Airing over a week since April Fool’s Day, I was still waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under me during the latest, and dare I say greatest Smallville episode in this show’s entire history. Now granted I have only started watching this program since the beginning of this season, and truth be told, I only started watching because of a court-ordered decree after I beat a man to death with my bare hands who encouraged me to watch a single episode of Season 8. I must confess, I am truly sorry for my actions now. I still can’t get the images of that night out of my head. Chloe had amnesia, Brainiac supplanted false memories into her mind, Clark was being a complete tool…. Good Lord, help me before I kill again.
So imagine my surprise, as I sat in my orange jumpsuit, in my sterile 10 x 6 cell, waiting nervously for my weekly dose of legalized torture. Only this time, I was treated to a glimpse of what this show could have always been for not only this season, but for eight freaking season before. Suddenly I feel pity for the man I slaughtered that cold and rainy night in a Tucson Days Inn, but more than that I feel a familiar murderous rage once again coursing through my veins. I want to brake free from this cage and crush the windpipes of everyone who was ever connected to a single second of this show prior to the episode, entitled, “Checkmate.”
Damn it all to hell, was giving us this episode so freaking hard?
“Checkmate” opened and closed as absolute, no need for a curve, grade A, superhero fantasy/adventure television. No plot holes, no lazy or useless dialogue, no cheap banana peel endings, no silly romance, no stupid musical montage with Lois bobbing around the place in a wedding dress, and even Chloe didn’t suck. With the single exception of Clark grabbing Tess by the lapels and dangling her off the rooftop ala Gotham’s favorite pointy-eared playboy/vigilante, each individual stayed in character. And while in a lesser episode that move may have made my blood run hot with anger, I not only forgave it, I went with it, and enjoyed it. I hope someone in charge was paying attention last night, because if this is what we could be getting every week, why the hell haven’t we?
It is worth mentioning, even though I am a fan of the physical attributes of Erica Durance, that we were treated to the best installment in the show’s history and I did not miss a moment of Ms. Durance’s ample charms. I find it hard to actually type these words, but I’d be happy never to see Erica Durance in 5-inch heels and a form-fitting leather outfit again if I could be guaranteed this level of entertainment.
I’m not saying get rid of the Lois character entirely, but make her less silly. Make her a real human being instead of the false tough exterior, fragile interior stereotypical cartoon love interest. Make her the hard-nosed no-nonsense journalist she should be… and if it’s not too much of a problem, please disregard what I just said about never seeing her in the heels and the tight clothes. Make her an intelligent, loving, loyal, tough character, who just happens to indulge in a healthy dose of cosplay in her downtime.
Special effects? Wow! Say what you will about the feel of these scenes being ripped off from Watchmen, or the more dated, Matrix movies, we’re more than happy to embrace this seemingly brand new visual element to the show. Not that long ago I was complaining about the special effects budget because in one scene all we saw was the smoke coming off the metal that Clark had just burned soldered. We didn’t even get the red line of heat vision, just the 2 dollar smoky impression from the off-camera effects guy. Now we’re getting bullet-time, frozen 360 degree camera angles and exaggerated slo-mo jaw bustings all in the same 60 minute time frame. God I hope they didn’t just shoot their wad for this season and the next on this program. But if they did, I still want to thank them for delivering what we have deserved all this time. Thanks guys.
Justin Hartley is still head and shoulders above the rest of the cast when it comes to playing light, and he’s also capable of being a genuine threat as a champion for justice. That said, Cassidy Freeman came off as sexy, confident, believable in the role of dishing out wallops of hurt, humorous and vulnerable. I’m starting to wish she were playing Lois.
Not to crap on Ms. Durance again (but after this article she’s probably never going to date me anyway) I wish she didn’t look so phony during her fight scenes. I always feel like I’m watching an old Charlie’s Angels episode when it comes time for Lois to throw down. She obviously doesn’t have the athletic ability to pull these scenes off, and I think someone finally realized that.
And how about the J’onn J’onnz? Phil Morris not only looks like the comic book character come to life, but he’s able to deliver his lines with a stoic detachment while not reading them with any extra effort. The Martian Manhunter has always been one of those characters from the comics that I wanted to see more of. His solo comic book failed to capture an audience, and maybe he can’t carry a monthly book or a weekly TV series, but I am convinced the Martian Manhunter would make an amazing movie.
Speaking of movies, I wanted to point out the similarities in the Tess/Oliver black tie function to the Keaton/Batman Pfeiffer/Catwoman identity discovery scene in Batman Returns. Sexy.
And speaking of sexy, Amanda Waller has never been much of a looker, but even at this age, Pam Grier is capable of sizzling up the screen as the uber nationalistic special ops head. Even Waller was making fun of Clark in his black on black wanna-be Matrix duds. She like it when he dressed more “patriotic.” Come on Clark, if Cleopatra Jones is telling you to funk up the duds, then by all means, get down and get funky.
Finally, I am very curious as to the identity of this new chess piece on the board. While red is not traditionally his color, and I have heard no rumors supporting this, and logically don’t believe it would ever happen for brand reasons, I really would love to think Batman is about to play a part in Clark Kent’s step from farm boy to savior. (It’s more likely some old JSA member. I’d be up for The Golden Age Green Lantern – although, you’d expect his chess piece to be green in spite of his own scarlet dominated choice of uniform.)
The only bad thing I can say about this latest episode is I fear next week will be a giant let down. I hope I’m wrong.
Rumor has it Buddy Hackett had a very interesting “oral” contract to perform his stand-up routine in Las Vegas during the early sixties. Want to find out why the word “oral” is in quotations? Visit Joe Oesterle’s blog and find out.