Smallville Episode 10.18 ‘Booster’ Review

Posted on April 22, 2011


Smallville, Ep. 10.18 'Booster'

Smallville Titles

Summary: An uneven episode that nevertheless introduces the compelling concept of marketing a public face to Clark’s exploits.
Rating: 7.5/10

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

Review Trailer
The quick skinny on the episode.

Booster Gold, a man from the future, comes back to the past to usurp Clark Kent’s destiny. Using historical records – relayed to him by an AI known as “Skeets” – Booster is able to locate trouble and performs acts of heroism that gain him public notice. He wastes no time in milking the notoriety for all its worth, rubbing Clark the wrong way. One of Booster’s saves causes an extraterrestrial technology to fall into the hands of a teen and become a danger to himself and those around him. Meanwhile, Lois attempts to help Clark define his new public face to separate himself from the Blur.

Feature-Length Review
The in-depth review.

Geoff Johns, a DC Comics writer so popular that he was eventually promoted to the big wig of all creative direction of the company, has provided event episodes for Smallville for the past three seasons. To say that his influence has been felt in the series’ move toward a more comic-based reality would be an understatement and each of his episodes now has introduced well-known members of the DC Comics Universe to live-action. Of the three episodes Johns has written (four episodes if you count the two halves of the Season 9 event Absolute Justice, which was produced as two episodes and aired together as one), I would have to say that this is actually his least effective episode, though offers some compelling movement forward toward Clark’s endgame of Superman.

Booster Gold, the man from the 25th Century who stole a power suit and a Legion ring to parade himself as a hero, is actually the perfect character to set up the premise of this episode, the concept of the public image of a hero. While the show has danced around the idea of Clark actually facing the public as a hero, it’s always been talked about in a fashion of “yeah, that’s something I should really figure out”. With three episodes left in the series before the two-part finale, this is a rather significant aspect of the Clark Kent/Superman dynamic that needed to be addressed. By bringing in a glory-mongering braggart to contrast Clark, this brought everything in to stark relief. And while the episode was actually a bit too Booster-heavy, I thought it did an above-average job of showing the positives and pitfalls of public relations.

Though it was full of some great laughs and a couple of superb Clois scenes, the episode grades down for me because it felt a bit too indulgent from Johns. Booster Gold is a character he helped to resuscitate in the comics and who is now enjoying a great deal more importance in the DCU as a result. As a result, I think the script captured the character perfectly. So much credit should go to Eric Martsolf and I’ll elaborate on that shortly. The problem is it felt like there were scenes that were covering the same ground and came across as padded as Booster’s costume. Did we really need three scenes of Booster rehearsing for his acceptance of the key to the city? A couple of the Lois interactions with Booster felt like they could’ve been cobbled together, as well. The script also felt chocked full of DCU brickabrack – Steve Lombard, Ron Troupe, the Daily Star, Dan Garrett – that was a bit geeky fun but also a bit overkill.

Martsolf as Booster Gold was a stroke of casting genius. I’ve had a chance to read through a number of the interviews he gave this week and his enthusiasm for the part really shone through. He talked about the research into the character he did and I think it really appears on-screen. Booster is one of the best translations of character from the comics that the show has ever produced. Martsolf had the appropriate of pungent cockiness with just the right amount of sass to see why crowds would flock to him. At the same time, he invested the character with the appropriate amount of pathos that allowed those quieter moments toward the end of the episode where he mentions parts of his past to really have weight and consequence. The last conversation between Booster and Clark was, well, gold. I thought Martsolf sold that moment where he admits to Clark the error of his ways so well I was actually taken aback at how effective it was. I also enjoyed the moment where he let Clark’s words about looking over Jaime melt in and that new purpose to take over. My hats off to the man for exceptional work. As the episode was so focused on Booster, they had to have the right man to pull it off and I think it was clear they cast him.

In contrast was Jaime Reyes. In full disclosure, I’m not a particular fan of the character. As a result, I haven’t spent a whole lot of time with him. I am a fan of the Ted Kord Blue Beetle, though, and ‘Booster’ did make me sad that we didn’t get to see more interaction between Booster and Kord, a relationship that informs and defines the two heroes in the funny books. Johns created the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle and this brings me back to his indulgence in the script. Reyes wasn’t a very strongly written character in the episode, even though the main threat ended up revolving around him. The concept of the threat felt contrived and convenient, a way just to have Reyes on the show. Perhaps if another scene or two had been spent with the teen, it would brought a little more depth to his arc. I thought Jaren Brandt Bartlett did a serviceable job with a sketch of a character. The convenience of using Reyes as an example for Clark’s bumbling persona was a novel approach, but the scene where Lois tracks him down to take notes on his mannerisms and personality and then coaches him in self-reliance and confidence felt forced. I could also comment on the grotesque appearance of the Blue Beetle armor – was it really effective to give it an Iron Man feel – but I think the limitations of the budget speak for themselves.

I think where Johns really nailed the script were in two scenes with Clark and Lois – the Watchtower scene – and in the use of Cat Grant. I’ve relatively enjoyed the portrayal of Cat Grant this season – though, to be honest, I still actually lean toward Emilie Ullerup’s turn as Catherine Grant and would’ve like to have seen more of that character – but I must admit I was rather tired of her in her last appearance in ‘Icarus’. The Cat written into this story – and Keri Lynn Pratt’s performance – was a bit softer and much more palatable, recalling her quieter moments in the episode ‘Shield’. Her motivation behind her Booster fascination was a good one and worked really well with the dynamic they have created between Cat and Lois. Her insistance that heroes should have a public face also fit into her beliefs that were led astray by Gordon Godfrey earlier in the season. I enjoyed the use of Cat in this outing and also got a hearty laugh out of her in the Boosterette (“Booster Gold Dancers”?) outfit.

I actually wasn’t a huge fan of Lois or Clark for a majority of the runtime this time out. Lois had some great moments that felt like the hard-edged reporter — rewarded in the promotion that takes her out of the basement and upstairs. (I like the fact that Lois is promoted but Clark is left in the basement for the time being.) She also had times where she felt a bit too preachy. I’m not sure if that was the script, if it was Erica Durance’s performance, or if it was Tom Welling’s direction. She was just a bit abrasive at points to me. Clark, though he had a valid reason, really came off jealous and whiny when complaining about Booster early in the episode. I think part of it was kicking Clark off in the story with a little snit-fit about his disguise. That seemed to pervade Tom’s performance throughout until he changed into his Blur duds.

Except … and so much credit has to go to Tom Welling for this … in the moments when he gave over fully to the bumbling Clark Kent persona. His entire interaction with Ted Kord in the warehouse where Kord’s guys were investigating the wrecked SUV had me on the floor. It wasn’t even that you felt like Clark (or Tom) was putting on a great performance. It really felt like he was stumbling around for his words there for a brief moment, which totally sucked me into the persona. When he got to asking to use a restroom because of a milkshake, I would’ve done a spit take if I had been drinking something. It was a wonderful bit of characterization. The only thing I dread about it is it makes Clark seem like an incompetent reporter, something the comic Clark Kent is not. They shouldn’t confuse ineffectuality for mild-mannered. I hope we get to see the persona a few more times before the series shutters to see him really nail it down.

My favorite moment of the episode, though, was the denouement with Clark and Lois at the Kent farm. (Looks like they haven’t gotten that Metropolis apartment just yet.) It was a very touching moment for Clark to share his concern over Lois’ own public persona for falling for and marrying this boob. It’s still a stretch on credulity that people at the Planet have already bought into this new persona, given that they’ve worked with Clark Kent for two years now. Especially Cat, who was all but in love with Clark earlier and now dismisses him as a nobody to Lois. Accepting, for the sake of argument, that they do take Clark at face value now, I think Clark has a very valid concern about Lois. As much as we want to think we aren’t impacted by the thoughts and impression of others, we wouldn’t be human if we weren’t. That Clark was looking out for this woman he loves was special and I loved how tight and intimate Tom shot this scene. Lois wearing the glasses was a lovely touch – and a gorgeous sight – to start the scene and the connection between them was vibrant and alive. I thought the shirt rip was a bit much and kind of out of place, but otherwise everything about the moment was note-perfect.

For the most part, I enjoyed Tom’s direction in the episode. I think because of the story the tone was a somewhat uneven throughout, but he crafted some well-done character moments. I also enjoyed that he chose some rather odd locations for the action to take place. For the most part, an episode about being out in front of the populace was mostly filmed in places that had a behind-the-scenes, backstage kind of feel. This wasn’t Tom’s strongest effort but it was better than ‘Patriot’ earlier this season.

I wish that my experience of ‘Booster’ matched my excitement going into it, but overall I found it to be a good, not great, installment. The episode had some splendidly fun bits, some of the best chuckles of the season, as well as a couple of very strong character beats. I enjoyed the idea that informed ‘Booster’ and I think it was a vital component along Clark’s journey towards becoming Superman. For that, I fall down on the side that doesn’t have a problem with where this episode fell in the run this season. I think using Booster Gold as the catalyst to explore the idea was also a smart decision, but I felt the episode gave a little too much focus on him. That said, this seemed to seed exactly what Clark needs to put on the classic outfit and take on that iconic name.