Smallville Episode 8.20: ‘Beast’ Review

Posted on April 30, 2009

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Teaser

TVSummary: An episode that pissed me off… in all the right ways.
Rating: 8/10


Review Trailer
The quick skinny on the episode.

Chloe continues to harbor Davis Bloome in the basement of the Talon, hoping to keep him away from Clark. Her clandestine plans are giving her dreams of a dashing, dark lover in Davis that quickly turn to nightmares about his true nature. Tess publishes a story about Davis being the serial killer in the Daily Planet, leading Clark to look further into the death of Mannheim’s flunky from last episode. He believes Davis is alive. Chloe tries to dissuade him from as she plans to run away with Davis. When Clark asks for Oliver’s help, Oliver demands that he kill Davis so that the world could finally be rid of Doomsday. Through a series of events, Oliver and Jimmy are captured by Davis and learn that Chloe has been helping him. Clark saves the two and speeds Davis off to the Fortress to imprison him in the Phantom Zone. Chloe arrives to rescue Davis in a turn of events that puts the best friends at odds. A truly effective episode that drives you mad at each turn but sets the table for the final arc leading towards the season finale.

Feature-Length Review after the jump.


Feature-Length Review
The in-depth review.

** Note: Review contains spoilers if you have not seen the episode.**

Sonofagrumblegrumblegrumble….

This episode pissed me off immensely in the various events that occurred. This led me to one conclusion: it worked and got its job done well.

As I dive into this review, let me make a quick note. My past reviews have been a chance to ramble on and on – I considered calling this the Verbose Reviews – but I’m going to try to nail things in an economy of words. Join me on this journey, won’t you.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’ve found the Davis storyline this season an arc of diminishing returns. What started off strong and compelling really began a downward spiral when they incorporated the ill-advised cliche of Davis being a man of faith conflicted over his killing. That moved into an interesting twist with Davis deciding that he could hold the monster within at bay by killing people in “human form”. He rationalized that killing criminals could justify his methods. Just as quickly as this was introduced it became boring and trite. Then the capper: Chloe was able to tame the savage beast.

That forms the basis of Davis’ entire character now. He’s Doomsday unless he’s with Chloe. He doesn’t even attempt to be a good man trying to battle back his demons any longer. It’s simply about his obsession with Chloe, which makes the character very one-note and uninteresting. Try as he might, Sam Witwer is being done a disservice by this decision on the writers’ parts. Witwer is a good actor who works very well at selling a character. As Davis has devolved into a whiny, brooding, stalkerish basket case, Witwer is left to overplay the character to give him some depth and bite that doesn’t exist on the page. I can honestly say that ‘Beast’ has sealed my hatred for Davis Bloome.

That brings us to his counterpart, Chloe. It’s evident that Chloe does have some manner of feelings for Davis – which everyone decided to pointedly mention to her throughout the episode – but this episode really drove home the idea that Chloe is doing everything she can to protect Clark. It’s decisively short-sighted and Chloe, who is usually the brains of this operation, is improvising this entire course of action on the fly. I’m thankful they addressed the possible consequences of her actions and the ways this weighs on her. The dream to start the episode was vivid and grotesque, particularly the shot of Clark’s torn corpse that oddly mirrored the shot of Clark tied to the post in the cornfield in the pilot episode. (Chloe never saw Clark tied up out there.)

Every move she made in this episode was dead on and every move she made drove me to want to punch many, many things within sight. Clark pinpointed one of the things, though, that is the foundation of Chloe Sullivan: she wants to help people and give them a second chance. This is something that fueled her taking over of Isis when Lana left. It’s even part of why she’s staying with Davis. But Chloe made clear in ‘Eternal’ that Clark is her top priority and she will stop at nothing to make sure he is safe to protect the world. Allison Mack’s performance tonight was wonderful, in particular that final scene on the phone with Clark. The emotion, the choice Chloe has resigned herself to, the fear of just what lies ahead of her, Mack was spot on with every moment.

Once again, Clark and Oliver butt heads over their methods. I’ve mentioned how I love that Oliver often represents the voice of the audience and there were great moments when he said things to Clark that were on everyone’s mind. Justin Hartley is razor-sharp in those moments when he tells Clark like it is and, at times, puts him in his place. This decision over killing Davis is an intriguing crossroads for the two heroes. It sets them on distinct paths that will have effects long past this season. I was really impressed with the scene in the final act between the two. The writer – Genevieve Sparling – let Oliver rip into Clark and pretty much kept Clark’s mouth shut. It was a somewhat out-of-character choice for the often self-righteous Clark but absolutely the right choice. Hartley and Tom Welling killed in this scene.

Welling was in the higher-end of his ability in this episode, giving Clark a steely resolve mixed with moments of confusion and betrayal. To see how hurt Clark was in Chloe calling him out about sending Davis to the Phantom Zone, as well as trying not to believe that Chloe would betray him, Welling offered a number of good small choices and nuance tonight. Throughout, Clark was proactive – something I’ve loved that they’ve kicked into high gear with the character this season, particularly in the second half – and commanding, which always endears the character more to me. That final scene on the phone with Chloe, when he’s trying to make sense of everything and eventually takes out his frustration on that poor filing cabinet, was heartbreaking and shocking. It’s rare to actually see Clark driven to that point. (And so much better than hearing Clark whine about everything being his fault.)

And I loved the brief confrontation between Davis and Clark in the Fortress. Just long enough to whet my appetite for the big brawl in ‘Doomsday’.

Should also mention Battlestar Galactica‘s Mr. Gaeta himself, Alessandro Juliani, as Dr. Hamilton. We caught him in passing in a couple of earlier episodes so I wasn’t able to connect that that was him. I thought he did well with an expanded role in this episode and I thought there was something cool about him referring to “the group” that he and Chloe belong to. Nice also that they had him as the mouthpiece to talk some sense into Chloe about Davis’ true nature.

Thank the heavens that they nipped Jimmy’s drug problem in the bud so quickly. I know, I know, it’s not necessarily over, but that it was addressed so quickly is a good sign. That Oliver has employed the man to help him see that he can get his life back in order is a good sign. Aaron Ashmore was delightful in this episode. His goading of Davis was vicious and honest. His interactions with Oliver bordered a bit on broad but I thought Ashmore kept it in check enough to be believable. And, praise be, that someone recognized just what Jimmy brings to the whole affair. Jimmy is truly the unobstructed eyes on the show and Oliver gave him due respect.

This episode’s events were jarring, each moment twisting further into the next to push the dark and uncomfortable upon us. It worked very well and I look forward to the continued threads that run through the next two episodes.

Alright, I tried on the words. Give me credit for that.


Where Does This Leave Us

  • Chloe is in over her head and might get bit by the savage dog.
  • Clark’s thrown into a tailspin over his friend’s actions. He still holds her dear and wants to be there for her, but you could see how his heart cracked.
  • Oliver makes a stand; president of the Doomsday Down the Drain Club and he’s rejecting Clark’s membership for sticking to his principles.
  • Superman would never kill, no matter what. It was nice, as well as creepy, to see Clark try to process just what that moral decision means.
  • Jimmy climbing out of the hole and hopefully further out of mediocrity. (For the record, I’ve always been a Smallville Jimmy fan.)
  • Davis opened a chocolate bar and found a golden ticket to the Phantom Zone. He hasn’t redeemed it yet, but it’s coming, my friend.
  • Davis has become more annoying than running out of toilet paper in the stall of a public restroom.

Injustice abounds…

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