The 7th (and what I think will be final) season of Smallville starts on September 27th. That means there are roughly eight weeks to go before the Summer of Smallville has to come to a close. In the words of the theme song from Smokey and the Bandit, “We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there.”
So, there will be more in the Summer of Smallville later this week. For now, this is the rest of the first disc from season one. Each review will include a brief synopsis, my thoughts/rating on the episode,a tally of how many wrecks there have been on the show through that particuliar episode, and a running tally of how many times we find Lana in the hospital. (I just thought the last two would be fun.) So without further ado…
Smallville 1.3 – Hothead
Written by: Greg Walker
Directed by: Greg Beeman (who will go on to direct some of the best Smallville episodes in the series)
Football takes center stage as the ill-tempered head coach of the Smallville Crows tries to solidify his high school coaching legacy. Coach Walt (heretofore known as Kevin Arnold’s dad, because that’s how we all know him.) (You know…the Wonder Years) gains the power to start fires with his mind due to spending time in a sauna that is steamed by hot meteor rocks. A man with an already bad temper is backed into corner, and, as a cheating scandal erupts at the high school due to some football players, Kevin’s Dad’s temper begins to get the better of him as he attempts to incinerate Principal Kwan, who is trying to get he players who cheated to come forward and confess that the coach provided them with Math tests. Then he goes after Chloe who is trying to expose the coach after seeing him abuse the players who were caught and trying to scare them into silience with his fire power. On the teen drama front, Lana quits cheerleading for a waitressing job at the Beanery in an attempt to find herself. Lex and his father have a confrontation over business decisions that Lex is making with the fertilizer plant. Clark gets recruited to play football in the absence of the cheating players and Jonathan doesn’t like it. In the end Clark finds himself in the middle of a struggle to stop a man so possessed with his coaching legacy that he will hurt or kill anyone who stands in his way. Though football and a firestarter are the main story, the relationship between the three principles and their parents are explored in interesting ways. Lana trying to fight Nell making her into the perfect small town girl, Lex fighting to shake off the authority of his father and become greater than Lionel, and Clark trying to fit into to normal life as Jonathan attempts to protect him by keeping his secret a secret.
If a show has a strong beginning the way Smallville did, the test of the show is how good the episodes are about two or three months down the road. How well do all of the characters connect to the viewer? Is there the sense of evolving without pushing the viewer too much? Smallville continued to run strong through this episode. The use of Dan Lauria as Coach Walt Arnold was a solid piece of casting not only because he did a great job, but because he was recognizable without overshadowing the rest of the cast this early in the show. By the way, using the last name Arnold is just one of the many things the writers do on this show to give a wink to the viewer. It’s a fun part of the show.
The main story was handled well, as Clark gets duped into playing football against his dad’s wishes only to stumble into the need to stop another meteor freak. But what really keeps the show going is the drama between Clark and Jonathan, Clark and the newly self-empowering Lana, and Lex and Lionel.
It’s interesting that the desire to remain innocent and good is what causes Lana to leave the life of popular cheerleader and try to find something new for herself. This dynamic on Lana is echoed loudly at the end of season 6 when she leaves Lex for some of the same reasons. She is truly a good person at heart.
Chloe is thrown into the thick of things and in some ways used only as a Lois substitute in this episode. The truth is, as we all know, she is so much more…but they’ll get there.
The Lex and Lionel relationship is right in our face as they fence (swordfight to the ignorant) for the call of Lex’s business plan to add 20% to his workforce. Lionel of course wins, coldly and arrogantly. He is like Darth Vader taunting Luke during their first fight in The Empire Strikes Back. The great thing about this moment is the fact that we will see it played out again in Season 4 with much different results.
This is juxtaposed next to the Clark/Jonathan relationship which while strained in this episode is strained for different reasons. Jonathan sums up his feelings in this one sentence, “I’m happy when you wake up in the morning….” That’s a dad.
The rest of the supporting cast was great in this episode. Whitney still the typical jock, but played friendly enought so that we don’t totally hate him. Jonathan’s concern for Clark mingled with his stubborness about how things should be handled give Schneider a fine line to walk. He has to play stubborn without being a total jerk to his son. He does a great job.
The writers even do a great job of showing what a political and overly powerful thing high school football can be. With so many TV shows and movies doing this, I wonder why nothing has changed. But that’s a whole other blog.
Even with a few “meh’s” about the episode, (Kevin’s dad learned to control his power pretty quickly, and there was that overly cheesy Brady Bunch moment at the end with Jonathan and Clark) I have to give it a solid 5 out of 5. The episode still holds up.
A few of my favorite moments and quotes:
Jonathan to Clark – “You were meant for much more important things than winning football games.”
Clark coming through the fire to get to Coach Walt. Wonderful.
Coach Walt to Clark -“It’s in your genes, Kent.” Clark – “Actually, I’m adopted.” Funny stuff.
Lex to Lionel – “…you have no idea what I’m capable of.”
We get a great car explosion. That’s 2 explosions and 2 wrecks on the season. More to come.
After Clark faces a firestarting head coach in Hothead, we are treated to the gem that is
Written by Mark Verheiden
Directed by James Frawley
Clark begins to have headaches and see through things as Lex robs a bank. Or at least someone who looks a lot like Lex. In fact, it’s Tina Greer, a teenager born with a bone deficiency and infected by meteor rocks to be given the power to changer her appearance to look like anyone. After accidentally killing her mom, Tina snaps and a desire to be like Lana leads to an obsession with Lana that places Lana’s life in danger. A reporter, Roger Nixon, from the Inquisitor shows up with the story of “Lex” robbing the bank and blackmails Lex , saying that if he doesn’t pay up , then Nixon will begin to print a series of stories on Lex’s wild teen years, and he mentions an incident at Club Zero. Lex, not to be bullied, flexes his financial muscle to make Nixon back down and gives him the assignment of finding out what happened the day of his accident on the bridge. All the while Clark is trying to get used to his new ability and discover the answer to the mystery behind Lex’s alleged bank robbery. This all of course leads him to a final showdown with the crazy shapeshifter as he finds himself having to save Lana’s life.
The standard for Smallville is that pretty much any show when Clark gets a new power is a good one. This is the first time we see him get a new power. Throughout the episode, Clark’s X-Ray vision works at times like an X-ray and at times like see-through vision. When he first controls it on his own, it’s see-through vision. At the end of the episode, it’s see-through vision. The rest of the series…it’s X-ray vision. I don’t have a problem with that, but I wish that if they were going to jump around like that in the very first episode that he has x-ray visioni, that they would give him the same ability throughout the rest of the series. Minor gripe…but a gripe nonetheless.
It pretty much goes without saying that the actors on the show do a great job. Seldom am I disappointed by any acting by the regulars on the show. A perfect example of this is Michael Rosenbaum in the teaser of the show. While, if you’re watching for the first time, you don’t know that it’s not really Lex robbing the bank, when watching on repeat viewings, you see that Rosenbaum picks up a lot Lizzy Caplan’s (Tina Greer) voice inflections and mannerisms and uses them expertly in that scene.
Kristin does a good job as well when the audience is teased with Tina-as-Lana kissing Clark. Lana in that moment is so much more intense than we’ve seen her thus far. So much so that, just like Rosenbaum, if you know what you’re looking at you can see the great acting.
As far as the guest goes, Lizzy Caplan does a nice job of playing Tina as the young girl who is frustrated by not being able to use her powers, makes a mistake and then snaps. There is a point where she reaches the point of no return in her insanity and she does the turn with a subtly that isn’t over the top, but it is quite creepy..
This episode is also the first time that we see a parent who knows her child has abilities but tries to supress them. This opposed to Clark’s parents who said, “use them, but try to keep it a secret.”
It is in this episode that I am impressed also by the way writers are able to perfectly capture some things about being a teenager. While the sci fi situations may be out there, the look at the thought processes of teenagers isn’t really. For example, what causes Tina to snap is not necessarily that she killed her mom, but that she looks at Lana as having the perfect life and when Lana is reluctant to let her be a part of that life, she goes nuts. Kids look at other kids no matter what the circumstance and think that those kids have a better life.
This show also brings out a few arcs that continue through the rest of the season and even the rest of the show. In fact, Lex using Roger Nixon to look into the car accident the day he met Clark is the start of a situation that will ultimately tear Lex and Clark apart. Club Zero also gets it’s first mention. And of course we see that while Lex isn’t what one would call full on evil, he doesn’t have very many inhibitions and he’s not scared to do what he wants for the result that he wants.
Outside of writing and acting, the special effects are here en masse. The morphing used in Tina’s transformation scenes are right out of a movie. The x-ray effect. Again, this is a television show that doesn’t know it’s a television show.
Overall, I give this episode a 4.9 out of 5. I don’t give it a full on 5 because of the inconsistent use of x-ray vision. Which wouldn’t be a problem if the use was inconsistent for the next few episodes, but it’s not. So…4.9.
Some of my favorite moments:
Clark to Lex – “A criminal mastermind would have worn a mask.”
Clark to Jonathan when Jonathan thinks Clark has seen his pocket knife through his hand – “You always carry your knife if that pocket.”
Clark’s enjoyment of x-ray vision when he looks towards the girls locker room.
Pete – “Even when I think you’re wack I show up ready to rumble.”
There was a fender bender when Tina-as-Clark tried to run over Martha, but there are so many really good wrecks and explosions why count that one.
That’s it for now…I’ve really got to figure out how to shorten these things.