Smallville 9.16: "Escape"

With the series now locked into a return for a tenth season, it should be interesting to see how the writers manage to finish out this season’s story arc. Were they initially planning for a big finish, or were they hedging their bets? It’s a fair guess that the Major Zod arc will come to a conclusion, but that doesn’t leave much for the tenth season.

One constant will be the relationship angle, which makes this episode something of a warning sign. I’m not averse to the soap opera elements of “Smallville”; I’ve spent plenty of time discussing them over the years. But the overall plot arc of Superman’s genesis has been more and more important, and when that element is missing, the show suffers. And then the audience suffers, as it no doubt did during this woeful hour.

I’ve never heard of the Silver Banshee before, but I can’t imagine that too many fans were clamoring for her appearance on “Smallville”. It may have been a good excuse for some fan service, between Lois and her uplifting Highlander look or the shower scene, but that was about it. The costume work for the Banshee was hysterically bad, and the conceit of pushing the two main couples together was forced at best.

This was essentially a bottle show: a premise created to minimize costs by utilizing the same sets and the main cast as much as possible, usually by trapping them in a secluded or otherwise constrained location. The inn was the “bottle” in this case. Usually this amounts to the main characters (and perhaps some expendable extras) facing some threat that forces them to stay within the proscribed boundaries.

Because the plot is usually so basic and repetitive (everyone has seen this sort of story before), the emphasis is usually on the characters. Either the story allows for some major psychological insight into the characters (or one in particular), or someone is forced to reveal a major secret. It’s the depth and craft of the character work that makes a bottle show viable.

And therein lies the problem. What exactly was covered in this episode that wasn’t already known to the audience? So Lois and Clark now know about Oliver and Chloe. Oliver and Chloe are admitting that they have something more than a casual fling. Did the writers really think this was something so momentous that it could carry an entire episode? When the best part of the “A” storyline is Oliver pointing out the “little jellies” on the brunch table, that’s not a good sign.

The “B” storyline was definitely better. We may not know exactly what Tess is trying to accomplish, since her motivations have been all over the board this season, but the chess game between Zod and Tess was amusing. I have the feeling Checkmate is behind Tess and her game with Zod.

But what is Zod’s motivation for finding a way to strip Clark of his powers? Is it just a matter of ego now? It should be easy enough for Zod to give his army the same powers as Clark and make him largely irrelevant. So why this desire to break Clark down for being humanity’s emerging hero? It provides a basis for Zod’s inevitable confrontation with Clark by the end of the season, but it doesn’t quite make sense. The writers seem to be relying on the fact that Zod is known to be a villain, rather than developing the character in a way that leads him to villainy for a specific reason.


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