Absolute Justice Entertains Absolutely... Well, Almost

If Smallville: Absolute Justice was a stealth pilot for a Justice Society show, we're in... But not until someone works out a way to make Hawkman look less ridiculous with those giant wings of his. Spoilers!

Like another Friday night show, last night's Smallville two-hour movie "event" demonstrated that sometimes the weakest part of a show can be its central character; Tom Welling showed more chops in his directing of the second hour than his performance in front of the camera for the whole thing, and Clark's character has become so weighed down by predictions of his destiny by this point that he was easily the least fun part of what was otherwise an enjoyable guilty pleasure of an evening's viewing.


From a story perspective, Absolute Justice benefited from being relatively self-contained, and was clearly the product of comic writer Geoff Johns; the dialogue that could've come straight from his JSA comics, and the episode contained his trademarks of shout-outs to comic continuity and injokes (Most obscure/appreciated by me: Chloe calling the JSA a Secret Society of Super-Villains. I'm easily pleased) and a plot that spun personal conflicts into melodrama filled with conspiracy and a larger story behind the scenes. But it worked; there was a sense of scale and history to the episode that the series doesn't usually manage, and each new character - even the quickly offed, like Sylvester Pemberton and Wesley Dodds - came across as interesting enough (and likable enough, as well) to want to see more of. The murders of the JSA members made the Icicle a credible threat, but Amanda Waller and Checkmate pulling his strings also filled in what otherwise would've been plotholes (How did he find them? Why aren't the police doing any better in hunting him down? etc.).

The Justice Society that we met - Hawkman, Doctor Fate and Stargirl, for the most part, with cameos from the Star-Spangled Kid and the Sandman (and even quicker cameos from Wildcat, Green Lantern, the Atom and the Flash) - seemed to come in from another show; one less angst-ridden and unapologetic for its superhero origins - one that felt unlike Heroes or, well, Smallville, and in a camply refreshing way. They brought with them - or, more likely, Geoff Johns did - a banter and wit that the show often lacks, and also a speed and lightness that worked better than the show's usual po-faced drama; with this many superheroes around - and off-hand deus ex machina moments like Doctor Fate magically restoring John Jones' powers just because - the show just seemed better than usual, somehow.

It wasn't perfect, of course; it's Smallville, after all, and that means disappointing special effects (The attempt to translate Doctor Fate's ankh-symbolism just seemed CGI gimmickry) and outfits (Really, Hawkman's wings: Fail), as well as occasional WTF moments in order to move the story along (The Daily Planet remains the only major newspaper whose offices are entirely empty when the plot demands, and apparently everyone can break into any building if they need to). But it was fun; silly and full of derring-do, with much more comic geekery thrown in than normal. For this week, at least, Smallville went outside of its comfort zone to explore more of the DC Universe than ever before and benefited from the experience. Given an ending that suggested that Checkmate is here to stay, here's hoping the show continues on this path for awhile.


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