EPISODE REVIEW: SMALLVILLE: "Absolute Justice" (Season 9, Episode 11)

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On a dark night in a blind alley, Chloe meets Sylvester "Star Spangled Kid" Pemberton… apparently another superhero. He states that they are both attempting to do the same thing: form a team. Before he can say anymore, the air develops a chill. This alarms Pemberton, who throws Chloe into a dumpster. A violent cold based attack rocks the dumpster… and apparently kills Pemberton.

Clark finds Chloe at Metropolis General (The place to pick up superfight victims in Metropolis). Clark meets a young girl who is shattered by Pemberton's death, but she rebuffs him because of his press credentials. Chloe does her 'Watchtower' thing and finds that Pemberton was talking to Wesley "Sandman" Dodds. Clark goes to check it out.

Meanwhile, the Sandman has a vision of Skyman's death, and puts his costume back on…. in time to be murdered in it. Clark finds the body, and a bloody "JSA" scrawled on a wall. *In the last couple of weeks, we've seen more bloody tagging….*

Oliver shows up at Watchtower and gets briefed on the situation- and given his assignment: steal Skyman's weapon from police lockup. Chloe checks in on the autopsy of Wesley Dodds… nobody (but the audience) seems to know what JSA means.

In the Daily Planet morgue, Clark and Chloe find file footage of a group of people who seemingly have no connection except for their arrests on trumped up charges years ago. Two of the men in the footage are the victims cooling in the OTHER city morgue.

Clark sets out to visit Carter Hall at his museum. Hall isn't interested in talking, and his friend, Dr. Kent Nelson is in the corner, clutching a bag and talking way too much… to himself. Clark X-Rays the bag and sees the Helmet of Dr. Fate… and the helmet turns inside the bag and sees Clark. (Whoa! COOL!). Clark leaves at Carter's request, but Kent Nelson says that the helmet thinks that Clark can help.

Chloe and Oliver find Pemberton's car, where they find a journal containing the secrets of the proto-JLA.  Clark, Ollie, Canary, Cyborg, everybody.

Courtney is whisked to Carter's by Nelson. She wants to suit up and fight, whereas Carter wants to have nothing to do with it. Courtney finally plays dirty and brings up Shayera (Carter's wife), and this actually steels his reserve. He asks Kent Nelson to become Doctor Fate. He does, in an awe inspiring transformation ["Duuuuuude!!!!" -Republibot 2.4, "Awesome!!"- Republibot 2.3] Carter Hall goes to his closet and opens it, revealing Hawkman's armor and outstretched wings. "Time to go hunting", indeed!

Clark and Chloe run into Doctor Fate, who transports Clark… somewhere. Green Arrow sets off to look for him, but finds Stargirl (Star Spangled Kid's sidekic….protege) playing bait for Icicle, the hitman who has been taking out the JSA. Stargirl puts up a great fight, but is rescued at the last second by Ollie. She's a bit irritated, Hawkman, who has been watching, whisks Green Arrow to the Watchtower and throws him through the big window. Warning them off, Hawkman takes to the skies.

Clark wakes up in the JSA museum and wanders through the cases where Justice Society memoribilia, and figures out that rather than a band of criminals, these men (and women) were all heroes.

After we get the tour, the surviving JSAers show up. Doctor Fate vouches for Clark, which carries serious weight with the others. Ollie shows up, and he's not nearly as welcome. Hawkman and Arrow… well, I'd say they got in a scuffle, but that'd be overstating it. Hawkman takes Queen DOWN. Of course, J'Onn J'Ones, the Martian Manhunter, finds his way in as well. Why is it that this place that nobody was able to find ten minutes ago suddenly becomes Hero Central?

Meanwhile, back at the Daily Planet, Lois gets a package with the mugshots of the JSA'ers. Tess shows up to attempt to ruin her day, but doesn't quite make it.

The JSA recounts their history: They tried to clean up the streets, but the government took them out, by hook or by crook and forced them all into retirement. Chloe shows up with critical clues (of course), and asks to use their TRS-80…

Back at the Watchtower, Courtney (Stargirl) and Chloe have a talk about what made the Justice Society so rich and the proto League so…. weak.

Green Arrow and Hawkman on a rooftop…. Hawkman does not think a great deal of our pal Ollie, and makes it no secret. He asked to be teamed with Green Arrow so that he can keep an eye on him. It occurs to this reviewer that they are both loose cannons who balance each other out because of their opposing ideologies.

Clark and Fate share a moment, as does Lois. Fate is more specific with his predictions of Clark's destiny than the Legion was last season. He basically spelled out Clark's life of heroism, tells him that Lex "I'm a corpse" Luthor will be his eternal adversary,  and he also gives Lois a word of encouragement regarding her love affair with a 'sentient power'.

A government agent named Amanda Waller is pulling Icicle's strings… we've seen Checkmate themed bits through the episode, and ta-da! We now see Waller, big as life. She has set Icicle after the JSA, but to what end? The Government forced the Justice Society underground… are they now out to kill them?

Lois earns her reputation as a reporter by encapsulating the plot so far in under two minutes. (Well, she's fed information by Amanda Waller, but hey. All good reporters have their sources).

J'Onn and Fate are staking out a liquid nitrogen plant, and talking about Clark and his… destiny. Icicle ambushes them, but in saving J'Onn's life, Fate is murdered and his helmet is stolen; J'Onn lies in a coma.

Oliver and Carter have a bit of a heart to heart about the fate of Shayera (Hawkgirl) Hall. Ollie comments about his inability to form attachments, and Hawkman states unequivocally that it's because Ollie is a jackass. Nice to see that they are bonding. They join the rest of the Justice League/Society at the Watchtower with some nifty banter. As they all arrive, Icicle shows up, wearing Fate's helmet. The Society/League, in an impressive display of teamwork battle Fatecicle. The battle takes a turn against the allies, when the Martian Manhunter flies in, powers restored by Doctor Fate's dying act, setting the odds back in the good guy's favor.

After the battle, Clark and Carter talk about the resurrection of the Justice Society, as a place for the legacies (as in family and sidekicks) of heroes to learn and grow. Carter now sees in Clark what Fate saw- a hero who will be a bright and shining example.

J'Onn joins Chloe in the Watchtower, expressing his concern that Fate's, well, Fate will be one that Chloe shares--- all the knowledge, all the information may very well drive her as mad as Kent Nelson was. Chloe changes the subject, inquiring about the Helmet. Apparently, someone will be drawn to it when the time is right. (Hmm) Ollie comes to the Watchtower to hang out, the young League is beginning to become a bit more familial.

Back at Checkmate, Waller reveals that she used Icicle to draw the heroes out… that she needed an army of 'outed' heroes to battle the coming apocalypse. She then welcomes Icicle to the Suicide Squad by putting a bullet between his eyes. Waller then joins agent Tess Mercer (?!?!!?) for a briefing…..

Observations-

Wow. That was pretty darn amazing.
First, Geoff John's script was dense, but well paced. It moved at a nice steady tempo and built anticipation nicely. There were multiple surprises, a lot of foreshadowing and more 'easter eggs' than I can possibly detail. Like his script for Legion last season, this episode does a lot to push Clark out of the nest.

The direction was competent, and I think that they blew the costume and effects budget on this double-ep. There were some obvious CGI bits, but it didn't take me out of the story. Fate's costume was very very well done, and Hawkman was surprisingly effective. Stargirl was a girl in spandex. What's not to like?

The soundtrack was free of the annoying pop stuff that CW shoes tend to try to shoehorn into their shows. I heard several interesting musical motifs- I heard some notes from John Williams' iconic Superman score- both the fanfare and a hat tip to "Can You Read My Mind"; and the main theme from Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. There were probably more musical quotes that I missed, but as I stated before: This episode was dense.

The vision of Fate included the (oh, I hate to overuse this word…)iconic cape. It seems that just about everybody knows that Clark is destined to fly, acrophobia or no. In the Geoff Johns written episodes, Clark sounds more like Superman than he usually does. If it wouldn't rob comics of one of their best writers, I'd suggest that Johns run Smallville: he GETS it.

And in that vein, there was a bit of metacommentary thrown in the mix. Johns seemed to deliberately move Clark towards the red and blue longjohns, move the Justice League towards a more formalized arrangement…
and I think he also moved Chloe a bit towards becoming the new Doctor Fate. This would explain other hints dropped in the Legion episode. And it's not a huge leap from 'Watchtower' to Doctor Fate's invisible tower….

Well, that's my take.

It was cool to catch a glimpse of the green skinned, bandolier'd Martian Manhunter during the sequence where Doctor Fate saved his life. And leave it to Johns to throw a reference in to J'Onn J'Ones Oreo addiction.

The introduction of Pam "Jackie Brown" Grier as Amanda "The Wall" Waller was welcome. She was tough, smart, ruthless and she actually looked more like the comics version of Waller than I expected her to. When did Grier get triple chins?

And Tess as an agent of Checkmate? That's a surprising development!

I really liked the Society. The characters were well drawn, well acted and a lot of fun. There are more members that I hope we get to see, there's a lot of potential here.

In fact, this episode made me believe that there's a lot of potential still untapped in this universe. The CW, if they had any sense (and surprisingly, they do) would convert this show into more of a DC Universe show. I'll refrain from fanboi-esque ramblings here, but they could do worse than to follow the DCAU's example.

All in all, excellent episode. Let's see if they use it as a jumping off point.

Well, with Zatanna returning in next week's episode, we'll see how well they do…


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