremely fast, showing off his super-strength, or burning things with his eyes. During the first few seasons, a "freak of the week" with some strange super-power (invisibility, teleportation, can tallk to insects) would usually show up, terrorize Smallville for awhile, and then Clark would usually save the day in the last five minutes. Nine times out of ten, Chloe Sullivan (writer for Smallville High's "The Torch" newspaper) would find out that these powers were caused by meteor rocks that had fallen to earth when Clark arrived as a baby. These being pieces of his homeworld, Krypton, they could apparently cause Joe Schmo to get powers, or Clark to fall ill. The writers and producers have only started to draw from the huge base of Superman-related mythos in the past couple of seasons.
If you missed the season finale last year, you missed a doozy. Another meteor shower is heading towards Smallville, and Clark tries to stop it. He learns from his ghostly father, Jor-El (long story), that he must reunite the three elements (longer story) in order to stop the evil that is heading to earth. He eventually reunites the elements (bastically, black stones that have played a large role in the past couple of seasons) and along the way Lionel Luthor (Lex's dad) goes nuts (again), Lana kills her boyfriend's mother (a story so long that it could have its own LAist entry), and Clark is teleported to the North Pole. Oh, and of course the meteor shower does hit, destroying much of Smallville (including the Kent farmhouse), and a mysterious black spaceship crashes in a field near where Lana happens to be crawling from the wreckage of Lex's downed helicopter. At the end of that show, Clark is left standing alone in some deep powdery snow, looking confused.
So, this season we rejoin Clark on a FRESH Smallville (why does the WB insist on that FRESH tag? It's annoying and sounds like we might be watching an ad for cat food) and find him right back in the snow. He tosses the three elements (which have formed a sort of diamond shape) off into the distance, and thanks to the modern miracle of CGI, a huge structure built of ice is built in just a few seconds. Contractors, if this technology ever gets perfected, you might fear for your jobs.
So, Clark saunters in to the new and improved Fortress of Solitude, which looks exactly like the one that was built in Superman: the Movie, way back in 1978. You would think that interior design might have changed since then, but apparently the Kryptonians like things a bit spartan. Clark uses a crystal to activate a...something. And he hears the ghostly voice of his father again, and is zapped into some sort of instant learning vortex that teaches him how people on Krypton died when their planet exploded, and how to get to level 48 on Dance Dance Revolution.
Meanwhile, back in Smallville, two mysterious people with all of Clark's powers have emerged from the crater caused by the spaceship. Local authorities arrive on the scene in record time (shouldn't they have been helping people in the aftermath of the meteor shower?) and order them to put their hands up. They don't, and the authorities open fire (talk about your police brutality). Being bulletproof, this doesn't bother them much, although they do heat vision a few cop cars, and make some nice explosions. All right! We can't wait until these guys have to fight Clark.
These strange people show up again in the mysterious caves (long story...this show is chock full of them) in a change of clothing. We're not sure why they changed into black duds, or where their luggage was, but now they sort of look like CIA agents. They toss Lex around after realizing that he isn't Kal-El (Clark's kryptonian name) and head off in search of him. It isn't long before they are terrorizing the hospital (more explosions and crashing sets) and threatening the Kents. Just before they choke Lois to death, Lana shows up and tells them she can take them to Kal-El. Those are the magic words they needed to hear.
Although Lana is being less than honest here. First of all, she has no idea who Kal-El is. Second of all, she had just previously woken up in the Luthor mansion after she passed out in front of Lex. When she came to, she found a deranged Lionel Luthor carving kryptonian symbols into the beautiful hardwood floor (for those of you who have done home restoration work, this is a particularly painful scene to watch). He tells her that "their home is their only poison", and gestures towards Lex's smashed open vault (see last season finale) where there is apparently enough kryptonite to full the back of a Hummer with.
When the thugs show up with Lana in tow, she tells them that Kal-El is in the vault. They enter, and quickly double over the in classic throes of the effects of kryptonite, which is apparently similar to severe stomach cramps. One of them manages to seal the vault door, and they quickly turn on Lana, throwing her against the wall, where she passes out. Now, it's at this point that we have to take a brief sidebar to mention the passings out in this show. And not just this show, but this entire series. In what has fast become too many times to mention, people are often thrown against a wall, or knocked on the head, where they pass out, just in time to note witness Clark performing some super feat that saves the day. At this point, we have to fear that Lana, Lex, Chloe, and possibly the Kents as well would have suffered permanent brain damage from these constant bouts of unconsciousness. And while we're on a sidebar, who provides security at the Luthor mansion? They should be fired. Immediately. How many times in the past season has Lex been surprised by people just waltzing into his office/study? At any rate, we digress.
So, as the kryptonians (which we now know them to be) advance on Lana, of course Clark races into the room to stop them. Yes! The climactic battle which we have been waiting for! This promises to be at least as good as an Agent Smith/Neo showdown. However, we get ripped off. The female kryponian tosses a silver bracelet at Clark which becomes a portal into a sort of prison (comic geeks recognize this as The Phantom Zone, and movie geeks will recognize it from Superman I and II). Clark starts to get sucked into it, and is literally hanging on by one finger. And like classic movie villains, the two kryptonians turn their back on him, apparently intent on studying the titles in Lex's library. Of course, Clark manages to pull himself free, while they aren't watching, and sends both of them flying into the portal instead. They become "Villains Trapped Under Glass", and disappear into the setting sun.
With this setting sun, Clark's powers disappear, because we sort of glossed over the part where Chloe finds Clark in the Fortress of Solitude, the fortress tries to freeze her, Clark begs his father to let her live, he takes her to a hospital in the Yukon, and promises Jor-El that he will return before the sun sets. Jor-El warns him that if he doesn't, there will be dire consequences. And apparently he wasn't fooling because we see that Lex has the black spaceship from the crater in a warehouse at Luthorcorp, and a sort of black oil (X-Files, anyone?) spills from it, and forms the always scary James Marsters. Cut to the credits.
LAist's Take: While we can't deny that it has a few smalls faults, this show is strangely compelling, and it always manages to suck us right back in. Along the way, a few comic book bones are tossed to the hardcore geeks (references to Krypton, a speedster named Barry Allen tormenting Clark, etc), the heart and soul of the show is in the relationships. They have finally managed to break out of the Clark/Lana/Lana's current flame triangle in this season, as it looks like Clark and Lana will finally get it on. And we can only hope that Chloe has finally given up her hopes of becoming Mrs. Clark Kent and finds someone else, because she's too smart and too well-written of a character to keep pining for him. Although at this point, she's the only person (besides Jonathan and Martha Kent) who know Clark's secret, and has put herself squarely into the Pete Ross role. Hopefully she won't be written out of the show like Pete was, either. The show really manages to shine when it shows Clark struggling with his powers, and his decisions as he becomes a man, and in the interplay between everyone else. Lex and his father Lionel have proven to be one of the most dynamic relationships to watch unfold, especially as they straddle the line between good and bad, and we see Lex's slow turn to the "dark side." We also know that Lana will take a darker turn this season, as she has to hide the fact from Clark (and everyone else) that she committed murder, something that Lex is helping her with.
We can't wait to see what this season holds.