Smallville Episode 10.20 ‘Prophecy’ Review

Posted on May 7, 2011


Smallville, Ep. 10.20 'Prophecy'

Smallville Titles

Summary: An effective, if slightly more than above-average, preamble to the series finale that sets up the appropriate questions to end the series on.
Rating: 7/10

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

Review Trailer
The quick skinny on the episode.

Clark brings Lois to the Fortress to announce to Jor-El that they intend to marry. Jor-El offers a test of their relationship by stripping Clark of his powers and giving them to Lois. Lois discovers a plot to take over the city’s water supply, leading her and Clark to a clothing store that Courtney Whitmore, aka Stargirl, is muscling into selling. Courtney is being controlled by a device created by Winslow Schott, the Toyman, and when Lois confronts him she has to make a choice that could put Clark’s life in danger. Meanwhile, Oliver searches for the Bow of Orion to fight the darkness, running into Kara, who is looking for the same thing.

Feature-Length Review
The in-depth review.

“…freeze breath -”
Arctic breath.”

Harkening back to the conversation where Clark talked about his microscopic vision earlier this season and declared it was his power and he could call it what he wants, this was one of many purely delightful exchanges on display in ‘Prophecy’. The episode benefited from the strengths of its two writers and only occasionally ran into issues of pacing and structure. Though there is one glaring flaw that takes the episode down a notch. (More on that later.)

As seems to be a pattern these last few weeks, this episode was focused on character and uninterrupted dialogues between characters that let people connect and meaning linger. For me, this has been fantastic because it actually gives them life rather than merely advancing the plot or turning some cheesy pop-culture-laden phrase in an effort to be cute, as is often the case on the show. It also gives the actors a chance to layer their performances within a scene, showcasing the quality of their work. The dialogue itself also seems to be more fluent and less forced. In particular, the scenes between Clark and Lois, Ollie and Kara, and Lois and Toyman really shone.

The surface premise of the episode – that Lois is given Clark’s powers and Clark is stripped of his – was a bit of a powderkeg but also a little trite. We’ve had examinations of others with Clark’s powers before on the show and the number of times Clark has lost his powers is too numerous to count on just two hands. (In fact, I believe this is the third time this season alone, even though one of those times was in the virtual reality world in the dreadful ‘Collateral’ at midseason.) I have to say, though, that they handled it quite well, even if the premise and execution borrowed heavily from a similar episode of the series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. In that series’ ‘Ultrawoman’, Clark’s powers are accidentally transferred to Lois and she goes full-bore with them, assuming her own hero identity complete with costume sewn by Martha Kent. Thankfully, the Smallville episode didn’t offer enough time for Lois to take a similar path, though she did manage to complete a few super-saves of her own, much to Clark’s chagrin.

The point of both the Lois & Clark and Smallville episodes was the simple time-honored trial of walking in another person’s shoes, to truly understand how the other lives. It’s interesting that both episodes revolved around the Clois proposal/marriage. Also, interesting that the outcomes of both were so different. On L&C, Lois’ eyes are opened to Clark’s day-to-day struggle and it causes her to reconsider Clark’s marriage proposal, which she had initially turned down because of his deception regarding being Superman. Conversely, Smallville‘s Lois feels guilty about taking Clark away from his duty to the world, so much so that she breaks off their engagement. I must say that there is a part of me that finds this drama a bit forced and certainly frustrating. There is also a part of me that is appreciative that they are exploring this aspect of their relationship and just what exactly marriage means to it in the long-run.

I thought the scene outdoors at the pizza place where Clark helps Lois to focus on superhearing inside the clothing store was a marvelous scene and illustrated very well the idea of what Clark experiences constantly. That Clark was so composed in delegating how Lois should focus her hearing and attention was very telling of how far he’s come. It was a well-written scene and I enjoyed what Tom Welling and Erica Durance both brought to it. They were a couple, they were individual characters, and their reactions were note-perfect. This really helped to inform the final scene and Lois’ decision. And, for as frustrating as it was, that final scene was a heartbreaker. What a beautiful, committed performance by Durance, particularly during the part of the scene where Lois gives Clark back the engagement ring. The camera stayed focused on Erica’s face the entire time, even neglecting Clark’s reaction – loved the quiet “What is this?” line reading from Welling – and I thought it was a wise choice to truly reflect the burden of her decision.

That decision, while again very frustrating, plays upon the actual theme of the episode, which is balance. It was something brought up explicitly in the Ollie/Kara storyline and threaded throughout the Clark/Lois storyline, which he brings up at the end in talking about how he copes with the world’s ills. I love that Clark seems to have found that balance. In making his choice to move forward with his life without Jor-El and without Jonathan Kent, having learned from them what he can, Clark practically chose to be Superman in this episode. They made a strong point of that in the scene where Clark visits Toyman after his plan had been thwarted. His line – and Tom’s delivery – about banding together whoever Toyman wants and Clark being there to stop them was classic, and again demonstrated a Clark who is now sure of who he is. I got a kick out of them giving Toyman’s POV of the ‘S’ shield on Clark’s jacket. It was a distinct visual cue in two ways: one, it underlined exactly what Clark was saying; and two, the fact that it wasn’t zipped up to be a completed symbol let us know that there is one final piece of the puzzle to put in place. I don’t know if that was written into the script that way or if it was director Michael Rohl’s choice, but it was a terrific cue either way.

Overall, though, I wasn’t as impressed with Rohl’s direction this episode as I have been in the past. There were far too many close-ups for my taste and it felt more distracting than participating in the proper vibe. I did enjoy the adventure feel he gave to the scenes with Oliver and Kara in the tomb on the Irish coast, coupled with Louis Febre’s wonderful score during these scenes. I’m a sucker for a good adventure story and having Ollie in full-on Indiana Jones mode was a righteous delight. Incorporating Kara into his quest was actually a smart choice, giving Ollie an ally who really didn’t know him well enough to dig too far with questions into what he was doing. I’m haven’t held back on my distaste for the character of Kara, but I did find her engaging and capable enough during the first half of the episode that I didn’t mind her being here. I thought she and Ollie worked together well and Laura Vandervoort and Justin Hartley had a good rapport that sold some great dialogue between the two.

The only thing that really bugged me about Kara in this episode was the abrupt way that they shunted her off into her “destiny”. They crack the vault for the Bow of Orion and suddenly Jor-El calls her off? I thought it was silly and rather ham-fisted. I know they needed to give a plausible reason for why Kara isn’t around as Clark ascends to his role as Superman. Sending her into the future with the Legion is not only something from the comics but actually makes sense in the context. I just wished that they executed this transition better, as the scene between Kara and Jor-El at the Fortress thudded like a heavy weight right in the middle of everything. The exchange between them wasn’t bad. It just felt out of place.

I must say I was surprised by Granny Goodness’ entrance and the fact that she took out the Bow of Orion. It was a nice little twist and it felt like a valid reason as to why the story is rolling into two more hours rather than one. It was also a pleasure to see Christine Willes on the show again, and I wish that they were able to give us more of Granny this season. Knowing the history of the New Gods and that Orion is destined to fight and kill his father Darkseid, it seemed a bit convenient (though a cool reference) that they would track down this all-powerful weapon to set up the final fight. For all the importance of the weapon, it also seemed relatively easy for Ollie to get his hands on it, which is why I love that Granny was able to take it from his so fast and destroy it. No easy outs, especially for Ollie, whose Omega mark of darkness finally plays out. It’ll be interesting to see how the Gold Kryptonite factors into the two-part finale and more interesting to see how Clark is able to save his friend from Darkseid’s control.

A few things I really appreciated in the episode: Toyman talking about the end of Clark and Lana’s time together in ‘Requiem’, for continuity more so than the reference to a rather dark blotch on the overal story; the use of the New Gods storyline without bogging everything down in too much exposition; Toyman speaking to what was likely Lex Luthor on the phone prior to Clark arriving; the shout-out to J’onn J’onzz, as it appears we will likely (and sadly) not see Phil Morris on the series again; and Clark’s final interaction with Jor-El in the Fortress. Though I expected him to actually get the Superman suit at the end, this gives them a reason why he doesn’t put it on so early (if at all) in the finale. He’s ready to. It’s just a matter of actually getting the suit and putting it on now. My guess is Martha or Jonathan (ghost?) are going to give him the final reason why he should use the suit.

Something I didn’t appreciate (the glaring flaw): Lois’ irrational decision to wear Toyman’s device. That seemed illogical, especially with Lois having risked life and limb (although not really) earlier in the day and having just demonstrated her speed with grabbing the phone. I know they were trying to set-up a time crunch and perhaps make it borderline impossible for Lois to have stopped the villains from getting to Clark, but the whole thing played like a bad writer’s twist rather than something proper to the story. Almost as frustrating as Lois’ decision to split with Clark.

All in all, I enjoyed ‘Prophecy’ more than I thought I would, though it’s really an above average episode with engaging dialogue scenes when you come down to it. There were many pitfalls associated with giving Lois Clark’s powers and I think they managed to avoid them, save for Lois’ idiotic decision with Toyman. The episode really became less about that and more about the influence of good and evil in our lives and Clark’s part in that. I was thankful that they really kept to a minimum the scenes of Lois using Clark’s powers. I think if the episode had gotten bogged down in the “coolness” factor and the comedy of it, it would’ve been far less effective. ‘Prophecy’ also served to drive home again how much the show has transitioned into such a comics-focused series. I’m not sure I could ever have imagined a time when Solomon Grundy, Captain Cold and Black Manta would be putting in appearances, albeit wordless cameos. The biggest accomplishment of ‘Prophecy’ is I felt that it did a good job of setting up ‘Finale’, leaving many questions – and the right questions – opened and unanswered. Though I know of some specific events that are happening, I can say that I really don’t have any idea how the two final episodes are going to go.