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Smallville 9x21 - Hostage - I worship at the television altar
Smallville 9x21 - Hostage

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!

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7 comments or Leave a comment
jlvsclrk From: jlvsclrk Date: May 15th, 2010 06:49 am (UTC) (Link)
I confess I'm on too much of a high from Salvation to give an intelligent reply here, so I'm just going to squee and say ITA!

Nah, can't leave it at that. Although I never got around to it, I'd been planning all week on writing a long semi-rant about how Smallville so often goes wrong by having people behave OOC for the sake of the plot. For me, just about everyone suffered from that to some degree in this episode, especially Lois. I could see her being mad with Clark because of his dismissive attitude but she made the break up specifically about her need for a purpose, thus tying it to the Blur, and that failed for me on just about every possible level. Of course, having seen Salvation, I appreciate why they needed to split Clois apart for awhile, but still, I wish they'd found a better way to do so.

I also had a problem with Martha. Not with her being the Red Queen, but with her using Maxwell Lord, thus being complicit in Tess's torture (I think for once the term 'mind rape' may be appropriate). And if we're going to chastise Chloe for all her dubious methods throughout the season, its only fair to do so to Martha. 'Protecting Clark' simply doesn't cut it as an excuse.

But yes, that final scene with Clark and Martha together was totally brilliant! And its nice to have our old Chloe back, even if I found those points you raised about her apology equally irksome. All in all, a good lead in to the finale.

And what a finale! Squeeeee!!!!!

Edited at 2010-05-15 06:52 am (UTC)
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: June 7th, 2010 09:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd been planning all week on writing a long semi-rant about how Smallville so often goes wrong by having people behave OOC for the sake of the plot.

This is so true, and they've been doing it for years. It's always struck me as lazy writing, and it usually puts me in a position where I struggle to decide if I should take the behavior at face value, and be frustrated with the character, or "blame the writers," and purposely ignore something that has become part of show canon. I understand why they had to break up Clark and Lois, but it still doesn't make sense to me, and I don't think it cast Lois in the best light.

I didn't like the Martha/Maxwell Lord connection much either, but at least I found it plausible. I think a lot of boundaries get crossed when a mother is trying to protect her threatened child. That doesn't make it right, though.

Of course now that I've reveled in Salvation and watched it countless times, I'm inclined to forgive the minor quibbles I have with how they led up to it. :) And I loved that final scene between Clark and Martha beyond all reason. ♥
(Deleted comment)
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 17th, 2010 08:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
There were so many things that I loved about this episode. But I also couldn't shake the feeling the entire time that there were some elements of this episode that were left unfinished because the show just flat out run out of time. There was so much to jam into this episode and not enough scenes to do it. In retrospect, I feel like this could have easily been two episodes although I understand from the show's perspective why it was not. The most glaring example of this, for me, was with the Clark/Lois stuff. I felt uneasy as a fan that they didn't have some kind of closing scene together where we got a better idea of how Lois was feeling about the breakup. But there just wasn't time for it.

I didn't have any serious issues with the Clark and Lois stuff because it seemed to me that what we saw was only a snippet of what was truly going on with them and that it was too early for me to judge what Lois was truly feeling and how Clark was truly going to react the situation. And it turned out after watching "Salvation" that it made sense for me to view it that way. I never really had any doubt that Lois still loved Clark and wanted to be with him. I do think it's very possible to break up with someone and still be truly and deeply in love with them. I felt that at the moment in "Hostage" Lois just needed to step away. She just got too overwhelmed and just needed to take some time to step away from the situation. I found both Clark and Lois to be very sympathetic in this episode. I absolutely understood where Clark was coming from: he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. Yet, I wished he had found a way to let Lois know that he DID care what she was going through. Still...I didn't fault him for coming up short in that regard. He did the best he could in that moment. I didn't fault Lois for losing it in that moment and ending the relationship. I didn't question her love for Clark nor did I ever question that deep down her heart still belonged to him (as she made clear in "Salvation") but it just seemed that she was frustrated and overwhelmed by the situation and did what many people do when confronted with a crappy situation: she ran. By the end of the episode she admitted to Perry that she didn't want to run away from her problems anymore and the stage was set for her to try to re-evaluate the way she had left things with Clark. THAT was where I felt the episode was missing something. There should have been some kind of moment in bullpen at the end where Lois reminded the audience that she was hurting over breaking up with Clark. That was missing for me there. Then again, it was made pretty clear in "Salvation" that Lois still wanted to be with him and that ultimately she knew that Clark was more important than any job. I guess for me the Clark/Lois stuff in "Hostage" is like trying to judge the possibility of victory in the Lord of the Rings trilogy after only the 1st or 2nd movie. (Weird analogy I know.) Something felt missing....but we weren't done with the story yet. And the answer was yet to come.

tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: June 7th, 2010 10:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I could totally understand Lois taking a step back from the relationship to focus on herself and her career, but I still don't think her going so far as to break up with Clark rang true. And I am never going to be okay with being expected to connect the dots about what might be going on in Offscreenville. Sure, I fanwank constantly with this show, but that doesn't mean I like it. If the writers have something to say, say it onscreen.

That said, I also understand that the decision to cut certain scenes is made after filming is completed, when there is no opportunity to go back and add in a line of exposition to explain what was cut. I thought there were some glaring plot holes in Upgrade, but when BAG described on SHoE how the scene between Lois and John in the Talon basement originally played out, I realized it wasn't that the writers left things out, it was that there wasn't enough time to keep everything in the script.

For me, the question isn't whether or not Clark and Lois truly love one other; obviously they do. My problem is that I think having Lois break up with Clark the way she did made her look a bit capricious, and less willing to fight for their relationship than I think she is. But since it didn't stick, and my fears about more Triangle of Two nonsense turned out to be unfounded, it's not a big deal to me now. ;)
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: June 7th, 2010 10:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
I appreciated that they gave us everyone's POV, so we knew what they were thinking, and why they made the decisions they did. I may not have agreed, but at least there was a method to the madness. :)
jwm_rocks From: jwm_rocks Date: May 19th, 2010 02:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was disappointed, though, that in finding herself, Lois felt she had to leave Clark behind.
That was disappointing. And even after having seen Salvation I wonder why a "break-up" was necessary.

It wasn't very fun watching Tess be abused again. She has become Smallville's punching bag, mentally and physically.
Not at all, especially considering it was done with Martha's knowledge if not tacit approval. I used to think Lex got more than his fair share of poundings but Tess really had a rough season.

There were plot holes aplenty.
There were weren't there? The plot at times did seem to defy all logic. I guess it would have been more annoying in a regular episode but I guess I'm willing to trade a bit of logic for an episode that offers the return of Martha and Perry.

that perfect, golden sunlight of the Kent Farm?
How great was it to finally be able to see something on the TV screen once again? I feel like this whole season has been nearly unbearably dark in both look and narrative. I hope season ten takes a much lighter approach.

There was a lot that Clark could learn from seeing himself mirrored in Martha.
So true. I hadn't even thought of it from that perspective! Though there is one thing I would never want to see mirrored -- an image sun bathed Lois bringing back memories of Clark's love for Lana, LOL.

Great review, I really enjoy reading your perspectives on the show!
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: June 7th, 2010 11:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
And even after having seen Salvation I wonder why a "break-up" was necessary.

Me, too. I guess to make everything more dramatic, but it kind of reminded me of all the times Clark and Lana broke up, only to come back in the next episode with nothing really changed. I mean, I'm glad they're still together, but I feel like Lois's behavior was a little immature, and OOC for the adult relationship I thought had developed between these two.

I used to think Lex got more than his fair share of poundings but Tess really had a rough season.

It really got to be a bit ridiculous. Let's hope they don't go there again in S10.

I guess I'm willing to trade a bit of logic for an episode that offers the return of Martha and Perry.

I'll admit that my squee over this episode exceeded my problems with it by a wide margin. :) And of course now, after the joy of Salvation, I feel very forgiving indeed.

How great was it to finally be able to see something on the TV screen once again? I feel like this whole season has been nearly unbearably dark in both look and narrative. I hope season ten takes a much lighter approach.

I couldn't agree more! How fun was that bright and shiny glimpse into the future in the finale? I loved it! As hot as Tom looks in black, I hope we've seen the last of the Blur's current outfit, and the darkness that has characterized this season.

Though there is one thing I would never want to see mirrored -- an image sun bathed Lois bringing back memories of Clark's love for Lana, LOL.

Ack! Don't give them any ideas! LOL!
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