Smallville Episode 9.6: ‘Crossfire’ Review

Posted on November 1, 2009

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Teaser

TVSummary: A nearly perfect episode that should be used as the measuring stick for all further episodes of the series.
Rating: 9.5/10


Review Trailer
The quick skinny on the episode.

Clark offers to help Lois land a gig as a morning talk show host, but to their surprise the producers want both as co-hosts for the show. For their premiere story, Lois and Clark agree to go on separate blind dates matched by an online dating service and have them filmed while the other watches on from behind the scenes. Oliver takes it upon himself to mentor and improve the life of a young prostitute. Tess announces plans for LuthorCorp to build a solar tower as an alternative means of energy for Metropolis and is surprised to discover Zod is in charge of the company she is partnering with in the project. Meanwhile, in search of the Kandorians, Chloe runs up against a worthy technical challenge trying to hack into Tess’ LuthorCorp systems.

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

Feature-Length Review after the jump.


Feature-Length Review
The in-depth review.
Callum Blue has redefined villainy on this show that featured such strong, indelible visages of it in the forms Michael Rosenbaum’s Lex Luthor and John Glover’s paterfamilias Lionel. In the few brief moments we’ve shared with Blue’s Major Zod this season, he has presented a breathlessly engaging, fully-formed and fully unrepentant villain who commands the screen. No more so is this encapsulated than in the moment where Zod pokes Tess in the hip during conversation to make sure he has her full attention. It recalls the moment in Season 7’s ‘Apocalypse’ where Lex – or perhaps Rosenbaum – forced Kara to look at him with a word where her eyes had clearly wandered elsewhere. In this case, though, it’s much more sinister. It’s a tiny gesture but one that speaks volumes to Blue’s commitment to the role. The way he chews words and phrases up and slowly lets them seethe out makes this character far more appealing that I’d have thought. I wasn’t looking forward to Zod this season. Now, I can’t wait to see what he does next.

This reintroduction of Zod directly into the lives of the main cast is just one of many things to love about ‘Crossfire’, which is hands-down one of my favorite episodes in the entirety of the series and my favorite of the still-unfolding season. The tone of the episode, the three distinct storylines that all stood up well on their own and yet didn’t detract from one another, the surehanded performances and the spot-on writing all defined what every episode of the “new” Smallville should be.

To stick with the Zod theme for the moment, Cassidy Freeman and Blue burn the screen up together. Their intensities and the way their energies work together are electric and resolutely mature. I mentioned last review for ‘Roulette’ that “romantic” would be the one word I would use to describe this season to date. “Mature” would be the other big one. Even as the characters grew up last season, there was still some of the ol’ familiar teen melodrama present, particularly in the storylines involving Davis Bloome. This season, Zod is presented as very much a man and a directed man at that, putting aside childish things for purpose and consequence. This, in turn, has stepped up Tess’ game and Freeman meets the challenge with relish. Now that they’ve established this wonderful, playful yet diabolical tete a tete between the two characters, the darker side of Smallville has a plentiful sandbox in which to play. Giving Tess a partner in bad is a shrewd idea on the parts of the creative heads at the show. It continues to keep her character relevant and places her in the universe properly, whereas they kind of lost what to do with her in the second half of the season last year.

‘Crossfire’ also presents the first episode of the season in which I’ve liked Chloe. Certainly the first episode since ‘Savior’ that I’ve enjoyed her character in any fashion. I do still miss the adversarial relationship between Clark and Chloe that we witnessed at the beginning of the season. I don’t think they gave it proper enough time to explore. That said, I don’t necessarily mind the role Chloe is playing right now, if only they could make her feel more relevant to the overall storyline. Chloe being behind Oliver’s game in ‘Roulette’ was a good start and this episode goes a long way to bringing her back in. Again, I’m still lost as to what they are doing with her character but it seems much more deliberate now. They are putting pieces together for a bigger role for her outside of the first half of this season, which now intrigues me as to what kind of input Allison Mack gave on the direction of her character. This alliance Chloe has now built with Stuart, Tess’ tech gnome, opens up a few doors. (And a possible romance in the near future?) Coupled with her Big Brother-esque watch over the scattered League heroes and the looser morality over her methods, they are setting Chloe up to be both a godsend to the heroes of the [i]Smallville[/i]-verse and a possible Trojan Horse. Suddenly, her storyline is alive with possibilities and I’m thankful it will give Allison things to do rather than just be a presence on the show simply because she’s been a presence on the show in the past.

The idea of Oliver (Justin Hartley) taking on an apprentice-slash-sidekick is, at once, both an understandable endeavor and a ridiculous notion. Ollie’s hit a breakthrough so he wants to share his experience as well as find a project that keeps him focused. At first, it seemed a bit out of place to have him take this approach in this episode, almost as if we missed a step in the process in between. It does fit Ollie’s character, though, as does his attempt to woo Lois on her blind date. He’s an addict and has a compulsive nature. What Ollie’s doing fits very well in line with those types of personalities and I give credit to the writers for slyly touching on that, intentional or not.

I know plenty are up in arms over the fact that they skipped over Roy Harper as Speedy and went straight to Mia Dearden. I don’t particularly have an issue with it. Far as I’m concerned, there’s only one hero who rightfully deserves to have a sidekick and that’s, ironically, the loner Batman. Robin’s always been the only sidekick that’s ever really worked for me and that has more to do with the relationships between Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne and Tim Drake and Bruce Wayne than it does with Batman needing a traffic-light-colored elf hopping around alongside of him. With the Smallville version of Oliver Queen, it seems fitting that he would pick a hooker up off the street to save her life and mentor her. Besides, Ollie already used the name ‘Roy Connor’ (a nod to both Speedy and the comics’ Oliver’s son and eventual Green Arrow successor) in ‘Odyssey’ last year; and they alluded to Roy’s most infamous storyline last year with Jimmy’s drug addiction and pseudo-sidekicking for Oliver at the very end of the season. So Mia worked for me in the episode and I thought Elise Gatien was great in the role. She and Justin played off one another well and I thought she did good work with a role that read a lot worse on paper. I look forward to seeing her pop up throughout the season.

‘Crossfire’, though, belongs to the shows stars, Lois (Erica Durance) and Clark (Tom Welling). Awash in Louis Febre’s zippy score, the episode presented itself as a screwball romantic comedy with a fantastic set-up: Clark and Lois have to monitor each other on online-matched blind dates, forcing them to face the depths of their feelings for one another. Right from the get-go, this episode put into stark relief the differences between this romantic relationship and Clark’s relationship with Lana. Whereas that relationship dripped in melodrama for drama’s sake, the burgeoning love affair with Lois and Clark feels like two people actually relating to one another. That alone allows the writers to have fun with these two, and since they’ve always had an inherent comical and fun dynamic, it’s like the richest whip cream on top of a decadent sundae.

I couldn’t help but laugh out loud throughout various parts of the Clark and Lois storyline. Their entire interaction during the Good Morning Metropolis audition was priceless. A standout for me was Tom’s delivery of the “I’m sorry” line when the producer told them they’d been hired for the gig. I’ve heard others say that Tom should do a romantic comedy film but I hadn’t really seen enough to believe he could hold his own through one. That line reading and reaction, though, has sold me on him in such a part. Same with his reply to Lois when he got caught up in one of those tricky conversation cul de sacs during their discussion of Lois’ online profile.

Erica was handed the treat this episode of expressing a wide range of emotions and she succeeded well, particularly in the small, subtle shifts both physically and emotionally. To see her play out all the different levels and reversals in Clark’s blind date scene with Catherine (welcome to Smallville, Cat Grant!) was like a savory meal with your favorite dishes at every turn. Both scenes with Oliver allowed her to flash that wonderful dry wit and delivery and also gave her space to ground herself amidst the high-flying romance of her scenes with Clark. In particular, we were given a resolved and sure-footed Lois in the scene at the Ace o’ Clubs with Ollie where she made the choice that Clark was definitely who she wants to be with.

It was beyond relieving to see how confident and sure of himself as a man Clark was in this episode. Even when quietly dealing with his feelings for Lois behind the scenes, he appeared sure of what he wanted. Yes, it took Chloe to toss a line at him to get him off his ass, but rather than feeling forced into a decision, it felt more like a mirror being held up for Clark to confirm his own choice. From the beginning of the episode, Clark’s moves were all about pursuing and being with Lois. At the same time, it wasn’t work or didn’t come across that way. It wasn’t a chess game moving pieces. It was a Clark at peace with his feelings who was only slightly shaken by Ollie’s bold move and admission on Lois’ blind date.

Knowing that the kiss was going to happen in this episode, I was concerned coming in that it would be shoved to the end of the episode as a pseudo-cliffhanger. While it was at the end, it felt organic and informed and not a cheap lead-out. As on-point and committed as Clark was as the Blur saving Ollie and Lois in that stupendous gunfire scene, Clark wasted no time piddling around and got right to business with Lois. To see Clark proactively serve and protect the citizens of Metropolis is uplifting, but seeing a Clark in such command throughout all areas of his life is inspiring. It goes without saying that Clark will be wrung through the ringer this season, but it’s reassuring that they are building such a strong and, well, steeled character now to put through that. And that’s almost as big a jolt as that iconic kiss between our hero and his sweetheart.

‘Crossfire’ is an exceptional standout in a season already full of such quality, depth and superior craftwork. It defines the template upon which each subsequent episode should be built upon. It also shows a commitment on the team’s part to push things forward and steer away from the treading rut that has plagued the series in the past. Momentum is a huge key this season and this episode shows that they still have oodles of it.

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