Smallville 9.5: "Roulette"




I suspect this is another instance where a well-known DC comics character has been adapted into the “Smallville” universe. I’m simply not versed enough in the comics canon to know or even care. Within the context of the episode Roulette serves a specific and time-honored purpose, and while her own characterization was a bit sparse, I enjoyed the overall effect.


The writers have mined this particular plot device before: “Mercy” and “Committed” spring to mind. It’s a variation on the good old “sink or swim” method: place a person in crisis to push them into revealing their true strengths or weaknesses. It’s a method to be used when internal sources of conflict aren’t getting the job done, and external pressures are the only remaining recourse. Of course, there is the drawback that any such method is as much about the motives of the individual behind the “game” as it is the needs of the individual being forced to play.


Just from the way it was initially framed in the teaser, I was certain that this was all an elaborate setup to push Oliver in the right direction. And it was equally obvious that Clark had absolutely nothing to do with it, because he’s not this clever or willing to use psychological stress to force someone to see the light. (At least, not intentionally.) It didn’t take long for me to suspect that Chloe was behind it all.


If I wasn’t already sold on the idea of Oliver pulling himself up from the floor and getting back in the hero saddle, Chloe’s involvement would have been more than enough. To me, this is precisely the right direction for her character to take. Her own experiences have pushed her at moral odds with Clark more than once, and it makes sense that she was apply those life lessons in her role as Watchtower. The Chloe seen at the end of this episode is confident, strong, and delightfully pragmatic.


Considering the focus of the plot, most of the episode centers on Oliver and his experiences. Clark is barely present, which could be an issue for fans that expect him to be the subject each and every episode. This is beginning to feel, however, like preparations for something that will be vital to Clark’s overall season arc as the story progresses. This process puts Oliver and Clark on roughly the same footing as heroes in their own right, which is an important step. With his issues more or less resolved, Oliver can stand with Clark during the battles ahead.


This also seems to be designed to allow the Kryptonian subplot to percolate a bit in the background, and throw some complications into the Clark/Lois relationship in the process. The writers need to be careful with how many twists and turns they throw into the mix, however. Right now, it’s starting to feel like the most frustrating days of the Clark/Lana relationship, when Lana was trusting or distrusting Clark for whatever reason on an episode-to-episode basis. The writers are trying to keep things from progressing too quickly, obviously, but too much zigzagging can be counter-productive.

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