Smallville Episode 9.02: ‘Metallo’ Review

Posted on October 3, 2009

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Teaser

TVSummary: A strong effort on what is essentially the “freak of the week” trope that the show was known for in its early days with long-lasting effects.
Rating: 8.5/10


Review Trailer
The quick skinny on the episode.

John Corben is on a personal vendetta to expose, discredit and take down the Blur. He believes that the Blur is responsible for his sister’s death. Corben is horrifically hit by a truck and wakes to find that someone has built him bigger, stronger, faster… with a Kryptonite heart. At first appalled, Corben discovers the benefits of his new body and decides to take out the Blur himself. To do this, he kidnaps Lois, who Chloe comes to find out just how much more she means to Clark now than anyone else.

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

Feature-Length Review after the jump.


Feature-Length Review
The in-depth review.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of ‘Metallo’. I mean, we knew it was going to be the introduction of a prominent figure of the DC Universe and one of Superman’s best known adversaries, so it would be handled with, presumably, a good hand. But it also ran the risk of being exceptionally cheesy and yet another K-rock groaner.

I’m thrilled to say it’s the former, actually taking the “freak of the week” concept from the earliest days of the show and making it relevant. Going into the episode, hearing some of the spoilers and reading the CW’s official description, it sounded like Corben’s gripe against the Blur was rather flimsy. I was actually surprised at how well they worked that story point into the episode. It harkened back to that mother on the TV in ‘Infamous’ where Clark and Chloe are in the Kent house with all of the media outside. She complains about how Clark should’ve been able to be everywhere and he has no right to choose who he gets to save and who he doesn’t. That the Blur was indirectly responsible for Corben’s sister’s death – and then again, not really, because the inmate was ultimately the one who committed the crime – felt like a stronger motivation because it was based in this particular view of a hero’s duty and worth.

I have to say, I was impressed with Brian Austin Green throughout the episode. He really gave layers and shading to Corben, especially after his horrific accident. You could feel this was someone who lost himself and continued to as Krypto-juice and growing hatred filled his body. When it comes down to it, he really only interacted with Lois (Erica Durance) throughout the episode, with the exception of a few brief moments with Clark and with Emil. So left to his own for the majority of his time on-screen, I was surprised how captivated I was by him. Corben really wasn’t around much in these first two episodes, but he made an impression and I have to give credit to BAG for that. I liked that Erica had another sparring partner, one with some bite between them, as well. I hope they manage to bring him back for an episode or two later in the season.

I was somewhat worried about Chloe and Allison Mack this episode. It seemed as if we were going to get a bit of a one note effort, with Chloe feeling hurt and left again by Clark (Tom Welling) communicating with Lois as the Blur. And then… And then… Holy crap! When she unloaded on Clark in the Kent house my jaw hit the floor. I never would’ve expected that much venom from Chloe directed towards Clark. Frankly, she was right in everything she said. It might have come from an angry place, but she wasn’t wrong. And Clark knew it.

Then, the follow-up scene to wrap the episode between the two in the Watchtower was nice and honest. Personally, I like this tension between the friends because they seem to be writing them stronger bouncing off one another. They feel more adult in dealing with these issues than with anything else they’ve faced up to this point. It was dissipated to a slight degree in that last scene, but I’m hoping they continue on a bumpy road. It doesn’t feel forced and comes from very real places for both Clark and Chloe. This was a smart choice on the parts of the producers and writers.

Lois was terrific in this episode, displaying both her sharp side as well as her tenaciously devious side. I was wondering how Lois was going to make her way back into the Planet officially, and it was just like Lois Lane to confront Tess (Cassidy Freeman) the way she did. I loved how charged the scene between Tess and Lois was, feeling at any moment the two could go at one another and yet that they both knew it would be beneficial to let Lois ‘get her way’ in this one.

Also, I can’t help but get giddy when Lois reacts the way she does to the Blur. Erica really sells her infatuation with the superhero. It seems a bit juvenile and over-the-top at points but that’s because it’s infatuation. It’s supposed to be that way. Her affection for Clark, though, is something different altogether. Erica plays this just right as a mix of reserved with occasional unconscious outburts. What she has with Clark and feels for Clark is deeper and, in the end, affects her more. The distinction has been written well and Erica plays it note perfect. The scene where she crumbles a bit when the Blur doesn’t show her his face measured against the longing for and embrace of Clark are great examples.

I don’t care what anyone says, Clark was full-on Superman in this episode. From his focus to his thinking to his actions, this could possibly be the most Superman-like Clark we’ve ever seen in the series. Listening in on the city from his perch, feeling at once a part of everyone’s lives and completely divorced from everyone all the same, you could feel the weight of his burden, the depth of his concern and the strength of his convictions. The headlines from other cities’ newspapers a nice touch, nearly every move Clark makes now is with purpose. It’s like they’re making up for all of the years of Clark’s reactivity and inactivity by having him go full-bore proactive all the time, and it fits the Big Blue Boy Scout he’ll eventually come to be known as.

That little scene between Emil (Alessandro Juliani) and Clark at the hospital was succinct and well-written. I really enjoy Emil as a minor character and I’m glad to see more of him on-screen. Clark was all-business but also turning the ol’ hampster wheel the entire time. What a nice jolt to see them leave a scene with Clark coming up with the big lightbulb for the predicament.

Which brings us to the confrontation between ‘Metallo’ and Clark. This might actually be one of my favorite “bad guy” showdowns of the series, not because it was big and flashy, but because it was thoughtout and full of smaller bits that added up to a great whole. We knew Clark would have an issue getting close to Corben because of the Krypto-heart. The EMP grenade was an ingenious bit of thinking on Clark’s, Emil’s or both’s parts and seemed like a sensible, if a bit convenient, solution. But then they throw us the curveball. It works for a minute but then Corben’s back on his feet. Clark feels ill, Corben chucks Clark across the room and we’re left with that sense of ‘what the hell do we do now’.

Then, Clark eyes his next great gambit: a lead door from one of the furnaces. Without hesitation, he smelts the thing with his heat vision and superspeeds to clamp it onto Corben’s chest, sealing the K-rock output. Immediately, you think, ‘Oh, well, that’s done’ but the writers actually keep with it. Just because the heart is sealed doesn’t mean it isn’t still powering Corben. He yanks the plate off, realizing that the meteor rock has some kind of effect on the Blur and he’s going to use that to his advantage. But… oh… the heart piece is welded to the lead door… And down goes Corben, incapacitated. That sequence of events alone jumps their “fight” into the top 3 showdowns of the series for me.

While we felt there was a renewed energy to the series in Season 8 over the tired Season 6 and exhausted Season 7, there is something altogether different about Season 9. The show truly has shifted into something else entirely. Yeah, there are pastiches of the former show about but the energy, the direction, the overall face of the show is changed. I can’t say for the better or for the worse. It’s a metamorphosis more than anything else.

In just these two episodes, Season 9, to me, is already the most visually arresting season of the series. The cinematography and lighting have evolved and matured, if you will. They seem to be taking some time to establish some iconic shots as well as push to define a changed attitude and atmosphere in the choice of angles, filters and more. That sequence tracking down from the Planet globe to Clark looking out of the city was fantastic, followed by that epic shot of Clark standing on the ledge, looking out over the city with the sun shining on him, his coat lightly blowing like a cape. One of the lasting images of the series right there. In contrast, the switch to a more horror-film look in the scene of Corben after he’s been hit by the truck – with the suitably over-the-top flourish of the river of blood – is both gruesome and vivid. Not to mention the Metallo reveal scene, which had been released in preview but still played just as effectively in the episode. Also, the effective use of reflection in the Watchtower scene where Chloe is helping Clark track down Corben, watching the way he reacts talking about Lois.

Also, I’m not sure how many noticed just how they were lighting Clark in this episode. They had him in sunlight in the beginning, but they began to do real interesting lighting tricks to keep Clark a bit more in the shadows. It’s particularly noticeable in the final scene between Clark and Chloe in the Watchtower. They stare out the window and Chloe is lit in full daylight. Clark has colder, bluer tones thrown on him. This, of course, is lifted when Clark returns to the Planet as “himself”.

Overall, I found ‘Metallo’ an excellent episode that carried the threads from ‘Savior’ over well while still continuing more for the season. I like that Clark is tethered to his life by Lois not just in feeling but in order to keep an eye on her now. The scene of Lois telling Clark a story was just as iconic, in my opinion, as the earlier shots of Clark on top of the building.

I’m interested to see what the ‘Metallo’ experiment brought to the Kandorians and find the connection between the two odd and yet fitting. Also, this idea that there really are hundreds of other Kryptonians out there opens up a lot of avenues. I’m still not a big fan of Kryptonians other than Clark being on Earth, but with Lois’ visions of the future, this looks to play out interestingly. And I have to assume that’s Jor-El who was lying naked in the House of El ‘crop circle’.

Plus, you can’t scoff at the inclusion of Shelby in the story and an all-too-infrequent mention of the lovely Senator Martha Kent. Superbly written by Don whitehead and Holly Henderson, who are far from my fave writers of the series (giving us ‘Arctic’ and ‘Requiem’ among others), and masterfully directed by Mairzee Almas, my favorite director from Season 8. Not to forget Louis Febre’s wonderfully rich score, filled with quite a bit of horror film-like cues as well as epic crescendos throughout. This season keeps building strong.

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