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'Smallville': Sighing over the cliches of 'Scion'

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Image Credit: Jack Rowand/The CWAnd the Smallville fan nation says: “Now this is more like it.” Last week’s aggressively goofy outing inspired by The Hangover elicited howls of outrage from longtime fans of the show for any number of reasons, from its silly premise to its clumsy send-off of Allison Mack’s Chloe. Last night’s episode “Scion” – in which Clark Kent (and fiancée Lois Lane) took on the responsibility of raising the Last Son of Krypton’s genetically engineered half-bro Conner (High School Musical’s Lucas Grabeel) – put the show back on the dark(seid) epic path of its final season following the absurdly light digression of “Fortune.” Judging from other reactions, longtime Smallville fans were much happier with “Scion.” Hopefully it was meal enough to sate them during the six-week Lenten fast that’s now upon us: There’s no new Smallville until April 15.

For the record, I was greatly amused by “Fortune” and haven’t thought twice about that opinion. And at the risk of appearing cranky and contrarian, I thought “Scion” was disappointing. The more I think about it, the more it sours in my mind. It began with Tess (Cassidy Freeman, pictured) telling Clark that Alexander Luthor wasn’t just a clone of the late of Lex Luthor – half of him was bred from Kal’s super-genes. Superman 1.0, meet Superboy 2.0. The quick-grow boy – now a hormonally charged adolescent – preferred the name Conner, derived from the term scientists had given him: Cognitive Neuroplastic Replicant. Tess asked Clark to help her hide Conner from Lionel Luthor (the always great John Glover), and more, help raise him to be more of a Kent than a Luthor. Clark immediately signed up. He felt an immediate kinship to this Kryptonian half-breed and an instant empathy for his predicament, as he, too, knows all about the alienation of feeling profoundly “different.” Clark had to sell Lois on the idea of serving as a de facto foster family– to be Conner’s Ma and Pa Kent – and despite some initial reluctance she bought in. Poppycock. I found the idea that these young lovers would so readily give themselves over to this parenthood project even more of a stretch than last week’s Zantanna-zapped champagne shenanigans. I think a better version of this episode would have had Clark struggling with the decision to become a father figure to Conner before ultimately accepting the responsibility – especially after Conner ogled Lois and uncorked that infernal emission in the barn. Hard to believe Clark would put this strange kid’s needs over his soon-to-be wife’s safety and comfort. (What’s going to happen when he gets his X-ray vision? Conner! Are you checking out your stepmom’s thong again?)

Parallel World Lionel wanted to get his mitts on his ersatz replacement child so he could use him as a tool in his bid for world domination, and to a lesser degree, fill the Lex-shaped daddy void in his life. Bothered by the amount of do-gooding/self-limiting Kent in the kid, Lionel gave Conner a red kryptonite ring – to test his capacity for do-badding/self-indulging Luthor in him, and to give him a taste for it. The irony of the red kryptonite thing is that it’s no more contrived or ridiculous a storytelling device as, say, Zantanna-zapped champagne. It may even be more contrived and ridiculous – but we give it a pass because it’s part of the Superman mythology and we dig the fact that the show is fanboyish enough to embrace that kind of thing without apology or rationalization. My bigger problem with red kryptonite is that requires you to buy into the whole “we all have a dark side” conceit/cliche, as if our moral character was so black/white simplistic, or no more complex than a shallow extrapolation of Freud’s Id/Ego/Superego construct. Yes, red kryptonite invites us to imagine what we might to do if we let go of our inhibitions. Valid. I just wish these kind of stories would inspire us to imagine more creative, clever possibilities than “Scion’s” I Was Almost A Teenage Super-Rapist creepiness. Conner went crackers in a teenybonkers kind of way, expressing his adolescent rebelliousness by making a move on Lois after saving her from Lionel’s bullet. She appreciated the mink – she was cold – but when he swiped the jewels and stole the ride for her, she got the drift and groaned. Superboy’s got a crush on me and now he wants to literally crush me! Next thing we knew, she was yelping and fighting for her life when Conner took her to a dank abandoned warehouse and got frighteningly manhandly with her. Poor Lois. If she wasn’t a stationary sex object to be leered at in this episode, then she was an imperiled sex object for powerful men to beat, molest or save. Lois – and Erica Durance – deserved better.

In the end: Tess wrested control of Luthor Corp. from Lionel. We last saw Big Bad Luthor Daddy moping around the grave of Lex 1.0, yearning for a world where his boy could live once again – and with that, Darkseid suddenly appeared, like some wish-granting devil-genie. Michael Rosenbaum, the groundwork for your eagerly awaited return has now been laid. And Clark enrolled Conner at Smallville High. Was Smallville setting up the possibility of a spin-off? Smallville 2.0 with Super-Clone Conner? If so: Would you watch? Or do you think Conner is destined for membership in the Legion of Super-Heroes? (Yeah, I saw that Legion flight ring in the previews, too.) The boards are yours.