SMALLVILLE - 9.17 - "Upgrade" Review -

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  • Title: Smallville
  • Episode Title: Upgrade
  • Starring: Tom Welling, Allison Mack, Erica Durance, Cassidy Freeman, Callum Blue, Justin Hartley, Brian Austin Green
  • Written by: Andrew Landis and Julia Swift
  • Directed by: Mike Rohl
  • Network: The CW Network, LLC
  • Series: Smallville

SMALLVILLE - 9.17 - "Upgrade" Review

Letdown From Last Week

By Joe Oesterle     April 18, 2010
Source: Mania

SMALLVILLE - 9.17 - "Upgrade" Review
© Mania

Seems to me they were a week late with the title of this episode. “Upgrade” would have been a perfectly suitable title for last week’s show. Everything about “Checkmate” was an upgrade to everything Smallville had been all season long. Better writing, better directing, better acting, better characters, better special effects. Friday’s effort was not so much of a downgrade, but more of a same old thing – and frankly when they proved they could be so much more it was disappointing (although sadly not surprising) to realize last week’s endeavor was a fluke, and not the new direction.

How many times do we need to see some other variant on the old reliable Green Kryptonite? To be honest, using Kryptonite has always felt like a cop out to me anyway, but over the course of 9 years, I realize it deserves to play a part in the story now and then. Watching Clark go all bad boy under the influence of Red K has been done here in Smallville, and by now I think it’s safe to say, it’s been done to death.

Granted, if you’re going to feature a character (Metallo) whose very lifeblood is dependant upon pieces of Clark’s native planet to survive, then by all means, let’s see some Green K, but the only reason the Red K was even introduced into the plot was so that Clark would share some of his Kryptonian heritage secrets with Zod, and frankly it would have been so much more interesting if Zod had duped Clark into sharing those secrets with him, rather than copping out and having Clark do naughty things while under the influence.

Zod’s biggest, and deadliest advantage over Clark has always been his ruthlessness. It would have been much more effective, and ultimately much more devastating to our hero if Zod had somehow fooled Clark into believing that they were both working towards the same goal.

Clearly Zod senses Clark’s trusting nature, and as a brilliant strategist who would stop at nothing to accomplish his goals, Zod would think nothing of manipulating Clark into believing he wanted to help his Kryptonian brother assist mankind. Soon Clark and Zod would be acting like brothers, even to the dismay of Chloe and Ollie. Little by little, Clark would bring Zod into his world, and share Jor El’s secrets with his newfound friend. And all the while of course, the devious major would be plotting how and when to eventually betray the Big Boy Scout. An episode of Red K does nothing but establish a quick and cheap connection between Clark and Zod, while a 6-week covert plan ending in deceit would cripple Clark both physically and emotionally.

Ok, so they didn’t go that way, and unfortunately for fans who would prefer better thought out writing, they’re not heading that way any time soon. But what they did lay out seemed a little puzzling to me as well.

Why did Clark and Zod head to Seattle to cause a -64 degree snowstorm? Was that solely done to create a Fortress of Solitude, and if so, why did Clark pick Seattle? Seems kind of arbitrary to me. Was it, as I suspect, simply because someone with authority thought it would be a real cool visual to have a circling helicopter shot of the two super-powered aliens standing on top of the Space Needle? Why not do the North Pole thing? What would it have taken those two guys to get there? Another 4 minutes? Was this just Clark doing impish Red K things, because that’s what happens when he snorts Red K now? Again, it seemed random and unexplained.

I did enjoy Brian Austin Green again in his reprisal as Metallo. The guy can act, and that can’t be said for every guest these guys introduce. I enjoyed the romantic tension between the John Corben character and Lois, but again, I’m starting to think less Lois would be a great way to go. Lately I’ve been annoyed with her character. The writers obviously don’t take her seriously, which is fine now and then, but we’re also supposed to believe she is a respected journalist, but we are never shown any proof of that. We do know she likes donuts and she really gets in to dress up during her sexy time. Other than that, she’s an awkward fighter, and is knocked out almost every episode.

By my count Lois Lane has received more concussions than your average NFL quarterback, and those guys are getting tossed to the turf on an average of 5-6 times a game. Maybe all that head trauma explains why she hasn’t figured out Clark is the Blur yet.

And while we weren’t treated to the “bad guy slips on a banana peel” ending, we were treated to another annoying Smallville ploy. This one is called, “do something kind of epic in the final two minutes of the show,” but fail to pay it off with any real drama next week.

Again, I’m fully expecting to face the wrath of a certain percentage the loyal and bitey Smallville faithful, but I don’t and never will understand their reactionary fury. All I’ve been preaching is for episodes like we had last week. Tight, action-packed, well-written, current visual effects. They’ve proven they can deliver the goods once; so why is it so unfair to expect that type of show on a weekly basis?

I love this character. I wish more of this creative crew cared for him as much.



If you’re a fan of animation, check out “Joe’s Weekly Ani-Rants.” They’re not weekly, but they are animated, ranty, and funny. Feel free to search YouTube for all other animation by Joe Oesterle.


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CaptAmerica04 4/18/2010 5:12:12 PM

AGREED!  This show was another exercise in let-down.  And WHY hasn't Clark yet realized that ever since Brainiac  had his run of the Fortress, it's not all white and shiny anymore?  Do all those black pillars just seem like an improved aesthetic to him or something?!  Seriously.  The writers of Smallville have written us all off as morons.

Lois is THE most f-ed up character in the entire show... and that's saying something.

I'm surprised that Chloe hasn't yet gone the Batman route by keeping a small piece of Green K with her at all times, just in case Clark flips out again (like he seems to do at least once per season).

And all these efforts to make Clark into this brooding, tragic hero are just... LAME!  He's NOT Bruce Wayne, for God's sake!  He's Clark Kent/Superman!  He's the light to Batman's darkness.  They're opposite sides of the hero coin, not brothers in brooding.

If there weren't those episodes occasionally, like last week, or the Justice League episode, where I get reminded of all the potential that this show has, I'd have quit years ago.  I'd just wish for some consistency.

gopherblaster 4/18/2010 6:47:42 PM

Joe , you know that the fortress they were in, is in the north pole right?

Didn't like that Clrak was infected with Red K when he found out about the kryptonite stash. Chloe is validated for not telling Clark anything.

Lois and Clark in the same episode, and they really didnt have anything to do with each other, thats was kind of cool, differant take.

Lois totally left that guard to die in the beginning.

What would happen if Zod was on Red K?

Did Clark forget about Kara when he was crying about no family?

gj430 4/18/2010 8:02:48 PM

I think you might want to stop critizing the show if you come out of left field and say that they were creating a Fortress in seattle. Were you even paying attention to the show. All they were doing was messing with people there and then they went to the fortress at the north pole. The fortress has been on the show since s5. Have you even been watching. If you don't have enough understanding to see that, I don't think we can take your opinion on the quality of a show. You may want to actually go back and watch the show since the earlier seasons. Also you may want to actually pay attention to whats happening. I watch this show sometimes with my friend and his teen and preteen daughters and then get what going on so you might want to reevaluate your ability to understand whats happening.

I want good writing too and sometimes they can do better but for the most part I think they do good. I was suprised by the review of Checkmate also because it was good but I didn't think it was anybetter than most and was only good because of the other episodes that it built off of. I thknk you may want to take the bashing down a notch.

JDK008 4/18/2010 9:11:40 PM

GJ , You must be new to say those words about Joe.  He knows what he's talking about.  If you have an issue with his review voice your opinion but do it with respect.  Calling him ignorant isn't going to get you anywhere.  Joe is the best columnist this site has so chill out have a beer and come back with a different tone.  This episode was weak... Red K.. Really?  How much more can they use that?  Get off the different kryptonites and onto the major storyline already.  Joe's review was right on.

gj430 4/18/2010 9:18:10 PM

I might have been a little harsh and I apologize but I have read the others ones and he seems a little to critical of the writing when he can't even tell that they weren't creating a fortress in seattle and that it's been on the show for 5 years. The writers can do better sometimes but it's not the crapfest he makes it out to be all the time.

JoeArtistWriter 4/18/2010 10:17:49 PM

CaptAmerica, we're definitley seeing eye to eye on this episode. It was very disappointing after lasts week's episode.

gopherblaster, I guess I did  zone out and assumed since they froze Seattle, they also built a Fortress. Why else freeze Seattle? That was just a Red K prank? I realized that about Kara too. JJust more inconsistencies.

gj430, wow, someone is eager to prove they watch bad episodes better than I do. OK, you got me, I admit it. I was confused by the logic of Clark and Zod sending the entire city of Seattle into deathly cold temperatures. I apologize if I missed the logic of freezing an entire city to look like it was in the North Pole, which lead me to mistakjenly believe Clark was trying to create a make-shift fortress. I am aware that is not one of Clark's powers from the classic Superman mythos, but they have taken liberties before. I guess watching crap like this makes me zone out now and then. Of course if this show were written with logic in mind, someone might see where a guy might misunderstand what's going on. Why the hell did they send Seattle to sub arctic levels  in the first place??? - undoubedtly killing countless infants, elderly and many in-between.

And I have no idea how you could possibly not see the difference between "Checkmate" and every other episode that's been on this season. Go back and reread my article and rewatch that show. That seems like a bigger offense than assuming they froze a city to create a Fortress.

JDK, thanks for the kind words man. We both know there's a group of Smallville fans who get all twisted when I criticize the show. I really loved last week, and wish they'd hit closer to that each week. What's the crime in hoping this show is as good as it can be. Last week they showed us a glimpse. I'd like to revisit that experience sometime soon.

gj430, the writers on this show are, to be as polite as possible, inconsistent. Perhaps I did make a mistake, and if I were watching more intently, I wouldn't have made that mistake, but if they didn't go to Seattle and turn that city into a frozen wasteland... again, killing people, but also crippling an economy, destroying livestock and agriculture, ruining machinery, and causing auto accidents, maybe I wouldn't have blanked. That was stupid writing, and I guess I was lulled to a fuzzy place. 

Again, I have issues with the show. You obviously have issues with me. I'm cool with both, but why don't you check out all my reviews for this show this season. I'd say it's a crapfest 50% of the time. It's decent 30% of the time, good 19% of the time, and head and shoulders better than it's ever been once - last week.


Fluffhead 4/18/2010 10:50:50 PM

Joe, good review, and it was definitely a letdown after last week, but one thing I feel I need to point out is that they didn't so much "freeze" Seattle down to -64 degrees, but rather they caused a snowstorm in 64 degree weather. That is how Chloe located them... at least that's what I got out of it (I was a little *cough* intoxicated at the time, lol)

Oh, and that whole plot you laid out with Zod befriending Clark, only to betray him, was done over the course of the first few seasons, only with Lex as the antagonist.  Michael Rosenbaum did a superb job as Lex Luthor, if you think you can get through it, you should check out some of the earlier ep's.

invisioner 4/18/2010 11:18:38 PM

 Any episode where guest writers appear and Allison Mack doesn't do her flip attitude bad metaphors isn't a complete tragedy. Wait, That only reveals episodes of other tv shows. My bad. Joe, I think you have a good feel of the pulse on Smallville. Its a sucky show that has characters we love that unfortunately, are getting ass raped by poor writing and Tom's producing. And yes, I can criticize because I do write for a living, when I am not behind the camera.

GJ, hands down, Smallville fails in general, at times, it manages to satisfy a quirky DC universe surprise that titillates.


Kraken89 4/18/2010 11:30:39 PM

I agree, this episode was a let-down. Unfornately, being a Smallville viewer since the beginning, I knew that last week's episode was just a fluke of excellence, so I wasn't surprised with "Upgrade".

Thank god for Brian Austin Green, his acting kept me from screaming at the television in fury. I've been around people with pacemakers and oxygen relief, his shortness of breath is very befitting for someone with cardio vascular impediments.  I liked the fact that Metallo isn't really a villain currently, but rather a take on Frankenstein's Creature and doesn't simply go after Clark without a valid reason. So atleast the writers care about him.

I swear, do the writers think Clark's color blind? I'm sure he understands by now after 5 or 6 seasons that strange red glowing substances usually means BAD. For a guy that can see through buildings and hear a fly flap it's wings in the next state, he can't detect Red K.

Let's go to Seattle, stand around on the Space Needle and make it snow.......REALLY? I'd expect Clark to do something like that when he was really bored in Highschool, not in his mid-20's. If I was even forced to go along with this stupid Red K induced allegiance with Zod, I'd of just made it at Zod's abandoned warehouse Kandorian Camp in front of a bunch of training Kandorian's.

I wish they'd of ran with the arc that Joe suggested, but have Clark deceived halfway through the season and then have the other half with Clark preparing for retribution and have the finale be the final battle between Clark and Zod. That way, next season would be open for someone like Maxwell Lord or Darkseid.

I'm still on the fence about Lois, because they did try and make it out in the beginning of the episode that Lois was doing some investigative undercover journalism, to which I think the writer's are trying to get at. But, I still don't understand why she was at the secret lab. Did she get a lead about some illegal testing? What bread-crumbs did she follow?  Then again, being a Luthor Corp (Tess) funded research facility, why isn't Lois's face on a big sign saying "if you see this girl, DON'T LET HER IN" after all, Lois has pulled this stint countless other times before, and has been caught and knocked out countless times before.

I did love the little glimpse of the hexogonal Fortress key from the earlier seasons. Which means that under Red K, Clark is too lazy to run or too vain to have Zod fly him to the North Pole.

One other little thing I want to gripe about, we the intelligent fans know that Clark and Lois are sleeping together, stop making such a big deal about it. That morning after scene could of been a hell of alot better if the writers and directors had watched an episode of Mad Men and take note on how Don Draper get's out of bed.

Kraken89 4/18/2010 11:47:14 PM

Also, why the hell is Tess still in Metropolis if she's being hunted by Waller, especially since she had one her agents slip a chess piece under Tess's nose without a clue. The only reason Tess should be in Metropolis still, is in a morgue or grave.

Oh and why couldn't it of just been Waller who stored all that K instead of Chloe. Who the hell could Chloe of gotten to move that much K and not attract someone like Waller's attention. Hell, in Superman/Batman: Hunt For Kryptonite, Waller had a huge underground facility full of K under a country diner in a place they call SMALLVILLE. Chloe's not a millionare, she should not be able to hire all that man-power to move all that rock. (How does Chloe make money anyway?)

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by mko321
Grade: B+

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