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Smallville 8.09 - Abyss - I worship at the television altar
tariel22
tariel22
Smallville 8.09 - Abyss
Ever since we first found out in the season premiere that Chloe had super brain powers, powers that were the result of her encounter with Brainiac, we've been waiting for something bad to happen. Because when you're talking about Brainiac, something bad always happens. So when Chloe killed a man in cold blood at the end of Identity, even as we reeled in shock and horror, we never once thought it was really Chloe behind that terrible act. At least for that brief moment, Chloe was ruled by Brainiac's icy ruthlessness rather than her own morality and compassion. Whoa, how long had that been going on? And what exactly was Brainiac up to, anyway? In Abyss, we finally began to find out.

This week's episode was all about Chloe. Her wedding day to Jimmy was fast approaching, and she couldn't even remember the groom. Brainiac was replacing all her memories with Kryptonian data, and pretty soon the only people she still recognized were Clark and Davis. Clark because she was closer to him than anyone else, fiance notwithstanding, and Davis because he was the one person Brainiac wanted her to remember. And then Clark was gone, too, and Chloe was lost, her mind awash in a sea of Kryptonian symbols, with Davis the only friend left to stand by her side and help her keep panic at bay. Clark was determined to rebuild the Fortress and have Jor-El restore Chloe's memories, and in the end he was successful, but the decisions he made along the way, and the actions he took, will have consequences far beyond this episode's crisis, and not in a good way, I'm afraid.

Abyss was an absolute showcase for the talents of Allison Mack. She is an incredible actress, and she didn't hit one wrong note in this episode. Chloe started out confused and concerned, and tackled her problem in her usual independent fashion, diving into research, and depending on no one but herself to find the answers. Once Clark discovered her secret, though, her brave face crumbled, and we saw her fear and desperation as her memories continued to slip away. Allison's performance made my heart break for Chloe, and put me on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen to her. After her memories were restored (well, most of them, anyway), AM gave us a sparkling, happy Chloe, the very picture of the carefree bride-to-be. The contrast reminded us just how burdened Chloe has been of late, and only strengthened Clark's belief that he had done the right thing. And finally, we saw a very serious Chloe, who turned away Davis's advances and shut the door on whatever burgeoning feelings she may have had for him. Every moment Allison was onscreen impressed me, and made me rejoice anew that the show was able to sign her for another season.

So what did you think of Clark's decision to take away Chloe's memories of his secret? Was he wrong? I think he was. I know that he acted out of love, and was only trying to keep Chloe safe, but quite frankly, he had no right. Only Chloe could make that choice, and clearly she wouldn't have. It would be one thing if Chloe had said she wished she had never found out about Clark, but in fact she said the exact opposite, that she wouldn't trade what that knowledge has brought her for anything. I also think it diminishes Chloe as a character on the show, but I suspect they have other plans for her than being Clark's sidekick, at least in the short term.

Beyond Clark's decision, which I can at least understand, I had a couple of other problems with Abyss. First of all, I hated seeing Clark humble himself before Jor-El. I love the Jor-El I've met in other Superman stories, who is noble, wise, and has deep affection for the human race, but Smallville's Jor-El has never been one of my favorites. I didn't like him in S2, when he branded Clark. I didn't like him in S3, when he blackmailed Clark into joining him by threatening Jonathan's life, or in S4, when he returned Kal-El in Clark's place, a cold, heartless alien who hurled Martha to the ground before taking to the skies. Sure, there have been times I wished Clark would listen to Jor-El, especially when he warned him not to activate Kara's crystal, but his "consequences" are always so heavy-handed they feel more like retribution to me. Does someone on this show have father issues, or what?

Specifically, I had a hard time listening to Clark basically apologize for "betraying" Jor-El, and acknowledge that he had put the planet in danger. I still think intending to freeze him in a column of ice until everyone he loved was dead was a bit harsh, and implying that Clark bears any responsibility for what happened with the orb makes my head want to explode. At the same time, though, this is S8, and on some level I see it as a Smallville reboot. Along with a sharp turn toward awesome in the whole direction of the show, we've seen subtle yet definite changes in both Clark and Lois this season, changes I embrace and celebrate. Shouldn't Jor-El be allowed to be tweaked as well? So with some effort I let go of all my past grudges against him, and watched those scenes with Clark in the Fortress again. And came away with a completely different feeling about them.

In the past Clark has always been at Jor-El's mercy, subject to whatever judgment he hands down, often without warning or explanation. To me, Clark in the Fortress has always seemed like a bewildered boy, trying to make sense of a father he can never understand. But the Clark who entered the resurrected Fortress was a man, who spoke to Jor-El as an equal, and an ally. He commanded his father's respect, and we saw Jor-El take his rightful place as Clark's adviser, rather than his ruler. Because what makes Superman truly great is the combination of his Kryptonian and human attributes. No one but he can fully comprehend what it means to have both infinite strength and infinite compassion. And our Clark knows that now. As he stood tall in the FOS, speaking firmly and calmly (no more bellowing!) to Jor-El, I couldn't have been more proud.

Second, I was disappointed to see Clark placed in a no-win situation again. I just don't like it when my hero is set up to fail. As soon as Jor-El said, "There is no way of knowing what the outcome will be. Are you willing to take that risk?" we all knew this was going to end badly in the long run, and that it would all hinge on Clark's choice at that moment. But what other choice did he have? Was he supposed to just let Brainiac destroy Chloe's mind? I just hope Clark doesn't get bogged down in guilt over whatever happens. And I think maybe S8 Clark won't.

So just where is all this heading, and what is Brainiac's plan? How much of what has happened was part of his grand design, and how much was happenstance? Clearly Brainiac, ever loyal to Zod, is bent on helping his son destroy Earth, and somehow taking over Chloe's mind is part of the plan. Did he anticipate what Clark would do, and attack Chloe's memories just to gain access to the FOS? I still don't know exactly what's going on, but I can't wait to see what happens next! And how awesome was it to hear James Marsters' voice taunting Jor-El as Brainiac took over the Fortress? I wasn't sure about this whole Doomsday storyline when I first heard about it, but now I think it's going to rock, big time!

I may hate the Chimmy, but I still felt bad for Jimmy in this episode. The poor guy keeps plugging away, loving Chloe the best way he knows how, and he continues to get the message that not only is he not the only man in her life, he's not even the most important one. Not to mention he's completely in the dark about a whole bunch of stuff. They haven't even made it to the altar yet, and they've already got two strikes against them. Honestly, it's ridiculous that Jimmy hasn't called off the wedding by now. Aaron Ashmore did a great job of portraying Jimmy's anguished helplessness, but I'd still rather see him playing sidekick to Lois and Clark at the Daily Planet.

Jimmy always worries that Chloe hasn't gotten over Clark, and Abyss made me wonder about that, too. The show has been telling us for a long time now that Chloe has moved on, despite the occasional wistful glance in Clark's direction, and after Committed I was willing to accept that Chloe truly was in love with Jimmy, and only Jimmy. But when she flirted with Davis in the very next episode, I got confused. Did she mean what she said about Jimmy, or did she beat the lie detector with her Brainiac powers? And this episode confused me even more. Every memory of Clark we saw Chloe relive, except for the one where she learned his secret, was of Chloe kissing, or almost kissing, Clark. What am I supposed to make of that? Is Chloe still in love with Clark?

I thought it was a cute idea to recreate the first time Chloe kissed Clark, in a scene we've only heard Clark talk about before, but I found it jarring that the actors looked so young. Didn't that kiss take place just a year before the Pilot? Nonetheless, it was a sweet scene, and I liked the way they portrayed Chloe's memory disappearing right before her eyes. In fact, I thought all the special effects were well done, and it was cool to see flashes of the Superman shield as Chloe struggled to hang on to her memories of Clark.

I'm confused about Chloe's feelings, but not about Clark's. I didn't get a romantic vibe from him at all. Yes, he threw caution to the wind and rebuilt the FOS just to save her, he sacrificed his own happiness and gave her up in order to protect her, and it's obvious what she means to him, but I still think it's platonic on his part. He never said I love you during his impassioned goodbye to an unconscious Chloe, and he kissed her on the forehead, not the lips. If Chloe does still have lingering feelings for Clark, I think they will remain unrequited. So why even go there, show? It makes no sense.

I don't know what I'm supposed to think about Davis. He was there for Chloe when she needed him, and acted in her best interest, but then turned into creepy stalker guy there at the end. Sam Witwer continues to play him sympathetically, but Davis has terrible secrets he's not sharing, and we all know the threat he poses to Clark. At this point I care more about stopping him than saving him, and if he hurts my boy, he will have lost me altogether.

As usual, Clark was my hero this week. Once Jimmy told him Chloe was in trouble, he could not be swayed from helping her. He brushed aside her false assurances and discovered the truth for himself, and then went forward with the only way he knew to save her, despite the potential danger to himself. And he tried to ensure that nothing like this could ever happen again. Clark sees his secret as something that ruins the lives of those who know it, and his voice betrayed all his pain as he talked about it to Chloe in the loft. Desperate to rid Chloe of that burden, he made a difficult choice. I don't agree with it, but I don't fault him for it either. I just wish that Clark could see things the way Chloe does, that knowing his secret is a gift, and that standing by his side is an honor, whatever the risk.

Tom Welling continues to own this role, and I think it is his presence more than anything else that makes me see this Clark Kent as the future Man of Steel. In Abyss he showed us Clark's great strength, as he faced Jor-El, unwavering, and also his vulnerability, as he apologized to Chloe for hiding the truth from her once more. And the quiet, yet undeniable, confidence in Tom's voice as Clark vowed to take on Doomsday, no matter what, made me believe that in the end, everything will be okay.

Random thoughts: Chloe's a good liar. Jimmy's dialogue kind of drives me nuts sometimes. Bridal wave? Really? It totally bugged me that Young!Clark had blue eyes. When the black goo came out of Chloe's ear, did that mean Brainiac left Choe, or did he leave something behind? Does she still have her super brain powers? Something about the lighting in the FOS makes Tom look extra pretty. And this was the first episode of the season that didn't have a single scene at the Daily Planet.

Abyss was my least favorite episode of the season so far, but that doesn't mean I didn't like it. We got the Fortress back, Clark has a whole new relationship with Jor-El, Allison Mack gave us some of the best acting she's ever done on this show, and OMG, Brainiac is back, and he's taken over the FOS! We have just one more episode between us and the dreaded hiatus, but it looks like Bride should give us plenty to talk about until Smallville returns. At the very least, I know I'm going to enjoy this wedding more than the last one I saw on this show!

Cross-posted at Starkville House of El Podcast.

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Comments
jude_judith82 From: jude_judith82 Date: November 25th, 2008 02:52 am (UTC) (Link)
I see you're catching up on your posts now. This was one of those episodes that was mixed for me. The decision Clark made I still go back and forth with it which you know. And I do agree with your last comment way better Wedding lol.
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: November 28th, 2008 08:57 am (UTC) (Link)
I know what you mean about going back and forth. Mostly I'm just glad I don't have to make decisions like that. :)

Ugh, Promise. That's one episode I never seem to find myself in the mood to watch again.
drusplace From: drusplace Date: November 25th, 2008 03:08 am (UTC) (Link)
WOw. Great post! I don't even know what to say. I knew the Spoiler about Chloe's Memory-wipe and I was worried how they were going to do it. And why. I agree that Clark made the WRONG decision BUT I am happy that I am not MAD at him for doing it. Sad yes, mad no.

I have never liked SV's Jor-El. As much as I adore Terence Stamp, SV's Jor-El is just awful. Jor-El SHOULD be tough and a little ruthless, but he should also love, and have compassion.

At this point I am feeling bad for Davis. But we'll see what they do next.

And yes Allison was great in this ep.
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: November 28th, 2008 09:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! I had heard about the memory wipe as well, and seen the pictures, but you never know how it's actually going to come across until you see it play out in the episode. I agree with your assessment, sad, yes, mad, no. I'm just not sure why they went there.

Jor-El SHOULD be tough and a little ruthless, but he should also love, and have compassion.

EXACTLY. But SV's Jor-El can be one sick, twisted bastard, if you ask me. But if that Jor-El is gone now, I'm willing to try to forget what he did in the past. After all, he isn't a person, he's a computer, right? So rebuilding the Fortress from scratch literally was a reboot! That's my story and I'm sticking to it, anyway. :)

I go back and forth about Davis. I feel bad for him, too, but whenever he has a blackout, all I can think about is the big fight between him and Clark that we know is coming. *frets* Because when that goes down, I'm gonna have to root for Clark, so I keep Davis at arm's length for my own protection. I don't want to get too attached to someone who's going to be the big bad and a monster to boot.

It's interesting, Bloodline gave Erica a chance to really stretch her acting wings, and then Abyss did the same for Allison.
drusplace From: drusplace Date: November 28th, 2008 02:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
I worry that they are going to make Davis so sympathetic that it'll be Lex-Part Two. Sam is doing a good job though.

And I LOVE your REBOOT theory of Jor-El.
jlvsclrk From: jlvsclrk Date: November 25th, 2008 07:52 am (UTC) (Link)
Yay! I always look forward to your reviews because they point out connections that my conscious brain missed. ITA about the dichotomy caused by that meeting in the FOS: rage at the retcon of S7 warring with pride about how Clark insisted on being treated as an adult. I can understand the writers just wanting to jettison the rather twisted past, but I'm still hoping they'll reveal that the FOS was always damaged so like Lionel in the later years, did evil even when it tried to do what it thought was good.

I also agree about how great both Allison and Tom were in this episode. And that scene in the FOS where he kisses her goodbye made me tear up too.
tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: November 28th, 2008 10:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Hi! *waves* Sorry it took me so long to reply!

There have been a number of things I think PS3 have "corrected" this season, and I try to embrace them; I wouldn't want them to continue with a bad thing just for the sake of continuity, after all. But Jor-El has made me so angry over the years! LOL! Letting go of that was a little bit harder.

I'm still hoping they'll reveal that the FOS was always damaged so like Lionel in the later years, did evil even when it tried to do what it thought was good.

I agree, and I like the way you put that about Lionel. I think he thought he was good, but I don't think he even knew what being good meant. Right up until the end, he never gave up his ruthless ways, and he continued to torment Lex as well.

Thanks so much for your comment, adding you back now!
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tariel22 From: tariel22 Date: December 1st, 2008 09:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
I remember not being able to think straight after watching this episode

I felt the same way, but for me it was what Clark said to Jor-El, and calling him Father at the end. I think that bothered me more because I wasn't prepared for it. I had been spoiled for what Clark was going to do. I worked my way through the Jor-El thing, but I can't reconcile the memory wipe. I'm not angry, but I'm definitely disappointed.

I've seen people say they think this is a permanent change, that Chloe will remain in the dark, but I just can't believe that to be true. Chloe without her secret keeper status is a shadow of what she was to Clark before. I was encouraged that the show had Lana express dismay for what Clark had done, and I hope Clark will come to realize he was wrong to take that decision out of Chloe's hands.
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