Sunday, April 25, 2021

Superman & Lois Season 1, Episode 5: The Best Of Smallville

This week on Superman & Lois, we get what may be the first filler episode of the series.

That's not necessarily a bad thing though! There's plenty going on in The Best Of Smallville, but the most of it is quiet, character-driven stuff rather than flashy, action-packed plot points. If this is what passes for filler on this show, I'll gladly take it!

Much of the episode features flashbacks to Clark's youth, where we see he was a typical teen asshole. I guess even Kryptonians aren't immune to that sort of behavior!

This week gives us a much needed glimpse into Captain Luthor's background, as we not only find out yet another reason why he hates Superman so much. We also learn more about his personal wife, including the surprising identity of his late wife.

Last week I said I felt bad for Jonathan, as his life has become notably worse since moving to Smallville. I predicted it was only a matter of time before he exploded. Welp, this week it happened! And much sooner than I was expecting.

That's all I've got in the way of introductions (ironically, the better the episode, the less there is to say about it). Let's get to the episode!

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
At the Kent farm, Clark's excited for the upcoming Harvest Festival, and desperately tries to get his family to share his enthusiasm. They're all pretty meh about it— especially the boys— but Clark insists they'll love it. Jonathan says his girlfriend Eliza is coming to visit from Metropolis, and he might bring her.

Later at school, Sarah asks Jordan to take her to the Festival. Just then Jonathan gets a call from Eliza, who dumps him long-distance. Bummer.

Meanwhile, Chrissy Beppo calls Lois and says to get to the Smallville Gazette pronto. Lois arrives and sees Sharon Powell there with her son Derek— who she reported missing a couple weeks ago. When Lois asks the very squirrelly-acting Derek what happened, he says he was injured on the job and blacked out. The next thing he remembered was waking in a church in Stanton County.

Sharon seems to buy Derek's flimsy story, but Lois reminds her that a superpowered goon tried to kill her in a motel room a couple weeks ago. Sharon says the important thing is she got her son back, and the two make a hasty retreat. Chrissy tells Lois that the Powell's story is full of holes, and Lois agrees. She says they'll figure out what's going on together.

Unknown to Lois, Captain Luthor watches her from across the street. He tells his AI that wherever Lois is, Superman's never far behind.

At the Community Center, Lana's taking donations from townspeople for the Festival. Sharon & Derek enter and donate some men's clothing. Derek complains of a headache and excuses himself. He enters a back room, where he calls Leslie Larr, Morgan Edge's personal assistant. He says he desperately needs to see her.

Just then Derek's eyes glow red, as we realize he has heat vision. He runs around in pain, inadvertently incinerating the ceiling of the room.

Elsewhere, Clark goes through his mother's old things. He finds a small wooden box, which triggers a flashback to his teen years. Teen Clark is getting dressed for the Harvest Festival, as his mother Martha ("WHY DID YOU SAY THAT NAME?") enters and asks him if Lana Lang is still seeing "that Kyle boy." Suddenly Teen Clark hears a burglar alarm and speeds off.

Teen Clark— wearing a ski mask as a disguise— confronts two men loading a truck with electronics. A third robber with a shotgun approaches from behind, but Clark easily disarms him. Another shoots at Clark, but he slaps the bullet away. Realizing they're in way over their heads, the robbers put their stolen goods back.

In the present, Clark hears a fire alarm and speeds to Community Center, which is now blazing away. He uses his x-ray vision and sees Kyle inside with another firefighter. Just as the two men are about to be crushed by burning debris, Clark sneaks in and uses his super-breath to put out the fire. Kyle looks around in confusion, unsure what just happened. As Clark leaves, he sees Sharon Powell standing outside the Center, looking for someone.

Back at the farm, Clark tells Lois the fire destroyed all the donations. He also says he saw Sharon at the Center, and Lois figures she was looking for Derek. The boys come home from school, and Jordan tells them that Jonathan got dumped.

Lois drives to the Center, where Kyle's cleaning up. He tells her his fellow firefighter Mitch was severely injured in the blaze. She shows him a photo of Derek, and he vaguely remembers seeing him exit the rear of the Center. Suspecting Derek had something to do with the fire, she calls Chrissy and tells her to find Sharon for questioning. Just then Luthor approaches Lois and introduces himself.

Cut to the two of them at the diner. Luthor, who claims his name is Marcus Bridgewater, tells Lois he's a big fan of her work. He says he was impressed with her piece on Morgan Edge (?), and may have a way to get into his newly revamped Shuster Mine in Smallville. Unimpressed, Lois gives him her card and says to call her if he finds any concrete info.

At the Gazette, Chrissy's rounded up Sharon— who's upset that Derek left so soon after she finally got him back. She says he sent her a text saying "he needed some space." Chrissy asks to see the text, and slyly uses the phone to pinpoint Derek's location.

Jordan tells Clark he's leaving to take Sarah to the Festival. Jonathan's still smarting from his dumping, and tells Clark he hates Smallville. Clark asks him to give it time, as he's sure things will work out. Jonathan says he wants to move in with friends in Metropolis and storms out.

This triggers another flashback, as Martha tells Teen Clark it's too dangerous for him to play vigilante. He says that was his father's rule, and it's been a year since he died. He says he's here for a reason, and it's to be more than just Clark Kent. He then storms out of the house.

Back in the present, Kyle comes home late and tells Lana about Mitch. She hugs him and realizes he's been drinking. He wants her to stay home, but she says she has to get to the Festival. Sarah offers to fix him dinner before she leaves. She hands him a plate, and he starts creepily singing her favorite childhood song. Clearly uncomfortable, Sarah tells him to stop and leaves.

Elsewhere, Jordan's at the Festival, waiting for Sarah. Jonathan joins him, but ditches him when a couple of his friends approach. They share some alcohol, and Jordan asks if that's a good idea. Jonathan laughs and goes off with his drinking buddies.

Meanwhile, Chrissy drives to the location she got from Sharon's phone. There she spots Derek nervously waiting for someone. As she watches from the shadows, Leslie arrives and she and Derek kiss. He tells her he started the fire, and she says she can fix him.

At the farm, Clark stares out the window and has another flashback. Martha enters Teen Clark's room and says she knows he's meant for bigger things. She gives him a wooden box (the same one Adult Clark still has) and tells him to open it. Inside is a red crystal his father found in Clark's spaceship. She says she doesn't know what it does, but it might be the key to him finding his purpose.

Sarah meets up with Jordan at the Festival and apologizes for being late. When he asks if something's wrong, she says she's having a rough night and doesn't want to discuss it. They go off to consume mass quantities of unhealthy Festival food.

Chrissy follows Leslie & Derek to an abandoned building. Inside, Leslie puts him into a large cylindrical contraption, which bathes Derek in yellowish energy.

Jordan & Sarah sit on a hay bale eating. He says he's starting to like Smallville, but Sarah says it's not as nice as he thinks. She's just about to open up to him when Jonathan comes by with his asshole friends. He makes fun of Jordan because he's on a date. This angers Sarah, and she tells off Jonathan and his pals to piss off before storming away.

Jonathan snaps out of his alcoholic haze, realizes what he's don and apologizes for wrecking Jordan's date. Jordan says it's OK as he takes his brother to get some water. Unfortunately they run into their parents, who see Jonathan's clearly drunk.

Just then Lois gets a call from Chrissy, who fills her in about Derek. Clark overhears and zooms away.

Leslie pulls Derek out of the machine and asks if he feels better. Suddenly Superman crashes through the ceiling and confronts the two. Derek inexplicably tells Leslie to protect the "asset," and flies out of the building. Superman chases after him.

Elsewhere, Luthor's in a ratty RV, monitoring the town. His AI says she's detected Kryptonian flight patterns, and he takes off to intercept them.

We then get a big action setpiece as Superman chases Derek through Smallville's farmlands. Derek tries to distract Superman by igniting barns and silos with his heat vision. Derek then tries to lose him by flying low through a cornfield. Derek turns and tells Clark that Leslie resurrected him. He then calls him by his Kryptonian name of Kal-El, and says he's no longer alone.

Just then Luthor arrives, pulls out a large, high tech gun and fires a missile at the two men. It detonates, causing Superman & Derek to crash to the ground far below. Superman tells Derek he can help him. Derek says he's already dead, then grimaces in pain as he's consumed by flame and turns to ash.

Sometime later, Jonathan apologizes to his parents. Clark says it's OK this once, as he understands what he's going through. He says when he was a teen he also realized he needed to leave Smallville in order to become someone. He regrets leaving though, as he missed a lot of time with his mother. He asks Jonathan to give the place a little more time.

Clark then gives Jonathan the wooden box. He's puzzled though when he opens it and finds it's empty. Clark says the box is the gift, as his father gave it to his mother, and she gave it to him.

After the boys go to bed, Clark tells Lois about Derek. He says his situation seems similar to that of Tag, who inadvertently gained superpowers when Jordan's heat vision manifested itself.

The next morning, Clark & Lois return for the second day of the Festival. Lana excitedly tells them that Morgan Edge wrote a huge check to replace the donated goods that were destroyed— and then some. She then unveils a bench that's been dedicated to Clark's mother Martha Kent.

This triggers one last flashback, as Teen Clark sits on a bench with Martha, waiting for the train. She watches sadly as he boards it and leaves to find his purpose.

Back in the present, Clark tells Lois he was incredibly selfish to leave his mother when he did. Unknown to either of them, Luthor watches from a distance, then returns to his RV. His AI reminds him that the Lois from this world is NOT the one he married (!). He angrily hurls the device across the room.

Jordan meets up with Sarah again. She apologizes for her outburst the night before, and tells him she wants to take things slowly.

Later that night, Jordan walks home in the dark. Suddenly Tag appears, wearing some sort of uniform. He demands to know what Jordan did to him, and begins savagely beating him with superpowered blows.

Thoughts: 
• At the beginning of the episode, Lois fixes breakfast while Jonathan & Jordan watch a news report featuring their Dad. Note that the report mentions a recent increase in Superman activity.

In the previous episode, General Lane complained that Superman wasn't spending enough time in Metropolis lately, which was emboldening the criminal element. He begged him to make an occasional appearance over the city, to give the impression he was still around and on patrol.

Could the "uptick" this week be a response to Lane's plea?

• Clark tells Lois and the boys that the Harvest Festival's a tradition that goes back to 1949— the year Smallville was founded. 

Wait, what? The town's only seventy two years old? That seems reeeeeeally new. I'd have thought it came into being much earlier than that, like in the 1800s. If it really was founded in 1949, that was probably AFTER Clark's adoptive parents were born! I guess it was all just unincorporated farmland before that.

• At the Community Center, Derek's newly acquired powers begin causing him intense pain. He calls Leslie Larr (Morgan Edge's right hand woman) for help. Oddly enough, when he phones he says, "Miss Larr, there's something wrong."

That's strange, because in the third act we see Derek and Leslie snogging away like there's no tomorrow! It looks for all the world like they've known each other long enough to start a relationship. So why the hell's he still calling her MISS Larr?

• Not a nitpick, just an observation: This week the title screen doesn't appear until the NINE minute mark!

• Nice Attention To Detail: Clark has a flashback to his teen years, when he foiled a burglary at a local electronics store. When he confronts the crooks, we see they're loading a truck with bulky, picture tube TVs— which they describe as "real high-end equipment!" How times & technology have changed.

As fun as this detail was, I'm not sure the timeline adds up though. Back in Pilot, I did some simple deduction and math and decided that Clark is most likely 39. That means he was born (or I guess arrived on Earth) in 1982. Based on dialogue in this episode, it appears he's 16 in these flashbacks. That would mean they take place in 1998.

The first large flat screen TV debuted in 1997. It cost $15,000 though (!), so it was likely out of the reach of most Americans, and probably not widely available in stores. So there's a little wiggle room here for picture tube TVs to still be considered "high-end." Not much though!

• It's interesting that Clark wore a better disguise as a teen than he does as an adult.

• Teen Clark's played by Dylan Kingwell, who's made appearances on other The CW shows such as Supernatural and The 100. He does a pretty good job here, and actually looks a bit like a younger Tyler Hoechlin.

• A couple weeks ago Jordan made an El Debarge reference, while Jonathan mentioned Morrissey. I was impressed that two teens in 2021 would have even heard of such singers from the 1980s.

This week Clark mentions 1970s power band REO Speedwagon, a reference which flies completely over Jordan's head. So which is it, writers? Are the kids familiar with 20th Century music or aren't they?

• Kyle rushes into the burning Community Center to save his fellow firefighter Mitch. Just when it looks like the two men are gonna perish in the blaze, Clark zips in, puts out the fire with his super-breath and zooms back out before anyone can see him. Kyle's gobsmacked, as he sees the rubble's inexplicably covered with frost.

Could this be the beginnings of a "Kyle Suspects Clark Has Powers" storyline?

• In the aftermath of the Community Center fire, Lois is approached by Captain Luthor, who pretends to be a fellow reporter. We then immediately cut to the two of them getting coffee in the diner.

Seriously? A couple episodes back, Lois' car was blown up by one of Morgan Edge's goons. Clearly someone out there is gunning for her. So why's she so nonchalant about this total stranger who showed up out of nowhere?

• At the diner, Lois & Luthor chat:

Lois: "So you’re a reporter?"
Luthor: "That’s right. Marcus Bridgewater."
Lois: "Sounds vaguely familiar. Politico?"
Luthor: Reuters. Mainly do business coverage, focusing on big tech. I have a background in engineering. I used to work at LutherCorp."
Lois: "Lex Luthor, the only human being worse than Morgan Edge."

A couple things here:

First of all, this episode finally confirms there is an actual LEX Luthor here on whatever Earth the show's set. If this really is Earth-Prime (and I'm still not 100% convinced it is), then they're talking about the Lex Luthor seen over on Supergirl.

Secondly, Captain Luthor blatantly lies to Lois' face, giving her a fake name and claiming to be a reporter from Reuters— among many other falsehoods. Surely he knows she could easily fact check any one of these fibs in five minutes or less?

Now that I think about it, maybe Luthor's AI did a quick search for black Reuters reporters, found one named Marcus Bridgewater, and he assumed his identity in case Lois decides to check?

• Luthor/Bridgewater says he was impressed with Lois' piece on Morgan Edge (?) Wait, is he talking about the one she wrote for The Daily Planet? The one that was heavily edited and redacted by Edge himself? Why would he be impressed with that puff piece?

• Unhappy with the way things have turned out in Smallville, Jonathan tells Clark he wants to go back to Metropolis and move in with some friends. It was established in Pilot that Jonathan (and Jordan as well) is only fourteen. Did he REALLY think his parents would let a minor his age move into an apartment full of unsupervised teens?

On the other hand, such a thing isn't unheard of in this family. At the end of the episode we see that Martha Kent let Clark leave Smallville "to become something more" when he was only SIXTEEN! Is that even legal? Can a parent just let an underaged teen go off on their own like that?

• What the hell's going on between Kyle and Sarah? He comes home after boozing it up with his fellow firefighters and collapses on the couch in a drunken stupor. Sarah brings him a sandwich, and as she turns to leave he orders her to stay. He then starts creepily singing a song from her childhood to her. Sarah looks extremely uncomfortable throughout the incident, and finally yells for him to stop as she bolts from the room.

I'm assuming she's so upset here because she hates seeing her Dad getting pass out drunk. This is confirmed later on when she encounters a drunken Jonathan at the Harvest Festival, and really lays into him.

There's a second way to interpret this scene though, one that's far more unpleasant and disturbing. When Kyle's singing to Sarah, there are some subtle but definite signs that hint a little at... molestationWhich would certainly explain why she was so repulsed by him.

I honestly hope that's not the case here, and she's just upset at his drinking.

• During one of Clark's many flashbacks, we see Martha give him a wooden box containing a red crystal.

When he asks what it is, she says, "Your father found it in the pod when you arrived. I don’t know what it does or what it’s for, I just— I just know it belongs to you. And it might be the key to figuring out what your future is." The crystal then glows with a brilliant red light when he picks it up, suggesting he's somehow connected to it.

I'm betting he likely used this crystal to construct his Fortress Of Solitude, ala Superman The Movie. Although in that film, Clark's crystal was green, not red. Not sure why they changed the color here.

We saw this crystal a couple weeks back in Heritage, when Clark brought Jordan to the Fortress. He called it the "Sunstone Crystal," and used it to generate an alien YouTube video on the history of Krypton.

• This week we see Chrissy recklessly risking her life in pursuit of a story. I have a feeling her attempts at emulating her idol Lois are gonna get her into real trouble. Maybe even killed!

In the previous episode, Morgan Edge discovered a vein of X-Kryptonite in the old Shuster Mine. As I stated in that review, X-Kryptonite is from the comics, and has the ability to temporarily give non-Kryptonians powers that are identical to Superman's. 

Obviously it does the same thing here on the show. Edge somehow built an X-Kryptonite-fueled chamber, which gives subjects superpowers. That's definitely what happened to Derek, although it's unclear why his resulting powers were so erratic, and required frequent booster treatments to stabilize them.

• Superhero Landing! OK, this one doesn't appear to be the traditional three point one, but I'm counting it anyway.

• When Superman confronts Leslie & Derek, he inspects the chamber and sees it contains a glowing yellowish-orange power source. Derek tells Leslie to "protect the asset" and then flies off.

I assume the "asset" here is the X-Kryptonite. Note that it apparently doesn't doesn't have any negative affect on Kryptonians, as Superman safely stands right next to it.

• In the third act, Superman chases Derek through the skies of Smallville. At one point Derek uses his heat vision to set a barn on fire as a distraction, so he can get away. Sure enough, Superman stops long enough to put out the blaze with his super-breath.

And then two tenths of a second later he LITERALLY CRASHES THROUGH THE BARN, causing even more damage than the fire did! What the hell? Why put out the fire only to make things ten times worse?

• In the wrap up, Clark tells Jonathan he's not going to punish him for his underage drinking— this one time. Wow. He's MUCH more forgiving that MY Dad would have been in that situation. Maybe that's one of Superman's lesser known powers— super-leniency.

• WHY DID YOU SAY THE NAME OF THAT BENCH!?

• More Nice Attention To Detail: Clark flashes back to the day he left Smallville as an underaged teen. In the background we see a newspaper rack featuring The Smallville Gazette's logo on it. Well done, Prop Department!

• Clark reflects on how he selfishly left his mother all alone when he was sixteen. He then tells Lois, "And now we’re at the point where our own kids are talking about leaving home. It feels like they were just born."

Wait... was that a subtle joke on the part of the producers?

At the beginning of Crisis On Infinite Earths Part One, we see Clark & Lois living in Argo City with their newborn son Jonathan. Emphasis on newborn and son (singular).

Then at the end of Crisis On Infinite Earths Part Five, Lois calls Superman and tells him to get is ass home and deal with his sons— plural. Somehow the events of Crisis retroactively caused Clark & Lois to have twins— fourteen years earlier than they originally did!

So in a sense, Clark's line about it feeling like the boys were just born is true, as the writers made this fundamental change just a year or two ago!

• This week we find out another reason why Luthor hates Superman so much. He was actually married to Lois on whatever Earth he's from. Then at some point Superman killed her, thus fueling Luthor's rage. Interesting.

• In this episode we get our best look yet at Luthor's helpful AI device.

I can't help but notice that it looks a LOT like a modified infrared security camera! Right down to the ring of lights circling the central lens!

• Poor Jordan. His first date with Sarah's interrupted and ended by his muscle-headed brother & his drunken posse. Then later when he tries to get back with her, Sarah tells him, "I think I could really just use a friend more than anything else.

Ouch! That was uncalled for. Cue Rod Serling saying, "Jordan Kent has just entered... The Friend Zone." 

• At the end of the episode, we see Jordan walking home along a dark, deserted country road. Suddenly he's attacked by his former teammate Tag.

First of all, Jordan's grinning like an idiot as he walks. Why the hell's he doing that? As we saw a few seconds earlier, he just got friendzoned hard by Sarah. I don't see anything to smile about here.

Secondly, Tag's wearing a distinctive black & yellow uniform, complete with a crest on the left breast. If you'll recall, in the previous episode General Lane said Tag had been sent to a "special school" for kids with abilities like his.

At the time I said that sounded a LOT like Professor Xavier's School For Gifted Youngers over in the Marvel Universe— an institution whose alumni included the various X-Men.

In fact the uniform Tag's wearing is VERY similar to the one's worn by Xavier's students in X-Men: First Class! Coincidence, homage, or are the producers trolling the fans here?

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