Monday, February 8, 2010

Watched: Smallville "Absolute Justice"

Title: Smallville, "Absolute Justice"
Original Airdate: February 5, 2010
Generation: Modern Age Carter

Summary: In Metropolis, Chloe Sullivan is ambushed by a man carrying a strange golden staff named Sylvester.  He claims to be her friend, but winds up being attacked and murdered by an ice-weilding metahuman.  Chloe and Clark's investigation turns up that Sylvester was part of a group of criminals who were rounded up many years ago.  After another member of the group, Wesley Dodds, is murdered in the same manner, with the letters "JSA" written in blood, Clark begins to dig deeper.  He winds up at an old museum run by a man named Carter Hall, who angrily rebuffs the young man, but not before he spots the babbling, seemingly insane man named Kent Nelson.  

More searching and digging eventually reveals the group of criminals to be anything but: they were a team of heroes called the Justice Society of America, who were railroaded by a government agency and charged with fabricated crimes.  Hawkman, the JSA's leader, is not impressed with the current crop of heroes (including Green Arrow, whom he tosses around without much effort), but Kent Nelson -- wearing the Helm of Nabu and becoming the mystical and mysterious Dr. Fate -- says that Kent has a great destiny before him.  Soon, Clark and his allies (Chloe, Green Arrow, and Detective John Jones) are allied with the JSA (Hawkman, Dr. Fate, and Courtney Whitmore, AKA Stargirl, Sylvester's protege) to find and stop the icy murderer, the son of the original Icicle.  The young Icicle is working for the mysterious Checkmate organization, tasked with getting revenge on the Society for putting his father in a coma.  Meanwhile, Lois Lane has received a package from an anonymous source detailing the history and cover up of the JSA, which interests Tess Mercer -- president of Luthorcorp -- greatly.  Lois pounds the pavement on the story, eventually learning about the JSA's true history as well as the villians they fought.  She eventually runs into Dr. Fate, who tells her that her destiny is intertwined with "his," and that she will be very important in "his" life, and "he" in hers.

The team splits up to find Icicle.  Hawkman and Green Arrow bicker and snipe at each other constantly, while Stargirl explains to Chloe how the Society truly is like a family.  Dr. Fate and Det. Jones are ambushed by the Icicle, and Fate is fatally stabbed, but not before he is able to restore Jones' Martian powers.  Taking the helmet, Icicle attacks all of the heroes in the Watchtower, but is turned back by a combination of their powers and retreats.  Later, Lois has gotten the front page of the Planet for her expose about the Justice Society, and Clark lets her know how proud he is of her accomplishments.  Lois then coyly comments about what Dr. Fate told her about her destiny.  Clark later asks Hawkman if he is going to put the wings away for good, and Carter tells him that instead he is going to start the Society up again, to train the proteges and children of the original members.  

Back at Checkmate HQ, Agent Amanda Waller confronts Icicle on his failure, saying that they are going to need an army to fight "the coming apocalypse."  Despite his protestations, Waller puts a bullet in Icicle's brain, telling him "Welcome to the Suicide Squad."  Outside of Icicle's cell, Waller is pleased to see the return of one of her agents: Tess Mercer.

Review: Let me preface this by saying that my wife and I have watched Smallville from the start, and that I own all of the season sets on DVD save for season 8, which I have not picked up yet.  So any of the Smallville continuity and history is acceptable to me.  Your mileage may vary.

So, as a Smallville fan and as a JSA fan, this telefilm wins on both levels.  It's a huge piece of Smallville world building and historical expansion, plus establishing some juicy new subplots.  And then on the flipside, we see countless bits and pieces of JSA memorabilia on display, from Flash's helmet to GL's lantern to Mr. Terrific's belt and everything in between.  Handled by Johns, the voices of all of the characters -- even the Smallville-exclusive ones like Chloe and Tess -- sound absolutely true.  The interactions between the JSA and the makeshift League were fantastic.

Dr. Fate's turn as a sort of mix of the Doctor and Johns's Starman was very nice.  The portrayls of Nelson and Fate were so night and day, but still believable.  The method of how his powers were portrayed was excellently realized as well.  Courtney Whitmore was absolutely embodied by Britt Irvin.  From her beaming smile and the way she talked about her family straight down to the way she wielded the Cosmic Rod, she was Stargirl.  Fanboys will complain that Waller was not played by CCH Pounder, but I think Pam Grier did a good job with a small role.  I am sure we will see more of her.  And Wesley Macinnes was menacing as the young Icicle, even if not much of a physical threat.  It was very cool to see a relatively minor badguy played with so much gravitas.  And it was great to see Phil Morris back as the Manhunter, especially with his new "green shirt with two red gun straps" costume!

As Carter Hall, Michael Shanks was equal parts angry, intelligent, driven, guilt-ridden, and demanding.  I really believed his anger at the turn of events which lead the Society to break up, and his concern for his friend Kent Nelson.  Johns deftly brought in Carter's history and past lives without harping on it, including the well-used mentions of Shiera and their shared destinies.  And the clashes between him and Green Arrow were great!  "Green Punching Bag" indeed! The costume was a mixed bag, looking very good at points, but a little clunky at others, but overall I thought he was a good realization of an admittedly difficult to adapt look.  I have to say that I am very impressed with how the Smallville crewed pulled off the Winged Wonder and really hope that we see him crop up again.  Maybe for that "coming apocalypse" (...Apokalips?) which Waller referred to?

Now the negatives, and they're aren't many: couldn't we have gotten cameos from the "other super villians" Lois mentions in her digging?  And what about the other members of the "Justice League," such as Impulse, Aquaman, Cyborg, and Black Canary?  I understand that there is a limited budget here, but those elements would have been nice to see.  But beyond that, I don't have many complaints.

Overall, one heck of a Smallville event, and a heck of a lot of fun TV for a Hawkfan!

Image: Hawkman and Green Arrow, Smallville "Absolute Justice," 2010, image retrieved from Comic Book Resrouces.


Saranga said...

just watched it and am catchign up on fan reviews now.

like you, i love smallville. i think this episode fitted in well with the sv history, and I must admit that I squee'd all the way thorough it, just for seeing these heroes brought to life on tv.
i didn't like carter's wings, and I wish we'd seen some shots of jay or alan in action, or the rest of the jla, but i think it worked.

Luke said...

The wings were kind of a sore spot. About the best I can come up with was that the wings are not supposed to look "real," since they are just that -- fake wings on a harness. Could they have looked better? No doubt. But I was so jazzed by Shanks's performance that I didn't mind them too much!