This review may contain spoilers.
Imperfect from the beginning, "Collateral" is a complex affair, teetering on the verge of being great but never quite getting there.
The events of the mid-season finale were ambitious and heartfelt; Carter Hall, one of the shows newest JLA member (and most welcome addition), was killed protecting Lois Lane (Erica Durance) and the rest of the Leaguers were left unconscious as they paid their respects.
It is understandable that any follow-up would struggle … especially when that follow-up borrows heavily from Chris Nolan's big-screen hit, "Inception."
The concept of the digital dream-state turns out to be the episodes biggest weakness. Not because the idea is so ludicrous, but because movies like "Inception" and "The Matrix" (the first movie, not the franchise as a whole) delivered impressively well executed stunts and offered thought provoking journey's through digital/dream wonderlands.
"Smallville's" effort to do the same is just not up to the same standards.
Slow-motion scenes of Chloe (Allison Mack) literally pulling guns from nowhere and shooting out soldiers really could have been fun and exhilarating, but the outing becomes a casualty to "Smallville's" status as a small-screen series. The shoot out sequences are brief and are so far removed from reality that any coolness factor that they could have had is instantly quashed, not to mention the constant need to explain every decision and reality-changing event that takes place.
Thankfully at the halfway point of the adventure we are treated to a detour from the digital frontier and back into the real world. The events taking place in reality are just as bland as those inside the matrix and the re-appearance of the Suicide Squad and VRA soldiers was surely intended as a tension-building event, setting a timeframe for Chloe to complete her task (much like "Inception"), but it has the opposite effect.
It is when Chloe re-enters the rabbit hole that "Collateral" really starts to entertain.
Her fight with Black Canary (Alaina Huffman) is long overdue and is wonderfully executed. Director Morgan Beggs really outdid himself, delivering a fast paced sequence with plenty of imagery to take it to the next level. Having Chloe clad in white and Canary in black has a very ying and yang feeling to it, and even has something of a "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" feel to it.
Points Of Interest
1. Surely if the Government has identified Clark Kent as The Blur then they must also be aware of his identity as Superman?
2. Clark and Lois soaring through the matrix just doesn't count. One might even consider it cheating.
3. If anyone wants to play a drinking game, take a shot every time there was a reference to "Inception" or "The Matrix."
Despite its obvious faults in the first half, where "Collateral" succeeds is in showcasing the differing reactions that each of the super-powered heroes have to their circumstances; Clark (Tom Welling) and Black Canary try to recover their abilities while Oliver (Justin Hartley) crumbles.
"Collateral" makes terrific use of the score to try and build on the events taking place. Scenes that deserve specific mention are Chloe's hospital shootout (despite its disappointing conclusion) and the alley fight with Canary. The alley fight sequence itself also deserves a specific mention as one of the episodes highlights.
And there was also something infinitely cool about seeing the heroes of the League and Suicide squad working together to take on their common enemy.
What Didn't Work
On a character level, Clark's indecision over Chloe's motives comes as a curious deviation from the trusting relationship between these two characters. After 10 years of history, the duo have demonstrated a deep and almost unspoken trust in one another despite their mistakes along the way and so Clark's refusal to trust Chloe in "Collateral" is more than curious.
The scene on the roof as Chloe simply asks, "Do you trust me?" with her and outstretched was certainly Clark's blue or red pill moment. His choice to take the blue pill was surprising, but not totally shocking. The subsequent discussion with Lois opens the decision up for interpretation but still comes off as a divergence from the characters we have come to know and love.
Alaina Huffman is terrific in "Stargate: Universe" and it is fantastic to see her back in "Smallville," reprising her role of Dinah Lance … it's just too bad that she is so completely unlike her page-bound alter-ego of DC lore. Maybe in the final run we'll see a romance brewing between the Canary and our regular emerald clad archer.
Another minor annoyance was the obvious blurting of the word "avatar," bringing in another parallel into the already crowded mix. "Collateral" is by no means an avatar and comes across as a slightly desperate way to explain the events unfolding with minimal dialogue by tapping into James Cameron's epic which is already embedded in popular culture.
The sequence as "Chloe" discusses the escape from The Matrix with Lois and Clark is cringe worthy, filled with less than mediocre dialogue that is so far flung from the usual wordsmithery that dominates "Smallville's" dialogue.
However, the biggest disappointment of all comes from the fact that the mid-season finale teased at more from Cyborg, Aquaman, Impulse, Stargirl and even Zatanna … yet they weren't even alluded to in "Collateral."
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
"Collateral" was written by Jordan Hawley and directed by Morgan Briggs.
"Smallville" airs Friday's at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.
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