Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to our review of “Smallville.” Our regular critic on this beat - Republibot 2.0 - was having “Connectivity Problems” tonight, whatever that means, and asked me to step in for him.
Just in the interests of full disclosure, this was the first episode of “Smallville” I’ve ever seen. R2 informed me, however, that I’d probably like it because it had Zatanna in it:
I agreed that he was probably right. I’ve got a thing for scantily-dressed brunettes in top hats. But then, really, who doesn’t? There’s Neolithic cave paintings of that sort of thing, and the hat hadn’t even been invented yet. But I digress…
PLAY BY PLAY
There’s a science fiction convention in Metropolis, and Lois Lane is covering it, for some reason. Chloe is there, too.
There’s a 12-year-old kid who’s geek-lusting after a rare one-of-a-kind mint comic that’s never even been read, not by anyone, not even the publisher. Yow! The kid steals the comic book, and sneaks off to read it, and suddenly he’s transformed into a superhero, and saves Chloe from a large falling Saturn. She’s immediately smitten with him, and tracks him back to a storage room where he’s changing into civilian clothes. We re-enact an awkward scene from “Big” in which she’s essentially hitting on a 12-year-old boy without realizing it, and he asks her out for some coffee.
Clark, meanwhile, has disabled some thugs, one with a can - pretty funny - while talking to Lois on the phone. She wants a costume change, so he zips (literally) by her apartment and grabs something in a garment bag for her, at her request. At the convention, he gives it to her, but then Zatanna shows up looking a bit like this:
Which isn’t a bad way to look, really. Lois, now dressed as Xena, Warrior Princess, gets jealous, and goes off to look for the comic because evidently she’s not exactly an ace reporter yet, and she’s stuck on the Entertainment beat.
Clark and Zatanna find the storeroom and the comic almost immediately, then discuss Clark’s somewhat stiff personality and lack of a fantasy life. He explains that he’s living everyone else’s fantasy already, and it’s pretty mundane to him. Zatanna does some mojo, and suddenly we’re in the Police video for “Wrapped Around My Finger” - there’s candles everywhere - and she zaps Clark with a love spell. The two of them start macking, and Z. hops up on his lap, and it’s almost surprisingly steamy for a show about Superman when Clark snaps out of it and says he can’t. Zatanna expresses remorse at this, and heads off.
Chloe, meanwhile, has coffee with our ersatz Captain Marvel, then takes him back to her place…to play X-Box. She’s a bit disappointed, but this is a show about Superman, and we’ve already surpassed our Steamy quota for the season. They go out flying instead.
Lois, meanwhile, is upset w/ Clark about the whole Zatanna thing as he awkwardly tries to explain that Zatanna wasn’t trying to ‘be’ anyone at the convention, that’s just sort of how she dresses all the time. It’s weird. Back at the Watchtower, Chloe checks in all flushed and in love, and realizes that her new beau is in fact, just a boy. She freaks out and runs to warn him as Clark discovers that the comic protagonist isn’t actually a hero, he’s a villain once he feels betrayed. Sure enough, Chloe is telling him that she’s going to have Zatanna turn him back into a little boy who gets picked on all the time and has no parents, and of course he hulks out. (Different universe, I know, but you get my meaning). Zatanna puts the whammy on him, and the magical shockwave knocks Chloe off the art deco gargoyle she was precariously balanced on, and she falls. Clark catches her of course, and the boy is just a boy again.
Back at the Kent farm, Clark explains to the kid that being a hero isn’t all beer and skittles (Unless, of course, that’s your superpower) and ‘with great power comes great responsibility.’ They bond, and then he’s returned to his surprisingly young and attractive aunt. Clark fesses up to Lois that he made out with Zatanna, and Lois says - rather humorously - that she knew all along because Clark has no poker face and is just a mass of Tells. They address their mutual insecurities over their relationship, but decide they really like each other (presumably yet again, but I don’t know as I’ve never seen the show before), and Clark agrees to take her to the costume ball at the end of the convention, despite the fact that he hates costumes and fantasy crap.
Back at the Watchtower, Green Arrow is planting arrows in a target, and drinking - always a bad combination - and Chloe comes in and admits her life is just a great big pile of superhero-related Nunnery. Arrow says he sympathizes, he’s largely in the same boat, and sometimes you just need to take what you can get when you can get it and not attach too much to it. He offers to let her shoot arrows, so she takes the bow and he wraps himself around her in creepy gym coach mode, putting his bow hand atop hers.
“How do I know when to let go?” she asks.
“It’s all about your heart,” he says, “Just do it between the beats.”
You know, it wasn’t bad. It really wasn’t. I enjoyed it. I didn’t feel it was terribly densely written or anything, the plot was instantly recognizable, and the resolution was really all too easy, but even with all that in mind, I find I did enjoy it. I liked it a lot better than Lois and Clark, man oh man oh man, did I hate that show!
I’ve never been a big fan of Lois Lane. She’s a tough character to make likeable, frankly. She’s either a pain in the neck, a damsel in distress, or a bit of a shrew. Pretty much the only time I’ve ever found her likeable was Margot Kidder’s vaguely Annie Hall take on the character, and *then* only in the first movie. The Dana Delaney version from the DCAU came close to likeable, but never quite made it. Surprisingly, though, I really liked this show’s iteration of Lois. She certainly was pretty enough, she seemed reasonably smart, but I think what made her for me was that she’s clearly got some affection for Clark, which, let’s face it, is not the normal way they play these things. I never really cared for the “I love the hero, and only tolerate the zero” aspect, and in fact I occasionally find it rather disturbingly mean spirited, but the idea that Lois actually *likes* Clark, and even recognizes that he might be too good for her is a neat spin on a generally not-terribly-neat character.
Soooooooooooooo….Lois is in to French Maid outfits, huh? And X-box? It really is every high school freshman boy’s dream. It was interesting to me that she was clearly really into the geekery at the convention. I found that kind of engaging and unexpected.
Chloe’s a new character for me, and I didn’t really know what to make of her, but as anyone reading this review is already well acquainted with her and this show’s mythos, I won’t bore you with my fumbling attempts to sort it out.
Serinda Swan is…yow. She’s pretty fine as Zatanna, though in my mind she’s a bit too obviously Canadian. (And what is it about Canadians and just randomly inventing first names, anyway? Serinda, Alanis, T’anne, etc.) That said, she’s plenty hot, and while she doesn’t quite have the energy that I would have associated with the character, I find that she gives it a surprisingly high level of plausibility that I wouldn’t have associated with her, either. That more than makes up for it. If you’ve spent a few years hanging out with goth girls and hanging around the alternamusic scene, you undoubtedly know a couple women with this look/feel/demeanor, and interestingly the actress’s choice to dial it back and make it more sedate makes it work. It’s a 3AM-in-the-bar-and-you’re-both-tired-and-have-been-talking-for-hours-and-she-can’t-quite-decide-if-she-just-wants-to-crash-or-maybe-make-out-because-she’s-bored kind of thing. I like her.
But then, as I said, I’ve got a thing for brunettes in tophats.
I’ve got no idea of the larger arc going on here, but the Chloe/Green Arrow thing at the end was kind of interesting in that it played some attraction with some lonely desperation, which I wouldn’t have expected of a show as coy and hokey-jokey as this one.
The plot immediately struck me as an “Oh, come on!” level of goofy, but then I remembered, ’Oh, yeah, it’s a superhero show’ and with that in mind it worked. It was resolved a bit too obviously and a bit too easily for my liking, and the whole Chloe-in-peril thing was there to distract us from the fact that Zatanna effectively deactivates the guy by remote control, which really is pretty anticlimactic unless it involves a blonde chick falling from a tall building. I guess they had to throw that in. Just the same, it worked well enough since the real issues here weren’t so much the plot as they were the secret desires of the characters.
The dialog was overly hip, deliberately syncopated, but it worked. I thought it was interesting that Clark is the one character who doesn’t talk like he’s seen too many Neil Simon movies in a row. Sets him apart from the others, though he does get some good lines, and he’s got much more presence in the role than I would have expected.
The theme of ‘fantasy’ ran through the whole ep, perhaps a bit too overtly for my tastes (I think it’s a little too obvious when each character says “Fantasy” about eight times in 44 minutes), but it made for an interesting catchall. Clark’s fantasy is Lois, inasmuch as he has fantasies, which he really doesn’t. Zatanna’s fantasy is overtly sexual, and Clark will do, though I never got even the slightest hint that he was the only object of her affections. Chloe’s fantasy is to have a superhero boyfriend and some fun, and though that blows up in her face in a manner that could easily get a restraining order slapped on her (“Honestly, officer, he wasn’t twelve when I groped him, he only became twelve after my magician friend put a counter curse on him!”), she settles for Ollie.
Was it just me, or did our special guest villain this week have kind of a Martin Short thing going on? Yeah, yeah, I know he was all cut and handsome and all, but really, think about it for a minute: When he smiled and tilted his head down a bit while looking at the camera, he’s totally Martin Short. Also, the Canadian accent helps, and the odd diction he affected while being a male model pretending to be a 12 year old boy. Seriously. Martin Short. Seriously. Think about it. He was in Godspell, you know. So was R2, your normal reviewer (Though obviously a different production.)
On that coincidence, I shall bid you all a goodnight. I am sorry I wasn’t able to be as insightful as your normal critic is, I'm sure I missed all kinds of interesting arc-related details that were in plain sight, for which I apologize. I did my best, but I'm pinch hitting here. Rest assured, R2’ll be back next week.