Advance Review: Smallville "Savior" Written by Craig Byrne - KryptonSite Webmaster
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The Smallville Season 9 premiere airs on September 25, 2009.
As a show enters its ninth season and takes on a new timeslot, it's no surprise that a show will evolve over time. Some changes are a bit more fluid than others over the years, and some seem a bit sudden, but in the case of Smallville's Season 9 premiere, the show picks up where they left off and then some.
I've made no secret of the fact that I was not a big fan of the previous season finale, "Doomsday." Fortunately, a lot of the "out there" aspects of the episode are quickly moved away from and there is a much stronger emphasis on character this time around. Those who may have been turned off by "Doomsday" will hopefully be happy with the advancement.
Before I start with the review, let me share the episode's spoiler-filled official description, to share some idea of what I'm talking about:
BRIAN AUSTIN GREEN (“TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES”) GUEST STARS AS JOHN CORBEN — Clark (Tom Welling) tells Jor-El he’s ready to start his training, but Jor-El sends him back to Metropolis to cut ties with Lois before he can begin. Chloe (Allison Mack) is shocked when Lois (Erica Durance) suddenly reappears after having been missing for weeks, but Lois has no recollection of vanishing into thin air with the Legion ring. While investigating a monorail crash, Lois meets John Corben (guest star Brian Austin Green), a new reporter at The Daily Planet, with a negative attitude toward the Red-Blue Blur. Chloe begs Clark to use the Legion ring to go back in time to save Jimmy, but he refuses, driving a wedge into their friendship. Meanwhile, Oliver (Justin Hartley) continues down a dark road, and Zod (Callum Blue) arrives at the Luthor mansion. Kevin Fair directed the episode written by Brian Peterson & Kelly Souders (#3X5251)
With that said, and avoiding more spoilers than what is said up above... the show picks up three weeks after the events of the last episode. Clark has finally been training with Jor-El and he's taken on a not-so-red, not-so-blue new outfit. Lois ends up on a train with no idea where she's been, and there's a Kryptonian "ninja-chick" chasing after her for some reason. The Daily Planet has a new reporter in John Corben, and Tess Mercer has awakened Major Zod and his army from Kandor. Chloe, rattled by the events of "Doomsday," meets with Dr. Hamilton and plans her next move. (That's really nothing that's not said up above, and nothing that's not seen in the official images, but just repeating the details a bit)
One element that works with this episode is that Clark acts like a hero. Yes, he's turned his back on humanity a bit, but not quite in the way that "Kal" did; there's something inside of him that still holds on to his human connections, and that may be what's holding him back. I wonder if Tom Welling had any creative input to this direction for his character because it's the strongest and most proactive I've seen Clark in a while.
Fans of Erica Durance's Lois Lane will be happy to know that Lois is front and center. Her adoration of the "Blur" and nearly blind devotion reminds me a lot of Margot Kidder's take on the character in the movies. In addition to her scenes communicating with Clark, Erica has a nice reunion with Chloe and even finally shares another moment with Justin Hartley's Oliver. I was especially happy to see Lois and Oliver sharing the screen again for what feels like the first time since "Bride." Erica and Justin have such a good chemistry that even if their characters are no longer romantic, they really pop.
Also introduced here is Brian Austin Green as Daily Planet reporter John Corben. His character of "Derek Reese" was one of my two favorite characters on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles so he's welcome on Smallville any time. He shares most of his scenes with Erica Durance, and there's a scene in the episode that echoes a moment from last season's premiere.
We see more of the Watchtower very early on in the episode, and in many ways it resembles the TARDIS from Doctor Who. Very cool design, though it'll still perplex me how Jimmy Olsen - I mean, Henry ever afforded it. Alessandro Juliani's Dr. Hamilton is finally growing on me, and although it's too soon for another romantic interest for Chloe, I see some chemistry happening there as well. I've been a bit critical in the past of Dr. Hamilton, preferring John Jones as the show's resident technobabble exposition giver, but I've got to say his material in "Savior" is really darn good.
Also really impressive is what seems to be the effects budget for the premiere. While most shows appear to fall down further and further from year to year, it seems a lot of effort was placed into creating some really fantastic stunts and effects - effectively looking like the budget went upward rather than downward. I hope this continues. Beyond that - the camera filters used, particularly in the scenes within the Luthor mansion with Zod - give the scenes unique atmosphere which I liked.
I had assumed that Sam Witwer would be continuing with Smallville for Season 9 but instead playing Zod this time around. As much as I liked Sam, the casting of Callum Blue is one of Smallville's best casting choices. Picture him balding and with a beard and he's the spitting image of the man from the movies who would insist that everybody kneels before him. I would not be surprised if he studied Terence Stamp's interpretation of the character like John Glover studied Marlon Brando's "Jor-El" for "Hidden" several years ago. Definitely cool, and I'm interested in seeing where his storyline with Tess goes. (Speaking of Tess, how is she going to react when she sees Lois again?) Zod, of course, asks for people to kneel before him, and although that runs the risk of being comical, it runs more towards the level of geek-out awesome.
The relationship between Clark and Chloe has become greatly fractured, and I know there's a segment of the audience who might not necessarily dig the Watchtower thing. Only one episode in, I think it's too soon to tell where they're going, but their interaction seems to be very tense. I wouldn't be surprised if Chloe goes off and organizes her own heroics while Clark spends time "finding himself."
Smallville's season premiere successfully does something that I hope continues throughout the season - they have set out a very intriguing arc for the season that puts everyone in danger, and it seems it's leading to something fantastic. Hopefully it won't peter out into a 3-minute confrontation like Doomsday did, but I'm optimistic that something like that won't happen again. A lot of "what's to come" is teased in Lois's vision of the future at the episode's conclusion. If you think the dream is just about "Clois sex," you don't know the half of it.
The only part of the season premiere that really didn't sit well with me is the implication (also seen in the official description) that Clark must say goodbye to Lois before he can fully embrace his Kryptonian self. Maybe it's more of a concept of "well, he already said goodbye to Chloe, and maybe he said goodbye to Martha off camera, and Lois has been gone for 3 weeks so he never got a chance" but it just seemed a little forced. If Clark and Lois (rather than the Blur and Lois) are going to be romantic, it can build; to imply that she's the only thing holding him back is a little odd to me.
I also am not 100% sure what I think of Clark's new "costume." Maybe it's a temporary stop-gap (before his mother makes his "official" one) - and I admit it does look cool - but I can't help but wonder what happens when Lois or someone else wakes up and sees Clark wearing it. It's not very "secret identity." At times, I also got the feeling that Clark thinks he's the Dark Knight. He's not - and that's what makes Clark Kent and Superman such a fascinating character. The promos for the episode describe him as a "beacon of light" - so let's see that. Even if it's a darker red and blue, the Man of Steel needs a little more color. And Clark Kent might have to start wearing glasses already.
I was really worried about how Season 9 would turn out, but I'm thankful to say that for "Savior," Smallville feels, again, like what it's supposed to be - a TV series about Superman. Hopefully the producers will embrace that in Season 9 and finally let the man fly. Now let's just hope everyone feels the buzz and remembers to tune in on Friday, September 25 to see how this all plays out.