Smallville 9.19: "Charade"

Much like the previous episode, the complexities of the Checkmate organization in this installment don’t quite make sense, given that almost nothing is known about them at this point. I get the distinct feeling that the writers are assuming that the audience is familiar with the DC comics incarnation of Checkmate.

As I’ve often said, this is a huge mistake. “Smallville” has to stand on its own, and the storytelling logic has to rely on information established within the series itself. That means every new character introduction has to be self-sufficient. While fans of the Superman comics may know who Maxwell Lord is, and how he fits within the Checkmate “royalty”, it’s not at all clear based on this episode.

He seems to be the Black King. Amanda Waller has been previously shown as the White Queen. But what does that mean, exactly? Some information on the internet suggests that the White Queen controls the intelligence aspects of the organization, while the Black King controls the field operations. But that doesn’t quite track with how things went down with the Justice Society, and it hasn’t been explained at all within the show itself.

The problem is that Checkmate was introduced too late in the season to be an effective part of the current story arc. As stated in a previous review, Tess’ activities with the Kandorians are in stark conflict with her duties as an agent for Checkmate, given that Checkmate apparently wants to use recruited metahumans to protect Earth’s interests by eliminating or sidelining those who won’t join.

If Checkmate is meant to factor into this season’s arc exclusively, then it just seems like a wasted opportunity to give the season a more cohesive touch. After all, the first half of the season suffered from a distinct lack of momentum. On the other hand, if this was an early attempt to introduce Checkmate with the hopes of making the organization more prominent in the tenth season, then it may be more reasonable. But the fact remains that the writers are leaving a lot unexplained.

The meat of the episode had nothing to do with Checkmate, however. It was all about the Clark/Lois relationship. There had been some fear that the relationship was getting too serious, too fast, and that it was starting to fall into the same untenable pattern as the Clark/Lana relationship. In other words, it was becoming harder and harder to justify Lois being blind to the evidence right in front of her eyes, especially given her supposed journalistic skills.

The writers are still in danger of playing the same “yo-yo” game that made the Clark/Lana relationship so frustrating as time wore on, but in this case, the audience is well aware that Clark and Lois will eventually be together. This early relationship makes sense to me as a pretext for why Lois would want a relationship with Clark in the future, and this struggle with Lois’ fascination with the Blur provides Clark with insight into how to manage the Superman/Clark dichotomy when the time comes. But that doesn’t make it any easier in terms of the current emotional scarring, even knowing that it all works out in the end.


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