Monday, January 24, 2011

Episode Twenty-Four: Solar Power

Dr. Lightner (Lois' insane tech contact earlier in the show) breaks out of prison using a machine that harnesses the power of light.  His target: the Man of Steel for putting him in prison.  Lightner takes control of LexCorp satellites to filter the sun, only allowing the red spectrum to reach Earth.  Lois, Clark and Jimmy investigate possible connections to LexCorp, but are unable to yield solid results.  Superman's powers quickly dwindle as Lightner captures Lois and Jimmy to force a confrontation.  Despite having the advantage of hard-light holograms, teleportation and laser guns, Lightner is unable to deliver the killing blow before Superman causes his machinery to be destroyed.  The explosion knocks out the satellite computers, and the full spectrum of the yellow sun repowers Superman.  He easily knocks Lightner out, and the day is saved.

Evan:  After three terrible episodes the show finally makes it back to form!  I remembered who Lightner was about halfway through, and ironically his transition to full super villain was actually a nice way to raise the stakes for his return after I felt he went to far towards super villainy in his first appearance.  The show brought back Lex and Jimmy for this episode, which did wonders for filling out the episode's background.  Luthor was played perfectly in this show: from his smirking reactions to Lois' investigation its clear he made sure Lightner found everything he needed for his revenge plot, but placed himself at a far enough distance not to be involved.  While Superman was powerless and at the whim of a madman, Lex practiced his archery (a perfectly threatening activity in a world without invulnerability).  Absolutely perfect.  I've been hoping the show will remember Luthor's early claim to Metropolis.  Finally, Lex is at the root of Superman's problems once again, and is just ambiguous enough about it to be untouchable.

Tone is a huge element of what made this episode work.  We saw Clark's relationships to the people around him, there were some fun slapstick moments and the increasing stakes were a pleasure to watch develop.  There were three action sequences: the first two were Lightner toying with Superman as his powers weakened, the final being his attempt for the kill on a very human Superman.  Each time, Lightner had the upper hand and each time Superman was pushed to the extreme.  Little moments, like Superman realizing he's bleeding and the rage he felt for being made to feel vulnerable sold this episode for me.

We also go to see Lois, Clark and Jimmy do some actual reporting and interact with one another while Lex smirked just behind the curtain.  We haven't had any real movement in character relations in a while, but even as a function of the status quo it was nice to see the cast back together.

Very fun story that used a character I never thought we'd see again in an interesting and exciting way.

Kristin: What a relief! After 3 straight episodes earning zero out of ten, this show gives me something worth talking about.

Predictably, what I loved most about the episode was the fact that it brought back our core group of characters, even for brief scenes. We saw Lois, Jimmy and Clark working together in a way that we haven't seen setting up an episode in a while. Luthor returned to the universe in a glorious archery-in-my-office cameo. It was brilliant. I can only hope for more of him to come.

I was also impressed by the narrative that this episode built. It was simple with moments that winked to the audience (such as Luthor's denial to Lois over the phone while delivering a lovely smirk as he fires off a bullseye) and really demonstrated a respect for the integrity of the Superman mythos that has been sorely lacking in the last few forays into Metropolis. It would have been easy to make this another return-of-the-wronged-villain episode complete with gratuitous punching and Kristin face-palming. Instead, the show stuck to it's own rules by weakening Superman under the red sun and not having him miraculously muscle his way out of it. I'm looking at you, kryptonite heartburn.

Final Thoughts: Back to form!

Evan's Episode Rating: 8/10 (Lois Lane Ratio: 0 incompetent/1 insane) - Seriously Lois, invisible doors are never locked? The hell?

Kristin's Episode Rating: 8/10 - Thought about a 7... but these guys deserved an 8 for scaling the mountainous turd that came before them.

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