HUGE SPOILER WARNING: Do not read this review if you haven't yet seen this episode, otherwise it'll spoil you rotten. You need to fire up the TiVO or download the iTunes and watch this episode. Just be sure to come back when you're done, I have a lot of things to say about it.
NOTE: Before I start the review, I want to talk about a couple of things that will be a first for Smallville: Tom Welling as a Co-Executive Producer and Clark's first time wearing the iconic symbol of the House of El.
According to statements that Tom and the other Executive Producers had made in the press, Tom's name being in the credits is just formalizing a role he's always performed on set: being an intermediary between the set and the front-office. Yet I think giving him that credit officially is a good thing: his name on the show will hopefully help him keep it focused on what it should be focused on. I believe he is the best advocate on set for Clark. The formalized nature of his extra responsibilities also prove he's more to the show than just the leading actor, but I hope Tom's increased duties don't negatively impact Clark's presence in the show. I'd hate to see Clark's already degraded screen time the past few seasons get worse. Tom Welling's portrayal of Clark Kent is why I watch. It's a Superman show, after all, so I think everyone would probably agree that we need to see as much of Clark as possible. Unfortunately, this first episode didn't have as much of Clark as I think it should have had so I hope this isn't a sign of things to come.
The iconic Superman 'S' chevron, which mythos says is the shield shaped sign of the House of El, made its first appearance on Clark's chest in this episode. The symbol itself had been seen before, it was first seen back in the 5th Season I believe, and there have been a lot of in-jokes instances of the iconic symbol, but this is first time Clark has actually worn it. The new 'suit' which has a black t-shirt with a silver 'S' symbol painted on it made its debut in this episode, but we first got a look at it during a season 9 sneak peek from Comic-Con back in July. There's been a lot of talk, both online and by some media outlets, about this new suit since then. Everyone seems to have an opinion about it so I suppose I should add my two cents.
I like it. I'm not completely wild about the design of the coat, at least not in the still images I've seen of it online (the bottom of the coat doesn't appear to be voluminous enough), but there wasn't a good enough shot of him wearing it in the show to make me hate it either. I guess only time will tell if I like it or not, but the somber suit fits Clark. The black and silver color scheme echoes the black costume with a silver Superman symbol he wore in the comics immediately following Superman's 'death' at the hands of Doomsday.
However, unlike the comics, this Clark didn't really die, or even 'die', but he had gone through what was essentially a metaphorical death. At the end of last season, Clark walked away from humanity and his emotional ties to the human world that he grew up in. Kal-El of Krypton rejected the human side of him and tried to 'kill' Clark Kent... (Although, it doesn't look like it had worked.)
And, let's not forget, this is his first try at making a suit based on what he knows and what he can do. I can't see Clark having his mom teaching him how to sew. This airbrushed symbol and full-length coat is a very masculine first attempt at a suit, a bit crude and not as form-fitting as the more traditional skin-tight suit, but in essence the same idea is there.
In addition to being a first try at a uniform or suit, this is also a mourning outfit, of a sort. He's grieving the loss of his humanity and his darker, more somber wardrobe is reflecting that.
So, for now, I'll have to say that I like it because it fits where he is in the show and his more business-like attitude toward his Superhero gig.
Well, this isn't exactly what I'd expected. It didn't have as much Clark and Chloe as I would have liked and as much as I love Lois, she actually was in this too much. During my first screening of this episode, I actually found myself getting a bit bored with her by the end of the second act. (Although, things did pick up for her later on and I didn't have the same problem with subsequent viewings for some reason.) But I think my main problem with this episode was that it didn't seem to flow well.
Written by Executive Producers Kelly Souders & Brian Peterson, the things that happened in this seemed to almost be like someone was crossing off items off of a shopping list: this happened and then that happened and then there was this next thing, etc. Although the action generally picked up in later acts and that sort of laundry list type of flow wasn't as noticeable when it got to where everything was more or less chugging along.
While I think the episode didn't flow completely smoothly, I think "Savior" mostly succeeded at doing what it needed to do: setup complications to be explored further in later episodes.
The episode started out with a terrific tease, which ended showing Clark wearing his new Matrix-like outfit. I liked that part of the episode, actually. With a majestic score by Louis Febre playing underneath the scene, Clark stood there on top of a building, a hero protecting his city.
The moment was more like a Batman one than a Superman one, but like I said up above: I think that suit and his new somber attitude fits where Clark is mentally right now. He's in a darker and lonelier place than he normally is. Clark walked away from his life, from everyone he loves, at the end of last season in an attempt to push away anything that is human about him. He told Chloe that he's trying to stay focused. A more business-like Superhero, he even dresses the part now.
While in general I didn't mind the darker tone of this episode, or even the episodic feel of the way the different storylines were presented, there were a few problems. The act breaks weren't the best, they didn't always end as strongly as I would have liked, but the stakes still kept on rising for Clark and everyone else.
I'm not sure what I think about Zod's appearance yet. There must be some weird time traveling thing going on since he's a major, instead of a general, and he's far younger than I would have expected. Also, they mentioned Kandor and Tess mentioned the orb several times: who was the voice in the orb? How does Kandor (traditionally a miniaturized bottled city in the comics... well, at least until recently) fit into all this? It's an enigma, especially combined with none of the Kryptonians having their powers and there supposedly being hundreds, not just dozens, more out there that Zod was looking for.
One thing I do know is that Callum Blue was the perfect casting choice for Zod, even despite being a younger, less senior officer in the Kryptonian military. More about Callum in the acting section, but if this episode is any indication he should prove to be a fantastic addition to the show.
Another thing I do know is that I adore how scheming and manipulative Zod is. He correctly sizes up Tess in mere minutes and when she tries to get the upper hand, both mentally with her pricking him apart, and physically, by her ham-handed attempt to garrote him, he knocks her down and shows her who really is in control.
That whole scene was awesome. I love that he told her just how he would have taken her apart and gotten the info out of her that he needed. She seemed a bit shaken by the show of his casual and silky-smooth menace, but her attempts to get back into control only pissed him off. Yet, he saw the need to work with her.
The 'trial' scene in the mansion was terrific. He used his troops' own fears against them. Zod didn't give them any answers, but he made it clear that he's the man to follow. It was believable that they would. Though not quite as powerful as the St. David's Day speech in Shakespeare's Henry V (who could really top that anyway?), I still loved how Zod rallied his troops and brought them back into the fold. The whole scene was awesome.
Actually, I loved every second that Callum was on the screen. Zod's an intriguing villain. I can't wait to see what he does next.
I loved that Tess was planning ahead and tried to get the goods on the Kryptonian overlord wannabes, but I'm almost glad she didn't succeed. It really ups the stakes for her. She's smart enough to see what a dangerous man he is, especially since he has no clue why he's on Earth or even how he and his soldiers got there. She knows what a single Kryptonian can do. So, she must realize what dozens of hostile militaristic ones could do... The stakes are very high.
Showing John Corben before he becomes his alter ego Metallo, a transformation that apparently happens in the next episode going by the previews, is an interesting choice. Him being a journalist harks back to his original origin story. Then, reporter John Corben had romanced Lois (and had been a rival to Clark) prior to his transformation into Metallo. So, being a slightly creepy guy chasing Lois isn't a bad way to start. I'm looking forward to seeing more of him in the next episode.
I loved the ending dream that Lois had. There were so many little tantalizing tidbits from the future (and likely future episodes) that I can't wait to see what it is she can't remember.
While I overall liked the episode, I do think the pacing was a bit uneven. One problem with that was the Lois storyline. That did seem to slow things down the first couple of acts. The tease started so well, but until the end of the second act after Chloe talked to Clark and Alia torched Lois' picture, it was like they put brakes on. The momentum just ground to a halt.
I know Lois is falling in love with the Blur, as she perhaps should given where her story goes later on after this show will end, but she seemed a bit too starry eyed about him. I think it was laid on a bit thick and I think they lingered too long on her looking for him, although I did like the meet-cute scene with John Corben and the little scene in the street at the phone booth.
I'm glad Chloe has found something to do aside from being a reporter, but was it in character for her to get so melodramatic with Clark about Jimmy? Sorry, but I didn't buy it. Yeah, she loved Jimmy and she has her own guilt to bear, but has it gotten to the point where she needs to push Clark away? I didn't think so. Chloe seems to say and do things like this lately because the writers need to figure out some way to create conflict between Clark and his best friend. Again, like it had before, it came off as a tad contrived.
Chloe knows what happened back in Season 5. She knows that saving Lana caused Clark to lose his father. She knows that Fate had a price to pay for tampering with the past.
There was one other major contrivance that , as much as I love Justin Hartley and Oliver Queen, it really makes it seem the only reason they keep him around is so that Justin can show off his remarkably prominent chest muscles. How in the world does Oliver's downward spiral into self-destructive behavior equal getting involved in illicit cage fights? Fights where he, and about two dozen other hunky guys, need to do battle while shirtless? I enjoy shirtless eye-candy as much as the next beef-cake admiring person, but seriously? Was that really necessary?
I guess it's better than Kara a few seasons ago coming into the Kent farmhouse carrying a surfboard (and wearing a bikini). Maybe Coast City was close enough for Supergirl to fly back to Kansas after catching a few waves without anyone noticing the airborne surfboard. However, I think Oliver's nearly unending desire to shed his shirt proves that the writers probably still have a few things to learn about objectifying Smallville's very attractive cast in less contrived ways.
So, I'm not sure this was the best outing for the writing/producing pair, but overall it overcame any deficits and they produced a very enjoyable episode. I liked how they laid the groundwork for complications in future episodes. Introducing John Corben when he was human, before he becomes Metallo, whom we'll see more of in the next episode, was an excellent choice. It'll give his origin some context. I can't wait to see him and Zod next and I want to see where this woman from the future, one of Zod's followers, comes into play later and what Clark plans to do about Lois and learning to fly. Despite a few hiccups, this episode was an excellent start to the season for the Writers/Producers.
Tom Welling was terrific. I'm just sorry that Clark wasn't in this more. I loved how resolved and heroic Tom played Clark. Probably his best two scenes were with Chloe and Lois. Chloe was devastated in the barn scene about Jimmy and wanted so badly for Clark to fix what they'd done wrong, and the way that Tom played Clark made it clear that he was torn. He wanted to help Chloe mend her broken heart, but he just couldn't. It was a touching scene and Tom played it perfectly, just enough emotion but not too much.
And then the final talk with Lois over the phone was also perfectly played. He wants so badly to become who he should become, but it's so hard to leave Lois behind. She personifies what he likes so much about humanity. It's very sweet and romantic, actually. Maybe he's not 'in love' with her yet, it's not yet clear to either of them that they're soul mates, but she's so important to him it's hard for Clark to walk away. Tom played Clark's divided motivations very well.
I wasn't wild about Chloe's actions in this episode, although I think that Allison Mack did a remarkable job with what she had been given. Possibly her best scene was the one at the end with Clark in the barn. Chloe went through a lot in that scene emotionally and Allison did an excellent job portraying all of the emotions that Chloe was going through in that scene.
Erica Durance was terrific. I love her Lois. Although I thought the emphasis on Lois in the first two acts did sort of drag the episode down, that doesn't mean I didn't like what Erica was doing. No, I think that was more of a writing thing than an acting thing. I thought she did an especially wonderful job with Lois' scenes with John Corben. Although not quite as fun as when Lois and Clark banter, John and Lois' banter was almost as good and very entertaining.
Cassidy Freeman did an awesome job as Tess. I loved the scenes Tess had with Zod. The one in the bedroom where Tess figures out Zod almost as fast as Zod figured out Tess. Her eyes are very expressive and it was a joy to watch her match wits with Zod. It was even better when she played along with him in the 'trial' scene, as Tess defended herself against the angry Kandorian troops. I loved that scene, that little hint of a smile she gave at the end was awesome. It wasn't clear until then that Zod and Tess had been working together. It was a very well done episode for her.
Justin Hartley was barely in this, but I found this descent for Oliver to be more believable than last season's, despite the apparent need for Oliver to hit rock-bottom while only partially clothed. The man works hard to stay fit, I guess I should be glad of the chance to get a good look at the fruit of his labors. (Yeah, I can at times be incredibly shallow).
The thing is, he doesn't appear to be all brawn and no brain. He only had a few minutes of screentime, but he made very good use of the time he had. I liked Oliver's little talk with Lois. Justin effectively portrayed the different emotions Oliver was going through.
Callum Blue was FANTASTIC. I couldn't keep my eyes off him whenever he was on the screen. His face was always so expressive and his charm is clear. I ADORED how he delivered that iconic line, 'Kneel before Zod.' But I also liked his quieter moments too, the scene in the bedroom with Tess was terrific. When Zod was facing away from Tess, Callum had so many emotions going across his face you could tell he was reacting to her little speech there. What an awesome moment. I also loved in the 'trial' scene when Zod faced down his mutinous troops. That was terrific. He believably rallied them. Callum's created an intriguing villain in Zod and I am glad he's going to be around a lot this season.
Brian Austin Green as John Corben did a remarkable job. He was only in a couple of scenes, but he made quite an impact on Lois in both of them. The banter scenes he had with Lois, both in that monorail car and in The Daily Planet, were a lot of fun to watch. He plays John with a bit of an edge. I know he's coming back in the next episode, so we'll certainly see more of him then, but he was only signed for two. I hope he ends up coming back later on in the season.
Alessandro Juliani did a wonderful job as Dr. Emil Hamilton. He wasn't in this episode much, but I loved when he was. He plays Emil as a very interesting guy, a medical doctor that also understands transversing chronal anomalies and the temporal aperture continuum. (Say that three times fast, I dare you.) I hope his episode count has gone way up from last season. I like Alessandro a lot. Not many people have mastered the art of believably spouting Smallville's version of techno-babble, but I think he's got it down pat so he'll be a good addition to the recurring characters list.
Director Kevin Fair did a wonderful job. Every actor, no matter how small their part, gave a terrific performance. Even the extras in the Metropolis General ER had done a remarkable job being traumatized. I liked the more mobile than usual camera too. The blocking was well choreographed between the camera operators and cast.
Glen Winter shot another beautiful episode. The camera was very mobile. So much so his hand-held camera operators probably got quite a work out. It was a very dynamically photographed episode. Probably my favorite scene was the first scene with Zod in the Luthor mansion. The camera followed him from the side in an extreme close-up and then, once he was in the library, the hand-held camera moved around him when he confronted two of the soldiers under his command. I also liked how hazy the warm yellow lighting was and how over-exposed and washed out the scenes in the mansion and the Kent farm barn were.
Louis Febre wrote a terrific score. The music was at time majestic and stirring and then whenever Zod was on the screen, the music echoed the partial piece that played later in Tess' room, Richard Wagner's Siegfried Funeral March from Act III of Gotterdammerung. It blended in beautifully between his original score and the snippet from the old operatic piece.
James Philpott did a fantastic job with the modifications to Chloe's loft, turning it into the Watchtower with all the computer gadgets that will likely come in handy. Set decorator Andrea French did a good job. I liked that as Zod was working out in Tess' room there were books and magazines spread out before him. Was that her idea or was it in the script or something that Callum came up with? Whoever thought of it that was a nice touch. I also liked the very martial banners and flags filling up the mansion's library.
I love the very classic version of the Superman 'S' shield the show is using now. The one on Clark's chest is slightly different, possibly influenced by the version of the shield from the film 'Superman Returns', but I like that it almost appears to be airbrushed on. Like maybe Clark had gotten an airbrush gun from an arts supply store and did it himself. A bit crude looking, it looks believable that Clark did it himself.
I really liked Melanie William's costuming in this episode. Clark's new coat I'm not sure about yet, I haven't seen enough of it to decide, but I like the t-shirt and black jeans and heavy boots Clark was wearing. I also really liked the quasi-military gear that the Kandorians were wearing. It was nice that Zod was the only one wearing black. I loved Alia's ninja-esque outfit. The broad leather belt was nice and suited actress Monique Ganderton's figure very well.
The hair and make-up were, for the most part close to perfect, but I hated the blue contact lenses in Alia's eyes. Monique Ganderton looks to have far darker eyes in the pictures I've seen of her online. I really hate the light blue contacts on dark-eyed people. It looks creepy. Unless that was the point, I think that was a bad decision.
I guess one thing I had to complain about with that was Lois' hair. A couple of times it was far too poufy, for lack of a better word. Although, I do like Clark's shorter cut. Key hair stylist Sarah Koppes did a terrific job with Tom's hair as she did with Allison's shorter do.
I'm not sure if Key Make-Up Artist Tina Teoli, one of the new names in the credits, is to thank for the special effects make-up (Tess' black eye and that cage-match fighter's cut getting sewn up), but I thought it looked very believable in both cases. Those were very well done appliances and looked almost real.
As much as I like the Visual Effects in this episode, the soaring image of Clark on top of the Stature of Liberty was particularly awesome, but there were a couple of oopsies that happened thanks to them. The long shot of the train Lois landed in looked to only have two cars, yet when we see it a little later on as it's starting to jump the tracks, it has three. But when Lois is in it fighting the Kryptonian Ninja-chick, either end of the car looked like it was on the end of the car, like there was only a single car. Yet, when Clark stops the three cars from falling, how does he do that when all the cars appear to have left the track before Clark caught the leading car? Wouldn't the other two have continued to fall to the pavement? That didn't look right...
While not a perfect episode, I did like this episode a lot. I LOVED Zod and thought that John Corben was given a solid introduction. It was a bit dark in tone, but overall another excellent episode. I give this episode 4.5 long black trench coats out of a possible 5.
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