Sunday, 4 October 2009
Smallville 9.1: Saviour
Nine seasons in, and Smallville has barely developed. The show is still far more concerned with weaving dead-end romance elements round a licence frame, than examining pubescent superheroics. Clark Kent still hasn't developed a super-identity. Instead he's a hound dog sketch of Christopher Reeves' bumbling under-ego, a self-designed whelp fumbling with the strays around him. This viewer's priors with Smallville include an unusually patient patronage of Season 1, and occasional views sandwiched between better shows on afternoon E4. Back in its opening run, the show focused on throwing up increasingly convoluted Krypto-mutants to tax Kent's emerging powers. Heavily indebted to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, that infant serial flirted with the promise of a full-on abilities reveal, that even to this day, goes unrealised. Transcendence be damned! Smallville instead conspired to sink itself into sludge arcs of souring interpersonal relations, and baffling stupidity.
In Season Nine opener Saviour, Clark still cannot fly. Likely a sop to budgetary concerns, and fears that the teenage target audience will revolt at any practically realised effect not bristling with computer generated after effects. Wires just don't cut it anymore! In-fiction, Terence Stamp, having graduated from Superman 2's Zod to this series' Jor-El phantom voice, persuades his son that the flight lack revolves around sublimated sexual urges. Cosmic misogyny dictates that a desire for female attention drags you down. It's a detail that's given a cack-handed superiority twist by Jor-El's constant needling: there's always an insinuation from Daddy that Clark's dealings with our 'lower' species has narrowed his horizons. Naturally, this all exists as excuse, and isn't explored in any more time than it takes to say.
The rest of the premiere ep sees Clark making brief headway in developing his Kryptonian vitality. He's cut himself off from society, and spends his evenings zipping around in a black trench coat, halting disaster. It's uniquely dispiriting to see an originator character of superhero fiction kitted out in clone ensemble. Kent actor Tom Welling is an ill-fit for neo-goth stylings. He's too squared and browned, the polar opposite to the Wachowski's palid insect agitators. It makes this embryonic Superman a gimmick chasing phony. Perhaps that's too harsh? Maybe the tailoring has less to do with decade late populist urges, and more to do with on-going ownership disputes? There's no excusing the execution though: repeated interludes see Kent grimly manning nose-bleed architecture, framed like Christopher Nolan's Batman. The kids have got their 'dark' Superman.