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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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. www.JoeArtistWriter.com And be sure to check out his weekly animated rant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M358ncKKmGM