Saturday, February 07, 2009

Post-Mortem on Smallville episode 8.14 "Requiem"

(This won't mean anything to all but three of you, but humor me.)

So I've been asked what I thought of this week's Smallville. I've given it a bit of thought.

I'm...conflicted.

I wasn't pleased when I first heard that Lana was coming back for a 5-episode arc. While her exit at the end of Season 7 was abrupt and under-explained, for the first nine and a half episodes of this season I felt like I was finally watching the Superman show I had been hoping for all along. Clark was working with Lois at the Daily Planet (and they were growing closer), he faced enemies, he rescued citizens using a "secret identity" (or at least, an obscured one). It felt like the showrunners were letting Clark become the man he is destined to be. So the announcement of Kristin Kreuk's return as Lana was unwelcome to say the least.

When we didn't see too much of her for the first few episodes, I breathed a sigh of relief. The first three episodes--Bride, Legion, and Bulletproof--were fantastic hours of TV. They followed the Superman mythos, created some really great character moments for Clark, and fleshed out his renewed commitment to serving the people around him. Then the end of Bulletproof brought us a Clana moment, where Clark utters the final line of the episode: "What about what we want?"

You hear that noise? That's half a season of character growth imploding.

Then there's "Power." Lana steals information about Lex's attempts to return via life-support suits and nanotech. The whole idea of Lana being as good a hacker as Chloe is something I've gotten used to, though it still make sense. Then she convinces Dr. Grohl to allow her to adopt the technology Lex has designed, giving her superhuman powers. The episode ends with she and Clark on the roof, where she tells him he doesn't have to worry about her anymore, because now they're equals.

Excuse me?

Nevermind that Lana has a history of, oh, extortion, torture, murder, destruction, bloody vengeance, and selfishness. While Clark has finally started growing out of his immature self-interestedness to develop a moral code that involves intentionally avoiding killing (even his enemies) and sacrificing himself for the greater good.

No, sweetie, you're not equals. Not by a long shot.

Which brings us to "Requiem." And we begin with Clark and Lana engaged in some super-"Business-Time" that destroys what appears to be...well, it appears to be the Kent family bed. Clark was sleeping on a smaller bed several years back, so unless he's replaced the bedset in the master bedroom, this is the same bed his parents shared before his father's death (incidentally, caused by Clark's bullheaded insistence on changing fate to save Lana).

Take a minute and think about that. Better yet, don't.

Meanwhile, as Oliver strides in to tell the LuthorCorp board of directors that he's just taken over, a bomb goes off killing everyone but him. The bomber (a character known to the DC universe as The Toymaker) is a disgruntled former employee. Oliver knows he's working for Lex, and tries to track him down without Clark's help. Ollie wants revenge.

Okay, here's my second problem with this episode, really with the show's writing for the last year: Ollie's not much of a hero anymore. He's a vigilante.

I'm not as up on his history and mythology, so i don't know how true to character that is. But it's ticking me off. He's set up as an equal to Clark, a hero setting wrongs to right. And yet for the last year, since he found out Lionel killed his parents, he's been trying to kill Lex. Not just stop, but KILL. More on this later.

Chloe. Enough with the lies, please. I'm not happy about her character being dragged down with Oliver. While the Brainiac arc is over, thankfully, she's still obfuscating and hiding things. That never turns out well, and I hate that she's going down this path (which, according to spoilers for the rest of the season, keeps getting darker).

And seriously, why isn't she in Star City taking care of her HUSBAND? The one who tried to save her and was nearly killed by freaking DOOMSDAY?!?

Ugh. Moving on.

Skipping ahead to the climax. The krypto-bomb atop the Planet. That was actually a pretty cool device, and very appropriate for Lex's evil genius. Too long, this show has made Lex a woobie, even a woobie destroyer of worlds. It's time he became the criminal mastermind he's destined to be.

But seriously--Lana absorbs the kryptonite into her super-skin and saves the day? What i'm getting is that the powers that be (TPTB) are making her out to be a hero, a martyr, who sacrifices herself for Clark. But she just hasn't earned it yet. There's too much baggage there for her to get my teary devotion.

I like that Clark makes the decision to lose her in order to stop the bomb and save lives. It was subtle, but it was there. Last year's Clark would have hesitated, would have probably tried to stop her. But that doesn't absolve what comes next.

Clark finds "Lex's" semi-truck and suddenly goes to kill him.

Wait, WHAT?

And then Lana immediately talks him down.

WHAAAAT?!?

All those episodes establishing his code, his "one rule." And he would have tossed it aside because Lex somehow made it impossible for him to be with Lana. He didn't even kill her. And Clark's ready to throw it all away.

My huge problem with this is: Clark doesn't need Lana to be his conscience.

Look, the greatest strength Superman has isn't flight, or speed, or strength, or anything else. It's his moral code. That's at the heart of Superman--he is bound by an iron-clad moral code that DEFINES who he is. That's what makes him the world's greatest hero.

And in this show, after all this time, Superman needs Lana Lang to show him the better path.

Read that again. Or better yet, don't.

Suddenly, "Lex's" trailer explodes. Why? Because Oliver put a bomb in there and killed him.

Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow, kills "Lex Luthor," and Chloe ends up covering up for him.

I actually had to rewind and rewatch that scene, because I couldn't friggin believe it. Two great characters, utterly stained by these unheroic actions. I don't even have words. This may well be the lowest point of the series in my mind. I haven't been this frustrated with the show since the abhorrent Season 4 "Lana is possessed by a Witch" arc. And you KNOW how i feel about that one.

I know it wasn't really Lex. It couldn't have been. Either there was no one in the truck, or it was a double. TPTB don't have the...fortitude to pull off so brazen a move. But the fact that they would even imply it, and cover the hands of the Green Arrow and Chloe Sullivan in blood--it's appalling to me as a fan.

Now, about the final scene. The last "loft scene" of Smallville. (These "loft scenes" are infamous in some quarters of the SV fanbase.) Clark and Lana talk about how her having absorbed the kryptonite makes her poisonous to him, that he'll never be able to touch her again. She's leaving, never to return.

And Clark, slowly, makes the agonizing walk across the room to her, nearly falling over a few times, and embraces and kisses her for the last time.

I'm going to admit it, I was tearing up, because it was a powerful scene. For all the horrible missteps and distractions this relationship has brought to the show and its story, this scene was one of the best bits of acting I've ever seen from Welling. I believed fully, in that moment, that Clark's love for Lana was real. He held her, kissed her, until his body couldn't take it anymore and he fell to his knees, writhing in pain. She cried out and ran away from him. Before she left, she said she loved him. As she runs out, he pushes himself up off the floor, and from his knees gasps, "I love you." Aaaaand scene.

Okay. As I said, I thought it was an incredibly powerful scene. But what i found interesting, and heard others observe, is that it's also so incredibly emblematic.

Lana is kryptonite.

This has been true for YEARS. She was Clark's greatest weakness. She brought out the selfishness in Clark, to the point where he was willing to give up his abilities and be human, in order to be with her. He was willing to sacrifice the life of someone else (not realizing it would be his own father) to be with her. He was willing to stop being a hero, in order to be with her. And when Lex made that impossible, Clark was ready to sacrifice his moral code and shed Lex's blood, an act of unheroic vengeance (no matter how deserved).

Lana was the kryptonite that kept Clark from taking his place as a hero. And for the first half of the season, when she was gone, he was stronger, more heroic, and closer to Superman than he'd ever been before.

And now she's gone. But at what cost? Everything that seemed to be building in Clark's character and heroic journey this year was pretty much lost. Lex Luthor is "dead" at the hands of two formerly heroic (or at least semi-heroic) characters. And everything seems to be in turmoil, regarding the storylines still unresolved. (Where is Doomsday/Davis? Where is Lois? Is Jimmy going to survive?)

So, you asked me what I thought, gentle reader? I'm disappointed. Offended, really. And while there were a few really cool moments in the episode, I think it did more harm than good. I don't know how the show will recover at this point. It's too late in the game to pull a stunt like this.

I know there are people who are swearing off the show forever. I'm not. I'm a fan, and I'm going to see it through. But I'm really let down. Up to this point, Season 8 has been the very best season of the show, in my opinion. I had high hopes that when it ends, either this year or next, it would end at the top of its game. After the last two episodes, my hope seems to be ill-placed.

It could turn around; anything's possible when it comes to TV shows. But without a massive ret-con, I don't see how.

8 comments:

Matt said...

hmmmmmmmmmmmm...

you make me think..

Rick said...

Your astute observations - Lana IS kryptonite - made this rant for me. I looked into some of the Lana history on wikipedia, and there's precedence for SuperLana. But my biggest takeaway is that while he might've lost some of that character development, this might be the end of Lana and we can bring Lois back to get him into the suit and into the air.

Dave said...

Rick: The sooner, the better, sir.

Matt: Then my work here is done!

jaimieteekell said...

Okay, I didn't read this whole thing, obviously, I don't watch the show...

But I learned something amazing about the TV world this week.

Spec script.

Look it up. People write them. TV people get lazy and actually USE them. A lot.

Kelly said...

In DC comics, Green Arrow/Oliver Queen has dome questionable, vigilante type things that were not always moral.

Sonia said...

Its really a great review!!!! I always prefer to Watch Smallville tv show online for free. And their is a site which offers free stuff...

Anonymous said...

S08E14

Clark can use blue kryptonite to get closer to Lana or not?

This idea sounds so far away the whole episode. It was for me clearly since they were on the roof.

marria said...

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