SMALLVILLE - 9.3 - "Rabid" Review -

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Mania Grade: C-

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  • Title: Smallville
  • Episode Title: Rabid
  • Starring: Tom Welling, Allison Mack, Erica Durance, Cassidy Freeman, Callum Blue, Justin Hartley
  • Written by: Jordan Hawley
  • Directed by: Mike Rohl
  • Network: The CW
  • Series: Smallville

SMALLVILLE - 9.3 - "Rabid" Review

Disappointed about sums it up

By Joe Oesterle     October 11, 2009
Source: Mania

SMALLVILLE - 9.3 - "Rabid" Review
© Mania

It Wasn’t the Zombies that Scared Me.

Following last week’s enjoyable though far from perfect “Metallo” episode, Smallville’s most recent offering, “Rabid,” frightened me more than an entire city of super-strong zombies ever could. I’m terrified that I have committed to review an entire season of obvious and pedestrian writing choices. As I mentioned in last week’s column, I have stayed away from this program far more often than I tuned in over the years, and shows like last night’s production are the reason why.

First of all, I’m pro-zombie, and there’s no-denying that zombies are this year’s vampire. Look at how zombies have successfully colonized the pop culture landscape. In comic books alone we’ve got the highly-acclaimed “The Walking Dead” series, the guilty pleasures of “Marvel Zombies,” and DC’s better late than never contribution to the Zombie bandwagon with their all-inclusive crossover, “Blackest Night.”

In theaters we’ve been recently treated to flicks like “28 Days Later,” “Sean of the Dead” and “Zombieland,” and let’s not forget Charlie Sheen’s brilliant zombie performance during the past six years of “Two and a Half Men.”

The point is, the zombie bar has been raised pretty high lately, and last night, the Man of Steel tripped over it with a single thud.


Surprise Me Dammit!

The main problem was not so much the zombie storyline as the absolute lack of surprise from writer Jordan Hawley. Was anyone surprised when Lois turned Tess around on the hospital bed that Tess was a zombie? No, you weren’t. It would have been better if maybe she weren’t a zombie yet, because she was still sleeping. Fake surprise always keeps us off balance for real surprise. Then while Clark and Lois were doing their Clark and Lois flirty bickering thing, Tess could have woken up and started going all bitey. That would have made us jump. And that’s what zombies, and good writing is supposed to do.

Erica Durance as Lois Lane gets nasty in SMALLVILLE - 9.3 - Rabid

Similarly, when Oliver Queen was left in the elevator with contaminated Lois, he was charged with a single mission - don’t let Lois sleep. Was there even one viewer startled when after our attentions were clumsily focused on Ollie’s inner turmoil and tortured confession of love, we were immediately presented with Zombie Lois? I don’t believe there was.

We knew it was going to be Zombie Lois, and lo and behold, we got Zombie Lois. That’s not just bad writing. Zombies have always made a very comfortable undead living off of bad writing. Last night however was worse than bad writing. Last night we were forced to observe lazy writing.


I Said It Before, and I’ll Probably Say it Again

This harkens back to one of my concerns with last week’s episode. Metallo kidnaps Lois while Clark is halfway across town, but even after arriving at the scene of the crime by way of super speed, Metallo still somehow manages to flee to his underground hideaway. The problem is this week Clark manages to put out a “five alarm fire” in under seconds and still manages to grab a cuppa java for Lois before she turns around.

Anything else bug you about this episode Joe, you ask? Well hell yes there was. How about Clark purposely ruining private property just to stop Ollie’s late night cop-chase/joy ride. Was shoving a parked flatbed truck through security gates the only possible way for Superman to stop Oliver Queen from a late-night joy ride/high speed police pursuit? Seems to me Clark might have conservatively caused a few thousand dollars worth of brake damage and fence repairs. That sounds at least as criminally reckless as speeding through a tiny otherwise abandoned road late at night on your motorcycle. Superman is supposed to tie people up with street signs and deliver them on the doorsteps of the Metropolis P.D. for that kind of behavior.

Hmmm, what else didn’t I like? I wasn’t shocked in the least when the Kryptonian patriot who knelt before Zod got killed. I’ll admit I didn’t know Zod was going to behead him, but I knew he was going to be rewarded for his out-of-his-station actions with swift and fatal punishment. Oh, and I thought the special effects on the antidote airplane were pretty cheesy too.


On The Plus Side

You may now find yourself wondering, was there anything you liked about this episode, Joe?

Well, (here comes a welcome surprise) yes I did. I enjoyed the zombie cosmetics. Infected Tess looked very much like Linda Blair, and I have to hand it to the folks in make-up for making always alluring Erica Durance into something I’d have to think twice about before eventually saying yes to. (Sadly for this entire audience – myself included - the only way we’re ever going to get that intimate with the lovely Ms. Durance is if she ever does become a zombie and we just happen to be her latest snack... and I for one will cling desperately to that hope.)

Cassidy Freeman as Tess Mercer loses it in SMALLVILLE - 9.3 - Rabid

I also enjoyed Ollie’s pill-popping, booze-swilling nod to the Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams “Green Lantern, Green Arrow” comics of the seventies. (Although in the comics, it was G.A.’s youthful ward, Roy “Speedy” Harper, who got caught up in his own painful addictions, not Ollie.)

Also worth mentioning on the positive side was the verbal confrontation between Ollie and Clark. I enjoyed how Oliver sarcastically likened Clark Kent to Jesus Christ. A viewpoint shared, although much more reverently, by noted American mythologist Joseph Campbell.

The father sends his only son from the heavens to Earth with the belief that this infant will one day save humanity. The powerful child is raised by mortals, and dedicates his life to saving humanity.


Hot Off The Presses… Good Beats Evil Once Again!

One thing that did surprise me was it wasn’t Clark who eventually saved the day. It was Chloe and young Henry Kissinger up above the clouds spreading anti-zombie rain over the city of Metropolis from Oliver Queen’s PS2-looking private jet. And I was also surprised that there was no one else at all on the streets of this bustling city. Clearly a number of people had taken showers, and you can’t tell me a few thousand infected non-showering types wouldn’t have been roaming around the Daily Planet at 7AM on any given day.

The episode did leave us to ponder what Lois’ latest disturbing premonition means; Superman’s tattered cape, Ollie digging what may be a grave, Chloe lying motionless. What does it all signify?

All I can hope is it signifies some better writing, and soon. That would be a welcome surprise.


Signing Off

And so fair citizens of Smallville, until next week, once again this is Joe Oesterle, your mild-mannered blogging, reviewer guy saying, “This is no fantasy - no careless product of wild imagination. No, my friends. These indictments that I have brought to you today, specific charges herein against the individuals… I ask you now to pronounce judgment on those accused.”



Joe Oesterle is an award-winning writer and illustrator, but what he often fails to mention is that many of those awards were won on a New Jersey boardwalk. Pick up his latest books "Weird California" and "Weird Las Vegas" in any Barnes and Noble near you, and look for his next book, "Weird Hollywood," due out soon. And be sure to check out his weekly animated rant:


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twomcs 10/11/2009 3:18:36 PM

 It's "Shaun of the Dead" not Sean.

JoeArtistWriter 10/11/2009 3:32:23 PM

Thank you for that very valid comment   ;)

Bigred 10/11/2009 3:56:18 PM

What happened to Zombies being the living dead.  It seems that everything that is labeled zombie nowdays is just the living infected with some virus or something. I'm not saying that the shows aren't good or anything. Its just I read a discription of the show and it says Zombies, and I think cool. Then I watch it and it's the infected again. I guess I'm just an old dude who wants to see good old fashion George Romero slow walking, decomposing, undead zombies. Guess they're not exciting enough for todays veiwers.

JoeArtistWriter 10/11/2009 4:20:04 PM

Excellent point Big Red. I thought about that very same thing as I was looking at the list of recent run of Zombiemania. I think the first time we saw fast zombies, or the first time they were explained as a scientific possiblity rather than a tool of Satan we were intrigued, and appreciated the reimagination, but yeah, modern day zombies have over-taken their Sleestack -speed ancestors. I'm ready for a return of the old school undead.

BlindJustice 10/11/2009 7:37:03 PM

I for one enjoyed the show. Yes when pointed out it had its predictable moments but then I don't watch a show trying to find the flaws or look for the errors. I am the kind that sits back, shuts off the perseptive part of my brain and just enjoy what is placed before me.



Oh, and the reason that Clark didn't get there in time even with super my mother used to say when I was a kid and asked how Hannibal and BA could shoot so many bullets and not hit's in the script.

JoeArtistWriter 10/11/2009 8:25:13 PM

BlindJustice, I envy you enjoying the show. I wish I could just sit back and enjoy the ride, but to me, the ride wasn't that much fun. I don't go in to this looking to be negative, but I just wasn't happy with what I consider lazy writing.

Telling a convincing Superman story is hard and it should be hard. That said, it doesn't take the combined intelligence of Lex Luthor and Brainiac do do a convincing job. There's no excuse for a well-paid television writer to not make his best effort to tell a story that remains true to the rules set up in that universe (superspeed etc.) and not make every choice the obvious choice.

BlindJustice 10/11/2009 9:17:31 PM

In defence of the writers....they aren't that high paid.(remember the strike where the networks were getting paid for web rebroadcasts and not the writers) They are hired and fired at a whim and go months even years between gigs. Only a few lucky ones have stayed gamefully employed and stretch themselves so thin it starts to show in their work. I cut them some slack as between the stress of keeping it fresh, new and marketable all with network input/guidelines. (see the Spiderman 3 fiasco when the studio got involved) they have to write a scrtipt only to see the network and directors add and take from it to suit them all whie not stealing from another show(how many times have you seen a similar story on 3 or 4 different shows in the same week)

  Imagine having to review EVERY show...every day and keep the reviews on topic and focused to the show you are writing about. In time the reviews will start to blur and mirror each other. All while meeting the guidelines of your editor and sponsors.

This is why many shows rotate there writing staff like a shell game. So here the newbie has to come in and figure what the studio/network/director wants while pushing forward a story arch set by someone else and having new stuff dropped in his/her/their laps all the way to the last minute.



gj430 10/11/2009 10:46:33 PM

I think reviewer might be going a little overboard. So basically just because Tess didn't turn into a Zombie at the right time the episode sucks. Maybe the explaination for everbody being cured even though some where inside could have been better also but that doesn't mean the writing for the whole episode is bad. Stuff like that happens sometimes on the show and I wish they caught it but I think they do well most of the time and it doesn't spoil the rest of the episode because of it. The rest of the episode was great. I don't know but maybe cause you don't watch the show on a regular basis but in the scheme of things I don't think it would let me grade it that low maybe a B- but I still wish they would catch those things. But  just because it happens I don't let it ruin the whole show because I'm not in the writers room to be able to try and voice my opinion and even though they say they read the message boards I think people complaining about stupid crap and over reacting may distract them from being able to see contructive criticism and see what the need to watch when writing a script. So I just try and enjoy the Superhero stuff and Clois and I think this episode had a good stuff in it and shouldn't be trashed because a couple scenes could have been done a little better. Boo Whoo get over yourselves and Just enjoy the show or stop watching.

PAGE 10/11/2009 10:51:31 PM

C-? Really? Come on Joe! I have to agree with BlindJustice. When I read the description for the episode, I really didn't think that it was going to be as good as it was. I know you're writing a review on the show, which requires you to watch the episode maybe like 5 times to pick it apart, but how was it not enjoyable? Eveyrthing is pretty much predictable these days. Nothing hardly ever scares us anymore because while watching we're trying to figure out the plot of the story and usually end up doing so before we get half way through the story. I've watched every single episode of Smallville, and there were certaintly far worse episodes than this one. Let's take a look:

Season 1

Craving - This was the freak of the week epside where the girl went on a meteor-rock shake diet and started sucking body fat from her victoms. Very stupid episode!

Season 2

Dichotic - This was the episode that gave us a double dosage of Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Horrible episode.

Witness - This is the episode where jocks use kryptonite inhalers. Way worse than Rabid.

Season 3

Delete - Everyone attacks Chloe thru subliminal email messages. HAHAHAHAHAHA

Velocity - We get our fast and furious street racing fix in this episode through kryponite laced nitro tanks. Just dumb...

Season 4

Devoted - Kryptonite spiked energy drinks!!! WTF!!!

Spell - Smallville becomes Eastwick, but gotta admit, Chloe, Lana, and Lois were hot in this episode. Hmmm....maybe this one wasn't that bad after all..

Season 5

Thirst - Vampires in Smallville. No comment.

Season 6

Static - the villian had the ability to morph into frequencies. Who was the genius that came up with this bright idea??

Subterranean - THIS WAS THE WORST EPISODE IN SMALLVILLE HISTORY!!! PERIOD! A farmer burying illegal immigrants in his cornfield. Which was full of kryptonite rocks.

Season 7

Hero - I was excited for the return of Pete Ross until I watched this episode. Kryptonite laced Stride Gum?? This episode was basically a commercial. Very bad idea!!

Season 8

Doomsday - we all know this was the worst Season Finale in Smallville history. They raised our expectations and never met them. So overhyped.


All of those episodes were far worse than Rabid. Just have fun with it Joe!

SgtTechCom 10/12/2009 7:13:23 AM

Plain and simple. This episode rocked. The season so far is on point.

The zombie bit was fun, and its more realistic if you make them infected by some viral thing. The whole coming out of the graves night of the living dead style is just far fetched in todays world. It's all bio chem warfare. It is highly possible too believe that.

The stuff between olie and clark are great, and I dunno people just over read into alot of stuff and i don't think really get the show.

Im enjoying Zod major not yet general Zod he's twisted and I can't wait till he gets his powers.

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