Now was that so hard? All I’ve been asking for since the beginning of the season was a well-written, well-thought out script, and by golly, this week they delivered. Mind you, I’m well aware that one strong episode this week does not assure anything of the kind next week, but ever the optimist (as we all must be to continue to watch this show) I hold out hope.
We open up on a battlefield on the Kandorian border 20 years before the explosion of Krypton. Kudos to the special effects and cinematography teams this week for giving us a rich and inventive glimpse of the doomed planet. More importantly however, we also get a glimpse from a different angle into this season’s villain, that treacherously brilliant tactician - Major Zod. Zod, it turns out is a well-respected war hero, and in an unexpected reveal, he is also a devoted husband and a loving father.
This is the kind of character development we need from this show. We all know Zod is a “bad” guy, because we’ve seen the movies, watched the cartoons and read the comic books that told us he is, but by and large, we have just accepted he’s an evil guy who does things for his own glory. For the most part, his backstory remained a mystery to many of us who even follow his history in the printed page. Showing Zod as a bitterly disillusioned patriot, who believes he and his people have been wronged by a man they trusted (Jor –El) gives this bad guy more than one dimension, and that has often been a major problem with this show. We now have another layer to a character who deserves to be depicted as complex.
By the way, I know I complained about last week’s “homage” to the Superman Returns eyeball bullet scene, but you’ll hear no complaints form me this week. This time the crew really pulled off an homage, and they pulled it from a film that is worthy of respect. Jor – El standing helplessly inside the silver hula-hoops, the big blue Wizard of Oz heads dispassionately deciding his fate. Hard to top the irony of that scene, unless Zod comes in and asks the high court for leniency for his good friend. What? Yes! Excellent! Give us more of this. We expect it, and the source material demands it.
All this excellence begs a couple questions; Question One, how can they put out a tight and sharp show like, “Kandor,” one week, but stick us with such a weak effort like “Crossfire” last week? Question Two; Why does it seem easier to consistently write better material for most everyone but Clark? Seems to me, if any of the characters that have been developed in the 9 seasons this show has been in existence, the character of Clark Kent should be the easiest to understand. I simply can’t grasp at why the writers can’t grasp Clark, but at least for this episode, it wasn’t a glaring problem. Awwww look at me. I’m complaining about not have anything to complain about, and I guess that’s a good thing, because as readers of this column, you all know I don’t like to complain. ;)
Once again Clark was relegated to the backseat as the Jor-El/Zod story took command of the steering wheel, and the Tess/Zod story rode shotgun. It certainly worked for this episode, but it does leave a tiny bit of concern as to why Clark can’t get a starring role on his own show.
Allison Mack’s Chloe grabbed some screen time this week, and for a record three weeks in a row did not seem overly whiney or judgmental. Not only that, but she delivered a clever piece of dialogue when Clark admitted he had kissed her cousin, Lois.
The line, “I’m not surprised Clark, you’ve had feelings for her since like the 30’s,” not only allowed the audience to laugh at how long we had to finally wait for last week’s big kissing scene, but it was also a clever nod to the actual “birth” of the comic book characters of Clark Kent and Lois Lane in 1938. See how much more fun it is when these writers are on the ball?
The disclosure of Jor-El to Chloe that he had not only been to Earth before, but he had actually been to the Kent farmhouse was an interesting bit of information. The fact that Chloe later discovered Jor-El grabbing some sort of Kryptonian key from within the walls of the Kent home will obviously prove central to the Zod/Jor-El dynamic.
I’d like to give big ups to Tess Mercer this week too. Too often Tess comes off as the poor man’s Lex, or as little more than a girl who fights much better than you expect, but this week, Cassidy Freeman got to play calculating, powerful, flirtatious, and dare I say it, down right turned on when Clark, not so demurely, demonstrated his powers on her. This is a Tess who can hold her own against both Zod and Clark, and if I’m reading the signals correctly, she also likes the rough stuff in the bedroom.
Tess got a multi-dimensional treatment this week as well. I’m semi-convinced that Tess’ concerns for The Blur, Zod and the rest of the survivors of Krypton are partly for the benefit of mankind, and only partly to satisfy her own thirst for power.
Who amongst us weren’t kind of expecting some Earthling/Kryptonian hanky panky as a randy drunken Zod shows up at Tess’ office quoting Shakespeare, helps himself to her wine, and then proceeds to help himself even more to her personal space? AND who then was surprised to learn that while Zod thought he was seducing and conning our favorite CEO, the aggressive redhead was already two steps ahead of the battle-tested warrior? Tess Mercer is proving herself to be a formidable opponent. Great writing, and I’m not even using my “Smallville curve.”
So Zod captures Jor-El, just as Ms. Mercer, planned, and after deducing Jor-El is obviously protecting a member of the House of El, (Okay, that was a stretch, but everything up to that point was so good, I’ll buy into it.) he lets Jor-El go, knowing he would lead him to his heir. (Again, I could quibble that Jor-El would be too smart to return to the Kent farm, but I’m not going to let that interfere with my enjoyment.)
And so Clark watches, powerless as his bio dad dies in his arms. I will complain here a little because I would have liked to see the two bond a little before Jor-El dies, if only to make the loss that more painful for our hero. I suppose however, the argument can be made the frustration of never really getting to know Jor-El will eat away at Clark enough to give his character a new wrinkle.
Overall, I was very impressed with this episode, and while I wish I could say I have high hopes for next week, but you know the old saying, “Once bitten, twice shy, a dozen times a jittering basket case.”
And so fair citizens of Smallville, until next week, once again this is Joe Oesterle, your mild-mannered blogging, reviewer guy saying, “The vote must be unanimous, Jor-El. It has therefore now become your decision. You alone will condemn us if you wish, and you alone will be held responsible by me.”
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 a photo shoot he did with his good friend “Count Smokula.” http://joeartistwriter.wordpress.com/2009/11/07/count-smokula/