This week’s two-hour episode of Smallville borrows elements from several well-established comic franchises: A dab of Watchmen here, a smidge of Marvel’s Civil War there, and of course, the JSA. Things start off with Chloe blowing up Clark’s phone, telling him that they need to start taking their Super Clique more seriously when she runs into a man with a huge glowing staff named Sylvester Pemberton. Pemberton tells her that they are both trying to put together a team and that he knows all about Watchtower. He assures her that he’s a friend, right before he chucks her in a dumpster and fights off some sort of creature that sends atomic icicles everywhere, riddling him with holes. When Chloe hops out of the dumpster, she tries to tend to Sylvester who manages to squeak out some cryptic last words to her: Check.
Since it wouldn’t be an episode of Smallville without a trip to the hospital, Chloe is checked out and tells Clark what happened before she clones the data from Pemberton’s phone to her own Super Phone to get a bead on who Sylvester was. She discovers the last person he talked to (for 30 minutes… Sylvester must have a great calling plan!) was a Wesley Dodd.
While at the hospital, a cute young blonde arrives, distraught that her best friend, Sylvester, was murdered. When Clark, in full reporter regalia tries to talk to her, she refuses to have any of it, expressing disdain for the press.
Back at Watchtower, Chloe discovers the blonde’s name as Courtney Whitmore, a college sophomore. She sends Clark on a mission to chat with Wesley Dodds. Dodds was once a crime fighter wearing a fallout mask known as The Sandman, who dreamed of killers and used those dreams to apprehend them. When Clark shows up at Dodds’ place, he’s a little too late with the Sandman looking like Swiss cheese thanks to the same projectile shards that Icicle (Yes… That’s this week’s albino, Billy Idol wannabe villain’s name this week. Really.) shoved through him. Cryptically, the words “JSA” are scrawled in blood on the wall. After Dr. Emil (who’s back this episode) does some analysis, the gang learns that there’s human DNA on these ice shards and they’re dealing with a meta-human here.
Meanwhile, we see Icicle hanging out in a hospital with an old man on a respirator in a comatose state. It’s his father, the original Icicle and sonny boy is out for revenge against those who made daddy a vegetable!
Along with this evidence, Clark brings back some old reel-to-reel footage found at Dodd’s abode. The footage shows a much younger Pemberton and Dodd along with several other people. Pemberton was arrested for embezzlement from his company and Dodds was present at a student demonstration turned violent. Several other people that Clark and Chloe didn’t know were shown on this old footage, each of them seeming to possess no common thread or reason for them to know one another, each from a variety of walks of life including a boxer, research scientist, CEO of broadcasting company and even an old lady named Abigail Hunkel who was a butcher.
Although each of these people on the reel footage had no common threads, each tried to take the fall for one another and take the rap/protect them. In sticking with each other, the convictions leveled against them never held and they were released.
The reel footage leads Clark and Chloe to a mysterious — and really angry — man named Carter Hall who runs a sort of super hero museum. Carter’s friend, Dr. Ken Nelson was also on this footage and is all sorts of nutty, muttering to himself about the murdered members of this circle and clutching a bowling ball bag. Thanks to Clark’s x-ray vision, we see that inside the bowling ball bag, however, is the legendary golden helmet of Dr. Fate. The helmet wiped the mind of Dr. Nelson with the spirit of Dr. Fate, allowing him to see visions of the future for all except himself. Hall boots Clark and Chloe out of the museum before going back to being all sorts of angsty.
Not the only ones to visit Carter Hall and Dr. Nelson, Courtney pays them a visit. It’s revealed that she was Sylvester’s protégé as the “Stars and Stripes Kid,” carrying the glow staff that Pemberton had been wielding in the alley. She tells Carter that if he had listened, Sylvester might still be alive. Somehow, these words sink in and Hall and Nelson pick up their super mantles once more. In putting on his Dr. Fate helmet, Dr. Nelson becomes lucid once again, equipped with a really cool costume that encases him along with the helmet. Carter Hall turns into Hawkman, with an even badder ass costume complete with wings, a winged masked helmet and golden mace. Unfortunately for Courtney, Smallville blew the costuming budget on these two costumes and she got stuck with a red, white, and blue outfit that looked more like a gym uniform. C’est la vie!
They try to avenge and find the person responsible for their teammates deaths. Courtney encounters teen Icicle, who hurles some projectiles at her which Green Arrow shatters. She’s angry at Ollie because he denied her the chance to avenge her mentor’s death. Hawkman then shows up and hurls Ollie several stories upward, through the Watchtower stained glass window.
Doing some sleuthing on the superheroes shown on the reel, Chloe discovers that the super villain that riddled both Dodds and Pemberton with holes, the original Icicle, has been in a coma for years and wonders how it could possibly be them. She also expresses some disgust for her Watchtower crew with them never being around or not working as a unit.
Dr. Fate is the first of the JSA to extend an olive branch, seeking out Chloe and telling her that she’s very much like him in the role of the Watchtower. She sees the fates and lives of those around her while her own is obscured.
Clark, meanwhile, further explores the JSA’s mini museum of artifacts, copping a gander at Hawkman’s weapons, Mr. Terrific’s weight lifting belt, and Hawk Girl’s cracked helmet which implies that she died, possibly explaining why Hawkman is so grouchy. The piece de resistance, however, is the Justice Society of America’s roundtable and a painting on the wall that’s like the superhero version of “The Last Supper,” portraying each of the JSA members in their prime, seated around a table.
More revelations occur when Courtney tells them that Sylvester had wanted to bring together a new group, combining the oldhead superheroes with the new kids. Hawkman is instantly dismissive. Chloe is also skeptical of a bunch of criminals who are supposed superheroes. An indignant Courtney informs them that they made up those criminal records and don’t know the whole story. The government had wanted them to unmask and had them arrested on trumped up charges, or institutionalized. They fought back for as long as they could.
In light of this info, there is a temporary alliance between Clark’s crew and the JSA. The alliance is further bolstered by the appearance of J’on J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, who wants to help in spite of having been rendered powerless. He channels Barrack Obama with a speech about hope and why he didn’t leave Earth when he could have, having faith in Clark and the rest of the young superheroes.
Some heavy-duty bonding occurs when Chloe and Courtney have a sit-down at Watchtower headquarters. Courtney tells her that maybe her team wouldn’t be such a disappointment if they had structured things more like the JSA. Watchtower has no pictures, no cozy dining area. Perhaps if things were a bit more Martha Stewart, her team would feel more like a family and hang out together on other occasions when it just didn’t involve fighting crime.
Even Ollie and Hawkman bond through their angst with Hawkman divulging a bit of his past to him, recognizing that Ollie shares similarly douche-y qualities and anger because he hides his feelings for those he truly cares about. Later on, we learn that Hawkman’s douchedom is because of the death of Hawkwoman. Over 1,000 years ago, Hawkma and his love, Shyera were cursed by an enemy to eternally fall in love and watch each other die over and over throughout a succession of past, present, and future lives. Ollie then attempts to snap Hawkman out of his death wish (something Ollie knows quite a bit about), recognizing that he stuck around to take care of Dr. Fate and now Courtney needs him as a strong mentor with Sylvester gone.
From the new alliance, we’re taken to check in on teenage Icicle who is locked in a room along with Agent Waller (Pam Grier) from an organization known as Check Mate. (Possibly what Sylvester was talking about before he died.) Agent Waller harps on Icicle about how the JSA had taken the only family he had left from him, rendering his father, Icicle Senior a vegetable. Icicle Junior’s mother died from hypothermia, having frozen from the inside out since the kid she was incubating had carried his father’s powers. As it turned out, someone with high-ranking powers had pulled Icicle out of juvenile hall and taken them under their wing. That would be Checkmate.
Meanwhile, back at the Daily Planet, someone drops some documents on the JSA on Lois Lane’s desk just as Tess Mercer shows up to throw her weight around. Lois takes a look at the bundle dropped on her desk, marked with the words “The Truth Will Set You Free.” As Tess goes back to her office, she sees a chess piece sitting by her computer, possibly a calling card of Checkmate.
Lois, however, is intrigued by this and goes searching after these JSA members and encounters Dr. Fate. He tells her that she will eventually be the key to helping a “sentient savior” achieving his destiny. Kind of a nice thing to hear.
Dr. Fate also has some heart-to-heart chats with everyone else. He tells Clark that he will lead this generation’s group and that when he shows himself for who he truly is (cape and all, from the vision), it will be in a different age… A Silver Age! (A nice winking nod to the comic book fanboys and fangirls out there!) Oh, and Dr. Fate also drops some knowledge on Clark that his greatest adversary in this life will be Lex Luthor… And that Lex is not dead. He also tells him that Lois is his key, as well
The last person Dr. Fate spends some quality time with is J’on J’onzz. He tells the former Martian Manhunter that he sees everyone’s fate but his own and senses that J’on is not human, even though he’s been forced to live as a human. Dr. Fate recognizes that he sacrificed his powers to save Clark because he sees a hero in Clark that Dr. Fate could only see with the visions through his helmet. He learns that J’on was the sole survivor of Mars and that he had a wife and daughter he lost, like the family Dr. Fate lost when the mind of Dr. Nelson was wiped due to the Nabu mask.
During this little heart-to-heart, Dr. Fate gets speared clean through by Icicle, who then steals his helmet. Knocked unconscious, J’on is taken to the hospital, suspended in some state of incubation.
Back at the Watchtower, the JSA and the newbies are hanging out when Icicle breaks in and jacks up Chloe. Surprise, it’s a newly restored Martian Manhunter with his powers back in full force, taking out Icicle. He tells everyone that Dr. Fate’s final act was to restore his powers. (And J’on also has on a green shirt with a criss-crossed red holster, reminiscent of the Martian Manhunter from the comics. Nice touch.)
With Icicle in captivity and shuttled to prison, the JSA bonds with the new crew. Hawkman tells Clark that he’s different than the rest of the new breed of superheroes. There is no chip on his shoulder or no undercurrent of vengeance to his methods. He encourages him to put together a group, although Clark acknowledges that he and his friends can’t be what the JSA were. While this crew are the best friends he has, they lack something that the JSA possessed.
Meanwhile, the restored J’on talks with Chloe, cautioning her again that she could become like Dr. Fate due to her constantly being inundated with info, as well as that someone else will end up taking the mantle of Dr. Fate with Dr. Nelson gone, once the helmet decides on who to choose as a successor. Chloe acknowledges J’on’s concern when he that she, Clark, and Ollie are his family on Earth. With that, he, Chloe, and Ollie prance off to a dinner with Chloe looking at the Watchtower with a Martha Stewart-esque eye. Wonder if next week, the Watchtower will be bombarded with red and blue tea cozies and handicrafts?
Back at Checkmate heaquarters, Icicle is nutty foo-foo from having worn Dr. Fate’s helmet and not being able to handle it. Agent Waller had himtransferred from three prisons and brought back there. She tells him that although he didn’t kill the team responsible for making Daddy into a big, non-breathing carrot, the mission was accomplished by putting the JSA in the pubic eye. Waller mentions that an army of heroes is growing and that they will need them if they’re going to survive the coming apocalypse. Icicle is not too pleased and goes ballistic, prompting Waller to bust out her pistol, Foxy Brown-style and cap him, uttering the words “Suicide Squad.”
Calmly walking out, Agent Waller greats Tess with an “Agent Mercer” as the redhead henchwoman to Lex Luthor waits outside, telling Tess it’s been too long since they’ve talked. Dun-dun-DUN!!
All in all, a great super-sized episode of Smallville with a lot of revelations and interesting characters making cameo appearances. However, a lot was packed into just one episode, particularly, a lot that anyone without some knowledge of D.C. Comics characters would find themselves confused.
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