Smallville Episode 10.8 ‘Abandoned’ Review

Posted on November 13, 2010

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Teaser

TVSummary: Continuing the theme of ghosts from the past, this strong episode shines a light on obstacles to overcome to reach for the future.
Rating: 8/10 (Adjusted Score 2/26/11; Original Score 8.5/10)


Review Trailer
The quick skinny on the episode.

Tess has a nightmare about an orphanage and a music box and is shocked to find that someone has delivered the very same music box to the Luthor mansion. Along with Clark, Tess checks out the orphanage, run by a woman known as Granny Goodness who erases young girl’s past memories and remolds them into soldiers for a coming war. Meanwhile, the General leaves Lois with a box of items her mother left for her. She opens the box for the first time in 15 years and discovers tapes made by her late mother. Watching the first tape, Lois is inspired to repair the relationship between Clark and Jor-El and goes to the Fortress to talk with the erstwhile computer.

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

Feature-Length Review after the jump.


Feature-Length Review
The in-depth review.

Lutessa… Lutessa, Lutessa…

‘Abandoned’ is the most satisfying episode of the season since ‘Homecoming’ and that’s even with the hollow shell versions of the Female Furies we are presented with. Drew Landis and Julia Swift (batting .500 between the silly, inane ‘Pandora’ and the strong, refreshing twist on Red-K in ‘Upgrade’) manage to effectively weave three distinct tales playing on the theme of lost parents and their sins and foibles, real or perceived. With Kevin Fair’s surehanded direction, the episode features a great style, strong acting and a welcome amount of emotion.

Without a doubt, the most emotional story of the three was Lois’. It featured two exceptional turns by Erica Durance and guest star – and former Lois – Teri Hatcher as Ella Lane, Lois’ deceased mother. While Teri’s role was brief, the scene was poignant and heartfelt. I’m impressed by how connected to Lois she felt and how honest the entire monologue played. Yeah, the words weren’t always the height of drama or eloquence, but that made it real and all the more moving. And Erica’s vulnerable reaction to it was just as sincere.

These two created, in a single scene, a swell of emotion that many shows don’t generate in a season. It’s all the more interesting because the two actresses hadn’t even met and didn’t work together in the scene. Kudos to Teri Hatcher for one of the best appearances by a Superman saga alumnus. Also, to the convention of the tapes. The inspiration came from a real-life analog from behind-the-scenes with one of the writing staff’s friends and it was a fitting tribute. A nice and unique way to touch on the past that is distinctly different than the other “ghosts” we’ve seen so far this season.

Interestingly, the one storyline that didn’t connect as well for me was Clark’s. He seemed to be a bit distant this episode. I’m not sure if that’s the writing or perhaps on Tom Welling. He didn’t seem to offer that soft of a shoulder for Lois to lean on during the opening of the box scene. In fact, I thought his “I should be out on patrol” deal was borderline cold. I’m not quite sure what was going on in the scene with Clark but it didn’t seem very compassionate. (Thankfully, he did throw in an “I can stay if you need me” or it would’ve felt entirely like Lois could’ve just been talking to the Fortress in this bit as well.) I also found it a little odd that he just had his Blur jacket hanging out on the coat peg in the kitchen.

After that scene, Tom seemed to be more open, warm and inviting in general. His scenes with Tess were touching, particularly the one after he rescues her from hanging at the orphanage. I also got great joy out of seeing Clark actually use the Watchtower equipment in an effective manner. Though, Superman has microscopic vision. It would’ve been nice to see him look at the label on the bottom of the music box with his own eyes instead of using the computer.

Try as I might, though, I wasn’t as emotional through the Jor-El and Lara scene as I was with Lois and her mom. First off, it seems weird that this would be the first time a message like this would play. Or any other visual message, for that matter. I did get the feeling the Julian Sands was attempting ever so slightly to match Terence Stamp’s voice to give a real connection to the Fortress AI. However, I’m just not big on Sands as Jor-El, so the whole thing lost a bit of depth and feeling for me. The whole conversation also was written very oddly and I found myself at points wondering just where it was going. In the end, I did find it nice that they tried to reconcile the various perceptions of Jor-El. Though, it should be noted that it was the writers and producers who created three or four distinctly different persona for the character throughout the series. It would’ve been nice to tie everything together better with Stamp voicing the Jor-El AI and reconnecting with Clark. It was nice to see Sands and Helen Slater for continuity’s sake, though. It did have to make you wonder why Clark and Zor-El are the only two in the House of El who aren’t blonde.

Speaking of continuity, I have to express how fantastic it is that they pulled Pamela Jenkins back into the story all these years later. For those who don’t recall, she was Lex’s nanny who was sent away by Lionel when Lillian Luthor died. As always, it appears there was more to the story. I have to say, I’m not a huge fan of the idea of Tess being a Luthor. (And Smallville‘s version of Lena Luthor, no less.) This was brought up as a spoiler weeks ago and I was really hoping it would work out not to be true. It just seems to host a whole slew of problems, the biggest of which being the nature of the relationship half-siblings Lex and Tess had. It was implied there was romantic love and quite possibly sex between the two at some point. But just like the Veritas portion of the Luthor crest seen in the stained glass window at the end of ‘Abandoned’, perhaps it will be casually dismissed and forgotten about.

Not exceptionally thrilled with the name either. Lutessa Luthor. That’s a bit gamey.

I was thrilled to see a John Glover-alike in the flashback scene to Little Lutessa’s arrive at the orphanage. I was also astonished with Christine Willes’ portrayal of Granny Goodness. A fair bit different from the standard vision and version of Granny – particularly Ed Asner’s notable vocal performances in a number of animated projects – she was nonetheless the most effective of the versions for my money. By turns sweet, eerie and downright vicious, Willes embodied everything about Granny that makes her such a formidable adversary and she was thoroughly convincing throughout. I’ve enjoyed her since catching her on Dead Like Me but I must say I didn’t expect such a vastly different and well-defined character as this. I look forward to what else she brings to the season. I also like this triumvirate they’ve established with Godfrey, Desaad and Granny to corrupt people in preparation for Darkseid’s coming. (And they finally say the name in reference to the being.)

Cassidy Freeman continues to shine this season and, for the first time, we really get the sense of such an inner life of Tess. I like that she still has that bitchy ferocity that could easily cast her as one of the Furies in Granny’s army. I love her vulnerability as Cassidy has an amazing way of pulling back the covers in correct measure. I admire and adore the sense of honor, pride and accomplishment she feels by being a part of the team. And I enjoy that sense of strong-willed righteousness she has.

The one thing I really appreciate about this backstory that they are giving her is it feels very much of Tess. I know that they’ve made her allegiances and motivations so wishy-washy in the past, but her personality traits speak volumes about the backstory they are painting for her now. I’ll reserve judgment on the whole Luthor thing for now. (Though, I hate how, once again, it serves to make everything feel so much smaller and insular than the show and these people should.)

As I said in the beginning, ‘Abandoned’ was an extremely satisfying episode. Aside from the Female Furies being but pale imitations of the characters from the comics they’re based on and the Tess Luthor development, I enjoyed the episode from start to finish. They even found time for a dorky cool, had-to-laugh moment when Clark took out the Fury off-camera by basically running into her to knock her out and tie her up lickety-split. I do have to admit to a groan, though, with the ‘Somebody Save Me’ young Tess carved into her wall. Thankfully, they didn’t goose it with an abrupt musical nod to the theme song.

Kevin Fair continues to impress me as one of the preeminent directors on the show. The black-and-white, horror stylizing of Tess’ nightmare was appropriate and just the right amount of flair without trying too desperate to be cool. (Unlike last year’s slow-motion-o-rama ‘Checkmate’.) Same with the dissolve from the drawing of the orphanage to the memory of Lionel dropping Tess off. The shift from black-and-white to muted blown-out color was superb. Everything he shot served a purpose and felt staged very well.

Once again, we are left with forward movement. This idea of facing the past as means to propel everyone toward the future is working. The three stories of this episode position each of the three cast members for big decisions and turns of event in the next three episodes before the mid-season break. ‘Abandoned’ doesn’t leave us hanging but whets our appetite for more.

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