The Best and Worst of Smallville: Season 5

For previous installments:

 

Season 5 begins the expansion into Metropolis that would be an indelible mark on the show for the remainder of the series.

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I loved the idea of Brainiac being a foe on the show since I had first seen him in Superman: The Animated Series episode, “Stolen Memories.” However, this version of him, Professor Milton Fine, was not as technological as the one I am originally familiar with, and not as interesting.

Furthermore, Lex and Clark’s relationship changed to more familiar roles they would have throughout the comics – as enemies. Their cordial friendship from prior seasons was to end, which was alluded to during last seasons Onyx.

 

The Best:

Arrival, Hidden, Splinter, Solitude, Lockdown, Reckoning, Tomb, Cyborg, Oracle, and Vessel

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Briefs:

  • Arrival follows the fantastic finale, Commencement, involving the arrival of two Disciples of Zod, the Black Ship, and Brainiac as Milton Fine;
  • Hidden sees a brilliant “cyber wizard” Gabriel Duncan becomes homicidal (like a “homicidal maniacs who need to be feared” sort of way) willing to destroy all of Smallville;
  • In Splinter, we see Clark get exposed to silver kryptonite, which causes him to have paranoid delusions;
  • Solitude sees Martha come down with a disease, and Brainiac nearly gets Zod released;
  • Lockdown sees Lana and Lex held captive by Smallville deputy Greg Flynn;
  • Reckoning, the 100th episode of the series, featuring the death of Clark’s father, Jonathan Kent, and an alternate death of Lana;
  • Tomb sees Chloe possessed by Gretchen Winters which results in her and Lois both getting kidnapped;
  • Cyborg introduces Cyborg, or Victor Stone, who will have little relevance throughout the rest of the show;
  • Oracle reveals a season long mystery involving Lionel Luthor as the vessel of his Kryptonian father, Jor-El, and the return of Brainiac; and,
  • Vessel sees Lex get taken over by General Zod, with this episode having one hell of an ending.

According to the KryptonSite review of Arrival:

I had predicted that the great cliff-hangers in the Season 4 ender, Commencement, would make for a very long summer and I was right. And, dare I say it? The episode was well worth the wait.

There was a lot of eye candy on the screen in this one and major set pieces from the Superman mythos were key story elements. For a lot of fanboys (and fangirls *ahem*) who disliked the witch/stones story arc from last season, this episode will likely get the sour taste of Isobel and the search for the stones out of their mouths.

The show opened strong, with Clark seemingly alone in the arctic, as the Fortress of Solitude emerges from the ice. In probably one of the biggest set pieces from the Superman mythos, the formation of the Fortress was jaw droppingly spectacular.

However the CG, while good, wasn’t perfect. The crystals forming didn’t look totally “real,” but given the technical and budgetary limitations of the medium (most TV shows can’t afford special effects at all, much less can afford such an extensive CG sequence), it was remarkably well done.

The dramatic rise of the huge crystals out of the snow was amazing. It was a nice touch that the “camera” was placed in the middle of the formation, unlike the similar moment from the first Superman film by Richard Donner, Superman: The Movie. In that film, only the crystal dropping to the ice and the initial phase of the formation was shown close up. The rest was done in an extreme long shot. The long shot and obvious model work in the original film were underwhelming by today’s standards, actually. So Smallville’s special effects team got it right. The sequence was exciting to watch.

As most Superman movie fans will probably recognize, while not an exact replica, the inspiration for the design of Smallville’s Fortress of Solitude is clearly the iconic set from the original films. Production Designer David Willson did a remarkable job with the design and implementation of the Fortress. It’s a beautiful set and is, from what series star Tom Welling said in a recent interview, a total joy to work on. I’m glad it will be featured throughout the season.

The new opening credit sequence is beautiful and is an improvement over the previous sequence, which had been largely unchanged since Season One. The considerably more vibrant credit sequence is probably fitting to what promises to be a far dynamic season here in Smallville’s fifth year.

The episode had a rushed feel to it, especially in the first act. Maybe that’s understandable, with scribes Darren Swimmer and Todd Slavkin trying to bring the audience up to speed quickly following the devastating meteor shower. There was a lot of stuff they had to get through and they had to do it fast. The rush to deliver a lot of story quickly is probably the major problem with this episode. Unfortunately, the Kryptonian invaders bent-on-world-domination plot line suffered the most for it.

The Kryptonians that emerged from the ship were totally unsympathetic, perhaps on purpose, but what was worse they also lacked even a hint of depth. The episode was so much about getting through all the stories for the show regulars they seemed to forget to make the villains really villainous, or even to make their crimes truly shocking.

To make matters worse, the final showdown in Lex’s library between Clark and the Kryptonians was anticlimactic… It was far too easy for the teenaged Clark to banish the fully adult invaders to the Phantom Zone. That’s something I’m not sure I buy, especially given that Clark isn’t in control of all of his super abilities just yet.

If these baddies ever do come back, which I suppose is possible, let’s hope the next time they give Clark a more exciting fight.

Things seemed more settled, and the actors less harried, starting with the second act.

In another able performance, Tom Welling was rock solid as Clark. In the scene with Chloe in her hospital room, Welling superbly portrayed Clark’s fear and confusion at being found out, even by a friend, and his regret at not telling Chloe himself.

Allison Mack was pitch perfect in that scene and Chloe’s reactions were just what I would have imagined from a loyal friend of Clark’s. His coming out to her was a much more satisfying exchange than his coming out with the strident Sam Jones III as Pete in the second season episode, Duplicity. What an excellent scene for both of them.

Welling also convincingly portrayed the selflessness of Clark throughout this episode. He chooses to protect the people he loves from the dangers they’re facing, rather than blindly obey Jor-El. And Clark had a high price to pay for his stubborn loyalty to his friends: Jor-El took his powers when Clark failed to return to the Fortress by sunset.

Skillfully portraying the confliction Clark felt, Welling especially shone in the scene where Clark has to choose between saving Lana and returning to the arctic as Jor-El ordered. Welling seems to have learned a thing or two this past summer while filming the two movies he has upcoming, and this is a sign of good things to come from him. He is getting better and better every season and is as handsome as ever.

And throughout this whole episode, Tom’s voice and bearing seemed to have had developed a more commanding air. He’s showing, in Clark, a new maturity that is better suited to the Superman he will become, than the teen he has been up until now. This progression is highly welcome, I’m sure, both for him as an actor (especially since he’s looking more his age) and for Clark as a character.

I’ve never been a huge Kristin Kreuk fan. Despite her beauty, she can be wildly uneven at times, but in this episode she put her best acting foot forward. She was remarkably subtle at times and delivered probably one of her most powerful scenes in the hospital room with Clark. She sold not only Lana’s fear, but her love for Clark as well. It will be an interesting dynamic for Kristin to play now that Clark is pledging that there will be no more secrets between them even as Lana has one pretty serious one to hide herself.

The always spot on supporting players, Michael Rosenbaum, Annette O’Toole, John Schneider, and John Glover were no exception either. They all performed at their best. I especially liked Rosenbaum’s portrayal of the increasingly manipulative, untrusting and angry Lex.

At the end of the show it’s revealed that the ship has been taken away and hidden deep in bowels of the Luthorcorp plant. This, combined with the ominous note he left for Lana and his creepy demeanor at Chloe’s bedside, certainly suggests that Lex’s scheming ways are definitely being kicked up a notch this season, as promised….

Erica Durance will only be on 13 episodes this year as Lois, despite being added to the credits, but given what she delivered in this episode that is far too few. She didn’t have much screen time but still made the most of it. She played Lois as her usual hard as nails self after also delivering some very touching moments when with the Kents. The scene in the hospital had Lois at her Clark-chops-busting best, and I look forward to more scenes with them together.

James Marshall delivered another excellent episode as he showed how well he can pull tender moments out of his actors, despite them being in the midst of a fast-paced, plot driven episode. Pacing probably could have been handled better, especially in the first act, but all in all this was an excellent turn for the veteran Smallville helmer. Glen Winter also delivered another beautifully shot episode. I always look forward to the shows he photographs, he rarely disappoints.

James Marsters, although credited at the beginning of the show, only appeared for a few moments at the very end of act five. The CG introduction of Brainiac was startling and creepy. From underneath the ship, he arises from a pool of fluid in a brilliantly conceived special effects shot.

Echoing the formation of the Fortress of Solitude, Brainiac emerges from black crystalline forms that grow upward from the pool on the floor.

The black crystals that became Brainiac at the end of the show are actually a nice contrast to the white crystals that formed the Fortress at its beginning. This visually reinforces the idea that Brainiac and the Fortress (and Jor-El) will become opposing forces for good and evil in Clark’s life. Caught in the middle, he will likely have to struggle with their conflicting agendas throughout the season.

The episode answered most of the questions left over from the season four finale, but also posed others that are still left to be answered. However, if this episode is any indication, Smallville’s fifth season will be a ride that Superman and Smallville fans alike will enjoy.

I can’t wait to see what they deliver next week and I hope we hear what Chloe tells Lex about how she came to be in the Yukon.

All in all, and despite the short shrift given the Kryptonian bad guy plot line and some storytelling expediencies, I give this episode 4 1/2 stars out of 5.

According to the KryptonSite review of Hidden:

Wow… And I mean: WOW!

Al Gough said in several interviews that this episode would be one of the best of the series and he wasn’t just spouting hyperbole. He was telling the truth because there is no exaggeration needed. This is possibly one of the best episodes of the series.

The episode started out quick with the unstable Gabriel taking over a missile silo near Smallville. His cryptic phone call to Chloe was seriously creepy. Not only was his acting above the norm for the normally throwaway guest starring role (no freak this week), but the actor had something to work with too.

Scribes Kelly Souders and Brian Peterson actually managed to craft a guest starring role that had some depth, despite him not having much screen time. It’s a pleasant change of pace. There were even some unexpected twists in Gabriel’s story that were nice to see.

Too bad the same can’t be said for the inexplicable involvement of Sheriff Adams (Camille Mitchell) in a military operation. That detail was perplexing but not really worth more than mentioning. The writers got everything else just about perfect.

Mark Snow’s original music was beautiful and the selection of songs played was also very effective. The music in Smallville is always excellent and this episode was no exception.

Director Whitney Ransick delivered for Smallville a stellar second effort (he also directed the far less successful Spirit last season). He kept up a tight pace and made this episode thoroughly engaging from start to finish. The scenes where Clark was shot and subsequently died in the hospital were heart breaking to watch.

DP Glen Winter shot another beautiful episode. I especially liked the natural lighting in Gabriel’s house and the soft photography in the Fortress of Solitude. The slow motion camera work was amazingly effective to boot; which surprised me, frankly.

Slow motion photography is an often overused device to say “something important is happening here.” And because it’s so common, any emotional impact slow motion might have as a visual storytelling method is seriously lessened. You see it almost every week in some otherwise wonderful TV shows. And personally I got sick of it in the final Lord of the Rings movie. (I hope the DP for the new King Kong movie restrains Jackson’s use of it.) It’s such a hackneyed technique; it can totally pull me out of what would normally be an emotionally charged scene. Not so here.

The scenes where Clark got shot and then when he saved the day both used slow motion beautifully. It was especially effective in the scene where Clark gets shot. It was so visceral and gut-wrenching…. I had trouble remembering to breathe, actually.

And then there’s the scene where he saves the day.

Wow!

Clark Kent Flew!

Well, maybe it was sort of a cross between a humongous leap and flight but it was still awesome… I actually screamed out loud.

The special effects in that scene were amazing too…

It was a totally jaw dropping moment and probably the most exciting single minute in the whole series! That was Smallville at its best.

Everyone seemed to kick things up a notch, especially the actors.

Tom Welling was very Supermanly in this episode as things got rough for Clark in more ways than one. With one minor lapse, he was nearly perfect.

From the cute, funny and charming “morning after” scene; the embarrassment of answering his mother’s question whether he’d been “safe” when having sex; Clark’s horrified surprise at getting shot; his confusion when talking to Jor-El/Lionel (Lion-El?) in the Fortress of Solitude; his resigned acceptance of his change in destiny when talking to his parents in the kitchen; to his wonderfully conflicted scene with Chloe as they talk about the consequences of his actions. He was terrific.

My only complaint with Tom’s performance was when Lana, Kristin Kreuk in a very devastating moment btw, came to his bedside at the hospital. I should have been bawling my eyes out, she was so wonderfully devastated. And her confession of why she’d always pulled back from him was so sad and poignant, there’s no reason for me to stay dry eyed. Except that Clark looked more like he was stirring from a pleasant sleep than coming around after getting shot.

Maybe I can kind of see the point of that almost ethereal look on his face, a friend explained what she thought it meant, but it still pulled me out of the scene. He just didn’t look like he’d just been shot to me. Meh… It wouldn’t have been a choice I would have made anyway.

Anyway, Kristin Kreuk also brought out her A game in this episode. While I’ve been hard on her in the past, I have no complaints on her performance this time out. Her grief at Clark’s death was believably, and heart wrenchingly, painful and her shocked surprise at his resurrection was both subtle and intense. She did a brilliant job.

Michael Rosenbaum’s Lex Luthor is definitely moving into darker territory, and I think Michael is having a lot of fun with it. Lex’s attempted manipulation of Lana in trying to push a wedge between her and Clark is self-centered and downright mean. He’ll certainly succeed eventually. And in an awesome scene, he got so wonderfully angry with Lionel in his cell at Belle Reve. It was beautiful to watch Lex being so bad. He’s becoming more and more evil with each passing episode…

Was it really Lionel that showed up in the mansion to drink up Lex’s scotch? I’m not so sure it was and I would love to know what Lex was thinking there, he seemed to snap out of his surprise at seeing Lionel far too quickly. I don’t think Lana is the only person Lex will be trying to manipulate this season.

John Glover was awesome as well, as were all the rest of the supporting players. John Schneider and Annette O’Toole were terrific in how well they portrayed the emotional roller coaster ride the Kents were on. And Allison Mack was wonderful. Well, wonderful except for her screeching after Clark got shot.

I just have a thing about grating noises and that harsh voice sent shivers up my spine. Sorry, Allison.

But never mind, because everything else she did was perfect.

I especially loved Allison in the loft scene at the end. She was the supportive friend I always thought she should be for Clark. Too bad he didn’t listen to her about telling Lana. I have a feeling that decision will come back to haunt him and may play into Lana’s eventual disaffection with Clark.

I do want to say a couple of things about the hair design this show. I absolutely love Clark’s hair this season. It’s so nice that it’s being brushed back off of his face now. The bangs were getting old, so I’m glad they’re gone.

As good as that hair design choice is; the choice for Jonathan is horrible. Will someone give John Schneider a hair cut, please?

John is not 20 and isn’t jumping ravines with his car anymore. I liked his shorter look from previous seasons so much better. Here’s hoping he gets a trim real soon.

The Sheriff’s hair isn’t much better, by the way. I’m not sure what to advise there but something needs to change.

This is possibly one of the best episodes of the series, despite some minor lapses, so I give this episode five out of five big Superman leaps!

According to the KryptonSite review of Splinter:

I had been expecting a great episode and I wasn’t disappointed.

When I’d read about the episode and seen the trailer, I’d imagined a more drastic and sudden change in Clark but Tom and helmer James Marshall successfully created a gradual build to Clark’s paranoia.

And Tom Welling was a revelation as the paranoid Clark.

Probably the biggest risk of doing an episode like this would be the actor presenting an over the top performance. But not only was Tom’s performance NOT over the top, it was remarkably subtle and nuanced at times. He was especially effective during Clark’s scenes with Fine, Lex, and Lana. Tom Welling has avoided playing “crazy Clark” too broadly. His jittery nervousness in the third and fourth acts was spot on for someone with Paranoia. Clark’s hurt, fear and anger as he realizes that Lana maybe isn’t as trustworthy as he thought was amazingly well played by Tom; it was heart wrenching to watch. Tom’s Clark was downright scary when he was stalking Lex and Lana, by the way. He’d never really played that before and Tom Welling did that perfectly.

The supporting players all brought in their A games to boot, with the possible exception of Kristin Kreuk. Lana seemed to be all over the map, motivation-wise. However, the character arc for Lana in this episode was probably the weakest part of it, so maybe the problems she had in this episode weren’t all her fault. Lana’s mantra of “Just tell me the truth, <fill-in-the-blank>” is getting way old and I’m very sorry they trotted that old crutch out.

Have I said lately how much I love Marsters as Brainiac?

He is just evil incarnate and is so likeable at the same time yet Marsters pulls that duality off brilliantly. He adds so many layers to the already well-written lines, it‘s an absolute joy to watch him work. I can’t wait for next week’s episode!

Michael Rosenbaum’s Lex is turning on a hook. His devastation when Lionel jabbed at him about the impossibility of Lana ever loving him was amazing to watch. The truth of what Lionel said was so biting.

Allison Mack was fantastic, even without a whole lot of screen time. Her shocked realization when she discovers he thinks she betrayed him was amazing.

John Glover’s Lionel is always a joy to watch so I love it when he makes appearances on the show. His spelling out to Lex that Lana will never love him because she knows him was devastating to Lex and yet he delivered that line so matter-of-factly… It was beautifully evil.

Scribe Steven S. DeKnight has penned a very successful episode. The pacing was well done and the tension kept on building. Also, the act break cliff-hangers were terrific and kept me on the edge of my seat. I’m not totally sure what Fine’s motivations were for fooling with Clark’s mind, but I gotta love the creativity behind it. And Fine’s own duplicity with Clark even as he condemns humanity for its penchant for betraying people was brilliantly evil.

Director James Marshall never disappoints and he created a great episode. And was that Michael Rosenbaum’s voice as the ominous caller on Clark’s cell phone? If so, that’s a great attention to detail.

DP Barry Donlevy filmed yet another gorgeous episode. I especially loved how creepy the scene the mansion was when Lex was looking for Clark. Dark scenes often lose any sense of depth and end up just being dark, but Donlevy still kept some color in the scene. It was beautifully shot.

Actually when the lights went out and Lex was out there creeping around looking for a crazy Superman, I think I forgot to breathe…

Hair and make-up even outdid themselves. By the end Clark looked truly nuts and physically stressed. For someone as gorgeous as Tom Welling, that‘s probably a pretty neat trick.

This was a wonderful episode.

I give this 4.5 silver kryptonite splinters out of a possible 5.

According to the KryptonSite review of Solitude:

When the description of a Smallville episode includes a sentence like “However, once the two arrive at the Fortress, Professor Fine tries to free Zod and kill Clark” you know it’s going to be an exciting episode. Often the official descriptions are misleading (deliberately or not), and can sometimes be downright wrong, but this week’s held up to the promised excitement.

The episode writers, Darren Swimmer and Todd Slavkin, have penned a story that gets off to a great start when Martha gets blasted some mysterious burst of energy and yet doesn‘t remember it. It’s creepy and troubling. The creep factor is heightened even more when nothing appears to be wrong with her, at first.

The tension builds well throughout the show, with wonderful act break cliff-hangers that kept me almost literally on the edge of my seat. As the story progresses, Fine slowly turns the screws tighter and tighter on Clark, totally manipulating him each step of the way. Finally, the imminent death of his “Earth mother” makes Clark so desperate that he agrees to destroy the Fortress of Solitude. It‘s a brilliant plan and Fine almost gets away with it, but he didn‘t count on the loyalty and resourcefulness of a human to tip the scales to Clark‘s favor.

I think it’s wonderful for them to show that Clark now knows that not all humans are as bad as Fine painted them. It’s an important lesson for him as he progresses closer to his destiny of becoming the protector of his adopted planet.

Also, I loved that Jor-El (as personified by the Fortress of Solitude) is what finally destroyed Fine. Nice touch.

What a great script!

I think the only problem I had with the story was Lois’ contrived conflict with Lex. They had never really even seen each other before except the time he tried to pay off that Swiss loan shark for her sister… I would say that should buy him at least a little slack.

That said, I loved Lex’s line about her being a “muffin peddling, college drop out.” That line was hilarious and probably worth putting up with the contrived conflict between them.

I wonder if Slavkin and Swimmer felt cheapened by writing that infomercial for the Ford Fusion into the show.

The episode was beautifully shot by Glen Winter. I especially loved the scene in the first act with Fine and Clark. It was shot low and had a crisp look to it. And later in act four, Fine’s classroom looked amazing. It is a beautiful space and Winter’s lighting makes it more so.

I think the only complaint I would have is that zoom was combined with a tracking shot in the Fortress of Solitude scene in the third act. Using an extreme zoom flattens the image and totally removes any sense of depth of the huge Fortress set. Also, the set pieces coming between Tom and the camera as it tracked back and forth and the extreme zoom made me flash back to the several traumatic hours I spent watching Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller in film school… *shudder* I really hate that technique.

Anyway, Tom Welling was awesome again this week. I really think he must have learned some things this past summer when he worked on his two new films, The Fog and Cheaper By The Dozen 2. He seems to have a subtler touch now.

I especially loved his scenes with Martha. The scene with her lying on the couch was terrific. He impeccably portrayed Clark’s attempts at trying to hide his anguish while still trying to deal bravely with his mother’s impending death. It was a heart breaking scene and Tom played it flawlessly.

He also did well when Clark was dealing with the evil Fine. Brainiac had Clark twisting on a hook and Tom conveyed his desperation and despair perfectly.

James Marsters also excelled in this episode. It would have been so easy for Marsters to take the climax between Fine and Clark over the top. However, Marsters dodged that trap and produced a strong performance that deftly avoided becoming campy. And that last little knowing smile as Fine lay impaled on the console was brilliant.

The supporting players all shone as usual, but Annette O’Toole really outdid herself. Her subtle and tender performances in the scenes with Clark were amazing. It’s really a shame that the cast is so big now that we’ve seen so little of Jonathan and Martha the last few seasons, it was great for Annette to be able to show her stuff.

Erica Durance and Allison Mack’s sisterly chemistry is terrific and I hope they keep up Lois’ visits to Chloe at the Daily Planet. The foreshadowing of Lois’ role as an investigative reporter (and perennial thorn in Lex’s side) was awesome. As forced as the conflict between Lex and Lois in the Talon was, the actors had a great chemistry and I enjoyed the scene in spite of the contrivances.

Michael Rosenbaum was in his element. He was playing Lex at his maniacal best. His anger and frustration with his father, his sarcasm, his annoyed amusement with Lois’s snarky-ness – all beautifully played.

John Glover’s Lionel is a huge question mark right now, however. Why is he helping Clark? By giving Chloe the skinny on Fine, he must have known it would help Clark in the end. She’s Clark’s best friend after all. She would certainly tell Clark what she found out about his professor. Is there still some part of Jor-El inside Lionel? I think maybe there is.

This was a stellar episode, probably one of the better ones so far in this excellent season, and I give it 4.5 bolts of evil Kryptonian lightning out of 5.

According to the KryptonSite review of Lockdown:

Initially, I hadn’t been all that excited by this episode. I had been so anxiously awaiting next week’s 100th episode I hadn’t really thought about this one too much, so I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it. The episode was exciting and provided a lot of forward movement to several storylines to boot.

I haven’t been a huge fan of writer Steven S. DeKnight’s work up until now. His previous efforts have been uneven, to be honest. I absolutely loathed “Ageless” but “Onyx” was near brilliant.

This is probably his best work since “Onyx,” it had more successful bad guys than “Mortal” anyway (have I told you lately how much I hate weird psychic twin stories?). The story actually touched on several plot points from previous episodes which proves you can have a story that is more or less stand alone without ignoring what happened in previous weeks.

For example, I loved Lex’s speech about the dream he’d had in “Lexmas” and it was terrific that several characters referred to the traumatic events in “Arrival.” Something like that SHOULD have a long lasting effect on people. And I don’t know if it was scripted (and thus DeKnight’s idea) but the truck that Clark crashed in “Splinter” sitting in the driveway was also a nice touch. I had wondered whether that crash had been part of Clark’s hallucinations or real, it’s nice to see that cleared up. DeKnight managed to slip in all those references to previous events without them feeling contrived.

This was really a terrific episode for Michael Rosenbaum. Lex finally had the guts to show her how much he cares for Lana and yet still has the nascent evil-doer thing going on. For example, saving Lana wasn’t the only reason he had stepped out of the panic room: he also wanted to destroy the wireless scrambler the bad guys had installed. He still has his own best interests at heart at the end of the day and the way Michael played both sides of Lex in the scenes with Lana was wonderful. Michael has produced probably the most complicated live-action Lex Luthor ever. He is a total joy to watch each week.

Kristin Kreuk has proven yet again that she’s more than just a pretty face. Lana’s ire at Clark’s continued seemingly inexplicable avoidance of intimacy seemed better motivated than some of her previous arguments with Clark. Her explanation of why she is so interested in the ship, and her confusion at why Clark didn’t want to talk about it, was a great moment for her. She did an excellent job.

Tom Welling was fabulous in this episode. I laughed out loud at how Clark worked out the way to distract the guard at the hospital… Super-shake. That was a more subtle and funny way for Clark to use his powers to get something done. It doesn’t always have to be about ripping doors off of their hinges or setting things alight with his heat vision. It was funny and a nice creative solution to the problem and I loved how Tom played that scene. Clark is also in a very sticky situation with Lana. He is petrified that Lana won’t take learning his secret very well and yet he knows that he can’t keep lying to her either. Either way he could lose her and Tom perfectly portrayed Clark’s growing desperation in trying to deal with the dilemma.

John Schneider and Annette O’Toole were both fantastic. John is really doing a wonderful job with this story arc and Jonathan’s resolution to do things his way. The look on Annette’s face when Clark said he was looking forward to the campaign being over was priceless. I also loved Martha’s confrontation with Jonathan after she confessed to taking Lionel’s money.

Allison Mack’s Chloe continues to get some of the best one-liners in the show and I thoroughly enjoy watching her show her off her terrific comedic timing each week. I loved how she wistfully said “Damn, I wish I could do that” after Clark sped off to find Lana. The way she delivered that line was laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Camille Mitchell was wonderful in her final performance… I have a soft spot in my heart for her abrasive corn pone Sheriff and her campy over-acting death scene was totally in character. I’m sad to see her go.

Production Designer David Willson made a beautiful panic room for Lex and Director of Photography Glen Winter lit that set wonderfully. Sleek, elegant and dramatically lit that set was very Lex.

The special effects for this episode were fantastic! The “Clark-Time” effect when Clark was zipping in to save Lana as the bomb went off looked great. I am amazed sometimes what they manage to do on a TV show budget.

All in all, some dubious choices aside, this was a terrific and wonderfully exciting episode and I give it four missing Kryptonian space ships out of a possible five.

According to the KryptonSite review of Reckoning:

What a great job everyone did in this vitally important episode!

Writers Kelly Souders and Brian Peterson delivered a terrific story. I was initially perplexed, and even a touch angry, with the whole time reboot thing. However, in thinking about it the gimmick wasn’t as bad an idea as I first thought. So, yeah Clark has yet another person that learns his secret “forget” it, but this time it’s different.It wasn’t another “mind whammy” moment. This is a do-over, instead of another memory-wiping contrivance, this time it was a conscious choice on his part. No going back to square one, like I thought would happen. Clark said it himself about Lana, “She’s really done this time.”

Jor-El said that there would be no more second chances and I don’t think he was just talking about turning back time.

Anyway, the writers kept the action steady, even if it felt a bit rushed at times, and the act break cliff-hangers were some of the best ever. There was beautiful dialogue, touching moments, some wonderful one-liners and terrific references to the Superman mythos.

I especially liked Chloe’s line, “Great. What’d you do? Spin the Earth back on its axis?” That was a hysterical nod to Christopher Reeve’s first Superman film. This was a terrific episode for them.

The acting was fantastic. All of the actors turned in some of their finest work. Greg Beeman has a lot to proud of in this episode. He pulled wonderful performances out of his actors and ably supervised one of the most important episodes of the series.

“Reckoning” showcased a performance that was easily some of the best work Tom Welling has ever done. Clark’s journey here was a tortuous one. He went from the deepest anguish to the most infectious joy. There are too many wonderful things about Tom’s acting for me to mention them all, but probably his most powerful moments were the grief stricken ones. He perfectly portrayed Clark’s agony after he found Lana after the accident. It was a devastating moment. The scene in the Fortress when he pleads with Jor-el was an extremely powerful one. Also the remorseful note he added to Clark’s grief while talking to Martha was heart wrenching.

Tom has really grown as an actor. It’s episodes like this that make me realize that as gorgeous as he is, he is so much more than just another pretty face. In this wonderful outing, Tom has again proven he is also amazingly talented.

Michael didn’t have a lot of screen time in this episode, but when he was on he was magnetic to watch. In both versions of Lex’s scene with Lana at the mansion, Michael was astounding. His face was mesmerizing as he went through all the emotions that Lex usually is too cool to show. Lex’s building fury at Lana’s lies and his devastation when Lana dies in the crash were especially impressive moments for Michael.

Kristin Kreuk has put in another terrific performance here. Lana had a lot to deal with and as much trouble Kristin’s had in the past with being consistent, she hit all the right emotional notes in “Reckoning.” Kristin has improved a lot the last season or two. “Reckoning” was probably her best performance to date.

Annette O’Toole’s performance was an absolute revelation. She’s always been one of the better actors in the show, but she really hit it out of the park last night. I was especially moved by Annette’s acting in Martha’s scene with Clark before Jonathan’s funeral. It was devastating to watch her grief.

John Schneider gave a terrific performance in Reckoning. Aside from any possible future flashback cameos, this is Jonathan Kent’s last major appearance and John gave Pa Kent an excellent send off.

John was astonishing in Jonathan’s confrontation with the Magnificent Bastard, Lionel, who was looking for his own reckoning. Jonathan’s passing itself was poignant and moving. He died in the arms of the two people he loved most in the world. It was truly a fitting end for Martha’s husband and Clark’s father.

The special effects were terrific. I loved everything Clark did in the Fortress of Solitude. From getting there with that wonderful vortex of the portal to that jump (or flight) to forming the diamond, it was all beautifully done. Lana’s car crash was a visceral experience. I literally had trouble breathing, it was so hard to watch.

DP Barry Donleavy shot another beautiful episode. I loved the soft focus photography in the Fortress. The slow motion photography during the final scene was also extremely well done and I’m not usually a huge fan of slow-mo. In this case it fit in perfectly with the music and the tone of the scene to underscore the emotional impact of Jonathan’s death on Clark and Martha. It was terrific episode for him.

This is probably one of Smallville’s best episodes and in terms of impact to the show’s series long character arc for Clark, it is certainly the most pivotal one so far. It was an important episode on so many levels and there was nothing in it that disappointed.

I rate this one five out of a possible five.

According to the KryptonSite review of Tomb:

This one has so many good things about it and yet so many bad things too. It was somewhat derivative, yet another “possessed by a ghost” story like Spirit, but with a much darker tone and better acting. Despite this, I’m not sure overall it’s much better episode than Spirit was.

Allison’s performance inside the scene in the hospital where Chloe freaked out and had to be sedated seemed a bit forced, but aside from that this performance was probably her best of the series. Her best work came once Chloe was possessed by Gretchen. The way she pulled off the change to Gretchen was brilliant… It was a subtle transformation at the beginning. Initially she was biting her nails and her voice had a tremulous and insecure tone, which were nice touches from Allison since it was something Chloe has never really done. However, it was as Gretchen’s emotional state deteriorated and yet was still tried to protect Clark and Lois that Allison really sparkled.

Once he tied her up in the basement, Gretchen acted like a troubled girl who needed Mikey’s help while she also tried to lure him to her so she could “enter” him, or whatever it was she did to get him to stab himself. I thought Allison perfectly played the different parts of Gretchen’s intent in that scene.

Her performance in the final scene with Chloe’s mom was wonderful, and it was helped a lot by the beautiful photography of DP Barry Donleavy and the quiet music from Composer Mark Snow. The bright yet diffused lighting combined with the soft focus photography and mellow music helped set a hopeful mood, finally giving Chloe some closure. Allison played Chloe’s hesitation and the bittersweet reunification with her mom flawlessly. She was absolutely terrific.

Tom wasn’t in this much; he must have needed a break after the previous two episodes so I guess I can’t complain too much, but he was wonderful in the amount of screen time he did have. Tom is playing Clark now as a more resolved and take-charge kind of guy. Following the death of Jonathan, it’s a great direction for this “Superman in training” to take. He seems more confident and sure of himself. Like in last week’s episode when he decided that he had to drop out of school without discussing it with Martha first. It was just something he thought was the right thing to do. He didn’t need to talk to her about it.

This week, he rescues Chloe from an unknown fate at the hands of Lex without discussing it with anyone or overly worrying about the consequences. It’s a very bull-headed thing for him to do and very much like his “adult” self in the comics, where Clark often acts before thinking through things first. This week he’s also the one giving advice, rather than taking it. First he advises his mother on the wisdom of taking Jonathan’s Senate seat and then later gives helpful advice to Chloe about her mother. Tom played Clark as more resolute and secure during those exchanges.

Clark’s series long character arc doesn’t seem to be a very big one to some fans online. So much so that some people don’t think Clark has changed much at all from the first season (which I totally disagree with, he’s changed a lot). Some fans have voiced frustration with the direction the character is going in the show. So I really like that the speed of change for Tom’s Clark seems to be picking up some steam.

How creepy was Lex in this episode? With Lex’s little speech to Clark about Chloe being his best friend and how hard it must be to see her like that, it seems to me that Lex thinks that Chloe knows Clark’s secret. His desire to get Chloe to Belle Reve takes on a whole other meaning when you realize that Lex does indeed have something to gain from helping her.

Lex’s monopolization of Lana during the episode, like for instance searching for Chloe with her throughout the night and further dividing Lana from Clark, is cruel. He’s keeping Lana off-balance and on the defensive when it comes to Clark. Michael is doing a terrific job playing a seemingly sincere yet clearly manipulative Lex. He wants Lana for himself and he has no friendship with Clark left to hold him back from doing whatever it takes. Michael’s made it believable that Lana is taken in by Lex’s lies and yet Clark knows that there is more going on than meets the eye. Michael’s always wonderful.

The guest star, Damon Johnson, was terrific as creepy orderly Michael Westfield. He was intense and made Michael scary and yet sympathetic. It’s refreshing to have such a good actor guest starring.

This was another dark episode and Barry Donleavy did a great job filming it. I loved Production Designer David Willson’s set for Westfield’s basement… It was very reminiscent of Buffalo Bill’s basement in The Silence of the Lambs and Donleavy’s hand-held work and director Whitney Ransick’s blocking reinforced that idea. I really liked the way the camera followed “Gretchen” through the basement as she looked for Lois, revealing the cluttered mess to the viewer. It was a nice touch.

All in all, this was not the best episode ever but there were some things to love about this episode so I give it 3.5 kryptonite studded silver bracelets out of a possible 5.

According to the KryptonSite review of Cyborg:

Whoa… what a great cliff-hanger which ended this episode, but I’ll talk about that more at the end of the review (that’s my own little version of a cliff-hanger…) since almost everything leading up to it was great too.

I don’t think that it’s possible to say enough good things about this episode. Everyone did an excellent job starting with the marvelous guest star that played Victor, Lee Thompson Young.

It’s easy to criticize many of Smallville’s guest stars, many of them haven’t been all that great at acting to be honest, but Lee Thompson Young was awesome. Lee could easily have played Victor much more dour and glum. He’s been changed into something not entirely human, even if it isn’t readily apparent to anyone who hadn’t just hit him with their car. That would be enough to depress anyone and Victor was perhaps understandably wishing he had died in that car crash that killed his family. Also, it would have been easy for Lee to turn the Cyborg character into one that is more of an automaton: a mechanical and emotionless person, influenced unduly by his unique physiology. However, Lee had unexpectedly added a wonderful tenderness and humanity to his portrayal that showed a unique insight into what someone like Victor might be going through. Here’s hoping that Victor (and Lee Thompson Young) makes a return appearance sometime in the future.

I usually save the comments on the director ’til the last part of the review, but I’m going to mention helmer Glen Winter earlier than normal because he did such a wonderful job. Although actors can still put in a good performance even with a bad director, rarely do they excel the way everyone did in this episode. Everyone from vets Annette O’Toole and John Glover on down did excellent work and I think that’s thanks to the stellar directorial debut of Glen Winter.

Normally one of Smallville’s two directors of photography (Barry Donleavy is the other), this episode saw Glen Winter sit down in the director’s chair for the first time. I am always impressed with the photography in the show, so much so that I usually mention it in my reviews. Winter has shot some of the more beautifully filmed episodes in the series, recent standouts “Lexmas” and “Vengeance” among them, so I was looking forward to this episode a lot. I figured it would be a good looking show, if nothing else, but it was more than that: It was well-paced, exciting, beautifully acted and tightly directed. Winter has a lot to proud of in his directorial debut. I hope he gets added to the roster of regular helmers for the show.

Tom did a fantastic job in this episode, as is usual for him of late, but he especially excelled in the scenes with Victor and Lex. With Victor, Clark came off as more of a mentor, a boy who is just coming to terms with his “otherness” and needs guidance and help. Clark provided that to Victor and Tom played perfectly the protectiveness Clark felt for Victor.

In his scenes with Lex, Clark was his normal sanctimonious self, but this time Lex finally fought back. The interplay between the two men was terrific. I love how Tom plays the resolute nature that Clark has recently developed. His confrontations in this episode with Lex were more like the openly antagonistic relationship that typifies Clark’s dealings with Lex in the comics. He’s becoming more and more Supermanly each episode and I’m loving every minute of screen time he’s getting lately.

Michael Rosenbaum must be ecstatic that Lex is finally now openly revealing his evil side. Lex’s involvement with Victor’s captivity and the unethical experimentation on an unwilling human subject was pretty damn evil. Michael’s playing the duplicitous Lex with a finesse that is a lot of fun to watch. And I ABSOLUTELY LOVED that Lex finally got the final word in the library scene with Clark and left the room saying “You can let yourself out.” That was fantastic and Michael played Lex’s impatience with Clark’s self-righteousness perfectly. What an incredible scene for both men.

I find it interesting that Clark is about the only person that knows what Lex is up to. Even the normally conspiracy-minded Chloe was skeptical that Lex would have anything to do with the evil-doers that had changed Victor without his consent. The speed of the build up to whatever it is that will finally cause the rift between the former best friends has picked up and it’s a good thing. I can’t wait to see what will finally pull the two men irretrievably apart.

And how creepy was Lionel? Yikes… I’m not sure what to think about what he did in this episode. Was Lionel manipulating Martha for some nefarious purpose so he had hired the man to blackmail Martha? We know that he lied about not knowing what the extortionist had on Clark. And how had Lionel known Clark’s birth name? Is he still channeling Jor-El like he did in “Hidden” or does he actually remember what happened when Jor-El had controlled him? Or has he figured that out in some other way? And how terrific is John Glover working with this story arc? Both he and Annette O’Toole have given us some fantastic interactions to watch and watching John Glover play this far more subtly manipulative Lionel is pure joy.

Scribe Caroline Dries, in her apparent professional writing debut, gave us an episode that was better than usual. Victor’s story wonderfully echoed Clark’s and gave Clark some things to think about. The act break cliff-hangers were fantastic and the dialogue was better than the normally solid work other Smallville writers produce. And that was one hell of a cliff-hanger for the spring hiatus. Damn but I want find out more about what Lionel is really up to and I don’t want to wait the six or so weeks we’ve got until the next new episode airs. Kudos to Caroline for writing such an excellent script! Every writer should have such a wonderful episode as their first.

Director of Photography Gregory Littleton, also in his own Smallville debut, shot a beautiful episode. The lab scenes were wonderful, especially at the opening of the tease when Victor was alone in the dark lab restrained in the cage. The scenes between Lionel and Martha were great. I found it interesting that Lionel was lit from behind in several of the scenes. The scene in the first act when he first walked in on Martha and stood in the doorway he was lit from behind and there was some haze in the air that made the light beams visible. The haze and the beams coming into the room from over his head and shoulders gave him an almost angelic appearance. Does that mean he’s just trying to help Martha like he claims?

But I think my favorite moments from the photographer came in the tease during the chase scene. The beginning of the chase had low angle tracking shots combined with some hand-held shots and dramatic lighting (along with some quick cutting from the editor) helped heighten the tension during that chase. Later in the chase when Victor ran through what looked like an abandoned warehouse there was dust in the air and the light beams from the sun cut through the haze in the dark rooms. It was beautiful and dramatic.

The special effects were wonderful, especially the jump that Victor and Clark take off the roof and the X-ray peek into Victor’s body. As long as they couldn’t duplicate the implants into Victor’s body showing, like the way they are on Teen Titans, it was a nice touch that the implants inside his body were similar to the cartoon version.

What a terrific episode and I think the only thing I had a problem with it was that Tom wasn’t in this more, but that probably isn’t really any reason to mark the episode down so I give this episode 5 secret evil labs out of a possible 5.

According to the KryptonSite review of Oracle:

With a story written by Neil Sadhu & Daniel Sulzberg, whose previous effort was penning the far less effective Lucy, scribe Caroline Dries’ sophomore teleplay for Smallville (she’d previously written the wonderful Cyborg) was terrific. The story was great out of the gate. The tease was wonderful and truly teasing. My kids actually said “Whoa” out loud as the show went to the commercial break… that was fantastic. The end-of-act cliff-hangers were also extremely strong. So much so that my 13 year old son, who is a very casual viewer of Smallville (he sometimes doesn’t watch the entire episode), stuck with it to the end. I think that says more about the strength of this episode’s hooks than almost anything else I could say.

Probably the only real flaws in this script were its contrivances.

Why had Clark assumed the “weapon” Lionel was having those meetings about was in fact him? While I can understand Clark’s paranoia about being sliced up in some lab, aside from Simone in ‘Hypnotic’ he’s never been controlled by anyone. So why was that the first thing that popped into his head? Clark’s assumption wasn’t motivated by anything in the story itself and seemed forced.

And just why was it that Clark couldn’t read the Kryptonian Lionel wrote but Chloe could somehow work out the patterns? Was it just because Chloe needed an excuse to have a loft scene at the end with Clark? The explanation of how she accomplished that seemed a bit thin, as well. Perhaps Clark could have accomplished the same results speed reading the mounds of pages instead. It was a great reveal on the “Zod is coming” thing at the end, but the plot points that brought us to that cliff-hanger were contrived…

Aside from that, the story was pretty strong. Caroline did a good job juggling the various plot lines that the episode dealt with. I’m not totally sure if this is a writing thing or an editing thing or some combination, but the action seemed to flow well from one scene to the next. When Smallville has a lot of stuff going on like this episode had, sometimes it can get choppy and with this episode it just wasn’t.

John Schneider made an excellent reappearance in the show playing Brainiac-as-Jonathan. He’s always been one of the stronger actors on the show but Jonathan never gave John a chance to really stretch his acting muscles much. The Jonathan-centric episodes were very few and far between, so him playing Fine’s take on Clark’s father figure, this must have been a treat to play. This episode was a terrific one for him as an actor and I’m so glad he was back in such a good episode.

I’ve gotten to be a James Marsters fan so I love it whenever Fine appears in the show. He certainly didn’t disappoint in this outing. James portrays the casually evil Brainiac with such flair. I loved the smug smile he had when he was watching Martha through the window. He was playing her and Clark big time. James’ scenes with Michael Rosenbaum’s Lex were fantastic.

Fine played Lex perfectly. He catered to Lex’s conspiratorial nature and wasn’t at all surprised when Lex tried to go behind his back to do something that wasn’t in the plans. I don’t know how yet that altered vaccine changed Lex but Fine went through a very convoluted series of steps to get to where he could alter the vaccine and inject it into Lex. Since this is a two part episode, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that whatever that injection did to Lex will come into play in a big way in the season finale and may even affect events into next season. I’m looking forward to seeing just what else Lex will be able to do besides heal quickly. This will be a very, very long summer if this episode is any indication of the kind of events we can expect from the season finale, ‘Vessel.’

Michael was awesome in this episode… Lex was playing Fine, or tried to, and Michael portrayed the changing motivations of Lex very well. Lex was alternately over confident, smug, scared, resolved and shocked. I loved how floored he was when Fine got the upper hand… Michael played all the emotions expertly and with his usual grace.

Tom Welling was especially terrific in this episode. He got some thankless contrivances to play as Clark stumbled through the episode a bit, but he perfectly portrayed Clark’s confusion when torn between Lionel and his ‘father.’ He also had some nice moments when trying to deal with Lana’s new relationship with Lex even while he was trying to protect them both from Fine. Tom did an excellent job playing Clark’s changing emotions in the mansion scene with Lex and took Clark believably from concern for Lex’s safety to self-righteous anger to wounded puppy….

DP Glen Winter shot another beautiful episode. Only in Smallville would evildoer’s secret labs be so gorgeously lit. I loved the lights patterns on the floor and the high contrast ratio (the very sharp shadows) that dominated the scenes in the lab. Awesome.

Not the best episode ever, but I gotta love any episode that has such evil goings-on happening with poor Clark caught in the middle. That helped it at least half a point or so, anyway…

4.5 vials of vaccine out of possible 5.

According to the KryptonSite review of Vessel:

Yikes… What an episode. I’ve seen it several times now just to get the info down straight for the recap section and it doesn’t suffer on each subsequent viewing, unlike some other episodes I could think of. *cough*Ageless *cough* This one gets better with each viewing.

I think the only big problem I could see with the Kelly Souders’ and Brian Peterson’s writing was the barn scene between Clark and Chloe. The dialogue was oddly choppy, but it might not have been their fault. It seemed like there were holes in the scene almost, maybe like something was missing. I mean, one second Chloe’s talking to Clark about Lex and Lana and then all of sudden Clark brought up Jor-El… What the hell?

How did that follow? It felt like something should have been in between the Lana-isn’t-coming-to-you-for-help-anymore part and the I-should-have-listened-to-Jor-El’s-warnings part… Was something cut? I don’t know, but something was up in that scene.

Well, actually I take that back about that scene being the only problem I had with this script. Another thing that was odd was the whole Zod needing a vessel thing. Since when was his body destroyed? Since when did Fine trick Clark to the FOS to not only free Zod but so Clark could become Zod’s vessel?

Maybe this vessel thing was something that evolved after Solitude, the episode where Fine had tricked Clark into almost freeing Zod, but it seemed to come a bit out of left field. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s a fascinating twist that Lex will be hosting Zod (the fact that it gives Michael Rosenbaum a juicy new part to play is probably just icing), but maybe some foreshadowing would have been nice.

Actually, the more I think about that, the more I like Lex hosting the evil Kryptonian. Zod kissing Lana at the end may have seemed weird. Why would Zod kiss a silly earth girl, anyway? Wouldn’t he rather destroy her? Maybe even throw her off the roof? However, that kiss and Zod’s silence in the scene might hint at part of Zod’s purpose…

Zod taking over a super powered “human” with an established history on the planet, whether it had been Clark or now that it’s Lex, might be important to his plan. I don’t know what Zod’s plan really is, but maybe Zod kissing Lana is an indication that he wants to take over Lex’s life. He wants to blend in. There can’t be a good reason for that, whatever it is. I can’t wait to find out what his plan is.

I loved how the sibling-like rivalry between Clark and Lex came to a head in this episode. Lex finally has gotten what Clark has taken for granted: powers and (maybe) even the love of Lana. He certainly has won her loyalty. I thought it was interesting how differently Lex chose to show Lana his powers than Clark had done in Reckoning. Clark was gentle and loving and showed off his powers by making an engagement ring. He swept Lana off her feet. However, Lex was stiff and formal and showed off his powers violently. It was frightening and she was petrified of him at first before she accepted him.

Speaking of Lana, she’s turned against Clark in part because Lex pointed out, if only by comparison, that he won’t lie to her and would never keep secrets from her (never mind that he has probably done both a million times). She doesn’t understand that Lex is manipulating her in the worst kind of way. I can sort of understand her anger at Clark for again lying to her. However, I think once she understands (and I really hope next season that she will learn the truth about Lex), that she will forgive him. I think the pain she will feel when she realizes how deep Lex’s machinations went will be a profound one. I hate knowing how evilly she’s being treated by Lex and that she doesn’t see it. I hope she finds out sooner rather than later next season… No matter how she finds out, or what her reaction is, it should make for some great TV.

The acting was all terrific, but I feel like I’m saying the same thing over and over again lately with my comments on the acting so I won’t go into too many details. Maybe that’s part of the end of season funk that I seem to find myself in.

Anyway, Michael was awesome as Lex changed throughout the episode, and he’s going to rule as Zod next season. I wonder if Zod-in-Lex is going to stick around for more than next season’s premiere episode…I hope so. I especially liked how he confronted Clark in the barn.

John Glover wasn’t in this episode much, but Lionel’s scene in the barn with Clark was amazing for him. He looked shaken to the core by Clark’s revelation that Lex is the vessel.

Tom Welling wasn’t in this as much as I would have hoped, but what screen time he did have he did well with. I especially liked the scene he had with Lex/Zod in the barn. Clark was way out of his league in dealing with Zod and the comment Zod made about Clark having his father’s eyes must have been painful for him to hear. Zod knew his father and yet killed him. I thought Tom played that moment of vulnerability very well.

The photography by Glen Winter was gorgeous, as usual. I especially loved the scene at the end with Zod and Lana on top of the Luthorcorp building. The best moment was when Zod turned to look back at Lana with the orange and red sky in the background. The costuming helped that moment too, as Zod’s heavy black duster billowed in the wind. It was beautiful.

James Marshall directed another terrific episode. He always seems to get a lot out of the actors and this episode was no different. The blocking was terrific between Lex/Zod and Clark in the barn. There was no doubt who had the upper hand when Clark was talking to Zod with the way James blocked the scene with Zod above Clark for most of the scene. It was well done.

Probably one of the best episodes of the series, Vessel was exciting but it suffered from some less than natural sounding dialogue. The excellent cliff-hangers will probably make the long summer hiatus more painful than usual.

I give this episode 4.5 tumbling Phantom Zone diamonds out of a possible 5.

 

The Worst:

Aqua, Thirst, Exposed, Vengeance, Hypnotic, Void, and Fragile

Hypnotic

In small pieces:

  • Aqua gives us the introduction to Aquaman, otherwise known as Arthur Curry, or simply A. C. whom Lois Lane becomes the Damsel in Distress for (see Feminist Frequency‘s Damsel in Distress series);
  • Thirst sees Lana Lang enroll at Metropolis University, and get caught up with Buffy Sanders and her vampire sorority sisters;
  • Exposed features one of Jonathan Kent’s oldest friends, Senator Jack Jennings, who gets implicated in the death of a young stripper;
  • Vengeance features an inexplicable Ms. Male Character (see Feminist Frequency‘s Ms. Male Character), Andrea Rojas as the Angel of Vengeance whose appearence resembles that of Batman;
  • Hypnotic sees Clark get enchanted by a woman, Simone Charcot;
  • Void sees Lana gets addicted to kryptonite drugs (after Clark breaking up with her in Hynotic, created a by her “character flaw or weakness“) in order to see her dead parent’s again, which does classify as a “boneheaded decision,” and makes this episode somehow feeling like torture porn; and,
  • Fragile features a character named Maddie, who appears to also have a “weakness of character as the causal factor” resulting in the inability to control her powers.

According to the KryptonSite review of Aqua:

Arthur Curry, better known as Aquaman, is a member of the Justice League in the comics but he’s a superhero that doesn’t really get any respect. Aside from a few failed TV show pilots and a running storyline on the HBO series, Entourage, he’s never really been portrayed in live action before. (See Kryptonsite’s own The Many Faces of Aquaman to read more.) If the writers wanted to get the man in orange and green right for his live-action debut, they didn’t quite hit the mark on this one.

Alan Ritchson had a bit of a rough start, but once he warmed up I thought he was a fairly effective (if a somewhat two-dimensional) superhero-to-be. The story was somewhat on the thin side for Arthur so I’m not sure he really had much to work with, to be honest. He also didn’t spout the hip surfer dude lingo quite believably. Ritchson did far better in scenes he played with Tom Welling’s Clark and Michael Rosenbaum’s Lex. With them he was more intense and focused. He’s got a terrific look for the part so here’s hoping with a little more experience under his belt, he’ll hand in a more consistent performance should he ever return to Smallville.

While seeing Aquaman was fun, his first foray into the Smallville continuity was not as successful as the introduction of The Flash in last season’s Run. The ham-handed and often clumsy in-jokes and the nearly endless Superman references were laid on too thick. While some were humorous, the references to the Junior Lifeguard’s Association (JLA) and to Entourage were particularly funny; the nearly endless aquatic metaphors were a bit much.

As uneven as the treatment of Aquaman was, scribes Darren Swimmer and Todd Slavkin crafted a far better presentation for Professor Milton Fine; the other DC Comics character introduced in this episode. It was an introduction equal to the acting skill of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel vet, James Marsters. From his first lines, Fine is clearly a man… err…. super-computer who will be a force to be reckoned with this season.

The alter ego of comic super villain Brainiac, Fine initially seems innocuous as Clark’s Introduction to World History professor. But in an impressive performance by Marsters, and with better than average dialogue to deliver, he isn’t just lecturing the class. He’s really telling Clark why he’s there on Earth and what Clark can expect to learn from him. Fine isn’t just discussing history in general; he’s discussing Krypton’s history. Clark’s history.

He tells Clark about how history isn’t about just facts, but that it’s also about who is telling the story and why. That could be an important distinction later when in time Brainiac relates his own facts of Krypton’s history; especially if (or when) his version of the truth about the destruction of Clark’s home world differs from Jor-El’s.

Making Brainiac Clark’s mentor and a man who takes joy in challenging the teen of steel’s preconceptions is brilliant. It’s deliciously evil. Brainiac is a smooth as silk, multi-faceted villain. I imagine that Marsters will handle his role as teacher and corrupter of Clark with style and skill. And you’ve got to like a villain that quotes Groucho Marx as easily as Lex quotes Plutarch. He’s a beautiful addition to the series.

As Fine, Marsters didn’t have much screen time. He was in only three scenes but he made excellent use of what little time he was given. In that lecture hall, he proved himself already at ease with this complex character and he gave that speech so many layers. He did a beautiful job in this episode and his Brainiac will be a joy to watch.

Tom Welling, as gorgeous as ever, did an admirable job as a more pro-active Clark. He is getting more and more Supermanly each episode. He was especially effective in playing Clark’s confrontations with Lex and Arthur. And Fine’s testing of Clark isn’t something he’s used to, so Clark being kept off balance by Brainiac should add an interesting angle for Tom to play.

The only complaint I have about Tom’s performance this week is the false note at the end of the episode. When he told Lois she would find someone else someday, an unnecessary reference to their future lives together, the moment fell totally flat. The endless references were getting old by Erica Durance’s second appearance as Lois in Gone last season. Enough already, we get it.

Actually, Erica turned in a very uneven performance in Aqua. The main problem seemed to be her nearly complete lack of on-screen chemistry with Alan Ritchson. The scenes with him were at times charming while at other times almost painful to watch, yet she was supposed to be falling in love with him. Not her best episode as Lois.

Michael Rosenbaum, on the other hand, was in top form. His Lex is getting more wonderfully evil with each passing episode and Michael plays him with a terrific subtlety. The moment just after Clark admitted to defending him after Lex’s lame joke about a pitch fork was amazing. Michael perfectly expressed Lex’s conflicting emotions and inner turmoil. His torture of the helpless and suffering Arthur was not only vindictive, it bordered on evil.

I can’t wait to see how Michael will play this new much more evil Lex against Marsters’ Brainiac. Fine will make Lex look a rank amateur when it comes to evil-doing and having two such consummate actors in the same scene together should be pure joy to behold.

This episode was beautifully shot by DP Barry Donlevy. I wish my college had classrooms as well lit as Fine’s lecture hall; it would have made for a far more aesthetically pleasing university experience. I also loved the way he lit the secret lab set. Only in Smallville would a hidden evil lair be so beautiful. Kudos go to production designer David Willson for that.

Less successful was Bradford May’s first helming effort for Smallville. The veteran television director, alum of JAG and The Twilight Zone (the 1980’s version), had made some less than ideal choices especially when it came to editing this episode. He seemed overly enamored of Ritchson’s pearly whites and had long takes of him just smiling on more than one occasion. More perplexing was the end of the third act with a longer than necessary take of the dart stuck into Arthur’s neck. What was the purpose of that? The episode’s pacing was also wildly uneven. The interactions between the characters at times became oddly stilted. There were at times uncomfortable pauses in conversations that weren’t cut.

Although I didn’t love this episode, it had a lot of things in it that I did love; most particularly the brilliant introduction of new villain Brainiac and James Marsters’ entry into the Smallville Universe.

That was enough to grade this one on a curve… 4 laps around Crater Lake out of a possible 5.

According to the KryptonSite review of Thirst:

To be honest, this one was a lot better than I had expected it would be. It was hardly the best episode this season but was an improvement over last week’s disappointing mixed-bag of Aqua. The whole vampire thing, despite some campy acting by the sorority sisters from Sunnydale… err… Met U, wasn’t nearly as awful as expected. Although Brooke Nevin won’t win any Emmys for the role of Buffy, she kept her performance to the tone of the episode and did pretty well, considering.

The story was a bit uneven but overall was a pretty solid and well paced piece of storytelling. Writer Steven S. DeKnight came to Smallville after writing for several years for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. That experience probably made him the logical choice to pen this episode and the Buffy-verse references were humorous at times, and even laugh out loud funny at others. The nods to Clark someday pulling on the tights, but pointedly not a mask, were much more entertaining references to his future Superman self than the more awkward references from Aqua. Chloe’s talking about “future superheroes” and going “up, up and away” was especially nice.

At first, I was initially a bit wary of the voice over thing with Chloe. It smacked of being too obvious a tool to cover up the fact the episode was all a flashback. (Another one of my pet peeves, I normally hate flashback episodes.) But somehow, it worked. It added a nice layer to the episode that helped explain the campy feel. When seen through Chloe’s eyes, I’m sure vampire sorority sisters would be worth some heavily derisive commentary, so her snarky voice over effectively pulled the whole thing together. Even better, it made me not even mind that the whole thing was a flashback.

Allison Mack was excellent in her Veronica Mars… err… Sex in the City … err… Nightstalker (the original) series debut. I’m not sure how hard it is to narrate an episode and still make the lines sound so conversational and natural, but she did a marvelous job with it.

You know: Maybe it’s not easy, especially since voice over dialogue is usually deadly dull (one of the main reasons why I hate that device) but hers just wasn’t. Allison made that natural delivery seem effortless. She’s a gifted actress and it’s always a joy to watch her do her thing.

As Pauline Kahn, Carrie Fisher didn’t have much screen time but what time she did have she made good use of. I wasn’t fond of how harshly her make-up was done, but she played the hard-edged managing editor very well and she and Allison had a good chemistry. I hope she can find her way back for another appearance later in the season.

Again, the Professor Fine scenes sparkled. The lecture from Fine to Clark’s class was brilliant and multilayered and Marsters played that wonderfully. Fine’s speech included interesting foreshadowing for Clark’s future as Superman. How Marsters played that against Lex standing right there, being referred to as a modern day tyrant that maybe Clark would have to fight to protect the world, was beautiful. I like Marsters more and more every time I watch him play Fine. The scene in the Luthor mansion where they played pool was brilliant. Fine out-manipulated Lex and Marsters played that scene smoothly and with grace. He took what was already a well written scene and pushed it up to a whole new level.

Michael Rosenbaum also did extremely well in this episode. In playing a increasingly complicated Lex, he’s coming more into his own. Lex sparring with Fine was every bit as delicious as I thought it would be. The two evil-doers trading pot shots, testing each other, manipulating each other; it was great fun to watch. I can’t wait to see them do it again!

Tom Welling was gorgeous, as always. He was absolutely stunning in that Zorro costume, once he took that mask off anyway, but his performance was a bit uneven. I thought he did great when playing an off-balance Clark in the classroom. His scenes with Kristin Kreuk’s Lana were excellent. He also performed beautifully in Clark’s scenes with Lex. Admittedly, he was a bit flat in the scene with Fine in Chloe’s hospital room. I just couldn’t tell what he was feeling there.

Kristin also turned in an uneven performance. She did a wonderful job with some of Lana’s more intimate moments with Clark. However she failed to balance those effectively with the campy feel of the vampire sorority scenes.

Also, I loved what Lana had to say about feeling the love, warmth and inner strength of Clark’s heart when she bit him. She played that moment well. However, when I took another look at the bite scene I just didn’t see Kristin playing even a hint of that emotional epiphany.

I didn’t have any problem with that scene initially, but I found that scene seriously wanting upon a second viewing. It was an important moment for Lana, Clark and for, well, the fans. That moment should have been given more emphasis within the scene. We shouldn’t have depended on Lana explaining it later to learn its importance.

I loved Mark Snow’s music for this episode, and the selections for the pop songs were excellent. Snow’s music was light and fitting with the less-than-weighty storyline.

David Willson’s Daily Planet sets were beautiful. I hope we get to see them a lot from now on.

Overall, this was an entertaining episode, despite some plot expediencies like tropical rainforest vampire bats living in the temperate plains of Kansas…

I hate to give it the same score as the far less fun Aqua (but that one was graded on a curve) so I’ll have to let this one also fly in at 4 kryptonite infected vampire bats out of a possible 5.

According to the KryptonSite review of Exposed:

I wasn’t sure what I’d thought about this one and I’m still not sure what I think of it as I begin to write this. I’ve even watched it twice, it might take a third viewing before I figure it out. (NOTE: after a third viewing, I’m still torn…)

While it was great to see Tom Wopat and John Schneider back together, I was a Dukes fan way back when, I’m really sorry it wasn’t for a better story with fewer plot holes. Wopat, unfortunately, wasn’t all that great. It’s probably not his fault either: the character was morally corrupt and probably wasn’t evil enough to be fun to play. Jennings didn’t have a very good character arc and I suspect his only purpose as a character was to plant the seed in Jonathan to run against Lex for state office.

Also, as much as I liked a lot of the Dukes references, I think some were a bit too much. For example, I don’t really see Jonathan going joy riding through chicken coops.

Writers Kelly Souders and Brian Peterson have penned more consistent episodes, to be honest. While I think the original conspiracy theory which Clark had thought Lex was the bad guy, but which turned out to be false, was interesting. However, the story was so filled with odd expediencies that I looked up, utterly shocked, when I had found my suspension of disbelief had left the room.

Story contrivances like why would a girl in trouble spend a quarter to use a pay phone to call a reporter when a 911 call is free? (And would, by the way, make more sense?) And it wasn’t like she had a purse, so did the guy leave loose change in the dress he gave her?

And why were the strippers so averse to discussing the murdered girl? She was run over by a truck, why did that make talking about her such a bad thing?

And since when do printers “remember” their last print jobs? I could explain why a small printer isn’t at all capable of doing that, but I’m not here as a computer geek but a Smallville one… write me if you’re curious.

And since when does diplomatic immunity mean the bad guy can just walk away?

By the way: It never has. (I know ‘cause I looked it up.)

The bad guy still gets taken into custody until he is either deported or the immunity is waived by his home country. If they’d watched a few criminal procedural shows (like Law & Order) Souders and Peterson might have realized that the bad guy shoulda been hauled away in cuffs…

I hate it when things like this are fudged simply to make a plot point work. Hate it.

If they can’t make a semi-realistic show deal with realistic things in a realistic way, they might as well go back to having the extraordinarily bad freak of the week plot lines like they did in the first season.

Tom Welling was handsome, as usual, in this episode and it was good to see him out of plaid and denim for once. However, his hair in the first scene was oddly unattractive and I can’t quite understand what was going on with it there. Whatever it was they did differently there, I hope they never do again.

Tom’s scenes with Erica Durance were great and I loved their interactions in this episode. Clark was so cute in the strip club. And his drink order, “I’ll have a coke… Straight up on the rocks,” while trying to sound like he knew what he was talking about was a riot.

That last scene between Lois and Clark was highly enjoyable and no doubt foreshadows the relationship of a more adult relationship between them later in Clark’s life. It was also great to see Clark finally getting the last word of the show, leaving Lois flummoxed for once.

Erica’s little strip tease as the uncomfortable Lois wasn’t as sexy as I think the ads had teased, but what do I know? She’s not exactly my type. I thought it was in character, anyway.

It was odd that Kristin Kreuk’s Lana and Annette O’Toole’s Martha were so conspicuously absent.

I loved seeing Chloe at the Daily Planet and her interactions with Lois were great. The Scooby gang thing with her and Lois is fun, I hope they do that kind of thing more often more often.

The F/X shot of Melissa getting run over was unnecessarily gruesome. I mean, the girl dies before the teaser is over and has maybe a minute of screen time… why give her such a visceral and grisly death?

Clark’s rescue of Lois from the helicopter was terrific but the “jump” of the Dodge charger could have been more exciting.

Not a great episode, but I’ve seen worse.

I give this 3 star spangled bikini tops out of a possible 5.

According to the KryptonSite review of Vengeance:

After last week’s stellar episode I wasn’t really expecting too much this week, but I was pleasantly surprised. With the less than convincing back story for Andrea’s turn to vigilantism, and despite the heavy handed product placement, the episode was actually extremely touching.

Initially I wasn’t sure what to write about this episode. It’s not a perfect episode by any means. The “A” story, even as “A” krypto-freak-of-the-week stories go, wasn’t a particularly strong one… The guest star could have been a better actress, even though she did have some very nice moments here and there. The back story for her abilities and the reason for her vigilantism weren’t totally convincing mainly because Denise didn’t really sell it. However, in watching the episode again I found it extremely moving and Andrea’s story acted as a really good parallel for Clark’s, so in the end I suppose I didn’t mind it too much. The writers, Al Septien & Turi Meyer in their Smallville debuts, crafted a fairly tight story that dropped a ton of references to Clark’s future role as Superman without it seeming too heavy handed. That’s not something that is easy to do.

I was surprised that a lot of people hated the writing online mainly because of the “weak” “A” story. I disagree. The reason for Andrea’s turn to vigilantism, poorly delivered as it was by the inexperienced Denise Quinones, isn’t as important as it was an object lesson for Clark about how NOT to do things. Andrea even said it herself: it’s time for Clark to be the real hero. She certainly wasn’t a hero. Not really, even despite saving Martha’s life.

As good as some of his work has been this season, I am convinced that Tom Welling’s performance in this episode was probably his best work to date. “Vengeance” showed just how skilled an actor he has become. Here Tom delivered a far more subtle performance than in some of the flashier turns he delivered earlier this season in episodes like “Reckoning” and “Splinter.” It was a complicated character arc for Tom to play and I loved the choices that he made. For example, when he was holding up the bad guy in the alley trying to get the watch back he said simply and quietly: “It was my dad’s….”

That choice for the line reading wasn’t an obvious one for him to make. He could have easily yelled that line out but instead he dropped his voice and made the moment a quiet one. Clark’s anger was cold and menacing and yet much more frightening that way and his pain was still evident behind his fury. Brilliant. Tom had to take his character through so many different emotional states in this episode and he played all of Clark’s denial, anger, and grief all to perfection.

The final scene with Jonathan’s image paused on the TV was a masterstroke. Watching Clark sob in his mother’s arms as he finally wore his father’s watch and grieved his death was heart breaking. It was probably the best, and most heart wrenching, single moment in the series. This was a beautiful performance from Tom from start to finish.

Annette O’Toole’s performance was amazing as well. She played Martha’s concern and fear for Clark convincingly and my heart ached for her. Martha is at a real crossroads and there is no guide for her anymore. At times she appeared lost and confused, her soul mate now gone, and yet at other times the strength of her love for Clark shone through. She is a terrific actress and this episode was a wonderful one for her.

John Glover’s Lionel was truly creepy in this episode. He’s slowly wooing Martha and it’s clear he has some sort of agenda for doing so. He even let Lex get the best of him in the hostile takeover bid in order to protect whatever it is he’s got planned for Martha. John Glover was at his Magnificent Bastard best in this episode. I’m glad to see he’s really back.

I thought it was interesting how the relationship between Lex and Lana appear to be playing out in parallel to Lionel’s relationship to Martha. Both Luthors assured the objects of their desires that they are there to support them as friends. Yeah, right. Both men have agendas and will play them until the end.

I really enjoyed seeing Michael Rosenbaum get his evil Lex on. He’s playing dirty with daddy even as he works his wiles on Lana. I thought that was nearly as creepy as Lionel trying to hook up with the newly widowed Martha. Lex even used Jonathan’s corpse as a bargaining chip to get Lionel to stop the hostile take-over bid he was engineering… That was creepy and effective and Michael made Lex tons of fun to watch in this episode.

A lot people complained online about how dark this episode was but I loved how it was shot. It was a dark episode and was necessarily photographed in a visually darker manner to reflect that. DP Glen Winter did a wonderful job shooting such a darker than normal episode without it being just a bunch of blacks and grays. It was still colorful and had depth. Winter’s work was helped by the beautiful designs of Production Designer David Willson and Costume Designer Caroline Cranstoun. For example, I loved how the scene between Clark and Andrea on the roof top was set up in front of that huge red sign as they both wore dark colors. I also loved the red lining Caroline added to Andrea’s leather duster. The red satin foreshadowed the color scheme of Clark’s future wardrobe as it flared out around her feet like a cape as she climbed up onto the roof. It was a beautifully realized scene from every department which was typical of this wonderfully designed episode.

While highly enjoyable and touching, this episode wasn’t quite as successful as last week’s “Reckoning,” so I give it four and a half black vigilante masks out of a possible five.

According to the KryptonSite review of Hypnotic:

Cripes. I wanted to like this one, I really did but it was just a disappointment on so many levels. What a let down after the great Cyborg.

First off, the writing: Scribes Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer usually produce much better product. On first viewing I actually didn’t mind the ‘A’ story too much, but upon a second viewing it really started to bug me. I even watched it a third time to see if maybe I was over-reacting. I still hated it.

I mean, there’s Simone with a magic crystal that can affect Clark. It’s kind of a sexy idea, having Superman be your love slave. Too bad the sexiest part of the story was having Clark strip to his boxers. Yawn.

Clark pawing Simone behind the Talon was great eye candy, but it seemed gratuitous. It was also a convenient plot point to get Lois to witness the bewitched Clark so the writers could shoehorn her into the plot. As much as I love Lois, and Erica Durance was terrific in this episode, I really don’t think she was needed in it at all. Chloe was the one helping Clark and Lana was the one getting her heart broken… So why was Lois even needed?

Oh, and I hated how they broke up Lana and Clark. I can understand Clark’s reasoning. Like he told Martha, he either had to tell Lana his secret or break it off cleanly. That makes sense and they had been building up to that decision ever since he got his powers back at the end of Hidden. However, the Teen of Steel should have had the backbone to break it off with Lana himself without getting an assist from a mesmerizing lover. Superman doesn’t shy away from difficult tasks. In Hypnotic he became whiny and passive aggressive and it stinks.

Following the death of Jonathan, Clark has taken on many more responsibilities and has become far more adult in his outlook. Why wasn’t he capable of breaking it off on his own? If making Lana hate Clark was the goal, wouldn’t Clark telling Lana straight out to get lost have been just as infuriating than what he did? What he did was contrived, out of character and a disservice not only to Clark as a character but to his relationship with Lana. They both deserved a better break-up than that.

The only saving grace for the writing in this episode was the terrific Fine/Lex interaction. The writers moved the Fine/ship/evil Kryptonians storyline along quite a bit, adding in a dash of Lexian manipulation of Lana to boot. There were important developments in this episode, and Fine’s plan is brilliant. He’s roping Lex in using the things he’d certainly be fascinated by, like shady government agencies building secret weapons and alien spaceships carrying alien invaders set out to destroy the world. Lex loves to conspire and Fine creating a conspiracy for him to be part of is brilliant. Lex isn’t even angry with Fine for investigating him anymore. It’s the perfect plan to get Lex on his side.

Usually, I don’t have any problems with Tom Welling’s performances, so this will be one of the rare exceptions. I actually disliked most of the performance that Tom delivered in this episode. Yeah. Me.

However, I really don’t think it was his fault. He probably would have done better if he had been given better direction.

I was confused on why sometimes the mesmerized Clark was an automaton just waiting for a command and yet at other times he seemingly enjoyed his magical enslavement. He shouldn’t have been laughing at the idea of leaving for California or enjoying the thought of killing Lex. Clark would never be happy at leaving his mother alone, enslaved or not. And as much as Clark hates Lex right now, would he actually relish the thought of killing him? I don’t think he would… The “joy” Clark showed at times while under Simone’s hypnotic spell just didn’t seem well motivated to me.

I think Michael Rohl’s direction of the episode was mostly to blame for the problems Tom had because once Clark was back to normal, and back in more familiar territory for his character, Tom did much better. Actually, he was close to brilliant in that final loft scene with Lana. In that final shot of him after she left, his face evoked so many emotions I could almost tell what he was thinking without a single word of dialogue being spoken. It was a powerful moment.

Also, another clue to me that the director wasn’t helping anyone out was the uneven tone. The scenes in the house both Annette O’Toole and Tom showed a totally different, almost campy, take on being hypnotized than what Tom did for the rest of the episode. Why were the effects of the hypnotic charm so different from scene to scene and from character to character? It was very strange.

That said, there were some more successful performances in this episode. Kristin Kreuk actually turned in probably one of her best. Kristin has really matured this season as an actress and she played the emotional roller coaster that Lana went through ably and with confidence. I was impressed with how well she pulled off Lana’s devastation after she’d found Clark and Simone together. I actually got teary eyed seeing her sob and she was nearly perfect in that final scene with Lex. Exasperated with Clark and looking to Lex for someone to vent to, she played the many different emotions Lana was going through in that scene magnificently.

Kristin was also just about the most gorgeous she’s ever been in this episode. I don’t know what they’re doing different with her hair and make-up but they should keep it up. She was gorgeous.

Allison Mack and Erica Durance both turned in excellent performances. I like it when Lois has scenes with Chloe; the two actresses have an almost sisterly camaraderie that I love to watch so maybe I shouldn’t complain too much when Lois gets shoe horned into an episode using contrived plot points… Oh, well.

I am possibly one of James Marsters biggest new fans. I absolutely love it whenever he shows up. Fine making three copies of himself was totally out of this world. What a great effect and what a fantastic escalation of events. With Fine manipulating Lex into helping him and the new story arc with the virus samples, the stakes are getting higher for Clark and he doesn’t even know it yet. I can’t wait to see what will happen next with Fine.

Michael Rosenbaum was at his sexy, evil doer best in this episode. I just love how easily he lies to Lana even while telling her he wouldn’t ever… Michael plays Lex smooth as silk, even as he was getting duped by Fine. I love to watch him work.

I am confused about something. They had the whole “previously on Smallville” thingy at the beginning of the show which spent quite a bit of time going over the Martha/Lionel dynamic and Lionel knowing all about Clark’s secret, but neither of those situations even came up. The Magnificent Bastard didn’t even appear in this episode. So, why take time to remind us about this? I found that odd, in retrospect. They’ve only got 42 minutes or so to tell a story. Why give even a second away if you don’t have to?

Despite some excellent performances and the fantastic escalation of events surrounding. Fine, I’d say this episode (on the whole) was a bust. I give this one 2 electric blue magic jewels out of a possible 5.

NOTE: This episode was dedicated to the memory of Dana Reeve, who lost her battle with lung cancer on March 7th. Never a smoker and only 44, Christopher Reeve’s widow had still continued her tireless work with the foundation her husband had started even after she had been diagnosed last summer.

The world is a lesser place without Dana Reeve in it.

According to the KryptonSite review of Void:

Well, this was a huge improvement on last week’s disappointing episode.

This outing had an interesting triangular structure to it and moved things along quite a bit on several storylines. That said, scribe Holly Harold’s work here was a bit uneven. Is the Homeland Security Department really tracking student ID usage? And could Chloe really hack into a tracking system like that anyway? It was a serious stretch. Also the explanation of how Clark was able to pull out of the grip of the kryptonite serum was silly. How could his death nullify the green-k’s affects? It was contrived…

As tortuously bad as some of the “techno-babble” was, overall the story had some really terrific stuff in it. For example, I loved the different ways the three leads met their deceased parents.

For Lana the meeting with her parents was sad, short and anti-climatic. Warm and welcoming, her parents were physically removed from her in the vague, dream-like flower shop setting. They didn’t even touch because before Lana could hug her mother, she was ripped back to the world of the living. Lana’s experience just didn’t give her the answers she was looking for. I also thought it was interesting that in spite of not getting the answers she needed, Lana by the end of the episode seemed to find her own.

She’s moving toward a more independent life, which is a good direction for her character. A major problem with Lana, as a character, is her dependence on others to help define who she is. Her main role in the show is often just being an object of desire for some krypto-freak of the week or for Clark or even Lex. That’s a lame position for the second lead to be put into, so I hope her determination to never be dependent again means good things for her character.

Unlike the romantically lit, yet frustrating, experience Lana had, Lex’s meeting with his mother was harsh. Instead of being affectionate and welcoming, Lillian was stern, aloof and cold. Her warning about what Lex’s destiny holds for him was shocking and Lex was left to deal with that along with his mother’s disappointment in him.

For Clark, seeing Jonathan was both cathartic and informative. Jonathan smiled broadly and hugged Clark with joy. Clark apologized for being responsible for his father’s death but Jonathan reassured Clark he was happy to die to protect his son. Clark’s shock at finding out that Lionel knew all about his secret didn’t negate his desire to stay with his dad so Jonathan was forced to push Clark back into the world. Unlike Lex, Clark awoke with a renewed purpose.

The after-life experiences of the three main characters, and the interactions they had with their deceased loved ones, were highly revelatory. It showed a remarkable insight, I believe, into the psyches of Clark, Lana and Lex. Their different reactions to basically the same experience was not only character revealing, it also advanced their character arcs quite a bit. Despite the clunkier than normal krypto-babble, this was a remarkably effective episode for Harold.

Tom Welling was back in top form, acting-wise. Although he wasn’t in this episode much, thanks to required prep work keeping him busy for his directorial debut on next week’s Fragile, what little screen time he had he made good use of. I especially loved the scene with Jonathan in the after-life version of the barn. It was poignant. In the next scene, Tom was able to communicate what Clark was thinking without speaking a word of dialogue once Lionel arrived.

I read somewhere once that most actors hate performing scenes with no dialogue. I’m not sure why that is, exactly. Maybe it’s because they need words to help them frame what they present to the audience. I suppose it would be intimidating, similar to a writer facing a blank page.

I know it can be scary to face a blank page as a writer. Actually, it’s something I struggle with weekly writing the reviews of Smallville’s episodes. However, my instruments are words and it’s pretty easy for me to choose what I reveal. Writing is rewriting, after all, and judicious editing can get rid of any mistakes I make.

I can’t imagine facing a “blank page” as an actor when your instruments are your body, face and voice and the opportunities to edit are extremely limited. ‘Scary’ is probably a huge understatement.

Tom getting these dialogue free scenes almost every week is a testament to the confidence Smallville’s writers and directors have in his acting ability. This is especially impressive given where he started from and also makes for some terrific TV. I hope it’s something he enjoys doing, and that he keeps it up, because I love seeing him perform those moments.

Kristin Kreuk did a wonderful job in this episode. She took Lana from a nervous energy to frantic desperation to a calm resolve that I don’t think I’ve ever seen Lana have before. Better yet, it all was so well motivated. She totally sold the arc Lana went on here, and I’m not sure just anybody could have.

Michael Rosenbaum is always a joy to watch and this episode was no exception. I loved the roller coaster ride of emotions Lex was on in the scene with his mother, Lillian. Michael played that scene perfectly. Little wonder since he played it with one of the better recurring characters, Lillian Luthor, played so beautifully by the lovely Allisen Down. She’s a terrific actress and I loved every second she was on the screen.

Actually, Lillian’s appearance in this episode made a nice counterpoint to Jonathan’s. Warm, loving Pa Kent makes a very interesting contrast to cold, conflicted Mrs. Luthor. It speaks volumes about why Lex and Clark turn out to be such different men.

Glenn Winter produced yet another magnificently shot episode. I especially loved the near death scenes! They were expressionistic. Lana’s scene with her parents was romantic and faded, like the vague memories of a child who hasn’t seen her parents since she was three. Lex’s scene was harshly lit, like his mother’s disapproval of him. Clark’s was bright and warm, like his father’s love. This episode was beautifully done.

Aside from some extremely lame plot points that stretched my suspension of disbelief past its breaking point, there was a lot to love about this one. It’s nowhere near my favorite episode ever, but its better than most. I give it 3.5 neon green bottles of serum out of a possible 5.

According to the KryptonSite review of Fragile:

This episode featured the directorial debut of Smallville lead, Tom Welling.

I’m a big fan of Mr. Welling’s, a fact that regular readers of my reviews here on KryptonSite should be well aware of, so when I first heard about him directing an episode I was excited. Then the thought struck me that I should be worried.

He’s a first time director, after all. What if he really stunk but I shouldn’t have been worried. Tom did a terrific job.

The episode was taut and had great pacing right from the start. There was hardly a misstep the whole episode. Aside from weirdness right at the beginning when Maddie’s foster mom just stood there waiting for the glass to kill her, I didn’t really see any problems at all with Tom’s directorial debut. I guess it makes sense, Tom knows more about Clark than anyone and this was a very Clark-centric episode.

In fact, initially I was surprised Tom was in it as much as he was but in hindsight I think it was probably obvious that he should direct this one. The scenes with Maddie and Clark were very intimate, quiet moments for the most part. Tom having control both in front and behind the camera for those scenes must have been helpful. I think it probably did help since he had a great chemistry with the young actress who played Maddie, Emily Hirst. In fact, he pulled a wonderful performance from the 12 year old actress.

Emily did a terrific job. The scene where she was crying was heart breaking. Maddie was a terrific character. Maddie was conflicted and closed off and yet Clark was able to pull her out of her shell. Episode scribes Darrren Swimmer and Todd Slavkin did a wonderful job writing her. Also, Emily was able to effectively sell the character arc, thanks in large part to Tom’s terrific directing.

Tom did pull some great performances from all the actors in this episode. All the regulars did a terrific job.

What Tom probably didn’t do so well with was acting in this episode. While I had no problems with his performance for the most part, he was a bit uneven. At times his line readings were a bit flat and too “touchy feely,” for lack of a better word. Like he was trying too hard, perhaps…

I don’t know but maybe him turning in a less than stellar performance is understandable. It must have been hard to act effectively and still keep track of all the other things directors have to keep track of. Although, I think that probably the more ham-handed than usual dialogue didn’t help. Hopefully the next time he gets to direct, Tom will have a better script to work with. I hope it works out that he can direct again next year. Mr. Welling did a wonderful job.

Even though I didn’t like some of the hammy dialogue and contrived plot points, I think the writers of this episode did an effective job overall. “Fragile” helped move things toward the huge cliff-hanger at the end of the season. One thing Smallville does well is great end of season cliffies so, unless this season is different, I think a lot of storyline stuff that was advanced in this episode will help build toward that. Lex looking for Fine is an interesting development, especially since they’re apparently working together. It makes sense that Lex is keeping tabs on Fine. He doesn’t trust easily.

Lana kissing Lex was an attention-grabbing moment. Is it a rebound thing or does she have some kind of agenda? I look forward to finding out more about that…

Clark obviously not telling Martha what Jonathan revealed about Lionel was surprising. However, what I found more chilling was that Naomi used to work for Lionel. So, just how involved has Lionel gotten with Martha? His former employee working for her reveals more of his machinations. Although we didn’t see the Magnificent Bastard in this episode, that one line of Martha’s made it clear that Lionel has gotten himself more involved with Martha than we’ve known before.

Director of Photography Glenn Winter produced another awesome looking episode. I’m not exactly sure how much an impact the director has on how an episode is shot, but I think that Tom Welling must have influenced how it was photographed since it did look different… The camera movements and framing seemed more dynamic than usual.

Forgiving the fact that the tail end of the tease probably should have been edited more tightly (Naomi just standing still for as long as she did before she died didn’t seem realistic); I really liked the way the tease was shot. The F/X when combined with the wonderful lighting and all the camera movement helped make the scene’s building tension more effective.

My favorite moment of this episode, however, happened close to the end when Clark and Martha stood in the farm yard as Maddie and her Grandmother drove away into the sunset. It was hopeful and probably one of most beautiful single shots in the entire series. The high angle framing and sun flare were both beautifully done.

Oh, and was Naomi’s house at the beginning a redressed Kent Farmhouse set?

If so, I give two huge thumbs up to production designer David Willson, his carpenters and his set dressers. That was awesome. The only clue I had Naomi’s house might be a redressed Kent Farmhouse set was the ceiling and the location of the windows in the kitchen… Otherwise, it didn’t really look like the farmhouse interior at all.

Not the best episode ever, but overall it was a highly effective one. 4 jagged shards of glass out of a possible 5.

01

Next in the best and worst is Season 4.

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5 thoughts on “The Best and Worst of Smallville: Season 5

  1. Pingback: The Best and Worst of Smallville: Season 4 | The Progressive Democrat

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  3. Pingback: The Best and Worst of Smallville: Season 2 | The Progressive Democrat

  4. Pingback: The Best and Worst of Smallville: Season 1 | The Progressive Democrat

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