Ostensibly this episode was about a cursed comic book, Chloe's day of fantasy that suddenly turned all too real, and Zatanna's return to Smallville, but the highlight for me was Clark. Clark talked! About his feelings, and what it means to be a hero, and why he continues to choose that role for himself, in spite of the sacrifices it requires. After hearing what he struggles with, and what inspires him, I admire him more, I love him more, and his relationship with Lois makes a lot more sense. As a Clark fan, Warrior felt like a valentine made just for me. ♥
This week Clark was totally focused on his activities as the Blur. He was out catching bad guys in broad daylight, showing up late for his Daily Planet duties, and making excuses to Lois. In Disciple we saw him give in to his heart and turn up the heat on his new romance, but in Warrior he was putting it on the back burner again. Finding a balance isn't easy for Clark, and neither is letting Lois get close, especially when you factor in the baggage he's still carrying from his relationship with Lana. But Zatanna helped bring his feelings for Lois into sharp focus, Lois herself reminded him that life with her is a whole new ball game, and by the end of the episode he was ready to step outside his comfort zone and take a whole new chance on love.
I enjoyed every moment of Tom's performance. He showed us how serious Clark is about being a force for good in the world, and how hard it is for him to take a break from playing the hero, especially to pursue his own happiness with Lois. At the same time, he gave us some really wonderful comic scenes. I laughed so hard when Clark chucked that can to take out the bad guy, without even a hitch in his conversation with Lois. His expressions as he held up each costume in Lois's closet were hilarious. And Tom was both adorable and funny as he rushed through Clark's awkward apology, racing to get it out before Lois had time to react, and then faltered, suddenly shy, when the subject of fantasy came up. He shifted gears into sexy when Clark fell under Zatanna's spell, giving in for just one moment to pure, unadulterated lust. Tom does this thing where he lunges into a kiss that leaves me seriously weak in the knees. Rowr.
Tom's best scene of all, though, was Clark's heartfelt conversation with Alec in the loft at the farm. He was my Superman: so strong and true, so gentle and kind. Tom has a way with young actors that is truly magical, and Clark reaching out to kids never fails to touch my heart. He doesn't talk down to them, lie to them, or try to manipulate them, the way many adults do. He treats them with respect, and genuine affection, and inspires in them the devotion the whole world will someday feel for the Man of Steel. I loved what Clark had to say about being a hero, and the shining admiration in Alec's eyes as he did so. And how cool was it that Alec had been a fan of the Blur since his red and blue days?
Clark brought Alec back to his own beginnings to set him on the right path, and every element of that moment was perfect: the nostalgic loft setting, the golden light, the simple, wistful song, and even the soft breeze that ruffled their hair. And yet we were reminded by Clark's grown-up DP wardrobe how far he has come since then. I applaud the writer, the director, and especially the actors for crafting a scene that is destined to become one of my all-time favorites. The emotion pulled me in, the message lifted me up, and it was beautiful. *loves my show*
So after writing an entire review's worth of words just about Clark, what else did I like about Warrior? Everything! Smallville's trip to MetCon was fun. There were no thinly veiled barbs directed at the fans as some people feared, just a sweet celebration of geekdom, with a generous dose of Star Wars, and featuring Smallville's own comic book hero, Warrior Angel. I enjoyed scoping out all the costumes on the extras we saw milling about, especially the multiple versions of the Blur and Green Arrow. Very cute, show. They even had a booth with Blur-themed merchandise! I'm adding a MetCon tee to my ever-growing Smallville wish list, right after the DP key chain from Metallo, the Blur coffee cup from Idol, and the Lois and Clark cardboard cut-out from Crossfire. Oh, and Alec's Warrior Angel tee would be nice, too.
With MetCon came Zatanna, played by Serinda Swan, one of my favorite guest stars. She's gorgeous, she looks and acts the part to perfection, and she has incredible chemistry with everyone, men and women alike. She is simply wonderful, and I hope they bring her back again soon. In Warrior, Zatanna returned to Smallville to clean up a mess her late father had made, in the form of a cursed comic book. But she was too late; a little boy had already invoked the curse, and Zatanna was left to track him down, with Clark's help, and reverse the spell, before something went terribly wrong.
One of the things I like most about Zatanna is her sense of mischief. At heart, she's obviously a good person. She's undoing the evil her father wrought, and, as we saw in Hex, she likes to help people face the truth about themselves. The only thing is, she uses magic to do it, and I'm afraid her own amusement always comes first, which makes her methods both unconventional and unpredictable. But hey, that's the fun part! :) Last time she saw Clark, he was unattached, and this time she was definitely interested. She noticed Lois, but when she asked Clark about her, with a suggestive sidelong glance, all he volunteered was that he was keeping her at arm's length. So she decided to put his feelings to the test.
She started by filling the room with romantic candlelight and stepping dangerously close, and it was clear that Clark, although fighting to stay strong, was not completely immune to her charms. I liked that. We rarely see Clark experience true passion, and I want to know it's there inside him, ready to be unleashed when the right woman is in his arms. Zatanna whipped up a little spell to push him over the edge, and the next thing we knew, she was straddling our hero, and they locked lips in a hungry kiss. Yowza! It lasted only a second before Clark regained control, easily breaking the spell, and Zatanna conceded defeat graciously, her mission accomplished. Now Clark knew that maybe he did want a bit of fantasy in his life, but he only wanted it with Lois.
It was probably more naughty than nice of Zatanna to play with Clark that way, especially because we knew our boy scout was going to feel guilty for even the hint of attraction he felt for her, but her loosely woven spell was hardly a magical roofie, and all she stole was a kiss. To Zatanna, it was just a bit of harmless fun that answered her questions, and opened Clark's eyes at the same time. And without it, Clark would never have bought those apology tickets to the ball. Zatanna actually helped Clark's relationship with Lois! ;) Besides, did I mention that kiss was HOT?
The other guest stars this week were also exceptional. Owen Best's Alec was sweet and sympathetic, and he blew me away in his emotional scenes, especially the one with Clark in the loft. Plus he was a real cutie-pie. Once again Smallville casting found us a treasure (and he previously played little Jason Teague in Veritas). When Alec opened the Warrior Angel comic book and read aloud from it, he unwittingly triggered the curse. He transformed into a grown man who was also a superhero, and that's when the real adventure began.
Carlo Marks, who played Chloe's hunky boyfriend in the Apocalypse AU, returned in Warrior as Stephen Swift, Warrior Angel's secret identity, come to life right out of the pages of a comic book. He was Alec on the inside, and Stephen on the outside, and he perfectly captured the youthful exuberance of a boy whose wildest dreams have just come true, along with the innocence and naivete of that boy trying to be a man. It was exhilarating to watch him enjoy his new life as a hero, celebrating each newly discovered power, and joyfully saving victims from the bullies of the world. And when the dark side of the curse kicked in, and Warrior Angel became the evil Devilicus, it was equally chilling to watch him turn.
Stephen's first act as Warrior Angel was to save Chloe's life, and from that moment on they were inseparable. Chloe had just promised Lois she would try to have some fun, and then a brand new superhero dropped right into her lap. I think it was a relief for Chloe to look at the world through Stephen's eyes. He was so happy, and each new experience seemed shiny and bright. She could talk to him without the conflicts that define her relationship with Clark these days, and forget for a moment the constant struggle and worry that has become her life. With Stephen she remembered how to laugh again, and when she finally gave in to the moment and threw caution to the wind, her reward was an unbelievable night spent soaring through the skies, watching her city from a heady new perspective.
Chloe broke my heart in this episode. She's been through so much, suffered so much. Yes, she bears some responsibility for all that has happened, but I would never say she deserved the pain she's had to bear. When she finally tried to break free of her self-imposed prison, what happened? She was shot down, again. After learning the truth about Stephen, she still couldn't bring herself to open up to Clark, but instead attempted to make it right on her own. Unfortunately, she only made it worse, and almost lost her life in the process, flung from the rooftop by Zatanna's magic recoil. I loved that it was Clark who came to her rescue, with a glorious iconic shirt rip and a thrilling super leap from the street below, the true hero of the story. I wish Chloe could see that, and put her trust in him as she once did. Her decision to keep things from him can't end well.
In the aftermath, as Chloe hugged a distraught Alec tight, her eyes filled with tears, and I don't think they were just for that little boy. When Clark told him that everything was going to be okay, we could see that Chloe didn't believe his reassurances extended to her, and when she returned to the Watchtower to find Oliver in the middle of target practice, she seemed utterly defeated. As she shrugged off her coat, kicked off her high heels, and poured herself a single malt, I realized that some part of me has continued to see Chloe as Clark's high school sidekick all these years. For the first time it truly struck me that, like Clark, Chloe is all grown up now. And that was never more apparent than in the scene that followed.
In one of the steamiest scenes this show has ever given us, Chloe and Oliver bonded over their emotional scars and their world-weary cynicism, dispensing with hearts and flowers, and embracing honesty instead. Oliver, his eyes full of sexual promise, proposed that they find their fun where they could, and Chloe accepted, this time leaving all her expectations behind. As she stood in the circle of his arms for an impromptu archery lesson, his warm touch sliding over her skin, and his husky whisper in her ear, I was surprised the screen didn't burst into flames from the heat coming off of these two! And I say more power to them. They're going into this with their eyes wide open, they're impossibly hot together (who knew?), and they're not hurting anyone. Why not give it a whirl?
Justin Hartley had one other scene in this episode, a brief conversation between Oliver and Clark at the DP. He wasn't even onscreen for thirty seconds, and he still managed to deliver one of the episode's funnier scenes. The man continues to hone his comedic skills, and I continue to enjoy his presence on the show. And Oliver looked yummy in that suit. I just hope his dark days are well and truly over.
We saw Lois in reporter mode this episode, first at MetCon on a human interest story, and then following up on the comic book theft that happened there. She wore a couple of different costumes at MetCon to get that "embedded" experience. My favorite was the Star Wars stormtrooper, both for the geek factor and because she looked adorable in it, but when she couldn't get anyone to talk to her, she sent Clark to bring her something the fanboys would appreciate. Her
Lois was feeling a little insecure at the beginning of Warrior, because Clark had been distracted and absent recently, and those feelings turned into full-blown jealousy when Zatanna showed up and dragged Clark away. Determined not to give in to the green-eyed monster, Lois gave Clark his space and focused on the comic book story, but obviously she cared enough to give Oliver an earful, which in turn gave Clark a little twinge of jealousy himself. There were a lot of cute and funny couple moments between Lois and Clark in this episode, from him awkwardly rifling through her provocative collection of dress-up clothes, to her hilarious retaliatory kiss with Jeff the Intern, but their last scene together ended on a sweet note, with no doubt that they only have eyes for each other. To me, this was the perfect amount of romance. It was an important and entertaining part of the story, but not the only one. It didn't overpower the other themes, and it let both Clark and Lois shine as individuals, not just as two halves of a couple.
Allison Mack did a tremendous job directing this episode. She has a great eye for comedy, and for emotional resonance as well. I loved the overall look and tone of Warrior, and there were many individual shots and scenes that stood out. The whole sequence where Clark cleans up crime while talking to Lois on the phone was hilarious. I liked the way she filmed Lois's apartment from a vantage point inside the closet. I laughed at the line of fanboys who all leaned in unison to check out Lois. The shot of Clark rescuing Chloe from below and speeding into the camera with her in his arms was cool. The sexual tension she created in the way she blocked the final scene of the episode was stunning. And the loft scene was, quite simply, a masterpiece. AM should be very proud.
Random thoughts: I loved the ChloLo scene! We need more of those! Whose burly bicep was that? It didn't match the rest of Stephen at all. Chloe's top was pretty. She wore it in Idol, too. Did you see Tom grin at that little boy in line for the bathroom? Awww. "Stop gawking and prosper." hee! How many takes did AM need to get that coffee order right? All that business with the phone cords at the DP was cute. Who else thought we got robbed when we didn't get to see Clark dressed up for the ball? *pouts* And Warrior had a couple of songs! The one we heard during the loft scene is called Miles, by Justin Mather, and it's available on iTunes HERE. The one that played over that final scene between Chloe and Oliver is called Smooth, by Car Stereo Wars, and it's on iTunes HERE.
Warrior was about finding a balance, between work and play, between serving the greater good and nurturing ourselves, between fantasy and reality. The episode had a lovely balance itself, with comedy, drama, action, romance, a stand-alone adventure, and a bit of mythos. And a long-overdue focus on Clark's POV, which for me made everything else better. I think it was a little slice of perfection, one that reminds me why I love this show, and that I will return to again and again. Well done, Smallville.
Have I ever mentioned that I think Tom is pretty? :D My top 20 caps from Warrior:
Screen caps courtesy of Home of the Nutty, with my thanks!