Sunday, November 16, 2008

Smallville, "Abyss" review

"The truth is my brain's a little fried. Literally." -- Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack), "Abyss"

With the departure of Kristin Kreuk and Michael Rosenbaum, followed by show creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, my faith in the show's direction waned. I had figured that WB would drop the ball and hand us a subpar show, leaving us Smallville fans with a bad taste in our mouths. I assumed incorrectly. This season has been surprisingly strong and this episode has equally strong performances. Fans of Smallville may remember that at the end of the last season Chloe was confronted by Brainiac and somehow absorbing, if not "downloading," some of his computing abilities. This in turn transformed her into a sort of super-genius. Unfortunately, that's not the only thing she may have gotten from him...

"Abyss" starts out with Chloe being woken up by Jimmy with breakfast in bed for his blushing bride to be. He informs her that Lana has not responded to their wedding, though Chloe doesn't seem to remember who Lana is. Jimmy is confused about this and tells Chloe is worried about her, and her recent memory loss. Chloe brushes it off as being distracted and being stressed. All of a sudden, the screen goes wonky, like an analog TV trying to find a signal. We're now at a dance. Very weird. Chloe and Jimmy are dancing at their engagement party; everything seems all right...until people and furniture start getting deleted one by one. By the end of the scene, everything is gone (even Jimmy, who for a second looked like the Question with a blank face), and she's alone in a dark abyss flooded with Kryptonian symbols. When Jimmy stirs her awake, she does not remember him or their love.

Jimmy, of course then, goes to Clark to inform him of her situation. He tells Clark that he had to show her a photo album of them together for her to believe him. I don't know what Jimmy said to her right before he left to see Clark, but I would not leave her alone. However, since he did, Chloe finds the local hospital and bluffs her way to getting some info on memory loss. She bumps into Davis along the way. Interesting thing is that she remembers him and Clark without hesitation. Clark confronts Chloe on her brain drain and is surprised to find a secret room covered wall to wall with images and photographs of her life. She's basically made a cheat sheet. Clark deduces it is Brainiac slowly taking over her mind, and now they have to find a way to slow the process and remove him.

Meanwhile, Davis finds Jimmy and explains why he can't come to their wedding and it's an awkward moment for both of them. It's obvious that Davis cares for Chloe, we're not sure in what way, but it is certain that Jimmy loves her. Davis leaves Jimmy with the words "take care of her". It's really kind of sad to see Jimmy go through this, but Ashmore handled it pretty well. Cut back to Clark and Chloe, who have figured out that Brainiac is for some reason downloading Kryptonian symbols and data into her brain especially one in particular: the word "doom". Clark suggests that he will try and bargain with Jor-El to see if there is a way they can purge Brainiac from her. Chloe's memories are fading faster by the second...then it happens: Chloe forgets about Clark's powers, biological father, all Kryptonian terms, Kal-El, Brainiac, etc. Clark hands her a photo album with pictures of them just in case she forgets who he is by the time he returns. Shortly after, Jimmy discovers Chloe in the barn and she fakes her emotions toward him and it's easily discovered. He brings the photo album from before, though I thought this is where they could play up his insecurities by noticing the photo album Clark gave her -- they didn't.

Clark has returns to the Fortress of Solitude and talks to Jor-El to get him up to speed on the situation. Jor-El tells his son that he can, in fact, translate the symbols into Earth memories, but since Brainiac is unpredictable it would be up to Clark to make that decision. However, Jimmy has already made one. He took Chloe to see a doctor and she was going to get an MRI. While she went into the machine, we're shown a flashback between young Clark and Chloe where she kissed him the very first time. Like before, Brainiac continues to delete her memories. In Chloe's head, we see her run from memory to memory, trying to escape being erased...then suddenly Davis appears, they touch hands, and when she wakes up he is all she can remember. So of course she goes to find him, and he simply brings her back to Jimmy and Clark.

Alison Mack captures the fear and confusion one could face if they came to lose all their thoughts and memories. When Chloe panics and makes a break for it, Davis knocks her out with a sedative and Clark takes her to the Fortress. Clark chooses to have her memories restored, but before Jor-El does that, his son asks for her not to remember anything associated with his powers or true origins. "You're the best friend and ally I could've had, Chloe. The truth is, you've saved me more than I ever could've saved you." With that, Brainiac oozes out of Chloe, while unbeknownst to Clark or Jor-El he absorbs himself into the Fortress.

Later, when the smoke has cleared, Jimmy and Chloe are back at her place, working on the seating charts for their upcoming wedding until Clark drops by, mainly to confirm that she doesn't remember anything about his past. Chloe then starts to leave on her scooter, but is confronted by Davis who finally admits his feelings towards her. Chloe shuts him down at first, but they steal a quick kiss before she retreats. It's obvious that Davis won't let her go so easy. Later, Clark returns to the Fortress (again) and updates Jor-El on Chloe and informs him of the "doom" symbol. Jor-El tells Clark of a creature of pure hatred, created for the sole purpose of war and mass destruction, and it would not stop until the world is dead. "I'll take it on like I have everything else," Clark replies before zooming out of the Fortress. However, things do not bode well for Jor-El. Brainiac infects the Fortress and declares to Jor-El that nothing will stop him. "Doomsday is coming."

Now here is where I'm divided. The fanboy in me wants to jump up and down, though the journalist in me as a few questions for the writers. Does Chloe know about the Green Arrow? If she knows about the Justice League, then she knows Clark is a part of that group, right? Where was Lois during all this? While I have to admit most of "Abyss" is filler, it accomplished several things. The father/son relationship between Clark and Jor-El is repaired, and they undid the mess of the last four years when Chloe knew Clark's secret and he became too dependent on her. When Chloe told Clark that her learning his secret allowed her to make an impact on the world, that's true, but it's also true that Clark was stationary and only concerned about saving his friends and family, nothing more. They've corrected these things for the 8th season and in this episode in particular. Now it's time for both Clark and Chloe to go their separate ways.

I do have one major complaint: Clark just stole four years of Chloe's life since her life has been pretty much wrapped up in Clark's secret for that long. He might have been trying to be noble, but this is Clark going backwards. He needs to create a new identity to hide behind, not steal someone else's knowledge. Give the baddies a public target and his private life stays private. I expect the memory wipe to be temporary.

Don't get me wrong, "Abyss" was a fun episode to watch. A core idea of any good thriller is not knowing what is going to happen next. Poor Chloe, with her accelerated amnesia, was a fantastic way to add that element of uncertainty into Smallville. Better yet, Doomsday is looming on the horizon.

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