Sunday, 5 April 2009

Smallville Weecap: S08E18 Eternal

Too. Many. Retcons. Can’t. Cope.

Night time at the formerly Lair of Lex, now apparently the Lair of Tess. Because running a global diversified multi-national from Smallville makes sense: almost as much sense as CEO of aforementioned diversified multi-national spending most of her time editing a daily newspaper in Kansas.

Tess is curled up by the fire, obviously riveted by a large book with the Veritas symbol on the front entitled “Everything you ever wanted to know about Clark Kent, alien from Krypton, but were afraid to ask!”

It turns out that in his desire to keep Clark Kent’s secret and to protect him from Lex, Lionel Luthor decided it was wise to write a detailed journal, complete with annotated drawings, and to leave it lying around Luthorcorp for Lex to find. I can just imagine the entries:

March 8: spent all day in caves trying to unlock the mystery that is Clark Kent, even though I already know that he’s the Traveller. I feel that alienating him will be the most effective strategy in my eventual plan to control him.

September 20: had long conversation with a Dr Virgil Swan about the caves where, even though we were completely alone, we pretended not to know each other or to have ever been involved in a secret organisation called Veritas. Got to be careful. His couch was looking a bit shifty and you never know when an armoire will sell you out.

December 9: Lex met Jason Teague today but for some reason seems unaware that they played together for months at a time as children. This strange memory loss also applies to Oliver Queen, whom Lex frequently refers to as “that bully from school” rather than “that child I spent hours playing hide and seek with over several years when we were young”.

As Tess lovingly strokes a drawing of the ship falling to Earth in the Smallville meteor shower (captioned: ship that Clark Kent, alien from Krypton and saviour of us all arrived in. Shhhh don’t tell anybody) we go to a FLASHBACK. Wow. A long flashback. A first episode of Smallville flashback.

The ship crashes, meteors hit Smallville, Jonathon and Martha Kent’s car flips over, Lionel finds Lex in a field sans hair but doesn’t notice he’s mysteriously morphed into a different actor, and adorable baby Kal-el strategically hides his boy bits with clever lighting and camera angles. The camera pans over the “spaceship that eventually went Boom!” to reveal an egg. The egg cracks open and oozes genetic matter that becomes the boy we know as Davis Bloom, Doomsday in waiting. He’s also driven by a strange instinctual desire to hide his boy bits.

Back in the Lair of Tess, she says, “Lionel was too blind to see the truth; there was another”. So, the guide to “Everything you ever wanted to know about Clark Kent, alien from Krypton, but were afraid to ask!” mentions the egg and the ooze and the second boy but somehow Lionel didn’t notice that... wha’? What’s going on? No time to question however as we are on to the...

CREDITS: A list of people who probably won’t appear in this episode. Smallville’s definition of “starring” is not my definition of starring but that’s ok because the credits are over and we are at the...

Daily Planet. Tess, CEO of the multi-national Luthorcorp, now affiliated to Queen Industries and thus possibly one of the largest corporations in the world, is busy at her full-time job of editing a newspaper. Oh hang on, I made that gripe already.

So, Clark Kent, the world’s least-qualified reporter after Lois Lane, pitches a story to the CEO of Luthorcorp (oops, there I go again) about a whole heap of missing people he believes were all attacked by the same criminal. Tess, who has obviously followed up Jimmy’s tip and knows that they’re actually Doom’s handiwork, shoots him down by declaring the work unprintable and makes an appropriately-snide comment about the Red Blue Blur not doing his job. It’s obvious she knows he’s the Blur...after Turbulence, why is Clark still working there?

Clark accuses her of “sweeping it under the rug” and why is Tom Welling playing this scene as if they’ve been arguing for three hours already and he’s lost his temper over it all? The guy looks as if he’s about to go into hysterics. In fact, Tess and Clark are acting as if they’re in two completely different scenes, one where she is smoothly trying to divert attention from her pet investigation and one where CK has just discovered that Luthorcorp is still running illegal medical experiments on meteor freaks and Tess is trying to cover it up.

Meanwhile back in Smallville at the coffee shop that the writers forgot, Chloe is fixing Davis’ phone and Davis is fixing her dinner to thank her, which is not at all a transparent excuse to move in on her now that he got rid of hubby by drugging him and convincing everyone he was a deranged addict.

Flirt, flirt, banter, banter. Davis asks Chloe if she’s heard (about him being a murderer and a manipulative drugger) from Jimmy lately and Chloe notes that her every overture has been viciously spurned with an excess of expletives but doesn’t note that last week she declared her determination to move on only two seconds after he left her and is now finding really transparent reasons to spend lots of time with another man. Why did those two get married again?

She actually delivers the bizarre line, “I thought we were best friends but obviously there was some stuff brewing beneath the surface for a while”. Not “I thought we were in love but...” or “I thought our relationship had a solid foundation of trust but...” so it’s obvious we’re supposed to notice that she could be talking about Clark.

Oh and then we follow that clunk with a CLUNK because Davis “cuts himself” but of course there’s no injury and she gives him a worried “been through all this before with a certain BDA” look and Jesus show, we get it. There are obvious parallels regarding her deteriorating relationship with Clark and the fact that the person she knows as Davis is a lie but dear God. Can you get any clunkier? It’s stuff like this that makes me throw things at the television.

Clark walks in and asks Chloe to help him on the missing persons’ story. He’s obviously not happy that Davis is there but, and please don’t send me hate mail for saying, he is not showing jealousy. His concerned reaction is actually a very natural one considering he used to think Davis was a murderer and Chloe just got brutally dumped by her husband after a whole 10 seconds of marriage.

Davis excuses himself and walks down into the always-inexplicably-deserted coffee shop and starts to Doom out so we cut to a field where he’s just presumably buried his latest victim. As he handles the rosary beads he stole from his first victim and prays for forgiveness, Tess appears and blows up his car for no reason that I can see considering that if he’s just a human serial killer she’s now a murderer and if he’s Kryptonian this won’t kill him. Is she trying to prove he’s Kryptonian? I thought to do that you had to take ludicrously-convoluted trips by plane where you pay the pilot to abandon ship and then pretend there are no parachutes so...sorry, still trying to deal emotionally with that mess of an episode.

Back at Chloe’s place, she’s doing her computer thing to confirm that an awful lot of people have gone missing in the past month. She calls Clark on his pensiveness and he says she’s moving on kind of fast and that he doesn’t trust Davis. She notes that she needed a shoulder to cry on, which is a reference to last week’s episode “Adventures of the Pod!People” that I still maintain never actually happened.

Clark brings up all the weird stuff about Davis that doesn’t add up and Chloe basically accuses him of being jealous and dear God, I’m back in Season 2. You figure that by now Chloe would have noticed that whenever Clark “has a bad feeling about someone” he’s always right? This is like telekinetic Seth Cohen and double-trouble Jonathon Taylor Thomas all over again.

Chloe discovers that Davis’ car has been found abandoned and they drive out to the cornfield where Clark’s ship went down and Clark uses his x-ray to discover the field is full of bodies.

Meanwhile at the Lair of Tess, the writers introduce the “lame and obvious biblical references for people who never bothered actually reading the bible” part of tonight’s episode by having Tess ask a bandaged Davis if he was expecting a “chorus of angels”, because all genetically-engineered killing machines can expect to go to heaven.

Tess admits that she was trying to kill him by blowing up his car and oh yeah, now it all makes sense. The kind of sense that’s not.

Tess tells Davis about the Ludicrous Lionel plot contrivance that is the diary and here we have my main problem not just with this episode but also with the whole post-Requiem development of Tess’ character. It’s all based around the dumbest plot device since the "stones of power" of Season 4...or the Caves in Season 2...or the inexplicable quantities of kryptonite strewn throughout the planet that means Clark is constantly made impotent...or...oh hang on.

So, my main problem is that the entire episode is based around one of the top 10 of Smallville's dumbest plot devices, namely that Lionel Luthor kept a diary that documented in detail Veritas and Clark and the second child and didn’t arrange for Clark to receive it in some way after his death but instead left it lying around for Tess to conveniently steal later on.

So we once again flash back to the crash where Jonathon and Martha are carrying a now-swaddled Bubber Kent and Doomsy is hiding from them. This is actually a very very clever way for the show to retcon this whole thing because they do manage to edit the pilot episode to make the existence of a second child believable. Just so long as you don’t spend too much time thinking about it of course.

Bubber Doomsy watches the Kent’s leave before being captured by some military guys on the payroll of one Lionel Luthor. They take the boy away but leave the big honking spaceship there for the Kents to retrieve later on. Because that makes sense.

Sometime later, but we’re not sure when, Lex and Doomsy play in the mansion while the Magnificent Bastard is apparently “at some farm”, presumably the Kent’s. Is this supposed to be right after the crash? Because Doomsy looks like he’s about 12 and speaks perfect English.

In the present day, Tess and Davis are in some bizarre “sick child being read a bedtime story” tableau where she explains about Veritas and the Traveller and how Lionel captured him that day because he thought he was the Messiah.

Later, Davis recovers completely and makes a break for it but remembers playing with Lex in the mansion. We have a really nice reference to the lead box that Lex gave Clark for Lana’s necklace (what happened to that box, by the way? Anyone?) and lots of references to the way in which Lex’s upbringing of hero stories and Warrior Angel comics were already feeding into his delusion that heroic ends justify unheroic means. In Lex’s head, he was already the hero of the story.

Davis remembers that, on that day, kryptonite made him ill and he says, “there’s a way,” as he realises that kryptonite is the one thing that may kill him.

Tess confronts him and explains that she’s been trying to figure out what to do about him. She asks what you do when you “find Judas in your midst” and, huh? How is he Judas? He’s not a follower of Clark, he’s not Clark’s friend. Nothing he’s done has been a betrayal of Clark. Unless he’s society’s Judas; betraying our trust in him as a member of society? Then she goes on some bizarre tangent about how Jesus would only have been remembered as a prophet if not for Judas’ betrayal. I know she’s buying into this whole “Clark as Messiah” thing but Doomsy’s role in that still doesn’t make sense.

Doomsy agrees with me and colours himself confused. She says that without Judas’ betrayal, Jesus would never have come back and “faced his greatest challenge”. Which was? Ascending bodily into heaven and leaving everyone to squabble over every aspect of his life, as written by a bunch of people who never even met him, for the next 2000 years?

Oh, “saving humankind”. How was that a challenge? All he had to do was die. And pity the millions of people born in the 60,000 years before Christ’s birth then. Guess they’re in hell. Serves them right for being born. Evil bastards.

“There is a Messiah among us,” says Tess, “and you are here to betray him” and for the final time, how can Davis betray Clark when they have never really liked each other and are not friends? I’ve thought for a very long time that the final straw that will push Clark into the role of Superman will be Chloe’s death. That’s the only thing I can think of that Davis could do that would involve a betrayal that is in any way related to Clark. Sorry Chlarkers, she’s toast.

So Tess decides that Davis has to be allowed to challenge Clark because only in overcoming him will he embrace his destiny as our world’s saviour and she doesn’t for even a second consider the consequences that would ensue should Doomsy defeat Clark instead so I can only assume that she is just as batshit insane as Lex was in the end. This explains her irrational actions in Turbulence, actually. Like Lex, she’s so goal-focussed that she doesn’t think of the consequences of her actions on the people around her. Not that she can do anything about it now, but she could have warned Clark that she knew who Doomsday was the minute she worked it out. The point becomes moot as Davis morphs into Doomsy and belts her across the room.

Having driven three hours to the Daily Planet for no sane reason that I can fathom, Clark is re-iterating the “things that were always suspicious about Davis Bloom” and Chloe says she chalked his blackouts up to low-blood sugar. This is such a dumb thing to say I can only assume it’s a defence mechanism. Both she and Davis were suspicious about his behaviour at the beginning of the season but she was pretty convinced he’d been proven innocent. It’s not surprising then that she’s been rationalising his behaviour.

And she is very suddenly being confronted with a lot of unhappy truths about her life: Jimmy was telling the truth and it’s pretty obvious that Davis drugged him to shut him up; she’s been lusting after a vicious serial killer; bloody Clark was bloody well bloody right again.

Clark says he thinks Davis must have been taken by somebody because he wouldn’t abandon his car otherwise. Chloe thinks it was Tess and suggests a trip to the “widow of Luthorcorp”.

So the three hours back to Smallville after driving to the Daily Planet to have a one-minute conversation, which makes it a...six-hour round trip. Dear God show, make some fucking sense.

Clark visits Tess in the hospital where she tells him about the journal and how Lionel was only in Smallville the day of the meteor shower to find the Traveller. She reminds everyone of the Kiwatche Indians’ story about Naman and his nemesis and then she tells us that all those episodes we watched about how Lex was Sageeth were even more of a complete waste of time than we thought because the second head of the two-headed cave drawing was actually Davis Bloom who came to Earth with Clark.

And at no point in the last 7 effing years has Clark said, “but if my life has been painted on these walls for hundreds of years than why didn’t those ancient Kryptonians just stop the apocalypse from happening”.

So, Clark, instead of going, “OMG, Davis is Doomsday and I have to stop him before he destroys the whole world” or even, “OMG, Davis is Doomsday and so Chloe’s in trouble” plays the dopey farmboy routine and goes, “Planets? There are other planets?”

Tess fills him in on the extensive rewritten exposition that has been the bulk of this episode and says that Lionel held Davis “for five days” before dumping him into the street when his test results came back normal and he “got a phonecall from Martha Kent” and, hang on, just ignoring what the hell that phonecall would have entailed, does that mean that Lionel knew Clark was the Traveller right from the beginning? I’m sorry but none of his actions in the first four seasons make any sense in this context.

"The Kents are raising an alien child sent to Earth to be our saviour and I belong to a secret organisation that wants to control him...but instead of ingratiating myself with them and ensuring I can be around to keep an eye on him I will instead blackmail Jonathon Kent into helping me buy the Ross' cream corn factory...because nothing, and I mean nothing, is more important to me than creamed corn."

Lionel would have gone and stolen Clark in a heartbeat and locked him away for testing. This is crap; retconned senseless crap. Then Tess plays on Clark’s guilt card by saying that he “was the reason Davis was abandoned in the first place”, which I’d take issue with but I’ve ranted too much and this is supposed to be a weecap so we are moving on.

So Chloe, back in her apartment above the Talon about eight or nine hours later but still wearing the same clothes because it is somehow mysteriously the same night, is working when Davis comes in and tries to justify his actions by saying that he only killed bad people. He tells her that he loves her and asks her to help him kill himself.

Clark gets back to...oh, was Chloe actually at Isis and not her apartment? I have no idea. Anyway, Clark follows Chloe to Dr Grohl’s Prometheus lab, which apparently has a meteorite containment facility, where Chloe is trying to get the courage to pull the lever that will douse Davis in liquid kryptonite and Davis is begging her to let him die.

Clark comes in and stops her and tells Davis he’s trying to be a martyr and this Clark is honestly acting as though he doesn’t know Davis is Doomsday.

He says that everything that has happened to Davis is “because of him”, which is true, since he was created in opposition to Clark and is programmed to be a killer and has tried everyway he knows how to stop himself transforming, even those ways that are morally questionable But then Clark goes on some bizarre tangent about how they should have been brothers and it’s just Davis’ bad upbringing that is the problem. WTF?

He and Davis have what would have been a truly excellent scene if Clark didn't know Davis was Doomsday where Clark pulls up all his deeply-entrenched long-held fears about the monster he could have become if he’d been bought up by people who wanted to control him or exploit him. What would his life have been like if the Luthors had found him?

The retcon means it was a near miss, a chance accident, a matter of seconds between his life with the Kents and the abusive childhood of Lex Luthor. And it’s his great belief in people that leads him at the moment to believe the evidence of his heart, that Davis can overcome his basic biology through sheer force of will, rather than the evidence of his intellect, which tells him that Doomsday is programmed evil, a destroyer who has no free will.

Davis declares that ultimately we will always return to our true natures. “It isn’t always about where your heart is,” he says, referring to his feelings for Chloe, “it’s about what you’ve done and what you’re going to do”. And I love that Davis has been so well-drawn that he further exemplifies Smallville's definition of evil: a belief that the ends justify the means. Davis is saying that it's our actions and not our motivations or intentions that define us, which is what made Lex so evil in the end.

And here’s the real problem with this episode: it’s too late in the season. This should have happened before Doomsday kidnapped Chloe/Brainiac and went into stasis in the fortress. What emerged from that stasis pod should have been completely 100% Doomsday and it should have been the episode before the two-part season finale. Coming as it does now in the season, and with everything Chloe has been through at the hands of Brainiac/Doomsday, this episode not only makes no sense but it just makes Clark look...well...really really fucking stupid.

Davis Dooms out and when Chloe sees that he threatens Clark, she pulls the lever and sprays Davis in kryptonite. Both he and Clark go down because of the presence of that much kryptonite and this time the obvious parallels between the two are subtle and powerful, rather than clunky and contrived. As we zoom in on Davis’ face, we flash back to him being dumped in the street by a Luthorcorp employee. As he dies in the present, we see him turn into Doomsday in the past and kill the guy who dumped him, long before he suffered the impact of a bad upbringing.

Back in the present, while Chloe looks on, Davis is dying slowly covered with gloopy, fake, green goo. That scene was bloody powerful and they ruined it with silly fake slime from the local gag shop. Clark looks on sadly, not knowing what to do about Chloe’s pain. Jesus, how many kicks can this woman withstand before she cracks?

Back at the Talon and it’s daylight again; Clark walks into Chloe’s apartment, where she’s cocooning and about bloody time. If I was her, I’d be demanding to be allowed to stay there for a month, Watchtower or no Watchtower.

Clark asks how she is and she non-answers with the euphemistic, “I’ve had better days”. They talk about Chloe killing Davis and he says that there’s always another way if they try to find it. Chloe says quite bluntly that she’s not going to risk the safety of the world because of his code of ethics and because he refuses to stop the things that threaten him. Clark notes that ultimate destroyer didn’t put up much of a fight and then burns the photo of the two-headed retcon.

Back on the farm, Clark is doing chores when Tess comes in to harangue him about being a very naughty farm-chore boy rather than the Messiah he’s supposed to be because she’s a believer and he’s her idol. Then she re-iterates that he needs his Judas to betray him to drive him to greatness because he’ll never achieve his great destiny without a great challenge. Batshit. Insane.

Clark says that she knows nothing about his life and she says that if that’s the way he lied to Lex then she can understand how it pushed him over the edge. Clark notes that Lex was well on the way before he met him and...ok...but we should note that after Turbulence it’s been pretty well-established that she is now Lex so I’m still going with the fact that Tess is batshit insane.

She says that betrayal is always harder the more you love someone and she’s talking about the fact that the person who betrays Clark has to be someone he truly loves for it to “work”. From her perspective, he faced Doomsday and won and it didn’t drive him to heroing so she has to facilitate a betrayal by someone he truly loves and...yep Chlarkers, Chloe is toast. Oh and Tess? Batshit. Insane.

Once he’s out of hearshot (is that even possible with Clark) she refers to him as Kal-El and then returns to the mansion where it’s suddenly night again for some reason and she pulls out an artefact that’s whispering to her. Have we seen this before? Am I supposed to know what this is?

At the Talon, Chloe walks in with groceries but investigates a sound in the basement we’ve never ever seen before. It’s Davis who now realises he’s immortal. He tells her that only she can stop him from Dooming out and killing Clark and so she locks herself in the basement with him.

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