Smallville Episode 8.18: “Eternal” Review

Posted on April 3, 2009

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Teaser

TVSummary: An effective, if irksome, episode that helps to set up the final four episodes of the season.
Rating: 6.5/10


Review Trailer
The quick skinny on the episode.

The retconning continues in an episode that places Davis Bloome’s arrival on Earth during not only the same meteor shower that brought Clark but in the same same field and crash site as Clark’s ship as well. For no discernible reason other than trying to tie everything together for Tess to figure out, Lionel Luthor was suddenly aware of the Traveler’s coming and nabbed Davis from the field to test him. Tess reveals to Davis just who he is and also let’s Clark know that she knows everything about him. Meanwhile, the frustrating actions of Chloe this season come to a head with somewhat of a justification for why she has been acting so contrary to her character this year. While Clark wants to help his newfound Kryptonian kin, Chloe “kills” Davis in a Krypto-bath to save her best friend. In the end, Davis isn’t dead and offers Chloe a dark choice to stay with him in an effort to keep Doomsday at bay. She accepts. While the ugliness of the material in this episode is handled well, I’m left feeling uneasy by the whole affair.

Feature-Length Review after the jump.


Introduction

If you know Smallville and watch the show to any degree, go ahead and skip down to the the review.

So I’ve got a list of shows I watch throughout the week (thank you, DVR) but I wanted to save my first review for this dealy-bobber for my favorite show on television: Smallville.

Since this is a first, let me give just some minor background on my association with the show.  (In fact, with the first reviews for each of the shows I write I’ll give you just a bit of background of my experience with it.  After that, I prefer just to get right into the reviews so you aren’t deluged more by the various degrees of sitting that a person or persons next to me go through; or the smell of any of the candy any one of us might have during a particular viewing; or any other superfluous stuff that a number of review sites tend to go through.)

Smallville and Me
Background on my relationship with the show for this first review only.

When Smallville began in 2001, I had no idea about it.  At the time, I wasn’t watching much television so I hadn’t heard anything about show during its production run-up to first airing.  During the first season, I caught a commercial and thought, Smallville? What the hell, is that a Superman show?  Lo and behold…  Still, it looked too much like the other fare that was on The WB at the time so I didn’t find it very interesting.  It wasn’t until I saw clips from the Season 1 finale ‘Tempest’ on a loop at my then current job, promoting the Season 1 DVD set, that I thought of giving the show a chance.  I was hooked and I’ve been watching the show since Season 2.

I won’t bore with justifications about the show.  If you watch, you watch it.  If you don’t, I usually don’t find myself recommending it to anyone.  It’s not like it’s some deep, dark secret I pet in a dank cave somewhere.  It’s just that the show is very flawed and most people who haven’t come to the show in the 8 years that it’s been on most likely won’t care for it.  That said, I have nothing but a soft spot for the darned thing.

Okay….

Episode Background

I won’t fill you in on Season 8 – go here or here to get caught up – except to say that the three main thrusts of the season have been to introduce most of the tropes of the Superman identity and the duality with Clark Kent and the Big Blue Boy Scout; to establish the Clark and Lois romantic relationship (heretofore known in the fandom parlance as “Clois”); and to introduce the character of Doomsday – the killer of Superman in the comics – to the show’s universe.

Doomsday has been presented as a tragic figure reminiscent of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde or Bruce Banner and the Hulk. We meet Davis Bloome, a Metropolis paramedic, who blacks out and transforms into the monster. As the transformations became more and more prevalent, Davis looked for means to control his inner demon, turning to faith, then to anti-psychotic drugs, and finally, disturbingly, to killing people in his human form. His justification is that the people he kills are criminals or amoral people who deserve to have their lives taken from them.

Davis was also introduced as the third point on a love triangle between lovebirds Chloe Sullivan and Jimmy Olsen, who were married at mid season. Through events, Jimmy leaves Chloe and we are left with the possibility of a romance between Chloe and Mr. Bloome.

Which brings us to ‘Eternal’. (Finally, right?)


Feature-Length Review
The in-depth review.

‘Eternal’ presents to us the background story of Davis‘ arrival on Earth and just how he ties into the destiny of fellow Kryptonaut, Clark “Kal-El” Kent. We were told in a previous episode that Davis was actually Kryptonian genetic matter scientifically designed by General Zod (KNEEL!) and his wife Faora to be “the ultimate destroyer” and that he was sent to Earth with Kal-El’s ship. Now, we are treated to his actually arrival and it turns out Davis is… a facehugger from the Aliens movies!

No, he’s not. He’s more like scrambled facehugger. A pod or piece of meteorite that looked like one of the Alien eggs (don’t tell Fox, they might sue) cracks open and a green goo oozes out to form Davis, who, shockingly, is older than Clark. In fact, if Lex Luthor, Oliver Queen and Tess Mercer are about 30 on the show, Davis is revealed to be closer to their age than to Clark’s nearly 23. As Clark was discovered by the Kents in that field, Davis is captured by, you guessed it, the Luthors.

Drawing back to the convoluted Veritas Society mess that was simultaneously intriguing and marred Season 7 – not to mention retconning much of the show’s past – Lionel Luthor was in Smallville on the day of the 1989 meteor shower to find what Veritas called “the Traveler”. Lionel, however, was unaware that there were two boys that crashed in that field.

Now, I’m not as harsh to the retconning as some fans. With this type of show sometimes you have to bend continuity to make everything fit. The one thing that does drive me up the wall, though, is when a creative group decides to make everything too insular and interconnected. It’s one of the big things that killed the Star Wars prequels for me. Everything was too convenient. That’s what this connection of Davis to the Luthors is to me. I didn’t care for the idea when I heard spoilers about it earlier in the season, and I don’t particularly care for it now. But I will give it to this episode that they made it tolerable. (Though the ridiculous use of “storybook” drawings was overkill, fellas.)

Let me break this down to you simply rather than running on about it:

    1 cup Little Boy Davis being discovered by Lionel
    2 tbsp Tess reading the story in the journal
    1 qt Jimmy’s file on the gruesome murders pointing to Davis
    2 Large investigations by Lex and Lionel into Clark’s past

Mix and serve to one Clark Kent so that he’s aware Davis is Kryptonian and most likely “the ultimate destroyer” he was warned about. That’s basically what this episode had to do and I’d say it did it pretty well.

I am vocal – if posting it online can truly be claimed as “vocal” – about my quickening distaste for the Davis/Doomsday storyline. I wasn’t excited before the season started when they announced that they were including the brute this season. (Hell, I’ve never really liked the character in the comics either.) The casting of Sam Witwer, though, was a wonderful decision to sell the idea on us. I like Sam. I think he’s a good actor. I’m not as gaga over him as a large portion of the fandom is but I think he’s got good range and he plays things at the right note, for the most part. He made me actually care enough for the storyline. Until mid-season.

I’ve felt that in the inevitable Jekyll-discovers-he’s-Hyde part of this story we’ve been witness to since mid-season, Sam has actually been given less to do to make the character interesting. What we are left with is classic Bill Bixby Banner moments of Davis dodging around a corner or yelling at someone nearby to run away as his eyes go all funky, the spit flies out of his mouth and his body bones out. Even less interesting was the decision to make the character one of devout faith. It’s like the writers pulled a book off the shelf titled How to Write Movie Serial Killers and went by the numbers. I have no problem with someone of faith onscreen, but did it really have to be the serial killer, complete with confessional scene? Or, as in this episode, the over-the-top kissing and dropping of the rosary that Davis has been toting around most of the season.

But I liked what Sam did in this episode if for one thing only: he creeped me out. In fact, between ‘Turbulence‘ and ‘Eternal’ I’m really creeped out by the character. It really has little to do with the horrible acts we know he does – though Clark’s X-ray shot of the field of buried bodies was disturbing in its own right – as much as it has to do with the energy Sam projects as Davis now. It’s very effective and makes me actually feel icky while watching him. (And apparently a 12-year old re:icky.)

That feeling is a big reason why I hate HATE the romance storyline they were pushing with Chloe and Davis. As a man who, sadly, knows from obsessive, the angle has been vile and bothersome. That there is a growing fanbase for their “relationship” doesn’t sit well with me. But I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised with all the people who think the relationships in the Twilight series are healthy and something to aspire to.

Don’t get me wrong. This speaks nothing to the fantastic chemistry Sam Witwer and Allison Mack have. As the two best actors on the show (Cassidy Freeman is really stepping up vast notches in my book, as well), their scenes work very well. Unfortunately, they work to piss me off to no end. The domesticity of Chloe and Davis in the beginning of ‘Eternal’ sent me reeling back into the corner of my couch. It was all I could do to keep from gritting my teeth and start yelling at the TV. How they’ve written Chloe dealing with Jimmy this season is beyond rude. That she barely went to visit him when he was hanging onto a thread of life in the hospital following his horrific mauling in ‘Bride‘ was inexcusable. That she hardly seemed affected at all in ‘Hex‘, aside from a few comments, that her husband had dumped and abandoned her just didn’t make sense. And now, here she is all happy-hunky-dorry with Davis as he cooks her dinner?! Yeesh!

I’ve been trying like mad to make sense of this pairing and I finally got some clarity on it tonight. Chloe blinded herself to this “nice” guy. Her big heart wouldn’t allow her to see just what he was. And with keeping Clark’s secret, working with the meteor-infected at Isis, planning to and then wedding Jimmy – not to mention being Brainiac-possessed – she just didn’t have the resources to devote to looking at the guy with open eyes. It was kind of mean – but also stark truth – for Clark to get in the dig about trusting Jimmy in the first place.

Now, we see the true intention behind much of her decisions this season and the rumored direction for her in the final four episodes of the season: protecting Clark. She’s encapsulates it in the very dark line she gives to Clark after they believe Davis was killed in the Krytpo-Juice Cage (“K” is for the love of the game…) “I won’t risk the safety of the world because of your code of ethics. Because you refuse to stop the things that threaten you.” This is why she killed the memory thief guy earlier in the season. This is why, despite her own misgivings, she pulled the switch on Davis. And this is why, when she discovers Davis is still alive, she decides to give in to his request to stay near him, to keep the beast at bay. Chloe feels it’s her duty to protect Clark and that includes doing dark things that have gone against her character.

I still don’t like the Chloe-Davis connection and I don’t like what they’ve done to her character this season. But there is some logic – however corrupted – to her actions. It would appear that harboring Davis falls under that, which sits a bit better with me than being a tragic love tale. One can only hope that they won’t play up the romantic angle now. (Though I realize it’s probably useless to hope against it.)

Finally, there is the matter of Tess knowing pretty much everything about Clark’s secret. She’s aware of his activities as the Red-Blue Blur. She now has intimate knowledge that Clark arrived by Meteor Express and that is name is Kal-El. And, wouldn’t you know it, she appears to have recovered the Traveler Remote Control Crystal (to be referred to here on out as the TRiCC) at some point during the Arctic excavation at the beginning of the season when she was looking for Lex and/or his body. I’m not sure how I feel about this at the moment. It’s all a bit convenient and doesn’t give Tess as much of an arc for discovery. I will say, though, that it is intriguing to see just what she wants to do with this information.

Overall, I’d say ‘Eternal’ was an above average episode. It’s very much like ‘Turbulence’ for me. I recognize the useful narrative parts of the story. I appreciate the effort and talent that went into the episode. I’m just left kind of uneasy by what occurred. Hey, it’s a response.

The Wrath of Khan death scene homage was a bit much, though.


Where Does This Leave Us

  • Davis is revealed to Clark as Kryptonian but Clark believes Davis is dead.
  • Chloe is aware Davis is alive but wants to keep him from Clark so she won’t tell anyone she’s harboring Davis.
  • Tess knows everything… and has the TRiCC.
  • Jimmy is a belligerent internet freak.
  • Clark, the copyboy, is really pushing the open-door policy with the publisher in a bid to be a real live reporter.
  • Speaking of doors, Chloe has no issue with Clark mobbing up into her place any time without knocking or calling until Davis is over.
  • The secret to Davis’ jambalaya is tears.

Tune in Thursday, April 23rd for the next installment…

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