Firstly, let's take a moment to appreciate the awesome that is Monique Ganderton. Her stunt creds are out of control! And as Alia she brought a lot of poise and presence to Season 9 Smallville unlike some people, *cough*, Zod.
The plot structure of Season 9 has been problematic for me. In many ways I feel like I've just been biding time for 9.9, or for the moment when we find out what this future is that must not happen. I'm hoping now we've seen that, I can move on emotionally. But in a lot of ways, the early part of this season has felt like filler. However, Alia was compelling in 9.1 and I looked forward to seeing the missing picture in her plot, so that was one reason 9.9 satisfied me.
There were several other reasons as well. Firstly, it brought the LOL in a way that I've felt the other eps haven't really. Secondly, no characters were missing--we got a bit of everyone. Thirdly, the emotional narrative was satisfying, and specifically the Clark/Lois relationship was more than one-sided. In fact, I was startled what a difference feeling any emotion from Clark's side of the equation made. It was like I could instantly relax!
Let us count the LOL... (Do not get me wrong: I love the LOL! Smallville without the LOL would be like Christmas without presents... there's a difference between being tediously empty of logic, and being LOLARIOUSLY defiant of logic.)
- Why does Tess/Zod's 'solar tower' look exactly like Kuala Lumpur's Twin Towers? Seriously LACK OF IMAGINATION there, design dudes!
- Justin's delivery on 'Whatdoyoumeanshe'smsissing, youtookhertothehospital,you'vebeenwithhe
- Dystopian future, Smallville style! OK, LOL. In this future, the dystopian will be represented by... Clark having one day's beard growth, Oliver wearing a beanie. Clark's white tshirt (underneath a discrete grey) and Oliver's will remain pristeen.
- Tess being jerked from mindmeld by the horrifying realisation that Chloe kills her. Yeah, that'd fuck with me too. ;)
- It doesn't matter where you plug a mind link plug in... your brain, your hand, same same!
- Evil!Barn! I never thought we'd see that. :)
- The camera angle on Zod dragging Clark through the streets of dystopian!Metropolis.
OK, so I get that the whole everyone-joins-Lois-in-her-lost-memories-m
In that context, it's a lot easier for me to forgive things like the implausability of someone's memory being able to be pulled up as an image on a computer screen.
Part I: Oliver So, I'm totally in love with how much Oliver cares about people. And life. That's largely down to Hartley's performance, and I give him ten million points for that. In this episode, his love for both Lois and Tess shone through, as well as his commitment to fighting the good fight.
The death scene between Tess and Oliver was mesmerising, despite having terrible dialogue. Tess, too, packs a lot of heart into her scenes. And despite these two having little screentime together in season 9, I was instantly transported back into their history, as she died in Oliver's arms. I loved that Oliver appreciated Tess's passion in her dying declaration. He does not agree with her aligning herself with Zod, yet he appreciates that she was being true to what she thought was right and he feels the tragedy of that, as well as the unfulfilled promise of Tess's passion. Oliver is someone who understands that people are built differently, built to follow different paths, even when those frustrate him. He can love them despite that, and I admire him for that. Tess's death affected him deeply and accordingly, affected me.
I loved the composition of Tess's funeral, with Oliver doing the burial rites, and Lois standing a little further away. Despite her difficult relationship with Tess, she respects what he means to Oliver, and I think also feels something for the woman herself. Oliver yanking the dog tags from Tess's neck was really poignant. Tess was more than that and it's not how he wants her to be remembered.
On a lighter note, 'Honey, I'm home!' was one of the cutest moments of the episode. But then Ollie brought the real depth with his gift to Lois of the meteorite knife and his understated reactions to her fixation on the Blur.
I also really appreciated his clear-sightedness about the overall plan when Chloe died. Ok, it was probably easy for him to feel detachment from Chloe after she killed Tess, but I don't really believe his actions were motivated by anger. The plan to send Lois back in time was not his. Yet, once adopted, he held true to it and reminded Lois of the overall agenda. This is what makes Oliver a great team player, despite his differences of morality with Clark.
I also liked his reaction to Clark's sunny I'm-dating-Lois entrance. He's jealous, yes, but the snarke was toned down when he mocked Clark's roses. Underneath/despite the pain, he too is glad Lois is alive and he understands that Clark and Lois have something together. I still really feel for Ollie. Lois was incredibly important to him, and I think the fact that he can be this gracious about it is admirable.
Part II: Clark So, things started to really look up as soon as Clark offered his father's watch for Lois. Ok, it made NO SENSE (why would they need to barter shit when the Kandorians could just take it?) but the emotional moment really worked. Complete with epic music of Epicness. It's one of the few times I've seen Clark give up anything for Lois, and it made a big difference to me in terms of seeing the ship as more than one-sided.
From there, in terms of Welling's performance and the scripting, it was all good. Tom did a great job of conveying that Clark really loved Lois, that losing her had caused him to realise how much she meant to him. I also loved that Clark threw a punch at Basqat, even though it was entirely pointless. These things made a big difference to me in a season which has tried to sell me Clark/Lois without showing any real investment on Clark's part. Ok, it was still a bit of a stretch for me that Clark would see Lois and just jump her, but I was prepared to run with the idea that in this reality Clark had lived without Lois for months, thinking he'd never see her again, and this made him realise he couldn't waste time. And, of course, he didn't have his powers to worry about. So, with some small trouble, I was able to run with the Clois sex! Woot! And... YAY!
It was also great to see him being heroic despite lack of powers. Even stabbed with a Kryptonite knife he managed to throw Zod across the road. And pull it out. And send Lois back so determinedly with that beautifully encouraging kiss. &hearts
In a longer term perspective, I love that Clark got to see this future, but Lois did not get full access to it. It gives me enough to believe and understand that Clark is now committed to Lois. I can fanwank that he now has some understanding of how painful living without Lois is, and that he has accepted fairly easily that Lois really does mean that much to him. Also that she remained heroically loyal to him in the future. I really loved his 'then, let's do it right!' and the whole final scene, complete with lift hand-holding... and by now I'm a REALLY hard sell on this stuff! But I really bought the sincerity (AT LAST!) and am grateful for that. I especially loved the look he gave her before they stepped into the lift.
In pure Clark!plot terms, I really liked Clark's self-confidence in his exchange with Chloe and Oliver about what path to take with Zod. And, ok, I really liked that he relied on what he thought Jor-El ('my father' = yay!) meant about Zod. I also believe that Oliver will follow what Clark thinks is best (unlike Chloe who argues defiantly). I wish I had faith that the writers were going to stick to this and show that Clark is right... but I fear that things have never really gone well for Clark in terms of talking round the Big Bad... I want to back him 100% on his plan, but I suspect it's too early in the season for that road to be that smooth.
Part III: Lois One thing that has not faltered through this shaky season is Erica's performance, even when the script handed her has been terrible. She did a great job in Pandora of retaining her character integrity in her reactions to the future, including her confusion that people treated Clark as a significant figure. That was adorably presented. And she did a fantastic job with both the shippy material and Lois's own personal heroism.
Admittedly, despite all that, there was some lame. I found the attempts to make Chloe cool clunky. And I didn't really care that she died. I have well and truly written Chloe off at this point in time. I found her a total bitch that she let Tess writhe in agony for a minute before Oliver noticed. And that's before even getting into the 'I had to take the shot' brutality of killing a woman her colleague loves.
The Superficial: Ok, these days, Clark shirtless isn't the same as Oliver shirtless... nonetheless, I was very grateful for that rarest of moments. :) And wow, he is impressively large. :D I also like that he went straight for the unbuttoning-of-shirt once he kissed Lois.
The Unexpected: One of my problems with Season 9 is it does not invite much investment. And part of that is that there is very little of the unexpected involved. But I honestly hadn't anticipated that Clark would be stabbed/killed with the Kryptonite knife, so it was pleasing to have a real 'shock!' moment.
All in all, having now rewatched this episode back to back with Savior, I feel this arc holds up really well. I think the writers struggled in between, and until now there's been something missing from the increased Clois focus--specifically Clark's commitment. But I feel in a much calmer place about season 9 now. Ok, it has faults (I will never like Callum's Zod), but it hasn't totally destroyed my soul. Phew!