SMALLVILLE - 9.4 - "Echo" Review -

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  • Title: Smallville
  • Episode Title: Echo
  • Starring: Tom Welling, Allison Mack, Chloe Sullivan, Erica Durance, Cassidy Freeman, Chris Gauthier, Justin Hartley
  • Written by: Bryan Q. Miller
  • Directed by: Wayne Rose
  • Network: The CW
  • Series: Smallville

SMALLVILLE - 9.4 - "Echo" Review

The Good was Better Than the Bad was Horrible

By Joe Oesterle     October 18, 2009
Source: Mania

SMALLVILLE - 9.4 - "Echo" Review
© Mania

What Do You Know… It Didn’t Suck.

Another Smallville has come and gone, and I still can’t tell what to expect from this season. This week’s installment, “Echo,” was as I have come to expect, flawed; but the genuine chemistry the cast members managed to save another potentially average-to-poor episode to the ranks of watchable-to-enjoyable.

Again, I realize there are devoted fans of this show who feel all I do is nitpick the shortcomings and imperfections of each week’s script, but that’s not the case. If I were nitpicking, I would have to be looking for insignificant details, and all too often Smallville’s mistakes are glaring enough that I don’t need to rely on microscopic vision. Last night’s offering however was better than expected. It certainly was head and shoulders above last week’s zombie catastrophe, but not nearly as compelling as story as the Metallo installment. I guess I just have to reconcile myself to the fact that the writers and producers of Smallville are happy to put out flawed product, because they realize much of their audience are such hardcore fans, they’re willing, or even unable to see the show’s all too many weekly blunders.


Cast Chemistry.

This week though, I have to confess, the good was better than the bad was horrible, and that is directly attributed to the personal guy/girl tension of Clark and Lois, as well as the guy/guy tension between Clark and Ollie.

Poor little billionaire Oliver Queen is doing all the self loathing, and self destruction, one former masked hero can do, and if the different currencies in his wallet are any indication, Ollie hasn’t found a dangerous enough drinking establishment in America or Europe so he’s, traveled south of the border to some badass bandito bar for his ultimate fatal beat down.

This place looked dangerous enough if only because it was reminiscent of the Titty Twister in “From Dusk till Dawn” I was half expecting to see a vampiric Salma Hayek pour wine down her leg directly into Quentin Tarantino’s awkwardly eager mouth. Unfortunately if Ollie was looking to die his glorious death at this specific watering hole, he was saved by the guns-a-blazin’ Tess Mercer, and unfortunately for me, Salma Hayek wasn’t on duty this particular night.

Clark Kent however was getting plenty of come hither stares by the usually Blur-obsessed Lois Lane. Seems Clark was granted another power (if only temporarily) by his alien dad, Jor-El.


All’s Fair In Love and War

Let me make this perfectly clear, I don’t care if cousin Chloe thought it was wrong for Clark to use his new found powers for nookie instead of battling super powered threats, women have all the advantages in the beginning stages of a relationship, and if any guy out there reading this thinks it’s morally wrong to press that one advantage, especially if the object of your heart’s desire is the drop dead gorgeous Erica Durance, then you’re a villain in my book. But if we’re talking morals here, and since this is a Superman story, we are, why does Clark bitch slap the guy in the mask with the bomb attached to him? Superman is a good guy, and meta-driven good guys don’t backhand a mere human with a potential neck breaking blow, sending him ten feet into the air, and halfway across a large room. Seriously. That smack could have killed or crippled the guy. At the very least, I’m betting that dude woke up in Metropolis hospital with a few broken bones. That’s not the Superman way, Clark.


What I Didn’t Like

Clark does a lot of preaching at guys like Ollie, and then he does stuff like cracking innocents (this week) and carelessly causing thousands of dollars of private damage (last week) to be standing on any soapbox sermonizing on how to be a hero.

I suppose this could be a case of Clark still learning to control his powers and his rage, but I’m more likely to chalk it up, once again to a writer who should know the character of Clark/Kal/Superboy/man better than he apparently does. Superman does not get all agro with his super pimp hand, especially when dealing with a defenseless, unconscious (and as it turns out innocent) suspect. Nine seasons and you think an experienced writer would understand the rules that govern the main character.

The other thing I didn’t like was here you have Superman, granted, he’s not quite Superman yet, but he’s got all the tools - and there are plenty of tools – he just hasn’t learned to use all of them quite yet. Do we need to give him more abilities? I’ll type this until my fingertips turn to bloody stumps, but the trick to writing an effective, believable Superman story is to find out what could potentially overwhelm a seemingly undefeatable champion. Not invent new powers. There had to be a better, more effective way to have Jor-El teach Kal-El that “perception can be the difference between life and death.”

Ok, those two things are the only things that stuck out at me as annoying, and I promise not to crap on anything else in this episode… unless I remember something else that bugged me.


What I Did Like

What I did like was the flirtatious banter between Clark and Lois. Their lighthearted playful interactions are clearly the beginnings of a romance for the ages, and that has always been a huge part of the Superman mythos. I also enjoyed every minute Justin Hartley was on the screen. Normally I’m immune to the charms of the small screen cocky antihero. I don’t know if it’s TV actors, or the medium, or whatever it is, but Hartley makes a credible charismatic good guy douche – a feat which is hard to pull off. And I always enjoy his scenes with Tom Welling.

Speaking of nice acting performances, I also enjoyed the hammy yet amusing Chris Gauthier’s turn as the Toyman. Gauthier’s maniacal laugh is 25% Frank Gorshin’s Riddler, and 75% Wayne Knight’s Newman, and it worked for me.

What worked for the Toyman though, was after being greeted with a bullet to his kneecap, he is treated to toying around in the discomfort of a solitary jail cell with Metallo’s Kryptonite heart. This guy is really into his toys – and I thought I was obsessed with EA Fight Night Round 4.

So when all is said and done, this was a nice episode. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. It was better than expected, and far from perfect but that’s about all anyone can ask of the show this season. If they expect to get a 10th season I think they’re going to have more “Metallo’s” than “Rabid’s” but “Echo” was a move in the right direction.


Signing Off

And so fair citizens of Smallville, until next week, once again this is Joe Oesterle, your mild-mannered blogging, reviewer guy saying, “It all fits somehow - his coming here to Metropolis. And at this particular time. There's a kind of cruel justice about it. I mean, to commit the crime of the century, a man naturally wants to face the challenge of the century.”



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 rants, stories, illustrations and photos:


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PAGE 10/18/2009 2:37:03 PM

Excellent review Joe. Solid grade. Wasn't the best episode but I agree it was definitely a step up from Rabid. CW released a statement that they had their best Friday in that slot since Smackdown last aired. I guess that gives me some sort of hope for a 10th season. Tom did sign for two seasons afterall. I'm just hoping we get a proper ending to the series.

As for this episode, I loved every scene with Tom and Erica. Their chemistry together is remarkable, and I enjoy every minute they are on screen together. They seriously need to figure out what they are going to do with Chloe though. I for one am hoping that she dies this season. Her character in my opinion has nothing left to establish. I think her death will greatly impact Clark in such a way he becomes "Superman". Of course, our wonderful writers will need to deliver. Point is, her character is more annoying if anything so if they decide not to kill her, hopefully they do something with her character that makes her screentime more enjoying than annoying. They tried to do something with her character when they introduced her as being a krypto freak, but they haven't touched on that in a season and a half. The greatest twist in the season 8 finale, would have been if Chloe used her powers to cure Jimmy when he died. Chloe sacrificing her life for the love of her life would have been a better twist and a far more superior storyline coming into season 9 than the Jimmy wasn't Jimmy twist. Clark in his all black anti-hero indentity and turning away from his human side would make way more sense. The fact that they haven't touched on her power or introdced any more krypto freaks she's supposed to be helping, makes it seems like she's been cured and we the audience haven't been informed. I love this show but they need to get it together. The biggest puzzle of all, why hasn't Lois been told about Jimmy's death during her disappearance? Did I miss that during the season premier? I do remember Chloe telling Lois that there were some things she needed to know but Metello took place right after the premier timewise in Smallville world, leading me to assume, that in 4 episodes now Lois still doesn't know Jimmy was killed. That's ridiculous!!

And Joe, about Clark having no problem destroying property or pimp slapping the hell out of innocents, I'm really hoping they touch on that this season. He showed no emotion after realizing that he back handed the hell out of that guy and put him, and the other people from that blast radius, in the hospital. You must have forgotten about that. It was because of him that those people outside ended up going to the hospital. He could have easily ran someplace else to get rid of the bomb. He's done it before. So i'm hoping they are doing this for a reason. Like maybe, he's gonna have some sort of conversation with Chloe and she'll point out all his errors. He's showing no concern. While he's saving people, he's actually hurting them in the process type of thing. Then he'll revert to the red and blue. Seriously though, we need some Martha Kent. She's the one that should be coming back and telling him what an ass he's being to people he's supposedly saving. I think we could all come up with a better storyline than the writers they currently have. Again, I love this show, but they have no regard for canon or things just simply making sense.

But, I liked this episode nonetheless and hope we get more B grades or better with future episodes.

ponyboy76 10/18/2009 5:43:14 PM

Good review and good episode. I don't know if it was poor writing or not as far as Clark's attitude  in the beginning but to me he hit that "innocent" because he thought that he was the guy holding them hostage. He had that weird doll mask on and was strapped with explosives. And we should all know in this day and age that just because someone has explosives strapped to their body doens't make them a victim. He could easily have been the one holding those people hostage. You have to look at it through Clark's perspective. Now saying that the Joker tried to pull that same thing in The Dark Knight and Batman figured it out but Clark isn't there yet.

The chemistry between Clark and Lois is amazing which worries me, because if Smallville has done nothing it has built us the fans up occasionally only to end up disappointing us. I for one, want Lois and Clark to actually get together in some way. Yes, that is not the way the story goes, but this is Smallville. Lex Luthor and Jimmy Olsen are dead and Lois has a cousin. They may as well go the full tilt and have Lois and Clark get together now instead of few years from now.

And I might be mistaken but at one point in either the comics or movie didn't Superman have some sort of telepathic powers? So it wasn't really a stretch.

ponyboy76 10/18/2009 5:44:49 PM

Oh yeah, and Toy Man is one creepy dude. For not havng a real powers or Meteor rock enhancements he is one of my favorite villians on this show.

JoeArtistWriter 10/18/2009 6:41:04 PM

Page, that was a pretty good review yourself. As a semi-newbie to the show (as you know, before this season, I've probably watched about a dozen episodes) I'm surprised to learn how much everyone seems to hate Chloe. So far she hasn't grated on me, but I get it. She is kind of whiney and judgmental... ok, I've seen enough. Kill her off. ;)

As for Clark's destructive behavior, if the writing was more consistent or sharper, I'd assume he was about to learn an important lesson about being so reckless with his extraordinary powers, but I don't have that kind of confidence from this scribing squad.

The romance is working, let's hope the rest of show starts clicking like that. I'm all for more Martha.

Ponyboy, I hear what you're saying about Clark's perspective, but like I just said to Page, I honestly think it's another example of poor writing - the writers not taking the essence of the Superman character into consideration. I have no faith whatsoever the writers are leading Clark down a path of learning. If that is what's going on, good for them, but so far they have not shown me they have that in them.

I do have a hunch they willl pay off the Lois and Clark angle if they pay off nothing else. That chemistry is working so well, they'd really have to be idiots to ruin that..... hmmmm... scratch that... I give them a 25% chance to ruin it.

xpaladinx45 10/19/2009 5:49:05 AM

"does not get all agro with his super pimp hand" lol  That made my morning!

xpaladinx45 10/19/2009 5:53:37 AM

Oh ya, and on the subject of Clark's seeming abuse of powers, I have to hop on the side of poor writing.  When you save all the hostages, and yes the "villian" is still just sitting there, saying nothing, it  gives kind of a WTF moment when Clark just walks over and gives him the super pimp hand.  I was left thinking, wow, shocker, it wasn't the bad guy!

Aside from that though, I did like this episode.  The telepathic power did seem a little over the top, but it balanced for me with the enjoyable banter it created with Lois.  And Morals or not, I'd be usin' me some telepathic powers if it increased my odds!  One should always use what advantage thee can find, when dealing with the provider of thy nookie.

JBBUC 10/19/2009 9:20:56 AM

 Another good review Joe. Stay positive!

I think the B is a little generous this week, but that might be due to having seen almost every episode of this franchise. Smallville seems to hire every writer the day before they attend the 'Character Development' portion of their Creative Writing classes. Seriously, Clark is making so many of the same mistakes now that he did as a freshman in high school, I'm starting to wonder if this version of Superman has a learning disability.

You would think that all of the mistakes he made with Lana would lead him to different behavior with Lois. You would think. But I honestly can't get excited for the Welling/Durance chemistry because the writing is the same Clark/Lana melodrama with a hotter actress.

And is Clark TRYING to get busted as the Blur? Really, she's the top investigative reporter at the Planet, but she is oblivious that the donut Clark just handed her was the exact same one she just looked at in another guys hand. It doesn't occur to her that no human could possibly go to the coffee machine (last week) of the donut box (this week) and not miss a word of the conversation she is having with him? Seriously, sometimes I wonder if they are even trying.

AS for Chloe, I still like her and I don't want to see her killed off. Why dump a good actress just because the writers can't keep the character where she SHOULD be? If the ultimate plan IS to kill her off anyway, wouldn't it have greater impact to keep her a likable, insightful, helpful little side-kick she was a couple seasons ago, than to make her some pretentious, judgmental whiner? Isn't that what we have Clark for?

The Toyman storyline was good, and I liked the humility that Clark showed in the end as he attempted to restore some kind of friendship with Oliver, but there were still to many nagging issues that need to be cleaned up, in my opinion.


ponyboy76 10/19/2009 9:40:06 AM

"But I honestly can't get excited for the Welling/Durance chemistry because the writing is the same Clark/Lana melodrama with a hotter actress"

Totally disagree with that. The writers may not be very good and have screwed alot of things up, but the one thing they haven't is the Lois/Clark back and forth chemistry. It is nothing at all like the Clark/Lana stuff. There is no whining or pining for each other like there was with Lana. And it is actually really close to the way it is in the comics, movie and even the show Lois & Clark.

"And is Clark TRYING to get busted as the Blur? Really, she's the top investigative reporter at the Planet, but she is oblivious that the donut Clark just handed her was the exact same one she just looked at in another guys hand..."

I had to laugh at that comment only because, well come on this is Clark Kent/Superman. That is like complaining that no one notices that Clark Kent is Superman but with glasses. Stuff like that have always been part of the Superman mythos. Its the same thing.

JBBUC 10/19/2009 10:55:47 AM

 Totally disagree with that. The writers may not be very good and have screwed alot of things up, but the one thing they haven't is the Lois/Clark back and forth chemistry.

Sorry, ponyboy. I just don't see it. He asks Lois out on a date, then stands her up, then has no reasonable excuse that he can tell her as to WHY. The unspoken back and forth and the 'I want to say something' looks are, to me, pinning. And I find it annoying. Now, I'll admit that I an not a Superman fanatic and I don't know every intricate detail of the Clark/Lois dynamic, but what I remember from the movies is that Clark had a crush in Lois that she never reciprocated until the time she finally figured out who he was.

Then there was the Justice League series where Lois and Superman were together. So, in my opinion, they should either be together or she should not be interested. This mutual longing without committing is, by definition, pinning.

I had to laugh at that comment only because, well come on this is Clark Kent/Superman. That is like complaining that no one notices that Clark Kent is Superman but with glasses. 

I can't argue about that. I had to laugh at myself when I read this. You are absolutely right. This is another reminder of why I always liked Marvel over DC. Most of the heros in the Marvel Universe are full time heros, and the ones who aren't- Peter Parker, Tony Stark, ect- actually disguise themselves by COMPLETELY COVERING THEIR FACES! 

I hate it, but I guess I have to live with it. =D


JoeArtistWriter 10/19/2009 11:03:03 AM

xpalacinx45, looks like we're on exactly the same page. I would love to believe these writers have something grander in store for Clark on his way to becoming "the greatest hero the world has ever known," but I think they just wrote in the super pimp hand moment so they could justify some special effects. The problem is there are times when Clark would be justified to send an oppenent flying across a room, but Superman would never ever strike a handcuffed/unconcious suspect. Key word SUSPECT.

Maybe Batman would, but even he wouldn't do it so callously. The Dark Knight would have had to be going through a particularly bad series of events to react that way. The point is, these are not Superman's flaws.. they're Batman's. Two polar opposite good guys.

JBBUC, "This version of Supperman has a learning disability." Damn, I'm mad I didn't write that. Funny stuff. The grade of "B" may be generous, but I'm trying to grade on a Smalllvillle curve here. I actually think my grade for last week's "Rabid" may have been too generous as well, (I think I gave it a C but it probably deserved a C- or a D ) I'm trying to stay positive.

For the rest of your comments, I think Ponyboy76 is on point.

ponyboy76, I think you're dead on with the Clark/Lois vs Clark Lana. I'm liking this part of the show above all else. It annoys me to write that, because I don't tune in to a Superman driven show for the romance, but it is an important part of the ever-important mythos, so I'm just glad they're getting that part right.

Also, yeah. It's an old joke, but in every incarnation of Lois Lane,the audience is always puzzled how this dedicated, perhaps brilliant journalist hasn't figured out the Clark/Superman connection, but I think after 70 years or whatever it's been, we're all willing to buy into that large inconsistency. That however doesn't give these writers a free pass to give us more erractic scripts.

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