With Justin Hartley’s debut behind the lens, the actor, writer and now director has proven to be the most well-rounded, talented member of the regular Smallville cast. Granted, some weeks on this show that sentence can be interpreted as; at 4 foot 11, Justin Hartley is the tallest regular dwarf in Dwarfville, but the initial statement is truly meant as a sincere compliment.
I’ve always liked Hartley’s portrayal of Oliver Queen/Green Arrow, and enjoyed his turn as writer on last season’s “Sacrifice.” Actually, I only enjoyed half of it. I detested the scenes with Chloe. I’ve never cared for Allison Mack’s character anyway, and never ever believed in how she was written. But witnessing ex-high school reporter Chloe Sullivan suddenly being a physical challenge for the Checkmate-trained Tess Mercer was too much for me to accept then, and the very recollection of it still sends What The Fuck chills up my spine now. That said, and it needed to be said, I did love the scenes Hartley penned for Zod. Clearly Hartley understands the character of Zod, and in this episode, he manages to make Zod even more Zod-like.
Before I spread the Hartley love though, I do need to point out this glaring writing error, and I am positive I’m not the only one to have been puzzled by this; why didn’t Oliver show up with his weaponry? The guy is known as the Green Arrow for Rao’s sakes, and while he’s certainly a skilled martial artist, wouldn’t a guy is more comfortable patrolling the streets of Earth with a quiver of imaginative projectiles on his back think to bring his specialty accoutrements when volunteering for a deadlier mission than stopping muggers in an alleyway? Remember, I said Hartley was the most talented member of Smallville. I never said he was the second coming of Orson Welles.
What bugs me more than Green Arrow’s decision not to bring his green arrows though, is the fact that the solution, like many solutions for lazy writing on this program, is easily corrected if someone there ever wanted to take a second pass at a script. How about this?
Ollie walks in with his equipment, and lays it on the table before Clark gives him the you’re not coming with me speech. That, or he could drop it as he rushes Clark in mid- transportation. Ignoring the very reason Green Arrow enters a life or death situation without the tools that make him so effective guarantees some head-scratching moments among fans, and it also misses out on some potentially entertaining dialogue between two protagonists who clearly respect and mistrust each other at the same time.
Okay, enough with the most obvious gaffe on the show, this episode is the kind of entertainment I have been wanting since Day One. While there were no tights, there certainly were some fights, and these fights were some of the best action scenes we’ve ever seen on this show. True, Hartley didn’t invent the slow-mo to fast-mo battle shots, and he did borrow heavily from films like 300 and Gladiator, but he made his homage work – unlike a number of other movie rip-offs this season. (The Matrix, The Hangover and Date Night come to mind immediately.)
Once again Callum Blue was fantastic in his role as Zod. If anything, this week’s portrayal of the evil Kryptonian with a lethal hard on against any members of the House of El was his best yet. Blue clearly relishes the sound of his own delivery to lines that would undoubtedly come off as goofy if delivered by a lesser actor. Good for him, because it makes sense that Zod the character would also love the sound of his own voice. The only knock I have on Zod was another writing blunder. While trying to convince Clark that the two of them are more similar than the erstwhile farmer’s son realizes, Zod says the pair are single-minded, stubborn and decisive. Decisive? Clark Kent is decisive? I don’t think Zod has been watching the same Smallville in the Phantom Zone that we get here on Earth, because while stubbornness and even single-mindedness may apply to our boy Clark (who didn’t wear his glasses again this week after such a big deal was made of it last week. I know, he didn’t interact with anyone outside his inner circle, but I’m convinced that the CW thinks anyone with corrective lenses are automatic dorks.) fast, effective decision making has never been an appropriate description.
The scene between Ollie and Zod was particularly good, and while there was no chance of Ollie betraying Clark, I did get the feeling Ollie was slightly unhinged at how well Zod understood what made him tick, and even more surprised at how much Zod knew of Ollie’s skull tattoo – courtesy of Darkseid. The battle to the death between Clark and Ollie was nicely shot, and the final turn of events actually came as a pleasant surprise.
Meanwhile back at the Watchtower home front, I suppose many of you liked Lois pulling the gun on Tess, and while I felt it was fine, and probably even necessary, I was so involved in the gritty and violent world of the Phantom Zone, I’d have been happier with a more somber conclusion. Again, I realize they like their happy endings over at the CW, but the tone set would have been better served with something a little less huggy and lovey. Perhaps my testosterone just went into overdrive after watching what I felt was a real action-oriented 60 minutes, and I wasn’t ready to go back to typical Smallville treacle, but I can forgive the little things.
After a pretty bad beginning of the final season, Smallville has now given us three shows in a row that have been worth watching. I’m hoping things only get better.