19 May 2011

The Watcher: 05/13/11 - 05/19/11

This is a special edition of The Watcher, cos I'm sad to say that this is the very last time I will be covering a new episode of SMALLVILLE. Last week marked the final episode of that series. Rest In Peace, SMALLVILLE, it's been a good ten years.

CHUCK S04E24 - "Chuck Vs. the Cliffhanger" (16 May 2011) - Not living up to its titlesake, "Chuck Vs. the Cliffhanger" nonetheless positions Team Bartowski towards a rather interesting and definitely game-changing fifth and final season. The Volkoff storyline is wrapped up very satisfyingly, with the Alexi Volkoff persona created by the Intersect wiped and he reverts back to his original state, Hartley, and Vivian renouncing the Volkoff Empire and living a new life with her father, thanks to Chuck. Consequently, and not too surprisingly, Sarah is saved with a super awesome antidote, and in the end, Chuck and Sarah tie the knot, and all is peaceful. Except, as it turns out, it would appear that every action they've taken the last four years were maneuvered by a outside force, insinuating that Team Bartowski has been used since Day One. Interesting development, and I hope this story pays off big time next season. Although I do find emphasis on weddings in TVland to be a bit too much, as is the case here, it is nevertheless nice to see Chuck and Sarah so darn tootin' happy. I would have liked to see, however, the whole situation with Chuck and the FBI/CIA/whatever resolved, instead of cutting to commercial and a fast forward to the wedding. Throughout the episode they were leading to the idea that season five would have Chuck and Sarah in hiding outside of the U.S who wants their heads, but nay, not the way they went. And in the final moments, a new plan is devised to seek out the Master Manipulator, and what more, bring 'em down with Chuck's new inheritance (from Volkoff Industries). Then the final twist: Morgan gets the Intersect downloaded into him! I super dig this development, and I'm excited to see the new dynamic next year, so major thumbs up from this fan. One minor quibble, though: I thought that whole becoming-a-Intersect thing was rather difficult and rare for someone to contain all that information, so with folks getting the Intersect programmed into them here and there, it seems a bit out there...even by CHUCK standards. Still, great finale to a overall 'meh' season. Looking forward to seeing CHUCK go out in style. Score: 9.2/10 | Season Score: 7.6/10

NIKITA S01E22 - "Pandora" (12 May 2011) - NIKITA finishes its freshman year in a fairly interesting place. Alex and Nikita have been solid buddies since episode one, and in the last two episodes, that friendship has deteriorated, and next year looks to be Alex chasing Nikita down after being enrolled by certain party members who want the black boxes destroyed. Meanwhile, Nikita and Michael are on the run from Division and a super-pissed off Percy, intent on exposing all the governments deep, dark secrets. Hell of a first season, and kudos to everyone involved. "Pandora" is aptly titled, as the finale concentrated heavily on the black boxes and the secrets/evil that will inevitably come out of exposing 'em. Similarly, the disillusion of the Nikita/Alex friendship because of harboring secrets. As expected from season finales, "Pandora" is full of action and twists and turns, making it quite satisfying. I'm glad the Nikita-Alex-bring-down-Division concept is out the window and a new dynamic is in place for next year. Overall, the writers and actors of NIKITA exceeded my expectations of the show, with some great story ideas and dimensional characters. Sure, there were some roadblocks here or there, but that's to be expected from a show just starting out. I'm glad NIKITA got a second chance and is coming back next year - thank you, CW - and can't wait to see another 43 mins. of gorgeous women, action, explosions, and awesome twists. Score: 9.3/10 | Season Score: 8.7/10

SMALLVILLE S10E21/S10E22 - "Finale" (13 May 2011) - Small complaint: I watched the very first episode of SMALLVILLE, "Pilot", live broadcast day, and through a series of unfortunate events, I wasn't able to see "Finale" live. No bookend pleasure. But then I just had to wait a few hours for the online world to catch up, so all in all, not a hugely sad story, but it's quasi-sucky nonetheless.

Ten seasons - ten years - of watching Tom Welling mature as an actor and Clark Kent discover his past, present, and future (quite literally). There were the first three seasons that obnoxiously adhered to the Freak of the Week conventions, where Clark spent loads of time lying to his friends about why he was late, where he went off to, or why he was acting like such a dick (use of Red Kryptonite, and all). Season four was the year they brought in elements of Superman mythology while keeping its own style - the creation of the Fortress of Solitude, the introduction of Lois Lane, and a clearer road of descent for dear ol' Lex Luthor. Season eight onwards, Clark had really matured, really came to accept his 'destiny' (always hated this plot device, of Clark being told constantly throughout the series he has a destiny, whereas I feel he should have had no outside influence whatsoever and come to his choice on his own) and going so far as to create his own wardrobe and gained some valuable DC hero friends. As season nine came to a close, the question became, why on earth isn't Clark Superman yet? During the May 2010 television upfronts, it was announced that season ten would be the shows last, as Clark Kent dons the cape, takes flight, and becomes the legendary Superman. For a national icon such as Superman, and millions of fans in love with SMALLVILLE from the beginning (myself included), "Finale" had a lot to live up to, and frankly, it didn't quite succeed.

"Finale" lived up to SMALLVILLE expectations, is a nice way to put it. I'm not outright saying I didn't like the episode, indeed I did and is worth multiple rewatches (if just for Michael Rosenbaum back as Lex Luthor, biotches!), but it pales in comparison to what it could have been. What we have here is something that boasts moments of greatness, but is also boggled down by redundancy that, this being a last episode, shouldn't be present, as well as corny dialogue and digital effects. And most grievously, a 'final battle' so pathetic it rivals Clark's fight with Doomsday in the season eight finale in regards to eye-rolling, WTF?-yelling ughness. To have clearer thoughts on the subject, I'm going to divide my review into like/didn't like:


- Michael Rosenbaum's return as Lex Luthor. Regrettably, Lex didn't have too many scenes, basically regulated to the second-half of "Finale", but he made enough of an impact. His big scene with Clark at the Luthor mansion was particularly memorable, with some great cinematography from director Greg Beeman and performances from both Rosenbaum and Welling. Lex's final speech is a lot less spectacular than I would have liked - greatly embellishing what they will become, as adversaries, and their roles in each others 'destinies' [see, that word pops up again!] - but Rosenbaum delivers it with such true Lexness, like he hadn't been gone for three years, that I'm willing to forgive the laziness of the writing. His scene with Tess was also magnificent on all accounts, and although I understand that in order to tie in with comic lore Lex needed to have all knowledge of Kal-El erased from memory, it does sorta super suck that basically everything that happened to him the last ten years was eviscerated. All that character development, all that plots and subplots and murder attempts and concussions...all gone. Not entirely thrilled with that part, but I get it. Still, it's all worth it to see Michael back in action!
- The epic scope of "Finale" is worth praise. Clark has a wedding to plan and go through with Lois Lane, his true love and all that jazz; he faces the return of Lex Luthor, thought dead for the last two years; the emergence of Darkseid around him and his friends; and the presence of a unscheduled planet, the aptly-named Apokolips. That's a lot to deal with in two TV hours whilst serving the characters...
- Jonathan giving Clark the suit in the Fortress of Solitude. Great moment, as is his line of always remembering Smallville. I'm still not 100% on Ghost Jonathan in the SMALLVILLE world, but I'll roll with it.
- Although it is sad to see Tess Mercer go, her death scene was absolutely fabulous. And, also noteworthy, imagine it - with her introduction in season eight, I wasn't particularly a fan of the character, didn't find her all that interesting. Season nine didn't exactly propel her arc forward a whole bunch, but season ten is definitely her shinning year. Cassidy Freeman did an excellent job episode after episode, and this is a perfectly suitable, satisfying - albeit sad - ending for her character.
- The Lois/Clark door scene. As I would imagine this will be a favorite amongst Clois shippers everywhere for years to come, I thought it was cleverly directed and expertly acted by Erica Durance and Tom Welling. Durance has been on fire all season, and in "Finale", she definitely shows her growth as an actress. Excellent, marvelous work.
- The second-to-last scene at the Daily Planet with Lois and Jimmy talking about Perry White and how many 'Great Caesar's Ghost!'s he got in by now. Great stuff. And I loved the writers establishing the parameters of the Lois/Clark relationship seven years in the future...
- Darkseid in Lionel's body. Perfect! It sucked having Lionel die in Season 7, and to have him back from another universe this year, it's been grand. Having Lionel as Darkseid in the end...oh, sends chills up my spine about how perfectly awesome this is. If Mark Pellegrino wasn't available for Lucifer back in season five of SUPERNATURAL, I woulda called up John Glover. He kicks ass with this type of dark character stuff. Definitely a finale highlight.
- The montage of Lex losing his memories.


- Ten years. Ten years we've been waiting to see Clark Kent in his Superman outfit. And what do we get? Motherfrakking ugly CGI. I was hoping - expecting - Welling to be in the Superman suit. After all, it was said multiple times the producers had possession of the SUPERMAN RETURNS suit for use, so why the frak not use it? If Welling was opposed to wearing it, oh fricken' well, man! We deserve to see Clark in his suit, live action, not some hideous, uber-fakey, far away-shot digital shit. More than anything else in "Finale", this CGI Superman is what pisses me off. Majorly huge drop of the ball, guys.
- The Omega Symbols from all the infected earthlings disappear with the goneness of Apokolips? What?!? Look, guys, it's your fault for jam-packing the final two episodes with so much shit that you were understandably running out of time, but that is one lame ass 'solution', and I shudder to call it that.
- Before Clark is given the legendary suit, Jor-El thinks now is the appropriate time to show off all Clark's 'trials' from season one up to nowish. I get that "Finale" concentrated on Clark's journey in understanding that with stepping forward into the world, he shouldn't leave everything he was behind [which, by the way, I thought we dealt with in season nine after his whole 'Clark Kent is dead!' announcement in the season eight finale...], but spending two and a half minutes in a montage of his many saves and heroic act seemed a bit self-indulgent and out-of-place in the running-out-of-time narrative "Finale" had. This wasn't the appropriate moment, is all.
- What was the resolution with the farm? Small detail, I know, but sorta importante.
- As a final image, oh boy, was that shirt-ripping, slow motion, suit reveal absolutely balking rubbish! I apologize for sounding like a huge critic here, and I completely acknowledge that this is a television show and not a film, but by all means, this is the last image we'll be seeing of SMALLVILLE, and it's rubbish! The horrible slo-mo strut to the camera is laughable, the camerawork is a bit dodgy immediately taking me out of the moment, and the final seconds remind me of a sucky shirt commercial, with the slo-mo shirt rip. I'm deeply sorry that I don't find it as epic and brilliant as it ought to be.
- Everything with Darkseid in season 10. May have sounded like a sure-fire brilliant idea back at the beginning, but when all is said and done, the whole stuff with Darkseid is just full of WTF? His whole plan was to crash Apokolips into earth? What was up with possessing humans with darkness? What's the point of any of this, huh?
- Yet another damn Jonathan/Martha lecture. So happy I won't have to hear another 'new' one of those...
- The Chloe scenes with her son. Sorry, felt far too 7TH HEAVENy for me. And although I dug the second-to-last scene at the Daily Planet in the flashforward, I think I would rather have liked it more without the flashforward.

"Finale" may not have been perfect, but it was still pretty damn good and quite enjoyable. There are certain scenes I rewatch often - specifically the Lex/Tess scene and Clark's anticlimactic saving of the world - and the final episode will always have a mix of love/dislike, hit/miss feelings. Still, I'm over the moon to have watched Clark's journey as an adolescent unable to control his powers and ignorant of his alien roots to becoming a self-assured, confidant man with powerful convictions and maintains complete control over his abilities. Season 10 is one of my all-time favorites, perfectly encompassing the character traits of who and what Superman is, and dealing with the self-doubts, darkness, and choices a person faces to become a hero. This was a perfect Superman season, and in the end, I was happy for Clark as much as everyone else.

Alfred Gough, Miles Miller, Kelly Souders, Brian Peterson, Al Septien, Turi Meyer, Tom Welling, Erica Durance, Allison Mack, Kristen Kruek, Aaron Ashmore, Michael Rosenbaum, John Schneider, Annette O'Tool, Justin Hartly, Cassidy Freeman, John Glover, and many more - a huge round of applause and loads of thank you for ten seasons of Superman entertainment. This is one hell of an accomplishment, and one hell of a outstanding series. Score: 8.5/10 | Season Score: 9.1/10

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