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Smallville Reviews

photo of Clark and police officer in "Subterranean".

"Subterranean" By Chad Hudgins

Filler – Filler episodes are often assumed to be used to pad out a weak story, especially if they are perceived to be of poor quality; however, filler episodes are sometimes used to give background to characters and events, or to give writers a chance to show off creativity and deviate from the standard mood of the series.

This is the definition of filler from a media standpoint. The reason I bring this out is because at first glance this episode may seem like a filler episode, while if you look at the issues presented, it is not completely the case.

This episode ended up being better than I thought it was going to be, though it did have some issues. Before I continue though, you should be warned that there will be spoilers throughout.

First let’s look at the positive.

“Clark vs. Slavery”

The main focus on tonight’s episode was an interesting dilemma that Clark has not faced yet in the show. It revolved around a farmer who was using immigrant workers to take care of his farm. The twist is that the farmer has a dark secret that helps him ensure that none of his workers can escape. I’ll get to the farmer in a moment.

While the overall story of the episode is about the abuse of these workers, the story really revolves around one young man named Javier. In the beginning he and his friend Francisco decide to vacate the slave farm, so they do what anyone under those conditions would do; escape at night. It didn’t quite work out for them the way they planned though. They make a break for it as planned but as they near the road, Francisco gets yanked into the ground and only Javier makes it to the road. This is our first glimpse at the threat they will face later in the episode.

Javier is played by the young actor Tyler Posey, and unfortunately it wasn’t the most inspired performance. He was supposed to be a native from south of the border, and yet he spoke perfect English. They actually tried to explain this by stating that he watched a lot of television growing up. This was a very unconvincing explanation. I kept looking for reasons to like him though, but unfortunately he just was not that strong of an actor.

The dilemma is what made the episode interesting to me though. You see, Superman always takes the morally high road. This will not always be the path that other heroes would take, and at times may not coincide with the law. There are many examples of Superman going out of his way to save criminals that just a moment ago he was beating up, or breaking and entering when it means someone’s life. We see Clark take a similar route when he hides Javier in the barn even though he knows that the police are looking for him. First and foremost on Clark’s mind is saving these workers from whatever danger he knows they are in. Second, after Javier explains to him that his mother is here in the states, Clark makes it a goal to reunite Javier and his mother.

All in all, I found the moral dilemma Clark had to face very interesting. My only gripe is I wish they had delved deeper into Clark’s feelings on this situation and dropped the freak plot.

“Old McNally was a mole”

Let’s now take just a moment to talk about the farmer McNally. Remember how I mentioned his deep dark secret? Well, it turns out he can burrow through the ground like a mole gone wild. He uses this ability to keep his worker in check, because they know that if they run; they will end up sucked into the ground with no hope of survival.

Personally, McNally was one of the weaker freaks that have shown up. He was played by John Novak, who if you remember also played the Metropolis University coach in the season four episode “Recruit.” We didn’t see much of his acting chops before, and I can’t say I’m too impressed here. As powers go, burrowing definitely ranks among the stupider ideas. (Along with eating fat out of people, turning people into wax statues, and controlling bees.)

But he really was just a throwaway villain in the episode, but he did serve a greater purpose in the overall plot. He was yet another patient of Lex’s 33.1 labs, and by the end of the episode we find that Lex has many more locked away just waiting to be experimented on. Personally, I can’t wait….especially since I know that this story is building up to something big.

“They used their SFX budget on what?”

One big gripe I had here was with the interesting, silly, or even non-use of Clark’s abilities.

One scene in particular made me fall off the couch laughing. Toward the end of the episode, Clark informs Javier that Francisco died. Javier gets so upset that he tells Clark to stop the truck, in which he gets out and starts running toward the McNally farm. Yea, I was confused to; especially since he knew that there was some sort of mole monster there. But Clark gets out of the truck, and starts to run after Javier and calling for him. Why didn’t he just super speed and get in front of him? We really don’t know. Javier knew about Clark’s powers, so it wasn’t that.

I think it was because they have to work with a SFX budget, and maybe sometimes they can’t avoid silly looking scenes like this. I usually give them leniency with things like this, especially since they do have a rather strict budget, but I’m sure they could have saved somewhere else and made this scene look more plausible.

I got it! Earlier in the episode the deputy went into the barn looking for Javier, yet he found nothing. It was obvious that he was hiding in one of the cabinets sitting around, yet Clark had to use his x-ray vision to make sure. Way to waste your special effects money guys.

“In Conclusion”

One thing that may have struck some people as strange was that it seemed like the episode was taking place in the summer, when we know that just a couple of episodes back they were having Thanksgiving dinner together. Originally, this episode was meant to air much earlier, but for reasons unknown, it was moved to later in the season.

That’s why we got some thrown in scenes with Lex and Lana discussing the proposal from “Static” and how Lana has not answered him yet. I really wish this story would just go away personally.

I did actually enjoy the moral aspects of the episode, as well as the plot movement with the 33.1 labs. Unfortunately, McNally the mole, some inconsistencies, and silly power snafus brought the episode down for me. I’ll give “Subterranean” a 2.5 out of 5.

Picture from Kryptonsite.com

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Updated 01/31/07  

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