Friday, November 5, 2010

Episode Nineteen: Identity Crisis

Superman is having an idyllic day on the job, delivering corny lectures to kids and waving to his adoring public.  He spies a car chase with Lois' car in hot pursuit of the police.  His sudden intervention causes Lois to lose control, and her passenger to go flying out the window.  Superman saves the falling man who turns out to be... Clark Kent!?  Clark investigates, and finds a rapidly decaying Superman clone who, when he shows up to his date with Lois, leads both to the factory where he was created - by Lex Luthor!  Calling the experiment a failure, Lex prepares to destroy the evidence of his cloning experiment when Bizarro has a Frankenstein-style freakout, trapping them all inside the self-destructing building.  Superman tries to save them all, but the rapidly collapsing structure looks to have him overwhelmed when he has to pause to save Lois with seconds to spare.  Heroically, Bizarro catches a falling section of the roof and holds it high enough for Superman to escape with Lois.  In the end, Bizarro realized he wasn't the true Superman, but that as the defining rule of the universe, "Superman saves Lois".

Evan:  That was actually really sweet.  I could feel Kristin tensing up at the start of this episode, bracing herself for a big, dumb Superman versus Superman fight.  I hope that she liked this one, because I felt like it was a really nicely built story that takes Bizarro, a character than it both iconic and non-nonsensical, and created a modern Frankenstein story with a good heart.  Bizarro truly believes that he is Superman, saving Metropolis from the dangers of building demolition and opening bridges.  By his own twisted logic, Bizarro believes he is helping.  He has a single, defining point of clarity that informs his actions: Superman saves Lois.  From this golden truth, Bizarro is able to redeem himself in his ultimate sacrifice.  Whether he lived or died, Bizarro was a good soul.

The Bizarro-imagery always strikes me.  The character is an insane concept, the ultimate colour and motif swapped villain that is replayed over-and-over in comics.  The animated series gives us a more serious take on the character, removing the backwards "S" for a more crooked, homemade looking affair and dulling the colour pallet into purples.  The shattered, rocky look of the comics was swapped for a hunched look, maintaining the bright white skin.  It all worked well with Bizarro as a failed clone, degenerating into himself after originally appearing to be a fully functioning copy.  While the changing clothes is a cheat, it works for the character as it forces the viewer into the same mindset as the characters.  Is Bizarro rapidly changing, or are we simply noticing that he isn't Superman?

There was a second reason to love this episode: the return of Lex Luthor, ass-kicking evil genius.  Lex's cloning experiment was born in A Little Piece of Home, when exposure to kryptonite allowed his robotic dinosaur to make Superman bleed.  His scientists collected the blood, and since then Lex has been growing a Superman army.  This is the perfect role for Lex, working tirelessly in the background, one step ahead of everyone in his quest to destroy and / or control Superman.  Even better, this was the first instance we saw Luthor physically square off with Superman, this time in the form of Bizarro.  Lex was hurled across the room, once again reduced in a single moment from God to man.  This indignity, coupled with having to have Superman save his life once again, is a continuing theme in the series.  While this time Luthor was returned to mortal status, I delight in wondering if the same will happen next time.

The plan is solid, and I expect it to be reoccurring.  The villain-creating role we saw born in the Metallo episode blossoms into the creation of Bizarro.  I imagine this is one stop along the villain-creating path, and while it does encourage a fairly simple villain-of-the-week formula, it keeps Luthor at the heart of the conflict where he belongs.  No more six episode absences, please.

On a negative note, we finally brought Lois back into the show only to be at the her most incompetent yet.  She literally drove off a cliff, fell off a building and got trapped under rubble.  At least the ratio is justifying itself.  There was a moment in this episode where Superman and Lois flew into the night reflecting on Bizarro's sacrifice that was romantic, and I thought that it was a nice advancement of the always slow-developing romance between the two.  Maybe soon Lois can have a date with the real Superman, not just his well-meaning clone.

Volume Two opens with a strong episode, so let's hope we can keep this up!

Kristin: Finally! I had almost entirely lost hope for this series! Not only did they manage to somehow bring my t-rex back to the foreground but they also put together a fairly solid episode on top of that. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the Superman PSA to the small children climbing power lines. I also liked the insight we got into both Superman and Lois' character in the mirror that was Bizarro.

Plus, the episode was touching. Franken-Super really was a hero after all, giving his life to save Lois and the real Superman. Aw.

I'm not even going to jinx this episode by writing too much about it. It was great and it put a smile on my face for the first time in a long time with this series. I don't think we've had a redeemer like this since Lobo rode in on his cycle-from-the-90s and rained some heavy garbage on us all.

Don't fuck this up, writers!

Final Thoughts: Me like episode.

Evan's Episode Rating: 8/10 (Lois Lane Ratio: 3 incompetent / 0 insane) - Hurray. Lois just needs to bring her A-game.

Kristin's Episode Rating: 9/10 - Is it too much to hope for just a little more of this good stuff?

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