I went into Hostage fully spoiled, and very apprehensive. Martha Kent has always been one of my favorite characters from the Superman mythology, and her role in Clark's life is sacred to me. So when I heard that she was going to be the Red Queen, and dating Perry White, my heart sank. But for the most part, I loved this episode. The story was an intimate one, with almost every scene playing out as a conversation between just two people, steeped in emotion and marked by heartache. It gave us a thoughtful exploration of identity, how we define ourselves and the face we present to the world, with a particular focus on the women in Clark's life, and how moving in his orbit has affected the choices they've made.
Martha's reasons for becoming the Red Queen, and for hiding it from Clark, made perfect sense to me. She is Clark's mother, first and foremost, and she will do anything to protect her son, from those who would uncover his secrets, from a world that sees any alien as a threat, and even from his own destiny. We've seen this same fierce protectiveness in Martha since the beginning, in episodes like Insurgence, Extinction, and Crusade. I'm sure that when she looks at Clark, standing tall and impossibly strong, she still sees the sweet little boy she scooped up in that cornfield and made her own. From that day forward, loving him and keeping him safe became her primary purpose in life.
I have missed Martha, and Annette O'Toole's stellar acting, so much, and was hoping for some special moments between Clark and his mother to treasure. Hostage did not disappoint. It was wonderful to hear Clark share his feelings with Martha, about his father, Lois, and the challenges that stand before him, and to see her offer him comfort and advice. And how amazing was their final scene together? Clark put all the pieces together and figured out that Martha was the Red Queen. When he confronted her, their roles were suddenly reversed, with her confessing her fears, and him providing the reassurance. Tom Welling's performance gave me chills as Clark told Martha he had to have the Book of Rao, so gentle and yet so undeniably firm. His quiet strength as he spoke of embracing his destiny and saving the planet, and the hope it inspired in my heart, were nothing short of glorious. THAT is my Superman.
I also liked the way the show explained Martha's long absence from Smallville, and her new romance with Perry White. They honored Jonathan's memory with Martha's still tender grief, and showed us that what she felt for Perry could not compare to that lifelong love. Still, his genuine devotion to her endeared him to me, and made me surprisingly open to the idea of them as a couple further down the road. Clark did his best to welcome Perry for his mother's sake, but the awkwardness was palpable. The last time Clark met this man, he was a sloppy, drunk failure, who nonetheless had astute powers of observation and a relentless curiosity about what he saw. No wonder Clark was stunned to see him show up on his mother's arm, talking about getting naked with her! But I loved the poetry of Perry coming back to Smallville at this exact moment. Just as Clark is struggling to decide if he should step out of the shadows, he is reminded of his power to inspire others by one of his earliest triumphs, a lost soul who was pulled back from the brink by the goodness and heroism he saw in a simple farmboy.
Their conversation together couldn't have been easy for Clark. He was already uncomfortable, and the bombshells Perry kept dropping only made things worse. Perry was completely open and earnest, but Clark was a war of emotions, each one unmistakable as it played across his face: impatience to get back to his search, suspicion that Perry hadn't changed, protective concern for his mother, determined politeness, apprehension about having a reporter right on top of him, jealousy and frustration that Perry was sharing with Lois what Clark could not, bleak resignation that the life he longs to have with Lois might never be possible, dismay that Martha's new romance was moving way too fast, and finally, genuine sympathy for the man with his heart on his sleeve. And Tom was, as always, the absolute master of nuance. It was a great scene.
The real treat was watching Perry with Lois. They made perfect partners, bonding instantly over the thrill of chasing down a story, and their scenes together were a lot of fun. I was captivated by their banter, intrigued by their storyline, and thoroughly entertained. I loved that Lois fangirled Perry, and that he in turn knew and respected her work. And their competitiveness with one another made me laugh. I wish Perry were going to be around in S10 to mentor both Lois and Clark. Michael McKean's characterization is a delight. He has chemistry with everyone, and he makes every scene he's in better, because he's just that good.
I was happy to see Lois find fulfillment in journalism, and have the epiphany that to find her higher purpose she needed to look inside herself, rather than let someone else define who she should be, or settle for being the Blur's sidekick. The fact that Lois will be a hero in her own right, wielding her pen like a sword in the fight against injustice, is such an important part of her identity. And of course Lois Lane isn't content to sit behind a computer screen or conduct a sedate interview, she's racing across rooftops and saving the day, all in pursuit of the truth. Her passion, strength, and independence will give her the right to stand by Clark's side as his true partner, while her loyalty and love will let her into his heart. And we saw for ourselves in this episode that Clark couldn't be more enchanted, or more proud.
I was disappointed, though, that in finding herself, Lois felt she had to leave Clark behind. Don't get me wrong, I understand why she was upset. Lois was freaked out about losing her job at the Daily Planet; to her it was the end of the world, and Clark was not only distracted, he was dismissive. He had much bigger problems on his mind, like the destruction of the planet and the enslavement of mankind, but of course Lois didn't know about any of that. She saw a man who couldn't be bothered to listen to her, or understand what she was going through, and she realized that figuring out where to go next was something she had to do on her own anyway. Her frustration was completely justified. But to say Clark didn't have the same lofty goals she did, and then break up with him? What about the man who took a bullet for her in Stiletto, or the hero who saved her in Rabid? Isn't it obvious he already serves a higher purpose, putting others before himself, with or without his superpowers? And even if Lois has lost sight of that side of Clark, does that mean she doesn't love him anymore? What exactly was the deal breaker? I guess I just expected Lois to fight a little harder for the guy she insists is "the one." :(
The way it all went down made me wonder what the writers are up to. One of the things I like best about Smallville is the unique twist the show puts on the Superman story. We already know Clark and Lois will end up together, and pretty much who they will be when they get there, but here we have seen them cross paths long before that, and it's been cool to have my expectations turned upside down along the way. On Smallville Lois fell in love first, and with Clark, not the Red Blue Blur. For all of last season we saw her feelings for him grow, and then this season Clark realized he felt the same way about her. Their relationship has faced some big challenges, but their love has been unshakable, so it seemed OOC for Lois to bail over this particular bump in the road. And it made me wary.
Maybe I'm jumping to conclusions, but it seems to me that the show is maneuvering its way around to a much more traditional take on the romance between Clark and Lois. All of a sudden Lois has started to lose faith in Clark, and compare him unfavorably with the Blur. She didn't exactly seem distraught over her decision to break up with him (remember how she cried in Clark's arms over Oliver in Siren?), while Clark is more lovestruck than ever, and is definitely pining for her. He even said that there was a side of Lois that she shares with the Blur, but not Clark Kent. Is he beginning to feel jealous of himself? After her miraculous rescue of Perry, I have a sinking feeling that Lois will feel even more of an affinity with the Blur, and pretty soon we'll have the full-blown classic Triangle of Two on our hands. I don't know, maybe Smallville can pull it off, but I liked it better when the approach was a fresh one.
Or maybe I'm reading it all wrong. I hope I am.
It still bothers me that Lois continues to find her inspiration in the work she did for Zod, but I guess ultimately I can count that as something good that came out of Clark's decision to save him. Like so many other pivotal events that have shaped Lois's life, her connection to Zod is inextricably entwined with Clark. Besides, Zod is pretending to be Clark with Lois anyway, and her perception of who that is has been shaped by her previous experiences with the real deal. So I guess I've made my peace with that.
Chloe totally threw me for a loop in Hostage. Just when I had finally accepted that she would never say the words, "I'm sorry," to Clark, she did! And you know what? That's good enough for me. I didn't like that she blamed her actions on Clark ("when you disappeared from my life"), or that she excused them as good intentions ("even when I hurt you, I was trying to protect you"), and of course I wanted more, but I'll take what I can get. I don't want to be mad at Chloe anymore. She has devoted years of her life to helping Clark, especially since Alicia let her in on his secret, and being his sidekick and secret keeper has proved more important to her than her education, her job at the Daily Planet, or her love life. But this season she took that singular focus and twisted it, making choices that left me wondering if she was still one of the good guys. Now that she has regained her perspective, I'm glad Clark was able to convince her not to walk away, but rather to see all the good she does.
It wasn't very fun watching Tess be abused again. She has become Smallville's punching bag, mentally and physically. I knew it wasn't real the same moment Tess did, when Oliver professed his love for her. What was interesting to me is that of all the characters we saw in this episode, Tess was the only one who was alone. She has tried to manipulate just about everyone, justifying each action with her radical ideas about saving the planet, and she has been the epitome of a loose cannon. I know she's made her own bed, but my heart still breaks for her. Cassidy Freeman's performance moves me every time. At the same time, though, Martha's harshness with her reminded me of all she has done to Clark. I think Tess is a changed woman, who desperately wants to redeem herself. I just don't know if she'll get the chance.
Random thoughts: Why was Clark punching holes in the wall when he could just use his x-ray vision? I was convinced Jor-El was taking the Book of Rao out of the wall, not putting it in. That would have made so much more sense. Vala was annoying, but I'll forgive her if she sides with Clark in the final showdown. What instrument did Tess use to threaten Maxwell Lord? Because it looked like a pizza cutter to me. :) Was that a mind-wipe tone that Martha sent over the phone? We all agree that it was Zod who sent that note to Lois, right? Nothing beats Clark in a white tee. Except maybe Clark in a v-neck sweater. Yum. And did Tom have a cold? His voice sounded all husky, and super sexy.
This episode was a crazy mix of the sublime and the ridiculous. There were plot holes aplenty. Who was the source of all that detailed information about the Book of Rao? Martha knew more about it than Faora did! One minute Chloe was saying the Red Queen wasn't part of Checkmate, and the next Lois was arranging a meeting with her using Amanda Waller's special cell phone. And why did Martha set up that meeting anyway? What exactly did it accomplish, besides nearly getting Perry killed? Chloe said the Kandorians were MIA, but Clark had no trouble finding Vala. And if Martha was coming home to visit for the first time in years, and was planning to hunt down the Book of Rao while she was there, why in the world would she bring a new boyfriend along, much less one who just happens to be a reporter? But I didn't care about any of that, because I was too busy reveling in Clark's POV, the return of Martha Kent and Perry White, Lois and Perry working together, and Chloe actually apologizing. Oh, and the pretty. Did I mention how I could barely form a coherent thought in the face of Tom's breathtaking beauty, especially in that perfect, golden sunlight of the Kent Farm? Thank you, Glen Winter.
Clark Kent and his mother, Martha, reunited in Hostage, and discovered they had more in common than they knew; in fact, they were living parallel lives. Both had dual identities, fighting the good fight in secret, unable to share every part of themselves with those they hold dear. There was a lot that Clark could learn from seeing himself mirrored in Martha. He could remember how much stronger she was when she could share her burdens and joys with the man she loved. He could realize that when you seek to protect someone by keeping the truth from them, you risk holding them back from their destiny. The other characters we saw, all struggling with their own identity issues, offered valuable insights as well. Lois showed Clark that she is strong and capable; she can handle his secret. Perry told a cautionary tale about making time for love in your life. Chloe showed us the dangers of isolation, and how you can lose your perspective without a sounding board. And Tess was lost, because she couldn't be honest with anyone, not even herself. I hope Clark was paying attention.
Here's some of that stupefying pretty. Twenty of my favorite caps from Hostage:
Screen caps courtesy of Home of the Nutty, with my thanks!