This review may contain spoilers.
"Smallville" but only for a matter of weeks before Clark Kent (Tom Welling) finally takes to the skies and becomes the hero he was destined to become.
Last week's episode, "Kent," was a mixed offering which simply didn't have the emotional impact is should have done given it showcased the return of Jonathan Schneider, and Clark's reunion with his human father. "Booster" is more of the same, teasing the future of Superman but steering clear of the real nitty-gritty of that final transformation.
Given how much of the episode is about hope and inspiration, it is disappointing how uninspiring the opening half of the episode really is.
This is not Tom Welling's first stint in the director's chair, nor is it Geoff Johns' first time writing a hero-filled episode but somehow "Booster" would lead you to believe it was.
The opening teaser, as Booster (Eric Martsolf) saves Jaime (Jaren Brandt Bartlett) from a speeding car and then takes to the skies, was laced with more cringe-worthy embarrassment than exuberant brilliance. The entire sequence simply didn't reach the levels of errant coolness that "Smallville" has proven itself capable of offering (and should be dishing out given we are so close to the series finale) and instead remained at the levels of Saturday morning cartoons.
However, once Booster has dispensed with the over-the-top theatrics there is a real story at play, one that strictly conforms to "Smallville's" formula for new heroes.
Just like Impulse, Aquaman and Green Arrow, Booster is revealed to be a more complex individual with his own esteem issues. The gold plated glory hound is a shade of grey; a hero that despite his best intentions does more harm than good and needs Clark's influence to put him back onto the straight and narrow.
Taking that idea one step further is The Blue Beetle, another comic character that is helped along by the Superman legacy. Unlike the other heroes that have crossed over to Metropolis, Blue Beetle is assisted not by Clark but by Superman from the future (or at the very least, by the legend left by Superman), adding another tease, wink and a nudge to Clark's future as the Man-of-Steel.
Despite the early problems demonstrated in the episode, Martsolf does a terrific job of bringing Booster to life in a very enjoyable way. His brazen attitude is on a whole other level than the other heroes we've seen before. Martsolf expertly offered the casual arrogance so often brandished by big-shot sports stars and yet remained surprisingly emotional in others.
And leave it to Johns to deal with another key staple of the DC-universe: this time, Clark's transformation in the middle of a phone booth … a sequence that was realized perfectly under Welling's direction.
Points Of Interest
1. Booster's Gold Girls are slightly reminiscent of The CW's "Hellcats" … a show that Tom Welling produces.
2. The transformation sequence for The Blue Beetle has been around for a while, originally being shown as Comic-Con 2010, leading to speculation that it could be part of a spin-off series.
3. This episode included a ring belonging to the Legion. The Legion was previously introduced in the series in an episode also written by Geoff Johns.
Early on, Booster refers to Lois and the "hero-maker." Well, he's right. But Booster Gold is not the hero the intrepid reporter was creating in the episode. After Booster's fearless save in front of the paparazzi of Metropolis, Jaime Reyes is blended with the scarab, becoming The Blue Beetle.
Jaime is very obviously the Clark Kent we were introduced to in the first season and it was nice to see those around him push Jaime to become something more. Lois and Booster end up taking an almost role to the character and by the end of the episode we see a real origin of a new super-hero. Booster essentially becomes the Jonathan Kent to Clark's Superman.
Kat Grant (Keri Lynn Pratt) was also made her long-overdue return to the series, again bringing a lot of humor and a platform for debate over the methods and strategy The Blur has towards saving people
There is also a lesson here for Booster Gold; being a hero doesn’t start with saving a city or the world, it starts by saving that one person from his or her own personal dilemmas just as Clark has been doing for many years. In the shows infancy, Clark became a hero to his peers by saving them from their own demons.
"Booster" also has a touching emotional moment between Clark and Lois as they discuss the new, geekier Clark Kent and the ramifications for Lois. Welling was fantastic as the stammering and accident-prone Clark, finally completing his everyday disguise.
What Didn't Work
"Booster's" biggest failing was the lack of any clear direction or villain, instead putting Blue Beetle and Booster into a situation where they could be harmful to themselves and those around them. The episode included hints of a larger story (potentially for development in a series of its own on a post-"Smallville" CW) but little was developed.
Making it worse is the fact that Geoff Johns, an accomplished comic book writer, previously scripted some of the best episodes "Smallville" has offered; "The Legion" and "Absolute Justice" were comic book gold so it is a sad irony that "Booster" is not.
In addition to the cringing during the cartoon-style shenanigans, the Blue Beetle transformation was awful, coming off as a blend of "Iron Man" and "Beetle Borgs." Surely with the reputation "Smallville" has for creating more grounded heroes a sleeker costume could have been devised.
There was also something disappointing about the restricted role of Ted Kord (Sebastian Spence) who serves more as a signpost for the future of Booster and Blue Beetle instead of a cornerstone to the actual episode.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
"Booster" was written by Geoff Johns and directed by Tom Welling.
"Smallville" airs Friday's at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.
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