I was surprised to see that Oliver had further to fall after last week's episode. I thought his suicide attempt was rock bottom, and a fitting place for him to begin his journey back to being a hero. Toyman's list of his sins and character flaws opened his eyes to the man he had let himself become, and Clark's quiet but earnest conversation let him know that the biggest hero of them all still believed in the man he could once again be. Clark said he didn't have to face his struggle alone anymore, and what I would have liked to see this week was Clark helping Oliver start the climb out of his pit of self-destruction and despair. It's not the journey of an instant, and I think an episode spent exploring how Oliver would face the consequences of his past actions, and atone for them, with Clark providing inspiration and support, would have been a lot more satisfying to watch than Roulette. And it would have made me like Oliver a whole lot more.
Instead we saw what turned out to be Chloe playing the puppet master, leading Oliver through a series of elaborate but fake trials, all designed to manipulate him back to where she knew he needed to be. And in the end he respected her for it, for harnessing the resources at her disposal to make her plan happen, and give him a rather heavy-handed lesson. She took a page from his Machiavellian playbook, and embraced his philosophy that the end justifies the means. In so doing, she not only pulled Oliver back from the edge, she also brought them closer together. Unlike the other members of the Justice League, they alone fight without superpowers to help them, and with this episode that became their bond. They agreed that Clark would never have understood Chloe's motivation or her choices, and I think that's how it will always be between Oliver and Clark, too. But in that moment I'm afraid another round of Smallville secrets and lies was born, and that can't be a good thing.
I would rather have seen Oliver choose redemption freely, but I have a feeling this entire storyline was intended to kick off a dark arc for Chloe, where she wields her considerable power with the mistaken belief that she can do no wrong. I'm only speculating here, but it's a storyline that makes a lot of sense to me, and that I think could be fascinating in Allison's Mack's talented hands. Chloe has suffered loss after devastating loss recently, and been powerless to stop any of them. She can't turn to Clark for help, because of his pesky moral code. What better way to protect her heart from further harm than to seize control of anything she can? She'll only do what's best for everyone anyway. What could possibly go wrong?
Chloe's cool self-assurance in that last scene with Oliver, and especially her evident disdain for Clark, were positively chilling. White Queen, indeed. Unfortunately, I knew it was Chloe all along, so there was no moment of shock and surprise when her involvement was revealed. The story for this episode seems to have been inspired by a Michael Douglas film called The Game, which I've seen, and knowing the twist in advance made it obvious that Chloe was the person in Oliver's life who would put such a scheme in motion. I don't know if I would have suspected her anyway; it seemed like the show was trying to make us think it might have been Lex behind it all. In any case, Roulette showed us that Chloe has changed, and only time will tell if that's a cause for concern. Me? I'm already worried.
I do think Justin Hartley did a great job in this episode. I believed in Oliver's confusion, frustration, rage, and fear. I just couldn't bring myself to care all that much. I remember The Game because I felt anxious and distressed the whole time I watched it, and I felt for the main character, even though he was thoroughly unlikable, simply because no human being should be subjected to what he went through. Roulette failed to create that same tension, and Oliver's behavior lately has hardened my heart against him just a bit. Some of the scenes were exciting, and Justin's lithe physicality made the action sequences a thing of beauty. I also enjoyed Steph Song as Roulette. But overall, I think the story fell flat.
You know what would have made this episode about a hundred times better? A scene where Oliver tells Clark and Chloe that the time has come for him to do the right thing, and that he'll be turning himself in to the authorities for murdering Lex. And while he's at it, he could apologize to Clark for betraying him and shooting him in the back with a kryptonite arrow, and to Chloe for his hand in Jimmy's death. Then Clark could say he's glad Oliver chose the right path on his own, so the Blur wouldn't have to truss him up and deliver him to the cops like a common criminal. And Chloe could save the day by revealing irrefutable proof that Lex is alive after all, and that the body in the truck was a lifeless clone. At least that way we would know that Oliver acknowledged the full weight of what he had done, and accepted responsibility for it. Instead it looks like Oliver got away with murder, and Clark let him.
For me, the scenes between Clark and Lois at the farm were the highlight. They were cute and funny, and many of Tom's expressions were priceless (my favorite was Clark's wild-eyed panic when he came home as the Blur and found Lois standing in his living room). I liked that they touched on one of the problems Clark will face if he starts dating Lois in earnest: balancing his activities as the Blur with a girlfriend who doesn't know his secret. Is that even possible? But the weird thing was that I got no romantic vibe from those scenes whatsoever. There was no flirting, no heated glances, nothing! I honestly felt like we stepped into the Wayback Machine and traveled back to S6, when Lois and Oliver were a couple. Lois showed up at Clark's house with laundry and movies to distract herself from the fact that Oliver hadn't called, and was so caught up in her thoughts of him, she couldn't even follow the movie she put on. Clark was totally focused on the rescues he might be missing, seemed like he wished Lois would just leave, and was awkward and embarrassed when confronted by her underwear. Was this the same couple who stared at each other so hungrily in this very house just two episodes ago?
I did enjoy seeing Lois be a good friend to Oliver. I have to keep reminding myself how little she really knows about him. She knows about Green Arrow, but not the Justice League, or Lex, or his role in what happened with Doomsday and Jimmy. And she has no idea about the true nature of his relationship with Clark. But she knows he's been hurting, and she still cares about what happens to him. I can totally understand why she was so upset with Clark for keeping Oliver's suicide attempt from her, although she was wrong to expect him to share a secret that was never his to tell. Erica Durance broke my heart with her performance in that scene. I liked that Lois took it upon herself to track Oliver down, just as she did in Savior. She's devoted to her friends, and resourceful as well. Oliver's lucky to have her on his side.
The final scene between Lois and Oliver was perfect. She burst into his office and gave him hell, in classic Lois fashion. And he loved it. He can always count on Lois to tell him the unvarnished truth, and keep his ego in check. And, as we also saw, to take him into her heart. I'm sure Oliver is feeling wistful over those happier days when Lois was by his side, but deep down he knows there are good reasons why they're no longer together. Lois reached out to him without reservation, but also without any hint of romance, and Erica hit every note just right. I think we're finally seeing the friendship that was born between them on Clark's porch in Bride. Oliver and Lois have a wonderful ease with one other, that makes me smile every time they're together. I only wish Clark and Chloe could reach the same accord.
Clark wasn't in this one much, but every moment he was onscreen was a treat. He was adorable at home with Lois, heroic as the Blur, and a leader in the search for both Oliver's whereabouts and information about Alia. What I noticed in this episode is the sheer presence that Tom brings to Clark these days. Every time Clark is in a scene he commands it, and he manages to inspire my confidence just by standing tall, resolute, and stern. He makes me swoon without moving a muscle, or uttering a single word! And the gorgeous factor remains off the charts. Every time Tom showed up, he took my breath away, especially in that delicious sweater he wore in Clark's last scene with Chloe. Yum. One thing about having long stretches without Clark, it really makes you realize how much of a void his absence leaves in its wake. I didn't like it.
In spite of my problems with Oliver, I absolutely loved the final scene of the episode. Seeing the Blur and Green Arrow stand side by side, high above the streets of Metropolis, with no bitterness between them, was glorious! No one wears tight green leather like Justin Hartley, and I'm glad to see him in his hero garb again. I also liked Oliver's friendly snark about Clark's outfit (I kind of agree with him), and Clark's amused response. I've always wanted Clark to have guy friends, and I've longed for Oliver to respect and appreciate the hero Clark has become. Is it possible these two will finally truly be brothers in arms? I hope so. But most of all I loved Clark. The gravitas he brought to this moment, the sense of a world in peril that he would do anything to protect, thrilled me to my core. He is my Superman, and by welcoming Oliver back, by believing in the hero who stood humbled before him, he made his redemption complete.
Random thoughts: Who changed Oliver's clothes from black to white before putting him in that coffin, and why? Did Clark really have to destroy that woman's car in the course of rescuing her? That bit about Lois and Oliver's annual beer pong birthdays seemed totally contrived. They met in S6, only saw each other once in S7, and hardly seemed to be best buddies in S8. Clark is in no position to deliver lectures about knocking first. What is it with this show and scenes of Oliver staring at his own pretty face? And it really bothers me when Clark uses poor grammar. He should be smarter than that.
Roulette wasn't the best episode, but it wasn't the worst either, and it gave us some welcome developments. Oliver is finished wallowing, and has decided to be one of the good guys again. Chloe finally has a significant storyline of her own, and it's an intriguing one. Let's hope it translates into more screen time in the future. And Clark now knows about the Kandorians. What will he do next? Still, I hope we don't have any more episodes like this one. Justin made the most of his opportunity to shine, and I know Tom is a busy guy, but this is the story of how Clark Kent becomes Superman, and ultimately I think every episode should revolve around him. Smallville just isn't the same when Clark Kent is relegated to supporting status.
Tom is very, very pretty. My top ten favorite screen caps from Roulette:
Screen caps courtesy of Home of the Nutty, with my thanks!