Smallville Episode 10.5 ‘Isis’ Review

Posted on October 23, 2010


TVSummary: A filler episode worth viewing only for Cassidy Freeman and the last five minutes of the story.
Rating: 6/10 (Adjusted Score 2/26/11; Original Score 7/10)

Review Trailer
The quick skinny on the episode.

Lois is possessed by the spirit of Isis, having accidentally made off with the amulet she saw on exhibition in Egypt. Isis is looking to bring her husband Osiris back to life, which, according to legend, will reek hell on Earth. Oliver deals with the inflated public image his “coming out” as a hero has wrought. Tess again tries to convince Clark and Ollie that she can be trusted to work with them, meanwhile employing a psychiatric specialist to determine the mental state of Alexander, the young clone of Lex Luthor. Clark wrestles with telling Lois his secret and what love actually means to his life and journey.

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

Feature-Length Review after the jump.

Feature-Length Review
The in-depth review.

‘Isis’ is … well … it just is. (So”is” they used it twice. *deflated rimshot*)

But, hey, we got a Black Adam reference out of it.

We have our first true “filler” episode of this final season of Smallville. Yes, there are some key themes for the season arc that are touched on and echoed throughout the episode. By and large, though, these could easily have been transplanted to another episode and nothing would’ve been missed and none would’ve been the wiser. The episode was such filler that there really isn’t much to say about it, save for two key elements.

The first is Cassidy Freeman. She was saddled with some fairly odious dialogue in this episode; she and Justin Hartley both. I’m a romantic but even I was ready to through something through the screen the next time I heard them use the word love so tritely and in such horrendously obnoxious greeting card platitudes. Lovelorn Ollie has become a bigger annoyance to me than drunk-till-his-eyes-were-floating Ollie ever was. While there is a bit more zip to Justin Hartley’s performance, it’s made the character downright boring whenever he’s on-screen and he seems to trot out the same messages every episode so far this season. With only four main castmembers, putting one of them in a rut like this does nothing for the show and serves to weigh on the other characters.

Which is what it did with Tess in a couple of scenes. Poor Cassidy, trooper that she is, did her best to make the scenes and the dialogue digestible and she nearly succeeded. Even her scene with Cat Grant could be stomached, though it was an exercise in obvious writing and sub-par scene work. It must be said that I was really looking forward to Tess’ return this week; she had sat the last two episodes out. I was particularly interested to see the progression of the storyline with Alexander. It was in this storyline that Cassidy really shined this week, though it certainly wasn’t spared the baggage of some rather stale writing on Genevieve Sparling’s part, directing on James Marshall’s end, weak editing or some combination of all three. Indeed, what could have been the basis of a strong ‘A’ storyline in its own episode was chopped into a less-effective ‘C’ storyline.

Cassidy’s work with little Jakob Davies was stellar and nuanced and proves again how much better an actress she is than what they usually give her for Tess to do. Standard-issue Tess throughout the first part of the episode didn’t do much for me and it seemed like kind of an odd choice to return her back to that space, even if she was coldly effective in showing a mirror to Oliver. Even bemused Tess with that bawdy laugh when Cat announced that Lois was the Blur gave me a chuckle but didn’t set me to giving much of a rip about her. The motherly side of Tess, though, won me over and for a moment there I thought I was watching a completely different show. The staging in the chair when they sat down to read Peter Pan was honest and raw and I couldn’t help but feel it was lost in this fluff of an episode.

The same could be said of the scene where Clark and Ollie – who weirdly felt like grown-up Hardy Boys – offer Tess an appointment on their team and use of Watchtower. As a whole scene, starting with the moment Clark enters, I felt this well-written and decidedly character-focused. Clark’s command and leadership were refreshing and carry on nicely from last week’s transition. The exchange Clark and Ollie have about trusting Tess when she takes a moment to herself was a strong choice, both in the writing and the direction. Tom and Justin delivered but nothing could cap that moment when Tess welled up with so much emotion that she had to burst. There wasn’t just validation in their offer, there was salvation. Tess was humbled and Cassidy sold the moment with a stirring performance.

The second key element of the episode was obviously the last scene. I’m reminded of the story of the knight and the lady Julia Roberts’ Vivian tells Richard Gere’s Edward in Pretty Woman. He rescues her from being locked away in the tower and what does she do? “She rescues him right back.” Clark tells Lois his secret and she tells him hers; he’s the Blur, she knows. That leaves us with one of the most endearing moments in the series with the smiles Lois and Clark share before the fade to the credits. In fact, after the 5 years of weight that was lifted off the series last week in ‘Homecoming’, these smiles represented one of the last burdens being let go and they were charmingly real. Louis Febre’s romantic score also did wonderful things for this scene.

I must say that I am kind of liking the way the writers and producers are jerking us around a bit in these key moments. They start a scene one way, letting a knowing excitement build before dashing it away in one, then flipping it around and providing exactly what we’ve always wanted in the next. Seeming to be well aware of their tendency to artificially drag some things out and put up self-fabricated roadblocks, they are doing their damnedest to turn those conventions on their heads and barrel through them.

I sincerely thought that they had found a way to have Clark fall back on old patterns and not tell Lois this week. The ways Tom played the beats and the transitions of the entire sequence were masterful and let me succumb to that little fake of theirs. I did have to watch the scene over and over a few times, though, to take in and appreciate Lois’ jumping on Clark. I love the reveal and I love their interaction once they are on the pile of whatever the hell it is they are on. The transition, though, is a tough one and the jump feels forced. I’m not sure what they could’ve done differently, but the two exchanges on either side of it do help me to turn a wincing eye.

Speaking of eyes – and facial expression – I am thoroughly enjoying the smaller work both Tom Welling and Erica Durance are doing this season. As a result of having significantly more screen time, both have made it a mission to emote more in stillness and tiny moves than in bigger, pressed movements and expressions they’ve done for years. This has actually given a maturity, a softness, and an honest life to Clark, Lois and Clois this year that is precisely what is necessary to stay engaged in their story. Tom, in particular, seems to have either gotten more coaching or found a way within himself to drop pretense and be more genuine with Clark. Perhaps with how full his plate is off-camera, it’s causing him to drop a lot of artifice and just get right to the heart of matters. Whatever his method, it’s noticeable in that he’s become more real and more open.

Erica did a fine job as Isis, though I can’t say I found the character that involving. She was able to tweak just enough small things so that it really didn’t appear to be Lois onscreen. There was a touch of her Faora in the portrayal but he method of speaking wasn’t quite as mannered. All in all, I could see the difference in her character versus others she’s played, including present Lois and Future!Lois seen just last episode. Otherwise, Isis wasn’t much to write home about. I also didn’t care for her line about the backstage tour and Clark being nerdy when Lois awoke from her possession. I think that had more to do with the writing, though.

Keri Lynn Pratt’s return as Cat was serviceable. It was fun to see her and Lois square off, though the physical positioning to get to Clark was too broad a gag for me in this regard. Cat felt like the return to the caricature of the first parts of ‘Shield’ rather than a person with a little more depth that was folded into her in the last half of that episode. This was reinforced by everyone pointing out how annoying and over-the-top she was rather than addressing her like a person. I enjoyed the performance okay, but I was put off by the fact that Cat came off not so much annoying as much as the other characters gross reactions and statements made it out like she was annoying.

‘Isis’ is filler, for the simple fact that the key elements could’ve easily been placed in another episode or episodes and the bulk of the story stands independent of anything else on the show. Some would argue that the theme was about doing all for love and that Clark needed to be shown this lesson to have faith to make the leap he does in the end. This could easily have been shown to him in other ways and wasn’t solely dependent on this particular story to do that. I can’t even call it silly because that would imply less seriousness and an opening to have fun with the episode. In the end, ‘Isis’ didn’t allow us in to have a kitschy time with the character and that made for an hour that didn’t really add to the overall story but for the two key moments mentioned about. Yes, one of those moments was significant in Clark finally letting his guard down to Lois, but one 3-4 minute scene doesn’t excuse the other 39-40 minutes.