When Smallville gets it right, it's a glorious thing to behold. Here are ten things I loved about Masquerade:
1) The Script
Can Bryan Q. Miller write ALL the episodes? He totally gets what makes Clark Kent the future Superman, and no one else on the writing staff can touch his gift for storytelling. He captures Clark and Lois, and their unique relationship, perfectly, with emotional depth, humor, and delightful dialogue. We see the story unfold before us, pulling us in, instead of watching characters tell us what we should think and feel. When exposition is unavoidable, he weaves it into the action seamlessly, blurring the lines between what we've seen, and what we've only heard about. Best of all, he writes to each actor's strength, giving them all a chance to shine.
BQM is also one of my favorite comic book writers. I wish with all my heart that in addition to the ongoing adventures of Batgirl, we could look forward to a Smallville book by him, and ease our withdrawal from the show with the continuing adventures of Clark and Lois in comic book form.
2) Clark Being Clark
This was the Clark I know and love. Determined, heroic, and super in every way as the Blur, proactive and intelligent as Clark Kent, and altogether human, but no less of a man, with Lois. In a perfect partnership of great writing and stellar acting, BQM and Tom Welling gave us our Superman. He was focused on saving lives and keeping mankind safe, and everything he did, from blurring around the globe and investigating as a Daily Planet reporter, to taking on Desaad and creating a mild-mannered disguise, served those goals.
Masquerade gave me the story I've been waiting for all season: a competent, confident Clark fully embraced his destiny, overcame the forces of darkness, and was inspired by the challenges he faced to take one of the most important steps on his journey to become the savior the world so desperately needs. Rich in Clark's POV, the episode had heart, and hope, and just the right touch of laughter, with no doubt at all about who was the hero of the story. I wish they could all be this good.
3) Clark Goes Global
I love that Clark is out there saving the world! I would have traded plenty of the storylines we've seen so far this season to see more of the Blur in action, in Metropolis and beyond, but I'm thrilled to find out Clark has taken his heroism to a whole new level.
4) Clark Kent, Investigative Reporter
I'll never know why episodes that center around Clark and Lois's working lives as reporters are such a rarity on Smallville. Exploring their relationship as partners, and seeing them in action pursuing stories, pretty much guarantees an engaging and entertaining episode, and there is no better showcase for the chemistry between Tom Welling and Erica Durance. Clark and Lois made a great team this week, and I liked the way they collaborated on everything, but what I really enjoyed was seeing Clark investigate on his own.
When Clark showed up at the crime scene where Desaad's victims had been dumped, he didn't even have to show his press pass for the cop on duty to let him through. Later we saw that he had similar access to the morgue. Obviously he was well-known by the authorities, and had built a reputation as a journalist the police and the coroner could trust, someone who would report the news fairly and accurately, without bias or sensationalism. He even had his own fanboy, Bert, who was not only a hoot, but also served an important purpose in the story. Well done, BQM. Again, I wish we had seen Clark's development happen onscreen in earlier episodes, but it was immensely satisfying to see him be so proactive and competent. Plus we saw him use a new power!
Steve Byers' Desaad was one of the better villains we've seen this season. Seductive and sinister, he was both creepy and hot. His method of turning people seemed a bit labor-intensive, but no doubt getting up close and personal was part of the fun for him. I think it was an inspired idea to have Desaad boldly walk into the morgue and impersonate a medical examiner to hide his handiwork, setting up the conversation with Clark, and giving us the opportunity to hear him tell us in his own words what kind of man murders those who refuse to succumb to his torturous manipulation.
The scene where Desaad attempted to turn Chloe was an unexpected and fascinating exploration of the weaknesses that have tripped her up time and time again over the years. He began with her love for Clark, and her jealousy over what he shared with someone else, two emotions that ruled her actions in the early seasons of the show, and ended with her hubris and her control issues, the traits that have come to define her in my mind over the past two years. I'm glad Chloe was strong enough to resist Desaad, but I wish she had also had the insight to see the kernel of truth in the nightmare he put her through, and take it to heart.
In the end Clark saved the day, just as he should. His showdown with Desaad gave us confirmation that whatever made him vulnerable to Godfrey in Supergirl is behind him now; he is incorruptible. I am so glad to put that "purity of spirit" nonsense behind us. No take backs, show! Clark rescued Chloe by super-speeding her out of danger, but was too late to save Oliver from himself. He locked Desaad up in the depths of Belle Reve. Can a being with his powers even be contained? Clark himself acknowledged the fight is far from over, but I've never felt more confident in his ability to prevail.
6) The Glasses
The first half of Smallville's final season gave us the big milestones for Clark and Lois's iconic romance: sharing their first ILYs, revealing his secret, consummating their relationship, and proposing marriage. Now, as we approach the series finale, it's time for Clark to mark some milestones of his own, to take the final steps of his journey. In Masquerade we saw Clark create his secret identity, and it was a heady moment.
In Beacon Clark explored the idea of stepping into the light as the Blur, in a poignant conversation with Martha. We heard how important it was for him to honor the name his parents had given him, and to become the man they had raised him to be. This week he decided that man was the Blur. As he explained so eloquently to Lois (and us), he realized one of his faces would have to wear a mask, and after searching his heart, he knew he was born to be the hero the people needed. Building on the idea he first had in last season's Idol, Clark Kent would become the disguise, with geeky glasses and an unassuming exterior.
Tom Welling used his gift for nuance to give us a wonderful new persona for Clark Kent. No stumbling, bumbling fool, he was instead nerdy, wide-eyed, extra polite, and no threat whatsoever. I loved his slight hesitation before speaking, his reluctance to look Jeff in the eye, and the disarming way he pushed his glasses up on his nose. ♥ He was still completely gorgeous in those classic frames, but with that larger-than-life presence we know so well somehow dialed back to a level somewhat approaching normal. Smallville, you ARE my Superman movie.
7) Lois Being Lois
This was the Lois I've been missing. The Lois who is Clark's equal partner, who loves her job almost as much as she loves him, and who is just as likely to give him a kick in the pants as a comforting hug, depending on what she thinks will help him most. She was in her element, multi-tasking to the max, with her eye on Clark, the big story, and her impending nuptials all at once. I liked that Lois wasn't all caught up in her wedding plans, but rather attacked the event like a commando, right down to trying out tactical maneuvers in her church diorama, and issuing marching orders to Jeff. I have no doubt that Lois wants to have a beautiful ceremony to celebrate the unbreakable bond of love she shares with Clark, and a fabulous reception to follow, but I don't see her swooning over fabric swatches and cake samples as she plans the big day. She's passionate, ambitious, fearless, and a force to be reckoned with, and no one plays her better than Erica Durance.
8) Lois and Clark
Everything about the relationship between Lois and Clark in Masquerade was perfect. PERFECT. They were individuals first, and a couple second, but stronger together than they could ever be apart. It was clear how much they loved each other, but that didn't mean they had to live in each other's pockets, or agree on everything. They fought, but with humor and affection along with their exasperation. They never stopped communicating, and by the end of the episode had a true meeting of the minds, so that when Clark took that huge step toward his destined future, Lois was right there by his side.
Clark was the idealist. He took precautions not to be seen as the Blur, but his priority was protecting others, not himself. Lois was the pragmatist. She never wanted to stop Clark from saving the world, but why in the world wouldn't he do what was necessary to hide his identity first? Lois tried to come up with a workable solution, but the Blur ended up looking like an overgrown Bart, and Clark knew that wasn't what he wanted. When he refused to discuss it further, Lois exploded in frustration and hilariously whooshed herself out of the barn. This couple had never felt more real. *loves them*
This episode showed us why Lois and Clark are a team for the ages. Lois was absolutely right when she warned Clark that someone would soon put two and two together, but she never lectured him or talked to him like he was child. When Clark ran into Bert at the crime scene, he saw the truth of her words, but wasn't sure what to do. As they continued to investigate the murders, Lois didn't push; she gave Clark the space he needed to work through the problem himself. And when he figured out what he wanted to do and why, he couldn't wait to share it all with her. They were together in every way, from start to finish.
9) Jeff the Intern
I'm always happy to see Jeff, the Daily Planet intern who is hopelessly devoted to Miss Lane, and often the hapless victim of the latest adventures of Lois and Clark. He had more lines than ever this week (yay!), and was used to great effect in showing the difference between Clark before he donned his new disguise, and after. It was so funny to see Clark's glasses and slightly meek demeanor completely dispel Jeff's intimidated awe, and I thought it was totally believable as well. BQM offered us additional insight into Jeff (and Bert) with this tweet after the episode aired:
10) The Twist
Masquerade gave us one of Smallville's patented last-second reveals, when we saw an omega symbol glowing on Oliver's forehead. I think this was an awesome development. Knowing what we do about his emotional instability and tortured soul, it's no surprise that Oliver would fall prey to the darkness, and making one of our heroes Darkseid's minion has the potential to step up the game considerably. How much damage will be done before the truth is discovered? Will Clark be able to save his friend, or will he lose him in the battle between good and evil? I'm also glad to see Oliver get an intriguing storyline. Lately he hasn't been much more than Chloe's smitten sidekick, and I think that's a waste of Justin Hartley's talent.
The absolute best part of this twist, however, was that it proved that Clark was right, and that his team needs to listen to him. Hot-headed, arrogant Oliver ignored his warning to stay away from Desaad, and who knows what the full repercussions of that impulsive decision will be? Remember the days when Clark was always right? It's about time the show let him be the unequivocal hero again.
When it comes to Smallville dialogue, there's a fine line between clever and cringeworthy, and BQM understands the difference. Ten of my favorite lines from Masquerade, both for his words and the actors' delivery:
Now stop trying to dodge this bullet, speedypants.
Smallville. I must be in trouble.
I didn't realize you were ready for your close-up.
I spell-checked it twice.
You talk like a cop, you walk like a fireman, heck, you beat us to most of our own crime scenes. You might as well put an S on your chest!
It was an adrenaline thing. Yeah, I'm a little bit bigger than you, and, um, it probably has to do with center of gravity.
It's my power, I can call it whatever I want.
I don't want to deny who I am when I'm out there doing what I was born to do.
If that's what it takes to be the hero the people need, yes, Miss Lane, I am.
Now let's finish with some pretty. Ten of my favorite caps from Masquerade:
Screen caps courtesy of Home of the Nutty, with my thanks!
The promos for Fortune are too funny (oh, Tom, please promise us you'll do a rom com), and it looks like we get old school Clark and Chloe. I'm looking forward to this one.
Smallville "Fortune Preview":
Smallville "Fortune Clip":