REVIEW: SMALLVILLE – SEASON 9

Starring

Tom Welling (Lucifer)
Allison Mack (Wilfred)
Justin Hartley (This Is Us)
Erica Durance (Supergirl)
Cassidy Freeman (The Vampire Diaries)
Callum Blue (Dead Like Me)

Callum Blue in Smallville (2001)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Brian Austin Green (Terminator: TSCC)
Terence Stamp (Superman II)
Akessandro Juliani (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
Monique Ganderton (American Ultra)
Sharon Taylor (Stargate: Atlantis)
Adrian Holmes (Arrow)
Mike Dopud (Stargate Universe)
Stephen Lobo (Painkiller Jane)
Ryan McDonell (The Crossing)
Cameron Bancroft (Legends of Tomorrow)
Jody Thompson (The 4400)
Chris Gauthier (Watchmen)
Steph Song (War)
Elise Gatien (Ghost Wars)
Emilie Ullerup (Sanctuary)
Michael Adamthwaite (Stargate SG.1)
Sahar Biniaz (Blade: The Series)
Julian Sands (Gotham)
David Gallagher (Super 8)
Allison Scagliotti (The Vampire Diaries)
Dylan Neal (Arrow)
Anita Torrance (Caprica)
Steve Bacic (Andromeda)
Pam Grier (Jackie Brown)
Phil Morris (Doom Patrol)
Brent Stait (Andromeda)
Michael Shanks (Stargate SG.1)
Britt Irvin (Hot Rod)
Wesley MacInnes (Power Rangers)
Jim Shield (Cold Pursuit)
Erica Carroll (Apollo 18)
Serinda Swan (Inhumans)
Crystal Lowe (Final Destination 3)
JR Bourne (Stargate SG.1)
Sean Rogerson (Bitten)
Odessa Rae (Hard Candy)
Elysia Rotaru (Arrow)
Jonathan Walker (Red)
Gil Bellows (Sanctuary)
Blu Mankuma (Robocop: The Series)
Mark Gibbon (Man of Steel)
Annette O’Toole (The Punisher)
Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap)

Brian Austin Green in Smallville (2001)Season nine is the single greatest season Smallville has ever produced. The show has fully reached its potential and has created a tense, exciting, beautifully shot, clever and romantic season. One with interesting villains; conflicting needs; searching for the right questions; searching for the truth; love and hate and the fine line between it all; finding yourself and finding others. All with the strong undercurrent of destiny. There are around two ‘not so well executed’ episodes that fall short of their goals, but even those are not awful. The four or so main arcs of the season are: the return of a weirdly attractive and charismatic Zod, the blossoming relationship between Lois and Clark, the development of the Blur and the Justice Society.Chris Gauthier and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)This is a season of triangles. Many carefully subtle and symbolic in nature: triangles between friends, triangles between enemies, the triangle for two. There was a distinct sense of care to this season, unlike the others — it actually felt as if the writers paid close attention to the small things which made the writing feel more cohesive. It’s certainly the case, because something as small as a hand gesture in one episode became a very significant thing later on.Tom Welling and Erica Durance in Smallville (2001)The season opens with ‘Saviour’, as Lois miraculously returns without memory of where she’s been. The only thing hinting at a darker side to this is random flashes and visions, confusing memories. Are they dreams? Visions of a not-so-distant future? This is one of the mysteries of the first half of the season. I love this show but they I’ve never been so engaged as I have when Lois had those first flashes. It was well done and it was gratifying to see Smallville put together a coherent story arc which flowed into other arcs as the previous ones drew to a close. First time ever that I’d been excited to see where the mainplot went!Callum Blue, Adrian Holmes, Tom Welling, Erica Durance, and Cassidy Freeman in Smallville (2001)Tom Welling is now an executive producer so having more creative control over his character is obvious this season — it has a very positive impact on Clark. Clark finds himself being tested. Learning to cope with juggling an overly-inquisitive Lois, an alter-ego as the Blur whilst swiftly returning to his desk at the bullpen. But ultimately, a key theme of this season is his struggle to maintain a balance between who he is and what he could become. This season firmly asks: who will he become? There was some fantastic development for Clark as a character and his relationship with Lois Lane is centre stage the entire time. The writing for them is careful, precise, intimate and is wonderfully nuanced thanks to the actors. It was well established last season that Lois is in love with Clark, and Clark spends this season rightly demonstrating that he loves her back. The Lois and Clark relationship is one of my favourite arcs in season nine. It was so satisfying to see their romantic relationship moved forward without a painfully slow draw-out. There’s a lot of beautiful scenes shared between them and the writers do a brilliant job of showing (yes ‘showing’, not telling) exactly why Lois is the one for Clark.Michael Shanks in Smallville (2001)Zod (Callum Blue) is a fantastic and compelling villain. His dalliances with Tess Mercer are mesmerising to watch. Oliver Queen returns, having hit rock bottom and kept going since the previous finale. There’s a triangle early in the season between Clark, Lois and Oliver. It’s very subtle and one can only be picked up on in a few frames a lot of the time — not something I’ve come to expect from Smallville, whose usual idea of ‘subtle’ is huge honking anvils landing on you when trying to convey something. It peeters away as Oliver grows and changes out of this darker period in his life. Lois develops as a reporter and finds a purpose in life she didn’t dream of before; her character arc was excellent and benefitted from Erica Durance appearing in 18 episodes instead of the usual 13 (yay!). We see the return of many superheroes as well as meet some new ones. I loved this as it’s one of my favourite parts of the series. I liked seeing Bart and Black Canary back in particular.Phil Morris, Tom Welling, and Justin Hartley in Smallville (2001)Star Girl was awesome! The superhero epic Absolute Justice (two episodes smooshed together as one) was a highlight of the season and will surely make comic book fans happy. The finale, ‘Salvation’ was a fast paced good quality closing chapter. It set up the next season and moved the story forward at the same time as closing it. The finale fight scene also did not disappoint! For once! Salvation was very much a juggernaught of emotion which wasn’t cheap and empty like Doomsday, but had the weight of a great season of storytelling behind it. It really made all the difference.Britt Irvin and Brent Stait in Smallville (2001)This season is well structured with a fascinating story arc which sees time travel as a central concept. In many ways this plotline held far more tension and anticipation than the whole of the Doomsday arc did. I enjoyed feeling fascinated by Zod, insanely wanting answers as to what had happened to Lois when she disappeared, and could barely contain myself when all was revealed in the episode ‘Pandora’. Truly one of the best episodes of the series.

REVIEW: V (2009) – SEASON 2

Starring

Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost)
Morris Chestnut (Kick-Ass 2)
Joel Gretsch (The Vampire Diaries)
Logan Huffman (Final Girl)
Laura Vandervoort (Bitten)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
Scott Wolf (Go)
Charles Mesure (The Magicians)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Jane Badler (Neighbours)
Christopher Shyer (J.Edgar)
Mark Hildreth (Planet Hulk)
Rekha Sharma (Dark Angel)
Roark Critchlow (Batman: Year One)
Scott Hylands (Decoy)
Bret Harrison (Orange County)
Keegan Connor Tracy (Bates Motel)
Chilton Crane (50/50)
Jonathan Walker (Red)
Oded Fehr (The Mummy)
Nicholas Lea (The X-FIles)
Martin Cummins (Dark Angel)
Ona Grauer (Elysium)
Peter Bryant (Sanctuary)
Zak Santiago (Shooter)
Adrian Holmes (Skyscraper)
Samantha Ferris (Stargate SG.1)
Charlie Carrick (Reign)
Marc Singer (Beauty and The Beast)

I loved the original 1984 miniseries (and the spin-off and short-lived TV series) that spawned this big-budget televised reboot of V. It was good old-fashioned cult sci-fi fun, layered with a surprisingly morose setting, dark political subtext, some hokey but amusing effects, and a great little story about a rather horrifying alien invasion.The reboot goes in a few new directions, taking the source material a bit more seriously. The show is layered with popular cult stars and seasoned with some pretty ambitious visual effects for a series of this budget. Alas, while the high concept series did earn praise from fans and critics, it just didn’t have much of an audience.Like so many network sci-fi series before it, V was doomed from the get-go. An expensive show must yield big ratings, otherwise an already wary network will cut you loose. V is yet another show that really didn’t have a chance to find its footing, or its audience. Many, admittedly, were probably turned off by the show simply because it’s a relaunch of a popular cult miniseries. While others are turned away for the same reason any sci-fi show fails on network TV – they fear it’ll be canceled after a few episodes.Joel Gretsch and Elizabeth Mitchell in V (2009)True, V did make it into its second season, and I commend the network for sticking with the series for as long as they did. The second season of V did show some improvement, too. The narrative was tightened in certain spots, with a better focus on character. The mythos and mystery of the series worked quite well. And there were some solid episodes throughout the show’s second run. But the writing was on the wall at the end of Season 1. V would not last. And it didn’t.

REVIEW: TRAITOR

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CAST

Don Cheadle (Brooklyn’s Finest)
Guy Pearce (Memento)
Saïd Taghmaoui (American Hustle)
Neal McDonough (Legends of Tomorrow)
Jeff Daniels (The Martian)
Archie Panjabi (A Good Year)
Alyy Khan (A Mighty Heart)
Mozhan Marnò (Gimmie Shelter)
Lorena Gale (Battlestar Galactica)
Jonathan Walker (Red)

Samir Horn (Don Cheadle) is an Arabic-speaking Sudanese-American and devout Muslim. His Sudanese father was killed by a car bomb when he was a child. As an adult, Samir is first seen operating as an arms dealer. While negotiating a deal with Omar (Saïd Taghmaoui) in Yemen he is arrested and thrown into a Yemeni jail. Later, Samir and Omar become friends and when Omar’s people arrange an escape, he takes Samir with them. They meet Fareed (Alyy Khan), a lieutenant in the al-Nathir terrorist organization. FBI Special Agent Roy Clayton (Pearce) suspects Samir has been radicalized and begins tracking him.
Joining al-Nathir, Samir uses the skills he learned as a Special Forces Engineer Sergeant with the U.S. Army Special Forces to bomb the U.S. consulate in Nice, France. It is revealed that Samir is working under deep cover for a US intelligence contractor, Carter (Jeff Daniels); Samir is devastated when he learns that despite Carter’s covert efforts, innocent people perished in the consulate bombing. Impressed with Samir, Fareed introduces him to leader Nathir, who discloses a plot to place suicide bombers on 50 buses in the U.S. during Thanksgiving, and instructs Samir to act as liaison to each of the al-Nathir sleeper bombers. Later, Carter unwittingly interrupts a meeting between Samir and Omar, and is killed by Omar.
Samir reveals his deep cover to Agent Clayton, who tracks him to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. While on board a cargo ship to Marseille, France, Samir kills Nathir and Fareed, and tells an enraged Omar that by targeting innocents they betrayed Islam. Samir then tells Omar that he switched the bombers’ emails and he placed them all on the same bus so all of them died without victims (except for the driver of the one bus). The Canadian police and the FBI break in, killing Omar and injuring Samir.
Later, underneath the ‘L’ in Chicago, Samir tells Agent Clayton he feels guilty for killing innocent people, and that the Qur’an says that to kill an innocent person is to kill all mankind. Clayton responds by noting that the Qur’an also says that by saving an innocent person, he has saved all mankind, and tells Samir he is a hero.
The story immediately grabs the audience’s attention and dramatizes the dynamics and issues relating to the government’s response to terrorism and provides an interesting take on the challenges associated with police work and undercover infiltration.