SMALLVILLE - 9.14 - "Conspiracy" Review (

By:Joe Oesterle
Review Date: Sunday, February 28, 2010
Source: Mania

To say this week’s Smallville was better than last week’s Smallville isn’t saying much, but I am happy to go on record and report it was head and shoulders better than that ridiculous embarrassment of nonsense fluff. That’s not to say this episode was perfect, because it wasn’t, but imagine how great this series could be if “Conspiracy” was considered just an alright episode.

That’s what this audience deserves, and that’s what the character of Clark Kent/Kal El deserves.

“Conspiracy” was tight, tense, it established a few threats worthy Clark’s attention, all the main characters had something to do, and thankfully there was no charisma-enhancing magic meteor dust.

Here’s What I Liked:

Number one; let’s give Callum Blue some credit for his multi-layered performance of the infamous General Zod. More importantly however, let’s give credit where it often receives my scorn – the writing. I’m so happy to see a character as big as Zod being written as if he were a living, breathing creature, with a past, dreams, anxieties.

Even in the 70’s classic Superman 2, Zod came off as little more than a cartoon villain, which after all isn’t such a sin because the movie itself was a little cartoony, and obviously the source material were actual cartoon drawings in a comic book. Smallville doesn’t always know what it wants to be. Is it “Kal El’s Creek” (I forget who called it that in the comment boxes last week, but I enjoyed that.

Is it last week’s “Persuasion?” A show I realize many of you enjoyed, but to me felt like a story that the comic book people over at “Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane” would have rejected in 1963 because it would have insulted the intelligence of the average seven year old.

What this show should be is this episode. Again, this wasn’t perfect, but this is the correct direction.

I liked seeing Tess as a bad girl again. Maybe it’s me, but Cassidy Freeman is not at all attractive when she’s frightened or even noble, but when suddenly she’s a villain on a mission, that girl gets hot. Similar to Zod, Tess Mercer is not a one note character, and thankfully this writing team is aware of that not unimportant fact.

The set design was of Dr. Chisholm’s secret lair was nice, although it was hard not to compare Chisholm’s torture chamber to Jigsaw’s. Still, it was effective, and the sawed off Kandorian leg set an appropriate creepy mood.

Lois is in cahoots with Amanda “The Wall” Waller. It’s a little early, but I like where this could be going.

I also enjoyed the final scene. Zod, faking Clark out - pretending to be hurt so as not to clue his nemesis in on his newfound powers. It was a good bit of writing to allow Zod to comprehend Clark’s genuine affection for Lois. There on the ledge of the Daily Planet, arms outstretched, Zod took a deep, confident breath and managed to figure out in hald a day what Clark Kent hasn’t sussed out in 9 seasons. He soared over the Metropolis skyline.

Here’s What I Didn’t Like:

I’m a stickler about having airtight logic in my fantasy entertainment. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief about unicorns, avatars, werewolves and bullet-proof visitors from another planet as long as you don’t skimp on the logic. Explain the rules, and if you stay within those rules, I’m happy to go on the ride.

Now establishing other worlds can be difficult, but what drives me crazy is how often Smallville has trouble establishing the everyday world. Here’s my point:

Clark Kent, the reporter is able to coerce the doctor into fessing up classified information by telling him if he doesn’t he’ll write the story anyway and just attribute the quote to said doctor, because “that’s what reporters do.” Now first of all, that’s not in Clark’s character to make that threat, but let’s assume it was just an idle threat Clark would never follow up on, that fact that the doctor crumbles and gives this obviously unethical journalist all the answers he wants just smells of poor logic. Sorry, but it’s almost like the cigar-chomping producers over at Smallville are watching the dailies and all at once they furiously erupt, spilling hot coffee all over each other and screaming, “Where’s the Illogic? Where are the gaping holes of credibility? We’ve been watching this program for over 35 minutes and so far it all makes too much sense. For God’s sake somebody fuck something up. Give us a doctor who doesn’t have the intelligence to throw Clark out on his ear.”

The lack of common sense doesn’t stop there though, because this doctor proceeds to explain how Dr. Chisholm was craaaaazy because he thought aliens revived him from the dead and did experimental brain surgery on him. Look, I’m assuming there’s lot’s of doctors at that hospital, and hopefully they’re not all as stupid as the physician Clark interviewed.

Isn’t it much more likely that a doctor like Chisholm would show all the other doctors who thought he was making up the alien thing his fucking skull trauma? He could not have possibly done that to himself, and any trained doctor would look at the scars and wonder about the technology and training of whomever it was who cracked Chisholm open and stitched him back up. Alien or not, the guy deserves to be looked after. He’s a freaking doctor, in a freaking hospital with a lot of freaking scars on his freaking bald skull. He should not be labeled an automatic looney.

Probably my biggest disappointment was how are villain met his untimely death. Ok, we get it, Clark doesn’t kill, but Clark is the protagonist in these stories, and it’s really more than a little anticlimactic when the protagonist is constantly showing up to save the day, but before he actually accomplishes that mission, the antagonist slips on an banana peel and dies. It happens way too often for my taste. Clark knocked that dude pretty far. My guess is he wouldn’t be getting up any time soon anyway, but leaving him unconscious for the police, of handcuffed, or throw him in one some of the bondage equipment until the authorities arrive. That makes Clark the hero. Having him electrocute himself is ham-handed, and more important, unnecessary.

Let’s hope as this series winds down we get more “Conspiracy” and less “Persuasion.” Again, not a perfect hour of television, but considering the illogic-loving, cigar-chomping producers of this program maybe this is the best we could ever hope for. Still, I dare to dream of a show that is worthy of the characters Smallville brings us on a weekly basis.



Joe Oesterle is a seven time published author. Please check out some of his never before published stories for his 2007 book, “Weird Las Vegas.”

Mania Grade: B
Title: Smallville
Episode Title: Conspiracy
Director: Turi Meyer
Writers: Turi Meyer, Al Septien
Cast: Tom Welling, Allison Mack, Erica Durance, Cassidy Freeman, Callum Blue, Justin Hartley
Network: The CW Network
Series: Smallville