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TV Review: Smallville – “Masquerade”

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This being Smallville‘s final season, after ten long years, I am paying a bit more attention to it than I usually do, and than I do to other shows. As the series ramps up to the two-hour May finale, important pieces of the Superman puzzle keep falling into place. At first, I considered not covering this week’s episode, “Masquerade”, because overall it was just another run-in with one of Darkseid’s minions, Desaad (Steve Byers). Sure, a good chapter in the season-long villain arc, but not particularly noteworthy. However, interspersed within that main story, there was a lot of interesting and important milestones in the Superman saga, and so I feel compelled to address them.

First of all, Clark Kent is the disguise. Lois (Erica Durance) tried to make The Blur’s outfit more costume-y, adding dark sunglasses and a hood. Clark (Tom Welling) didn’t really go for that. However, his monologue near the end about how The Blur is who he really is, and that he needs to stay true to himself, was perfect. It really encapsulated who Superman is, and revealed a deep understanding of the character that hasn’t always been immediately evident in Smallville. Of course, now that can be excused, as it was all part of the journey of Superman’s origin, building to the hero he will become.

Never has an origin story been told over ten years before, at least not one that I can remember. Usually, the origin is a quick beginning, maybe thirty minutes or less at the start of a movie. At most, a pilot episode of a series. What is so interesting about Smallville is that we finally saw Superman’s entire climb to who he is. I’ve thought for awhile that Clark was getting too old to still be learning about himself, he should be defined by now, but looking back, the progression has been mostly natural and thrilling. Anticipating seeing a true Superman come out in the show in the next few months is incredibly exciting!

I really enjoyed the modern spin as to why The Blur / Superman / Clark needs a disguise. When the character of Superman was first introduced, many decades ago, the glasses and hair costume was plenty. In the age of internet and cell phone cameras, it is a miracle that the Clark / Blur connection hasn’t been solidly broken yet. One can only assume that it is because of the great care Clark takes to protect his secret, as well as Clark’s relative mid-Western obscurity, that he has managed. Lois is right. It’s time to make a change.

In that same vein, it may seem odd that glasses and a hair style, the latter of which he hasn’t even adapted yet, will be enough to disguise Clark in the 21st century. Thus, Clark and Lois rightly agreed that attitude makes all the difference. Perception is reality. Clark Kent’s mild mannered-ness is as much a part of the costume as the glasses are. The immediate effect of the new Clark was stunning, but not totally out of left field. Act like a mouse, and thou shall be treated as one. Brilliant handling of a tricky subject!

Chloe (Allison Mack) has some soul searching to do. No one has undergone more change than her in the course of the show. There have been times when Chloe’s story has been far more interesting than Clark’s, and as the only other original cast member left, I was sad that she signed for a reduced number of episodes this year. I worry when her latest arc is up that she won’t return for the end. That would be highly unacceptable.

But Chloe was right when she admitted to always defining herself by who or whatever was around her. She was the friend that Clark needed in high school, as well as the different friend that he needed after. Her part in Watchtower was more about him and Oliver (Justin Hartley) than about herself. She was drawn into their world and has embraced it, but almost always in a supporting role. Even her brief stint with powers was used not for herself, but for others. Yeah, that’s what heroes typically use them for… most of the time. But usually they get a little help for themselves, too.

Which is why I understand her hesitancy to commit to Oliver. She doesn’t want to fall into the same traps that she always has. She wants to have her own identity. She already achieved that, though, whether she realizes it or not. Fans of the series could tell her so, and so should her friends on the show. Oliver offers support, but his protecting her from battle with Desaad this week shows that he still thinks of her as a less capable combatant than himself.

This is simply not the case. Chloe is a hero in her own right, for oh so many reasons. Her brain allows her to do many things none of the others can. Plus, she can hold her own in combat, as we saw this week before he benched her. Why did she let herself be benched? Why didn’t she leap up after him? Once she gains the confidence to do that, she will no longer need to worry about losing herself. And that is at the top of my list of things I want to see before the series goes off the air for good. This week’s episode, at the end, was a decent start.

What a huge twist at the very end, was it not? If you haven’t watched the episode, go watch it before you read further. I am, of course, referring to the revelation that Oliver has been marked with the Omega symbol. The set up was perfect. Of course Oliver would give into base emotions right after being told that Chloe was dead. Despite how far Oliver has come in improving himself, he can be forgiven for the lapse because of the circumstances. Anyone would have done the same thing.

The question is, what will that mean for the show? Will he soon be joining forces with Darkseid’s minions? Will Clark have to battle him? Considering that the Green Arrow has his own comic series, and his own great adventure outside of Smallville (though not shown as a televised show for this incarnation), I find it hard to believe that Oliver Queen is at risk of being killed off. That seems highly disrespectful to the character, and as a fan, I would be pretty upset with the show. The gigantic mythology for these heroes shown in Smallville should make them safer than main characters in other series. But after losing Jimmy Olsen (Aaron Ashmore) a few years ago, explanations to the contrary, I worry that no one is safe. Except for Clark, of course.

As it is the final season, I do love that the show has chosen to go not with one villain, but several. It can be argued that Darkseid is the driving force behind the season, and he is, to some extent. But between the VRA supporters, the alternate Lionel Luthor (John Glover), Alexander (various actors), and Darkseid’s minions, as well as the announced upcoming returns of Zod (Callum Blue) and Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum), Darkseid is not the be all, end all of season ten. Given this is the last chance to see the show, I highly support that decision.

A last bit: I very much enjoyed the scene where Lois worried about the wedding seating. I didn’t think of it before, but of course Lois’s father’s military buddies would recognize some of Clark’s more super power-endowed friends! Even with the Vigilante Registration Act dead, many military personnel spent a great deal of time and effort looking into the vigilantes. My mind spins with the possible ways Lois will solve this problem. Elaborate disguises? Two weddings? Make the heroes sit in the church loft?

Also, a brief complaint. Part of tonight’s episode was ripped straight from the feature film Date Night starring Tina Fey and Steve Carrel. Really, Smallville? You chose to rip off that movie? Really?

Smallville‘s final season continues Friday nights at 8 p.m. on the CW.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com