Smallville Episode 9.16 ‘Escape’ Review

Posted on April 3, 2010

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Teaser

TVSummary: A wonderful throwback episode that focuses more on character than plot, reveling in the couplings of the six main cast members.
Rating: 8/10


Review Trailer
The quick skinny on the episode.

Clark and Lois take a weekend vacation at a small bed & breakfast in the countryside only to find Chloe and Oliver are there as well. While at the B&B, the couples run afoul of a centuries old Scottish curse in the form of the Silver Banshee but also the strings that are binding their particular relationships together. Meanwhile, Tess and Zod consummate their relationship and discover that each has bigger secrets than originally thought.

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

Feature-Length Review after the jump.


Feature-Length Review
The in-depth review.

Aww. Clark and Jor-El had the ‘birds and the bees’ talk during his training. How fatherly to sit your son down and coach him in the ways of love. And finally, that puts to rest the most annoying question in Superman fandom: How does the Man of Steel prove his, er, manhood in the bed without concern for his partner.

Personally, I hate the question and feel too much has been made of it. The episode – and writer Genevieve Sparling – present a great, simple solution that I’ve always thought made the most sense and hopefully doesn’t need to be addressed any further. The solution was handled with discretion and humor, something that could be said of the whole episode, surprisingly one of the most fun of the season. This was a character-based episode, even with the focus on DC Comics character Silver Banshee.

For the first time in a significantly long time, I enjoyed Chloe throughout the entire episode. She felt more real and grounded and much closer to the original character than to the shrill, self-righteous, cut-off control-freak she’s become this season. Even her guiding of Clark to various crimes occurring in Metropolis while on the road to the bed & breakfast during the episode teaser felt like a natural pairing and partnership rather than Chloe generaling the troops.

This episode is also the first I’ve bought into the Chlollie relationship. I still feel strongly that this pairing is more the result of the writers not having much to do with either character, but it read more honest this episode than it did at the end of ‘Warrior’ or the brief “booty call” interlude during ‘Conspiracy’. The two going to the B&B was couched in their characters and their individual histories and both Allison Mack and Justin Hartley played the coupling well. Of particular note was their last scene together on the porch where they discussed their wounds and scars. It was nice – and definitive – for Chloe to admit out-loud that any romantic feelings for Clark were a thing of the past. Not to cast too much dispersion at the Chlark ‘shippers, but I hope this is the final signal to indicate that a Chloe and Clark pairing is never going to happen on this series.

This was perfectly encapsulated in the well-written ‘bathroom farce’ scene when Chloe, possessed by the Silver Banshee spirit, tries to present herself to Clark in the shower. Opening with Clark singing a silly song about Lois and moving straight on to Lassie Lois discovering the two friends in what appears to be a compromising position, the scene was note perfect and recalled the jovial nature of the season’s best episode to date, ‘Crossfire’. Chloe snapping to and discovering herself in but a towel with a dripping wet Clark and freaking out made for a great laugh, as did the end of the scene with Clark left standing there holding Lois’ body wash. Continued in the great conversation about the aftermath when Chloe and Clark go searching for Oliver and Lois, this felt like their best connection since last season’s ‘Hex’.

I suppose the Silver Banshee plotline should be addressed. It wasn’t a bad storyline but it also wasn’t particularly strong or important. The best it did – which is actually a very good thing – is help reveal the characters and spotlight their relationships. Thankfully, after seeing the production photos of the Silver Banshee costume – which actually looked fairly faithful to the comics version – they managed to pull her off in the episode with tasteful lighting. I also appreciated Oliver’s joke about her hair. Other than that, Silver Banshee was little more than a ‘freak of the week’ story that served as a backdrop for the main A and B plots. I did like the fact that, although Banshee in her true form and the B&B manager were both played by the same actress (Odessa Rae, they weren’t the same person. Not sure why I found that refreshing but I did.

The true highlight for the episode for me was Clark and Lois. After the couple became, well, a couple, we’ve only had a scant few glimpses into their romantic life. As much as Tom Welling and Erica Durance have great comedic chemistry that breathes strong life into the show, the two play a lovely romantic rapport that you wish was on display more often. Clark and Lois were very much a couple and you could feel the like between the two.

‘Escape’ added a strong visual to all the talk about Lois and Clark liking each other that has gone on this season. It was necessary and most welcome. My heart couldn’t help but swell during the scene where Lois prepares for bed and spies Clark nervously prepping the bed for her. When they crawled into bed and were staring each other in the face, it was a nice intimate moment that continued to sell the couple so well.

I’ve come to find that I like when the writers give Erica Durance more character work than plot work to play with during episodes. She is the defining Lois Lane of her generation and to see her continue to add little wells of depth to the character endears me even more to her. What I liked about her work in this episode was that there weren’t any big gestures she did to add to Lois but she made her feel even more lived in. Her joy for her cousin; her inner giddiness for her first night spent with the love of her life; the impish quality of her cosplay surprise for Clark; the hurt upon the discovery in the bathroom; the naughty grin in the Talon apartment when Clark sat her on the counter. Little moments that add to the believability of a person. And wow, did she look positively gorgeous in her nightie. “Too much?” you questioned, Lois. Not at all. (Great response, by the way, Clark.)

The only thing that didn’t work for me with Lois this episode was the tacked on ending with her discussion with Zod posing as The Blur. Lois’ joy over speaking to the mysterious man in black didn’t feel true and really felt out of place given the intimacy they established between Clark and Lois during the episode. I don’t know if it was the way the scene was shot or the way it was edited but hearing Lois’ part of the conversation as ADR voiceover fueled the off-note feeling. Also, the fact that it was clearly a different voice – which might have been for the audience’s sake, though we’re not that stupid considering we see Clark right there – destroyed the scene for me. It looks very much like they are setting up a ‘triangle’ of sorts with Zod posing as the Blur to play against Clark but this ending felt more like an editorial decision than a natural part of the episode.

Tom Welling impressed me this episode, playing up the comedy aspects, connecting with each of the actors very well, and appearing both manly and Supermanly throughout. It’s always nice to see a Clark that is in control and proactive. His voice was commanding when he was performing his acts of heroism during the teaser and his discussion with Ollie about protecting Chloe was earnest and heartfelt. Also, there was something very salt-of-the-earth, farm boy about him rolling up his sleeves to put the B&B room back together. Not for nothing, the two images of Johnathan really helped define that down-home manliness and DIY nature of the younger Kent. Plus, it’s always nice to see an appearance by John Schneider on the show, connecting the present with the past.

As for the Supermanly, it was great to see Clark’s use of powers again, aside from the blurring. Two uses of heat vision and a use of X-ray vision were great moments, particularly the heat vision defense against Silver Banshee’s sonic attack. There is something, dare I say, reassuring when Clark is in full capacity of his abilities and charges in with his broad chest swaying and his focus clearly on the task at hand. Scenes like this really hand the Last Son of Krypton torch off to Tom.

Cassidy Freeman and Callum Blue were deliciously evil and manipulative this episode as Tess and Zod consummated their relationship. The aggressive qualities of both shone well in their scene in the Kent barn (what an odd place to set the scene) and lent fire to their simmering passion that’s only really been teased at so far. Tess makes for a fine Faora to clone Zod – considering he seems to have no feelings for the clone Faora – a de facto Ursa as well. She also suffers from Lionel Luthor syndrome. Her intentions and actions aren’t clear and not in that fun to keep you guessing kind of way. She seems to be all over the map and it’s not clear specifically what Tess wants with Zod now, especially when you stir in everything with Checkmate. I suppose things will become clearer in next week’s episode.

I liked how they visually set Zod up as a psuedo-Blur right from the get-go. Zod’s been wearing black all season long but his overcoats have tended to be more waist dress coats than black trench coats. They threw him in a black t-shirt and black pants as well, clearly setting up the final reveal at the end of the episode. I’m not sure how I feel about Zod posing as the Blur but it fits very well with his obsession with countering Clark now. Callum invests Zod with such the right underpinning of menace that I’m willing to go along on this ride. I also appreciate that Tess addressed the fact that, now that Zod is powered, he seems less concerned with helping his people than getting at Clark.

‘Escape’ was, for the most part, a tangent from the overall story arc of the season, but it was a rather shrewd choice. Coming back from the spring hiatus, the episode allowed us to reconnect with the characters without them having to shoulder too much plot. I know many would probably look at this as a “filler” episode but it was one that had a very specific direction that spins us off into the final stretch of the season. The entire episode, to me, felt like a throwback to episodes from the early seasons of the series and yet it still fit into the through-line of the current version of the show. Genevieve Sparling should be commended on a great effort, as should director Kevin Fair. I know there are many who didn’t enjoy their earlier effort this season, ‘Roulette’, but I was a fan and I think they compliment each other well. I think Fair has come into his own as one of the premier directors of the show and this was Sparling’s best written episode.

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