Friday's Smallville — "Masquerade" — offered a nice balance between the cast's personal problems and their existential hang-ups about being superheroes. When Season 10 dips into the character's personal lives, the viewer is occasionally blasted by a wall of televisual treacle seemingly baked up in Cadmus Labs. This wasn't the case in "Masquerade," as the episode kept character drama light-hearted yet sincere. Also, Clark bought some new hipster eyewear!
They Live, in reverse
"Masquerade" focused on the show's two couplings — Lois struggled to make the Blur's superheroic persona more discreet, and Ollie and Chloe tried to make their relationship work in public, which is difficult given his playboy/vigilante fame. These plots crossed paths when the heroes battled Smallville's version of Desaad, whose appearance was the weakest part of the episode.
In Plot A, Clark is caught on camera while visiting Big Ben, prompting Lois to give his Blur costume, some drastic, Ted Kaczynski-like revisions (obligatory barn scene, see the video above). Sure, Lois' proposed outfit is designed to mirror the Green Arrow's, but — as Clark and the audience both note — the costume looks so dreadfully wrong for Superman. Maybe this could fly in 1992, if some wrongheaded marketing execs were trying to update Clark's outfit for the kids (as Superman's past attempts at hipness have been downright woeful).
After a nosy crime scene photographer suggests to Clark that the hunky reporter behind all the Blur scoops could be the man in the pleather coat, Clark listens to Lois but puts his own spin on the disguise. The Blur will be his public persona, and the once strident Clark Kent will become a clumsy putz who dresses like Rivers Cuomo and acts like Rick Moranis.
It seems a little facile that everyone at the Planet will suddenly accept Weenie Clark, but Smallville deserves credit for suggesting that people would conflate the dashing reporter with his equally dashing superhuman news beat (à la "how does Peter Parker always gets all the best shots of Spider-Man!"). Welling is definitely channeling Christopher Reeve here, and he and Durance have a pleasant comic rapport (their debate over what to call his "microvision" was fun). It is like a double jackknifed They Live — when Clark wears the glasses, the whole world sees that he's human.
Date Night, with more punching
Plot B focused on Chloe and Oliver's relationship, particularly Chloe's cold feet and Oliver's inability to go out in public without getting mobbed. Their subplot focused on their date, and how they purloin some anonymous couple's reservation at Metropolis' hottest nightspot (after all, an incognito Oliver Queen can't get them a table). It was silly that Lionel Luthor took over Queen Enterprises in one episode, but at least Ollie didn't waste time griping about it.
Anyway, the restaurant reservation is the cover for two FBI agent who are investigating Desaad and his brainwashing sex club, and Chloe and Oliver get ensnared in their investigation. It's never explained how a single seedy fetish bar will spearhead world domination, but whatever. The selling point here is Allison Mack and Justin Hartley's good-natured banter while busting heads.
Chloe and Oliver get on the case, accidentally beat up some FBI agents, Chloe gets kidnapped by Desaad (obligatory Smallville bondage scene), and they officially become boyfriend and girlfriend (Chloe and Oliver, not Desaad). At the end of the episode, we learn that Ollie has succumbed to the darkness (presumably when he was throttling the crap out of Desaad). Again, the cast's charm rose above any plot silliness.
Desaad = Some Pervert
"Masquerade" stumbled with the characterization of Jack Kirby's master torturer and Darkseid lackey Desaad, who first appeared for 30 seconds in the Granny Goodness episode. Whenever Smallville introduces a new DC character, they get a terse (if high concept) introduction. For example, Mera was "she-Aquaman" and Deadshot was "super cowboy." Desaad is "creepy sex club owner."
Yes, I know that in DC Comics' continuity, there is a Dark Side Club, which houses the earthbound incarnations of the Apokoliptian New Gods. Sure, if the rich and powerful get their rocks off at Club Desaad like some BDSM Bohemian Grove, then Desaad could be a dangerous dude. But Smallville never presents him as a valid foe. He's just some weird dandy who can give people fatal nosebleeds. The episode would've benefited from a tad more exposition on Desaad's influence or backstory — then maybe the audience could buy him as a palpable threat.