Episode Title: "Collateral"
Writer: Genevieve Sparling
Director: Mairzee Almas
Previously on "Smallville":
Several months after the disappearance of Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack), Clark Kent (Tom Welling), Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (Justin Hartley) and their nascent Justice League were under assault by the U.S. military, thanks to the passage of the Vigilante Registration Act. Despite the earlier assistance of Aquaman aka Arthur Curry (Alan Ritchson), General Slade Wilson (Michael Hogan) returned as a servant of Darkseid and arrested Lois Lane (Erica Durance), Dr. Hamilton (Alessandro Juliani) and Tess Mercer (Cassidy Freeman).
When Lois tried to escape custody, Slade nearly killed her. Only the intervention of Hawkman (Michael Shanks) saved her life, at the cost of his own. In retaliation, Clark trapped Slade in the Phantom Zone. Later, the heroes held a funeral for Hawkman in Egypt, but they were overcome by a mysterious devious and captured by an unknown force.
At the Kent farm, Lois desperately tries to get the government to acknowledge that Clark, Oliver and the rest of the heroes are in custody, until Clark walks in the front door. He explains that they let him go because they found a way to neutralize his powers. He also vaguely remembers Chloe working with the people who experimented on him. At Luthorcorp, Oliver is also released and later overcome by his own memories of Chloe experimenting on him. At Watchtower, Clark and Lois encounter Black Canary (Alaina Huffman), who insists that Chloe betrayed them. She also tells them that Oliver has been committed to a mental ward.
When Clark visits Oliver, his mental state is clearly fragile. And it gets even more so when Chloe walks through a wall after Clark leaves. She explains to Oliver that he is trapped in a virtual world with Clark, Lois, Black Canary and others by soldiers loyal to Slade and the VRA. Chloe is only present as an avatar of herself and she goes John Woo on a couple of guards who try to keep them from escaping the hospital. She eventually sends word to Clark to join them on the roof of the Daily Planet where she repeats her explanation.
But Clark doesn’t believe her and he refuses to jump off the building with Oliver and Chloe, which returns them to the real world. They soon encounter Rick Flagg (Ted Whittall) and his Suicide Squad, and Oliver quickly realizes that they are working with Chloe. With VRA soldiers on the way, Chloe goes back in the system and manages to convince Black Canary of the truth and get her out. Black Canary, Oliver and the Suicide Squad then vacate the building to better defend it. Inside, Chloe tries to enter the virtual world again, but she is knocked out by Lt. Trotter (Lori Ann Triolo), who sends in one of her goons using Chloe’s avatar to fool Clark and Lois.
Inside the VR, Lois talks Clark through his trust issues with Chloe. And so when the fake Chloe appears, neither of them falls for the ruse and Lois demonstrates the unreality of the situation by punching Chloe through a wall. She and Clark then elude multiple Chloe avatars and jump off of the building before he flies her to The Daily Planet and back to reality. Meanwhile, the Suicide Squad and the League rescue Chloe and take out Trotter and her soldiers. Later, back at the Kent farm, Chloe dances through an impossibly structured explanation of how the Suicide Squad came to work for her. Seriously, it’s really ridiculous.
Lois then tells Clark that Trotter and her men were placed in the VR to protect their secrets. She also asks Chloe to be her maid of honor. Back at Luthorcorp, Oliver calls Chloe out for leaving without even trying to stay in contact with him. She tells him that the Fate helmet warned her to stay away so she could save them from the VRA, but she’s back now for good.
I’m a big fan of "Smallville," but when the series serves up a big plate of s***, I’m not going to let it pass without mention.
Let’s not even start on the episode itself, which is a mashup of themes better explored and executed in both "The Matrix" and "Inception." No… let’s start with the explanation for why Chloe’s been gone for several months.
As a way to reintroduce her into the series, it’s perfectly fine to bring Chloe back as the girl who saved her friends from certain doom. But this is the narrative that the writers of "Smallville" expect us to buy: First, Rick Flagg and the Suicide Squad kidnap Oliver and trade him for Chloe. Then she refuses to work with them and voluntarily takes a cyanide pill, because the Fate helmet had warned her to take a cyanide antidote hours before. With me so far? Here’s where the hoops really get crazy. The Suicide Squad tried to kill Lois Lane’s father a few episodes back… with a missile.
So, rather than suggest that Chloe was on board for killing her uncle, her claim is that she blackmailed the Squad with evidence of their failed assassination attempt to become their new leader.
Are you serious, "Smallville"? A highly trained black ops team is really going to roll over for a hacker girl? And over that? Blacks ops usually means a hell of a lot more than a single botched mission. It doesn’t seem like nearly enough leverage to hold over them.
But, I could overlook that if the episode hadn’t manufactured another unbelievable problem: namely, Clark’s sudden distrust of Chloe. That issue seemed so forced and so false, that it threw me completely out of the episode. Part of being a "Smallville" fan means at the very least knowing the main characters. And Clark’s reaction just didn’t ring true. There are a few times in the script when Lois calls him out on it, but the tension simply didn’t seem believable.
Let’s a repeat that. On a series with some of the world’s greatest superheroes, it was the emotional response of the main character that was less believable than anything else.
Well… that’s "Smallville" for you. Two steps forward, one tall building leap backwards. I did like the brief sequence of Lois and Clark flying through Metropolis. Virtually, of course. At this point, the "no flights" rule of this series has long outlived its usefulness. Hey "Smallville" producers, you can stop pretending he’s not Superman now! It’s almost over.
I’m also kind of bothered by the way that the VRA troopers who knew Clark’s identity were dealt with. Trapping them all in VR you say… why that seems like a perfect solution… if you’re a villain. I don’t expect any of the heroes to "dispose of the soldiers," but that solution is unusually cruel. And it’s very un-Superman-like.
If I had been entertained by the episode, I wouldn’t have so many issues with it. "Smallville" can be a good series… and sometimes it’s even a great series.
But this is not one of its prouder moments.
Crave Online Rating: 4.5 out of 10.