SMALLVILLE - 9.20 - "Hostage" Review - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: C-

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Info:

  • Title: Smallville
  • Episode Title: Hostage
  • Written by: Anne Cofell Saunders, Jordan Hawley
  • Directed by: Glen Winter
  • Network: The CW, LLC
  • Series: Smallville

SMALLVILLE - 9.20 - "Hostage" Review

An Open Letter to the Bigwigs at Smallville

By Joe Oesterle     May 09, 2010
Source: Mania

An open letter to the writers, and the people who let those people become writers at Smallville.

Dear writers, and the people who let those people become writers at Smallville,

My name is Joe Oesterle, and I have been a Superman/Clark Kent/Kal-El fan since I first saw George Reeves manage to scrape that tight blue unitard over his once athletic middle-aged frame. Naturally I was watching scenes from decades past, but to me, they were as fresh and exciting as anything I’d ever seen in my short life.

I was a kid and I didn’t realize the man who portrayed the Man of Steel had long ago died a mysterious death that is still shrouded in speculation and mystery. I was transfixed by this brawny good guy, and I wanted to believe he really existed. All I knew is I liked that character in the cape who could fly over the city, bend jailhouse bars, have bullets bounce off his chest, and would only wince very slightly when the bad guys threw their rubber guns at him.

That show for me, combined with the Adam West driven Batman show, started a life-long love affair of super heroes, comic books and cartoons. I love the Superman character, and I love the Superman mythos, and I implore you people to stop f@cking this guy up.

I want to love your show. Honestly I do. But the lack of consistency in the writing of this program, from week to week, or even commercial break to commercial break is enough to make an all-powerful visitor from another planet scream out in agony like a little girl.

During this season, my first real season as a viewer, (prior to this season, I probably have watched 5-6 shows in total) I will happily admit to liking some episodes, loving one particular episode (“Checkmate”) and finding enough moments of viewing entertainment to enjoy scattered throughout to understand why you’ve managed to build up a following for your program. But let’s not forget the absolute ONLY reason this show has managed to hang on for 9, going on 10 seasons – and it’s not the acting. (Ha!) It’s not the special effects. (Ha! Ha!) And it’s not the writing. (Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ho! Ho! Hee-Hee! Ha! Ha! Ha!) It’s the character of Clark Kent and the promise that he will one day become Superman. That’s the only reason this show has stayed around as long as it has.

No other show in the entire history of television has gotten so much for so long on a promise they seem reluctant to pay off. Maybe you guys are on to some secret formula for broadcasting longevity. Batman, Wonder Woman, The Hulk, The Flash, Spiderman never came close to 10 seasons. Heck, even “Lois and Clark” only had 4, so you’re obviously doing something right. I suggest however, that you’ve been successful in spite of the sloppy, inconsistent and lazy writing, not because of it.

Let’s take the most recent episode for example – “Hostage.” Please allow me tell you how you could have made that show not just good, but riveting, and it has nothing to do with the main character. It’s all in the writing.

First of all, this particular program was supposed to be, at its heart, a tense who-dunnit style mystery. Let’s assume I wasn’t bored out of my freaking skull by the first half hour of Clark and Lois pretending everything was “peachy” in front of Martha Kent. I would have been thrilled if you numbed me silly for the first 30 minutes with that story if there was ever the slightest doubt in my mind that Martha Kent wasn’t the Red Queen.

Now how do you do that asks you? Simple as pie says I.

One thing you don’t do is show commercials for an entire week where Martha Kent is dressed in red, holding a gun on someone. That, in the comedy world, is called tipping the gag. You have more than hinted that Martha Kent - housewife, mother, farmer, widow and now politician is also capable of something quite out of character for her, and you have done that a full seven days before the start of your mystery. You have already set us on the correct path when should have relied on some clever misdirection.

Ok, let’s all assume the commercial was a bad move. It was probably forced on you by the people in marketing who wondered how to put asses in the seats with 60-second spots of Clark and Lois eating dinner with Martha and Perry. I concede. That would not necessarily compel anyone to switch over to the CW at 8 (7 Central.) So here’s what you do, and it doesn’t take a major rewrite. We could have still had the lame ass Clark and Lois break up scare and awkward supper. Hell, you could have made the first half hour even duller (though I have to give credit where credit is due – that first half of the show was more than just a tad tedious.) My point is, that could have worked in your favor, but only if you made the Tess Mercer character a more credible suspect as the true Red Queen.

Now how could we have done that asks you. Says I, read on and I will tell you.

You could have still had Maxwell Lord inside Tess’ brain, but instead of him making her vulnerable, (having some bad guy lock her up against her will and kick the shit out of both her and Ollie) make those visions of Tess appear to the audience that Tess is in complete control, and yeah – dress her in red. Of course Max is still pulling the strings, and extracting the information he needs, but he’s doing it in a way that doesn’t frighten the unconscious Tess, but rather plays to her desire for power – thus lessening the chances of her “waking up” from the false reality.

We the audience would believe this is all real. It would make sense to us that the redheaded Tess Mercer, who is coincidentally dressed in red, and appears to be in control of everything in her life, is very likely the Red Queen. Especially when contrasted with the only other potential candidate in the entire episode - who is preoccupied in the mundane and slightly awkward dinner conversation of “Clark I loved your father, but I’m now dating Perry.” That would have really set us up to be knocked down.

Maxwell Lord could have been finding out what it was he needed to find out inside Tess’ head, and Tess still could have eventually figured out Max was the man behind the curtain, but if scenes in her head were of a competent, strong, clever Tess, played in the same stylistic manner as the dinner at the Kent farm. (Meaning same normal Smallville color palette, and not the frenzied, muted dream state.) We the audience could have easily been fooled into thinking the woman in red who pulled the Kryptonite on Clark was indeed Tess. AND, the boring dinner would have lulled us into such a stupor; we would have thought it was absolute genius that you pulled the old Martha switcheroo on us. Who would have guessed that boring, sensible, motherly Ma Kent was in fact the influential and potent Red Queen in that scenario?

The fact that you showed the big reveal in your commercials only proves that there’s a bunch of you over there who don’t know what you’re doing.

I wasn’t alive for much of Alfred Hitchcock’s career, but I’m willing to bet the theatrical trailers for the movie Psycho did not scream, “Come see Psycho, and watch a guy who dresses up like his dead mother kill people!” Just a hunch.

Come on guys. Love and respect these characters as much as I do. Email me the scripts before they go to production. I’ll correct all the glaring gaps of logic, the lazy and sloppy writing, the cloying dialogue AND I’ll do it for free. Superman saved me from the real world at times as a kid. It would be an honor for me to rescue him this time.

Sincerely,

Joe Oesterle

 


 

Joe Oesterle hopes you're all reading his new humorous online advice.”Ask an Educated Fellow.” Real people, real questions. “The Educated Fellow” makes your personal mentor look like a fraudulent guru. Ignorance is No Longer Blissful. Click on the link below. Write in for advice. Scroll deep and enjoy.

http://joeartistwriter.wordpress.com/2010/05/02/ask-an-educated-fellow/

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 10 of 36
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redhairs99 5/9/2010 3:40:38 PM

Damn it, Joe!!  You could leave a "spoiler" warning in there.  I've never seen Psycho!

Okay, just kidding there.  I have seen it numerous times.  I do agree that the commercial shown after last week's episode where they reveal Martha as the Red Queen was a dumbass move.

Now, the trailer for next week's show looks bad-ass, but that can mean it won't be.  But I'm tying to stay positive that this will be an awesome finale.  Especially because of the flash of the red and yellow (with blue around it) "S" symbol in Clark's eye while Jor-El tells him that his current path is no thte destiny he had intended.

PAGE 5/9/2010 3:51:22 PM

NIce rev.....er, letter Joe! Couldn't agree with you more!

At first, I was disappointed that I wouldn't be able to watch Friday night's episode because my DVR records Smallville for me and Ghost Whisperer for my wife at the same time, and she happened to home watching tv and hit the wrong button so Smallville took a hit and didn't record. Luckily, around 2am or so I found the whole episode online on some website.

Defintely agree that whole 30 minute sequence at Kent Farm could have been trimmed down because it made the first part a bore. And they could have made the Tess NOT be an obvious dream sequence. You could tell right away from the look of it that it had to be a dream sequence of some type.

And yeah, there was definitely some bad marketing done with this episode. Perhaps that's why no one tuned in. They not only showed Martha was coming back for those not into spoilers, but they also spoiled the fact that she was The Red Queen! I would have loved to have been wrong about that fact, that it would have turned out to be Tess Mercer. but as we all know Smallville's writers are not very good with twists. The only time they did pull off a good twist, was in Season 8's finale when Jimmy Olsen turned out not to be THE Jimmy Olsen we all know and love. Kind of a dumnb twist I admit but a good one none the less as no one expected it.

I do wish the episode had turned out better than it had, but, I guess I'm guilty of expecting nothing more than what we get. I just enjoy it because it's Superman just like everyone else. I would love to get a full season of "Checkmate" type stories and special effects.  We'll see what they pull off for next season.

As for the finale itself, I will be severly disappointed if Clark loses his powers for the 10th time via the blue kryptonite dagger. The way they describe the Book of Rao, you would think it would enable him to fly upon reading it or, since its not actually a BOOK (dumb), perhaps downloading it to his brain in the Fortress.

Nice review of "The Candidate" by the way and looking forward to this week's sure to be kick ass episode of Lost!

G671 5/9/2010 4:36:07 PM

Great article.  I couldn't agree more. Especially, on 2 key points..

1.  I (DESPERATELY) want to love the show, but I find that week after week, I'm having a harder time coming up with excuses in my head as to why the show isn't as good as it should be (used to be).

2.  The writers are trying to do WAY too much.  To the point that, you don't even know what's going on anymore as the viewer.  My dad, who loves the show, has told me several times over the last season, "I'm having a hard time following all these different characters and plots now."  

Other things I agree with, are the trailers for the upcoming episodes.  In fact, I just read the other day an interview with one of the writers (or, producers.. brian peterson, I think?), BOASTING about how AMAZING the trailer is for the season finale, and how he's so psyched by the trailer they put out, more than any other trailer that's come before!  Well, I saw the trailer for the season finale, and I have to say, I thought it was.. weak.  It was short, you couldn't tell what was going on in the trailer, and (of course), they 'teased' you with that reflection of the red/yellow superman shiled in Clark's eye at the end (like, we're gonna see the suit, or something.. we KNOW that we're not going to see it).

They need to get on with it, already.  The last 2 years or so, the seasons all feel like the writers are just making it up as they go along, and not planning it ahead of time (half-ass plots and plot resolutions).

My only hope right now is that Greg Beeman is returning to direct the finale.  He's old-school Smallville and directed some GREAT episodes in the early years. I'm hoping that he can take the half-ass writing of those Smallville writers, and craft something great, and hopefully set the tone for the opening of Season 10 and give them direction.

 

hanso 5/9/2010 5:33:19 PM

 I don't know what the hell is going on in the show, just came to say: Joe, good sh.it as always sir.

JoeArtistWriter 5/9/2010 5:33:23 PM

Thanks guys. I didn't even bother to write about the fact that 55 year old, and 240 pound Perry White didn't have nearly the upper body strength to hold onto the ladder after it snapped, let alone climb up the rope Lois threw down. It was just as ridiculous to watch 115 pound Lois Lane pull Perry up so effortlessly.

If they're going for comedy they're missing, and if they're going for action it makes no sense. If of course they're going for stupid, then bravo people. Bravo.

Also, I realize I don't have the years of experience watching this show as you guys - or the years of heartache, but I really want to believe this finale is going to be good. Not passably good like the JSA episode, but legitimately good like the Checkmate episode. I'm not betting any money.... I just want to believe.

PAGE 5/9/2010 5:37:51 PM

we all want to believe 

hanso 5/9/2010 6:01:54 PM

 Smallville season finales are the worst Joe, I wouldn't keep my hopes up.  I tuned in last year to see Doomsday vs. Superman and the fight lasted like 30 seconds.  Lame.

ponyboy76 5/9/2010 6:24:34 PM

I think you're making the wrong argument Joe. I am by no means defending these "writers" and use that term loosely, but this show isn't really about the established Superman mythos. I mean they have strayed pretty far off what people would consider the proper mythos

You don't even need to mention any of that stuff and there is plenty to complain about from story wise view. The writers half the time don't seem to know what the hell they are doing. They write bad dialogue for good characters. They continue to use the same antiquated plot devices and re basically just spinning their wheels.

This episode sucked, plain and simple. This supposedly huge revelation of the red queen and thr melodrama between Lois and Clark( which I usually enjoy) and now Martha  and Perry just fell superbly short. 90% of the episode made no sense and led nowhere. You were too kind giving it a C-

D -

JoeArtistWriter 5/9/2010 7:22:08 PM

Ponyboy, if I don't grade this show on a healthy curve I'd go crazy and the staunch supporters get all nasty with me. You're correct about the established mythos being all but ignored, but they could take all kinds of liberties as long as they entertained me in an intelligent way. No arguments on your grade. It would be nice if they didn't grab their writers from Mrs. Brown's 7th grade slow class.

Hanso, I've heard all about the Doomsday sha-bockle. (Thank you Deon Sanders for that word) I will hold out hope that since they wowed me once this season, they might come close. I trust your experience, but I'm holdding out 25% faith.

Page, I once believed a man could fly.....  surely I can believe these guys can give me an hour of reasonable entertainment

jedi4sshield 5/9/2010 7:26:28 PM

Amen, Here Here, Nuff Said!!!!!

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