Thursday, August 27, 2015

Smallville Rewatch Ep 1.01, Pilot

On Dreamwidth, some of us are doing a Smallville watch and discussion. The show is 13 years old.
I'll be reposting my commentary here.  The format changes over the first few episodes, so bear with me as I find my stride,

Episode 1.01, Pilot

Commenting as I watch:
Establishing shot is great. Subtle, in that if you're not paying attention you miss the afterburners.

Less than a minute in and I already ache for Lex. I want to cuddle him and tell him it's all right, helicopters are noisy and scary, and he needs to be wearing his ear protection. Parental pressure sucks. (also, Gene Wilder is shouting in my head "Destiny, Destiny, no escaping, that's for me!")

The bit with Lana and Martha in the flowershop is heartbreaking, knowing what's coming. And I kinda hate Nell. She manages to convey her desire for Jonathan and her contempt of Martha in five short lines.

And Annette is so beautiful. Just saying that right here. Schneider has aged since leaving Hazzard county but not badly. He's only 42 in this episode. (for reference, I was 35 when this aired) With a few expressions, he makes it clear Jonathan is clearly the former big man on campus, quarterback and all of it.

The colors are intense. The town is all red and yellow with that one oddly Spanish/Moorish building (they must not be far from Kansas City) right there. Very 1950s wholesome small-town looking. And Lex heading into the cornfield, his red hair the same color as the corn tassels, stark against the green.

The scarecrow... I used to think this was an anomaly, a cruelty specific to the comic book universe (and an excuse later to get Welling down to his boxers) As I've read in the years since, this falls very much in line with male tribal/pack behavior.

Okay, Langs, it's one thing to stare at the smoke trail. It's another to stare at the meteorite coming right at YOU! One point for carrying the stupid ball.

The worry changing to revulsion on Lionel's face. He does love his son, even as he has great plans for the boy, and now... now it may all be futile. We see a man whose future and dynasty may be crumbling around him. There's panic mixed in with the revulsion.

Tiny bare feet and big blue eyes. Meep. And the ship has changed shape since the pilot.


Cut to present. Clark is researching super strength phenomenon, a very David Banner moment. And I love Martha being harried as she tries to get everyone around. The milk bottle gag is great.

That even someone as good looking, tall and clear skinned as Clark thinks he's a total loser is interesting messaging. It speaks to our insecurities as teens.

Chloe comes off like a slightly hyperactive Willow Rosenberg. I adore her from the moment she appears. And Pete's off handed Scooby comment is perfect. Her reaction to the scarecrow tradition, "years of therapy waiting to happen" is also spot on.

Lana's meteor rock necklace... That's morbid as all get out. and "Statistical fact, Clark Kent can't get within 5 feet of Lana Lang without turning into a total freakshow." He doesn't know what's causing it. This also establishes Whitney as the current BMOC, getting his girlfriend to check his homework, lording it over the others.


And the bridge wreck. after seeing the computer simulation for several seasons, the scene itself is gut wrenching. We've all had bad moments behind the wheel, but this, and the fear on both boys' faces at impact, just left me a little queasy.

Clark doing CPR with no hesitation and Lex looking as if he's just seen an angel. No wonder it is an iconic slash ship.

"I could have sworn I hit you."
"You did hit me. You did." (right in the feels. There is no sub in this text)

Jonathan refusing to shake Lex's hand is a big bit of male symbolism. Men of his generation, and Lex's station, always shake hands. To refuse to do so shows you think someone is beneath contempt. It establishes his anger, his dislike of Lex and his position (again) as the male authority on the show.

The telescope thing, very Rear Window, but very creepy.
Whitney comes off as self-aware, ambitious. He knows that football stars are replaceable, there's a new one very year or two, and most of them don't ever make it out of their small towns. (Our own senior class quarterback is now the football coach at my old high school) They work and drink beer and never do much more than talk about their glory days in high school and maybe college. He wants more.

We're 20 minutes into the episode and we're just now getting some plot, instead of introductions. One of those "remember whens" Whitney was talking about. And he has learned nothing in the intervening 12 years.
He starts off insulting and confrontational and then quickly retreats behind "it was just a game, just a joke" after being shocked. This guy is Schroedinger's douchebag.

The sporty little red truck from Lex is a nice gesture (a bit grand, but hey, Luthors), but the look on Martha's face says he won't get to keep it.

Woodchipper. Never a good item in a scene. Someone's arm is going in that before the end.

Also, Jonathan wears proper safety gear. Now I want to do a Goofus and Gallant style cartoon strip. "Lionel arrogantly refuses to wear his ear protectors in the helicopter. Jonathan wears all his protective gear when operating heavy machinery." And just as a side note: an old piece of fic I beta'd in 2003.

Yep, Clark's arm into the chipper.
And now for the father/son talk.
"I suppose you stashed my spaceship in the attic?"
"Actually, it's in the storm cellar." Jonathan's calm, slightly embarrassed confession makes this scene.

The scene in the graveyard with Lana... Her Canadian accent is really strong. This one is a little morbid, but kind of cute. They're using her dead parents as a way to communicate, all the things they haven't been able to say to each other before now. And I love how fast Clark denies being upset about a boy.

The scene with Lex fairly pants with seduction. First the fencing lesson and the sword impaling the wall next to Clark. Lex stripping off his jacket and letting the suspenders fall as a prelude to taking off the padded trousers. The look in the mirror that goes on a beat or three too long, becoming vain and seductive instead of just a statement of fact. And "How about you Clark? Did you fall far from the tree?" There is nothing innocent or friendly in that smile.

Somehow the baldness makes Lex feminine. I'm sure there are endless papers about that. But I'm watching him move, very controlled, very conscious of every move, and very sexual. (I've been watching Michael Rosenbaum in "Impastor" and he moves completely differently as Buddy.) His voice is soft, sweet. Not a "hail-fellow-well-met," but "let me tell you secrets--like the flying during his near death experience--and look at you because you are shy and beautiful."

The gaze timing is perfect. It doesn't run long enough to make watchers uncomfortable (see the Hoth hangar scene) but it is quite intense.

Wall of the Weird. That is all

And at 34 minutes, we have hit the first Superman=Jesus moment. It's not the only one and it won't be the last.

Not going there. No. Lex is having a bad flashback night. I find the speed of his unknotting unrealistic. (okay, kid with superspeed, sure, untying ropes in seconds...oops) And Lex has his first piece of Kryptonite.

Although Jeremy and his vengeance are supposed to be the plot, he gets less than ten minutes of screen time as he tries to go Carrie on the Homecoming dance. (Chloe is having a blast with Pete. Lana and Whitney are being perfect and plastic)

So the players are all on stage, the relationships are established.
And Clark knows he's not human. It's not a terrible pilot.

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