Better late than never, right? Now I can finally go watch Abandoned. :)
I wish every episode of Smallville could be like Ambush. It was pretty much perfect in every way. The story was all about Clark and rich with his POV, showing us the challenges he faces as a man and a superhero, that continue to shape him into the savior the world needs so badly. The episode had everything: action, drama, character development, great guest stars, a touch of comedy, steamy romance, and even the explosive destruction of a Smallville landmark that has been part of the series since the first season. We also saw the personal price Lois is willing to pay for the sake of the man she loves, and how committed she is to being with him. Clark and Lois were tested, as individuals and a couple, and they both passed with flying colors.
Ambush was written by Holly Henderson and Don Whitehead, who quickly became my favorite writing team when they joined Smallville back in S7, for the wonderful way they wrote Clark. Right from the start they made him independent, proactive, and heroic. And they gave him a voice. Their Clark talks about his thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, and when he does, he sounds a lot like Superman. Clark was amazing this week, scene after scene after scene, and I didn't want the episode to end.
I really liked the flow of Ambush. It started out light and funny, as Clark and Lois’s sexy romp was interrupted by the arrival of her father and sister (thank goodness they didn’t drive up ten minutes later!), and General Lane proceeded to hilariously give Clark a hard time, implying he was far from good enough for his precious daughter. It was fun to see how Clark and Lois’s relationship has progressed even since the last episode. We know it’s been about a week since Harvest, and judging by the tiny bit of orange juice left in the fridge, they’ve spent most of it in bed, with no time for mundane details like grocery shopping. Their first time was sweet and tender, and now they’re ready to get a little more adventurous, on the porch swing no less! I loved the heat between them, and the playfulness. And Lois encouraging the more conservative Clark to let go of his inhibitions was totally in character.
The mood shifted gears as soon the subject of the Vigilante Registration Act came up, and things quickly became tense between the General and Clark, with Lois caught in the middle. Her pleading eyes told Clark to drop it, but I was glad he didn’t, giving her a steady look as he expressed his opinion to her father, refusing to be intimidated by the General’s imposing presence. The tension mounted as the episode continued, with Tess and Oliver discovering that the Suicide Squad was tracking superheroes, Lucy up to her usual tricks, and Clark and Lois having their first fight since taking their relationship to a whole new level.
Tess became a full-fledged member of the team in Ambush, and it was a joy to watch. Oliver was an ass about it at first, but after both Tess and Clark brushed off his complaints, he came around and admitted it was just hard to see someone else in Chloe’s place. Over the course of the episode they worked together, on their own and with Clark, and formed a tentative alliance, even sharing a friendly beer and Chinese food by the end. I’m going to treasure those moments, because with Alexander stashed in the mansion and who knows what coming up in the weeks ahead, we may never see the like again. And Tess was genuinely valuable, with knowledge and insights that were instrumental in revealing the Suicide Squad’s assassination plan, and saving Lois's life.
I loved Oliver this week. He was in full-on superhero mode, which is always fun, and he was a great ally to Clark. As soon as he found out about his subdermal tattoo, he went straight to Clark to see if he was being tracked as well, and deferred to his leadership in deciding what to do next. I was thrilled to see Clark and Oliver stop Rick Flag dead in his tracks in that awesome action sequence where his van went tumbling. When the Blur ripped the door open and stepped inside with Green Arrow, the two of them standing tall and stern, shoulder to shoulder in superhero leather, I swooned. But Ollie’s most heroic moment was a much quieter one, when he sat in Watchtower with Tess and reflected on the unanticipated repercussions of going public. He realized the danger his new celebrity status presented to the other members of his fledgling Justice League, and, in a truly selfless act, banned himself from his own clubhouse.
The flip Oliver did out of the loft window when Lucy came looking for Clark was an example of something small that added so much to my enjoyment of the episode, and Ambush was full of moments like that. I assume I have the director, Christopher Petry, to thank for most of them. I never know exactly what is scripted, what is added by the actors, and what is the director’s vision come to life, but I know enough to know that Petry did a fantastic job. The episode was a visual delight, and the way it was filmed enhanced the script to make the scenes even more powerful, especially those between Clark and the General.
Lucy caused all kinds of trouble in Ambush, just as she did the first time she visited Smallville. Her jealousy and insecurity got the better of her, making her an easy target for Rick Flag, and leading her to catch Clark in an ill-advised kiss. I don’t know if she was actually making a play for Clark, or if she just couldn’t stand to see Lois happy, but either way it was a rotten thing to do. Even worse, she was duped into planting the tracking device that enabled the Suicide Squad to target the General’s location, resulting in the destruction of the Talon, and almost killing Lois in the process. In the wake of that disaster, she seemed genuinely contrite, and she and Lois had a touching heart-to-heart, but something tells me this wasn’t the last time she’ll have to beg her sister’s forgiveness.
One thing Lucy’s obnoxious behavior made me notice anew is how much more comfortable with women Clark is these days. Remember when a woman in the loft in predator mode would have sent him into a panic? Remember his patented fear of boobies look? We haven’t seen that in a good long while. Clark is a man now, confident and sexy, and very smooth when he wants to be. He saw what Lucy was up to in an instant, and wasn’t having any of it. He did his best to hustle her out of there, and when she took him by surprise, he didn’t freak out when Lois walked in. We saw that same maturity from Clark and Lois both when they argued later.
I actually loved that fight. It was real, and honest, and a testament to how much these two people care about each other: enough to fight to stay together. How many times have we seen someone rail against Clark, and watched him just stand there, without uttering a word in response? Lots of times it was because he couldn’t say anything, for fear of giving his secret away. Other times it was because he shouldered all the blame for every bad situation, becoming mired in guilt. But with Lois, he can be himself, and it was amazing to hear him speak his mind, with all the heat of honest emotion. I liked the way he let his frustration with the General show as he smashed logs into firewood, too. That was healthy, and human. And really, what he was fighting for was for Lois to be true to herself, not to him. I was firmly on Team Clark, but my heart broke for Lois, because I know all about trying to keep the peace when family is involved, and picking your battles with those you love.
The pressure continued to build as we headed into the climax of the episode. The General interrogated Clark, and unhappy with the answers he got, ordered Lois to leave the farm with him. The Suicide Squad launched their attack, threatening the safety of the entire Lane family. And Clark and his crew desperately tried to pinpoint their target, so he could speed to the rescue. The situation became more dire with each passing moment, as we wondered if Lois would choose Clark or her father, if there were any way for her to keep both of these men she loved in her life, and if everyone would even survive the night alive.
Clark's confrontation with Lois’s father made me want to stand up and cheer. At first he humored him, trying to be polite for Lois’s sake. But once the General crossed the line, revealing that he had used his military connections to investigate the Kent family, Clark had had enough. He fought back, and refused to play his game. He coolly addressed him as Sam, to remind him he had no authority over him, and passionately told him he was not the enemy, and that he loved Lois, now and forever. The General, furious that Clark would dare to defy him, vowed that he and Lois would never spend another day together.
When the General demanded that Lois leave with him immediately, I don’t think Clark ever expected her to go. He gave her a tiny smile of encouragement, waiting for her to choose him. After all, when his parents didn’t believe in Lex in Shattered, he didn’t hesitate to go against their wishes to show how much he cared about his friend. And what he has with Lois is so much more than that. But General Sam Lane is no Jonathan Kent, and I don’t think Clark had any idea how hard Lois had struggled to win the smallest sliver of approval from him over the years. It was an impossible situation, and Lois chose to preserve her father’s dignity by retreating to neutral ground before telling him her place would always be at Clark’s side. But Clark didn’t know that, and was devastated to see her go.
Clark didn’t sit around and mope at the farm after Lois left, though. He went back to work, joining Oliver and Tess at Watchtower. Rick Flag launched his killer rocket just as Clark figured out that the General was his target, and our hero managed to save Lois as the Talon exploded in an enormous fireball. A lot of Smallville history went up in those flames, and I still can’t quite believe they actually went there. While I’m beyond weary of that set, and think it’s ridiculous that both Lois and Chloe lived there while they worked in Metropolis, I can’t help but think it’s one more unsubtle way for the show to hammer home that Lana is no longer a part of Clark’s life. Rather than give us a mature resolution to their relationship that allowed them to remain in each other’s lives as friends, TPTB dreamed up that ridiculous power suit storyline that left some viewers wondering if Lois would ever be more than Clark’s second choice. Now it seems they’re trying to erase any lingering doubts with heavy-handed symbolism, first having Clark bury the watch Lana searched endlessly to find and return to him, and now completely obliterating the place where they first consummated their love. I’m no Clana fan, but even to me it seems unnecessary, and insensitive.
Clark left Lois with her family, the only sign he had been there the Blur’s signature shield, and went with Oliver to hunt down the General’s would-be assassins. Rick Flag escaped their grasp, but not before showing them how deadly serious he was about supporting superheroes by whatever means necessary. On one side Clark has the government spreading suspicion and fear about the good work he’s trying to accomplish, and on the other he has a rogue organization that is willing to commit murder in the name of freedom. And let’s not forget Darkseid. The Man of Steel will be forged in the fires of these challenges, and only he can find the solution that will save the Earth from utter darkness.
The last act of Ambush was a study in reconciliation, as Oliver and Tess celebrated a successful save in Watchtower, and back at the farm the General sought out Clark to apologize. Almost losing Lois opened his eyes to what was truly important, and gave him a new perspective on the Blur. I loved that Sam found Clark working on the tractor, his time-honored therapy whenever he needs to think things through. There is no doubt in my mind that the General knew Clark was the Blur. I think he half suspected it to begin with, and Lois’s rescue made it certain. He made it clear with his carefully worded conversation, and the very pointed look he gave Clark when he said, “And that’s all thanks to the Blur, hmm?” You don’t get to be a four-star general by being a dummy. Besides, his whole speech about not neglecting your family because you’re off saving the world was hardly something Clark needed to hear if he were nothing more than a reporter at the Daily Planet who covers the city beat and comes home in time for dinner most nights.
The last thing Clark said was that he was hoping to ask the General a question about Lois and himself, and I think we all know there’s only one question that could be. An engagement seems awfully fast at this point, but not OOC for Clark. Remember how he told Lana his secret and asked her to marry him practically in the same breath in Reckoning? He already knew in his heart that his love for Lois would only grow stronger in the years to come, and the General made sure he knew Lois was equally devoted to him. We all know they're meant to be. So I’m fine with a proposal being on the show’s infamous bucket list, but with the limited number of episodes we have left, please spare me the Very Special Wedding Episode, okay?
All the actors in Ambush were exceptional; there wasn't a single performance that felt off in any way. Tom Welling continues to show Clark's growth and maturity in a way that blows me away, week after week. At this late date, he still manages to surprise me, uncovering new facets of this character he has portrayed for nearly a decade. Erica Durance was incredible. Lois went through just about every emotion imaginable, and she nailed every one of them. I don't think she's ever been better than she is right now.
Of the guest stars, I have to single out Michael Ironside. He is such a talented actor, and he makes it all look so easy. I loved every moment he was onscreen, but my favorite scene of the episode was the last one between MI and Tom, where Sam opened up to Clark, and we saw the true depth of his love for his family. I'm so glad he was able to return to Smallville for this final season. And I got a kick out of Elias Toufexis as Warp, with his strange intensity and delicious accent. I would never have recognized him as the meteor freak in Static if I hadn't looked him up.
Random thoughts: Why did the General show up at the farm in full dress uniform? For the extra intimidation factor? Did anyone else think the articles in that scrapbook were a little too revealing? Is Clark ever going to break down and buy a new TV? "Gave proof through the night that our Flag was still there." I see what you did there, show. Were all of Lois's costumes lost in the fire, or did Clark go back and rescue them, too? Why does Ollie still bother with the voice modulator if everyone knows who Green Arrow is? Tess put that cool flower lamp I love from the mansion in Watchtower! And the people who write this show are professionals. Do they honestly not know the proper usage of me and I? For that matter, don't Tom and Erica? Sheesh.
Ambush was an episode where every character grew in some way. Clark stood up for what he believed in with the General, and changed the mind of one of his fiercest opponents by showing him first hand that he is a force for good in the world, and letting him see exactly what the Blur has to offer with his unique abilities. Today he convinced one man; someday soon he will do the same for people across the globe. Lois was completely honest with her father, and learned it was the best thing for both of them. Oliver finally tucked away his broken heart, and got on with the business of living. Tess saw that she could do more good by letting Clark lead the way, rather than trying to make him follow. And the show delivered all that character development in an entertaining package that kept me captivated from start to finish. Here's hoping the episode was not the exception, but rather the new rule. I want to see many more like it.
Between the pretty and the sexy, I had a terrible time narrowing down my choices this week. Twenty of my favorite caps from Ambush:
Screen caps courtesy of Home of the Nutty, with my thanks!