Smallville 9.13: "Warrior"

You have to feel sorry for Allison Mack. Tom Welling gets to co-direct one of the best episodes of “Smallville” in years, if not one of the best in the series. Allison was given this. I have to give her credit for trying, since the direction was one of the few highlights, but I can just imagine what her original reaction was to the script.

This episode was originally meant to air before “Absolute Justice”, and I think that might have served it better. It’s hard to go from something as dark, stylish, and well-scripted as that event to something as mediocre and poorly-executed as this story. It also would have added a layer to the idea that the proto-Justice League needs to be more connected to one another.

Considering that this is essentially the “Smallville” treatment of “Big”, which has been done to death over the years, there’s the feeling that we’ve seen it all before, only better. Watching Chloe come on to a 12-year-old in a superhero’s body is less amusing than downright creepy. Remembering that the actress was also in charge of figuring out how to make the scene work as a director adds a completely different layer of disturbing to the entire deal.

I was also a bit disappointed with the treatment of Zatanna. I thought her first appearance was fine, and from what I’ve read of the original DC character, I think this version is just fine. Serinda Swan is gorgeous, and while there is still some serious fan service going on with the costume, it’s to the credit of the producers that she is showing less skin than one would otherwise expect.

I also liked the consistent suggestion that Zatanna’s ethics are a work in progress. She seems to have the big picture well in place, but her methods are less straight and narrow. Her attempted seduction of Clark, while visually enticing, also seemed to suggest a practiced technique. Some are likely to bring up the issue of consent. All of that adds up to a character that is “grey” enough to justify giving her more screen-time. (Certainly fans of fishnets wouldn’t mind.)

But her role in the plot seemed forced at best, and the whole “cursed comic book that was never read by anyone” seemed far-fetched. As a once-ravenous comic book geek, I was skeptical of any classic-era origin issue remaining sealed and unread for decades. Also, the overall solution to the Devilicus problem was another quick and easy climax. So while the character has potential, Zatanna has yet to be in an episode that fully exploits that potential.

I was also a bit wary of how easily Clark resisted Zatanna’s spell. Obviously, they didn’t want to derail the Clark/Lois relationship too much, but isn’t Clark supposed to be particularly vulnerable to magic? If Zatanna is really that powerful, Clark shouldn’t have stood a chance. Of course, the implication is that Clark’s love for Lois is strong enough to break the spell.

Also, the writers are trying for a message, and Clark’s resistance is evidence of his inability to fall into fantasy. The writers are ridiculously heavy-handed with their message: what sounds great to the comics-reading public, especially young minds wishing for power in situations where they have none, that world is rather mundane for superheroes and their friends. It’s a fair point, but there had to be a better way to explore it.

I also find it hard to believe that Clark would be that ignorant of the benefits of a healthy fantasy world. Perhaps this is meant to be a recent shift in his psychological state, but hasn’t Clark entertained plenty of fantasies over the years? In fact, some episodes were built around his fantasies, as I recall. Maybe it’s the fact that all of those fantasies have never come to pass. Still, with someone like Lois around, who clearly has a very healthy fantasy life (and a wardrobe to match), I doubt it will take long for Clark to see the light!

If there was one good aspect to this episode, it was Allison Mack. Terrible episode or not, Chloe had plenty of screen-time, and Chloe was gorgeous through most of it. And it’s about time that Oliver and Chloe figured out that they had some good chemistry. That bit with the bow and arrow was a lot more sexually charged than the Clark/Zatanna scene.

But those thoughts do point to the fact that this episode was largely devoted to fan service. Lois and Zatanna were there for the male drooling benefit, and those gratuitous shots of Warrior Angel’s physique were a bone to the female fans. There was even a groan-inducing shout-out to the X-Box 360 fans with the prototype to the Project Natal. (Frankly, it looks even more ridiculous than most Wii games to me, but I don’t kiss the boots of Microsoft.) No matter how hard the writers might have tried to make a story out of all of this, it was more about the parts than the whole.


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