The Smallville Project: Episode 2.17 – “Rosetta”
|October 30, 2014||Posted by Jess under Comics, Television, The Smallville Project|
Jess: We open with a long shot panning down from the clouds into the Kawatche caves, finally focusing on one painting in particular. The shot reverses, and we see Clark, awkwardly flying (seriously, Welling clearly was not enjoying this wire work).
He reaches out to touch the painting, which has a spot just right for the Octagonal Disc to fit into. And oh, look, Clark has the OD with him! He fits it into the spot, touches it…
Rebecca: (It’s weirdly sexual.)
Jess: …and wakes up lying in the middle of the street somewhere. He’s nearly hit by a car, but the driver stops in time – and it turns out to be Lex, of course, who looks understandably concerned.
Rebecca: “I wish I could stop doing this!”
Jess: SOMEBODY SAAAAAAAAAAVE MEEEEEEEEE!
Kent Farm. Clark sneaks in, but his parents are up and waiting for them. He confesses that he woke up in the middle of the highway with no idea how he got there – but he thinks he might have flown. He wants to try putting the OD in the cave wall, but Jonathan thinks it’s too dangerous. Clark yells at him and flounces out. #superman
Luthor Castle. Lex has found out that Walden is trying to remove a piece of the cave wall without Lex’s permission. He threatens to fire him and Walden coolly says he’s on the verge of a breakthrough. I love that this show looked around for a villain and landed on “evil linguist.”
Anyway, Lionel’s trying to get Lex’s custodianship of the caves revoked, of course.
Rebecca: WHERE IS JOSEPH WILLOWBROOK OR ANY KAWATCHE PERSON??
Jess: Smallville High. The Scoobies have been assigned to make family trees. Pete’s stoked, but Chloe, whose mother abandoned her, Lana, who just discovered a surprise biological father, and Clark, who is adopted, point out that this isn’t an easy assignment for everyone. Pete smugly asks if it’s his fault he’s part of a nuclear family. Shut up, Pete.
Suddenly Clark hears a high-pitched screech and doubles over in pain. The girls, who can’t hear anything, are baffled. P.S. Welling’s acting here is SPECTACULAR.
Rebecca: He has “faking pain” under “Special Skills” on his resume, surely.
Jess: Clark staggers home, opens a box hidden in the barn, and finds the OD inside, glowing. When he touches it, the noise stops.
Cut to Clark in the caves. He holds the OD up to the painting he’s been dreaming of…and it flies out of his hands and into the waiting spot. It lights up – red, blue, and yellow, of course – and the Kryptonese letters around it glow white and start swirling around it. Then the OD opens up to reveal a shield-shaped hole (THIS IS SO UNSUBTLE) and a beam of red, yellow, and blue light zaps out of it and through his chest, lifting him off the ground as Welling shakes like he’s being electrocuted. It’s basically hilarious.
Rebecca: We should have known right here that we were never going to get a scene of Martha making the costume.
Later, Lex shakes Clark awake. He asks what Clark is doing down there and Clark glances very obviously at the painting – now missing the OD – before claiming he was doing some work for Walden. Lex says the guard called him down because there was an explosion – and Walden pops up out of nowhere to ask how Clark got past the guard in the first place. Lex doesn’t seem to notice that Clark’s alibi has just been punctured; he’s more concerned with getting Clark to a hospital. Clark insists that he’s fine and Lex concedes, but says he doesn’t want Clark down there by himself until they figure out what’s going on. Clark leaves and Lex tells Walden he’ll get to the bottom of this particular mystery.
Torch office. Lana asks to borrow Chloe’s computer to work on her project…and finds a file labeled “C.K.” She opens it and finds pictures of Chloe and Clark from homecoming. (Rebecca: Who took these pictures??) Behind her, Chloe demands to know why she’s snooping. Lana apologizes, and Chloe tells her to stop looking at her like “some lovestruck loser.” Lana suggests Chloe tell Clark how she feels – WHICH HE ALREADY KNOWS, AND EVERYONE KNOWS IT, WHY DO YOU ALL HAVE GOLDFISH BRAINS? – and Chloe tells her this is about Lana violating her trust, and kicks her out of the office. Oh, and P.S. she did tell Clark, when he was sick, and he said Lana’s name in response.
Kent Farm, morning. Clark and Jonathan talk about the coming baby, and Jonathan assures Clark that having it won’t change how he and Martha feel about Clark. MY HEART.
Suddenly the high-pitched shriek starts up again, and Clark’s heat vision kicks in, setting the barn on fire. He races for the hose as Jonathan turns on the water. Martha, meanwhile, spots Chloe pulling up the driveway. They all stare as the fire subsides, because Clark has burned a Kryptonese symbol onto the barn. Chloe takes a picture.
Rebecca: “It says, ‘I love pie.’ Do you like it?” – Clark
Jess: Later, Jonathan patches up the barn to hide the symbol, while Clark frets about how the secret will be out soon. He tells them the symbol means hope, and confesses that he learned to read them from putting the key in the wall. Jonathan’s furious, especially when he learns of Lex’s involvement, but Clark’s pretty sure the key disintegrated and Lex doesn’t have it. Either way, he’s determined to find out the truth.
The Talon. Lana asks about the fire and confesses that Chloe’s pissed at her for snooping. They commiserate over the difficulties of the family tree assignment, and Clark says that he’s been looking into his past and it’s freaking his parents out. She asks if the paper he’s doodled Kryptonese all over is his family tree, and the moron who has been DRAWING THIS IN PUBLIC panics, throws it out, and runs away. #smooth
Rebecca: “It says, ‘I’m super into pie’ and then a bunch of different kind of pies.”
Jess: …And Smooth Criminal over here crashes right into Lex, stammers and excuse, and flees. Lex and Lana look at each other like “?????” Me too, guys. Then Lex spots the family tree, which Clark didn’t even manage to get in the garbage can proper. Oh my GOD, Clark.
Rebecca: What EXACTLY is the point of having superpowers if you can’t even make a trash basket toss?? Anyway, at the risk of embarrassing myself, Coldplay’s “The Scientist,” which was totally my Clex OTP theme song, plays over this scene.
Jess: Luthor Castle. Lex hands the family tree off to Walden. Clark’s put symbols in that match up to the spots for “father,” “mother,” etc. on the tree, but Walden doesn’t buy that some random farmboy could solve the puzzle so quickly. Lex shows him Chloe’s article, with the photo she took of the symbol burned on the barn. He tells Walden to work with Clark: “He just might be the Rosetta Stone we’ve been looking for.” OH I GET IT.
Torch office. Clark’s pissed about Chloe’s article, but he offers to forgive her if she forgives Lana. Chloe, please stop being friends with him right now. She tells him to back off, then checks her emails – and sees a ton of messages, all for Clark, from someone named “V. Swann.” She opens one and sees her photo of the barn with the word “hope” typed underneath it, and then: “I have something for you.”
Rebecca: How does Chloe see this and not get, like, suspicious at all?
Jess: I feel like we cut directly into a new scene because the writers didn’t know the answer to that question.
Attic of Sad Voyeurism. Clark and Pete connect a laptop to the internet via dial-up, and the sound of it connecting gives me PTSD flashbacks to my America Online days. Yikes. Clark types up a response to Swann, hesitates, then sends it.
Swann immediately IMs Clark with three symbols and the words “If you can read this I have the answers you’re looking for.” Clark can: “It says ‘I’m a friend.’”
Rebecca: Hahaha, I love the idea that Swann took the time to create a Kryptonese TrueType font for this precise purpose.
Jess: The caves. Walden finds the OD lodged in the wall across from the main painting and pries it out, then fits it into its slot. As Clark Clarks his way down into the caves, the OD opens up…and a different symbol flares up, then blasts Walden across the cave. He slumps, unconscious, and Clark runs over to check on him, then picks up the OD.
Hospital. Lex tells Clark that Walden’s catatonic and they can’t cure him until they know what happened…and hey, weird stuff’s been happening to Clark lately, hasn’t it? Clark brushes him off and actively laughs at Lex’s theory that the cave symbols are alien writing (Clark, you dick).
A delivery boy suddenly pops up with a letter for Clark. Clark declines to open it in front of Lex, making Lex even more suspicious, but when he steps away, it turns out to be a card from “Dr. Virgil Swann” with an address and another symbol on it.
Rebecca: Clark tells Lex, “It’s probably just junk mail” after the delivery guy says that he had to give it to Clark personally. Maybe my favorite terrible Clark excuse of all time.
Jess: Torch office. Chloe is geeking out about Swann, who we see from a magazine clipping is Christopher Reeve, looking dazzlingly handsome, and apparently is a genius with so many satellites in space that “Scientific American dubbed him ‘the Man of Tomorrow.’” I will allow you this one ONLY because you are talking about Christopher Reeve, Smallville, and let me tell you, the huge painting of the Smallville High Crow inexplicably dressed as Superman on the wall behind Clark is wearing my patience for this shit real thin.
Rebecca: This is a microcosm of the central frustration of Smallville in general.
Jess: Anyway, Swann’s gone all “J.D. Salinger,” according to Chloe, and so she’s very interested to know why he’s interested in Clark. Clark brushes her off, but not very effectively.
Hospital. The doctor tells Lex Walden’s suffering from “information overload” (Lex’s stupid words, not the doctor’s) and will probably never wake up. “Don’t worry,” Lex tells Walden after the doctor leaves. “One day you’ll share your secrets with me.” This is some of the best, creepiest Lex the show has ever given us.
Rebecca: Who could blame Lex at this point, when his alien best friend is actively trying to gaslight him?
Jess: Sullivan house. Chloe finds Lana packing and Lana says that as nice as the Sullivans have been, this isn’t home. Chloe tells her that she overreacted to the computer incident, then shows her the Sullivan family tree. She’s put Lana down as a sister. “I decided that my family wasn’t about the people that didn’t love me…it’s about the people that do love me.” I’M NOT CRYING, YOU’RE CRYING. Also, so are both girls.
Rebecca: I feel like I say this every week, but this show is so lucky to have Allison Mack.
Jess: Kent Farm. Jonathan doesn’t trust Swann. Clark thinks he’s paranoid, but Martha says they just don’t want Clark getting hurt. Clark says he can’t leave all his questions in the storm cellar anymore; he needs to know why his birth parents sent him away. Both Kents get teary and Jonathan suggests they go as a family, but Clark says he has to go alone – but no matter what he finds out, they’ll always be his mom and dad. Kent family group hug. I’M STILL NOT CRYING AND YOU STILL ARE.
Rebecca: How dare they though.
Jess: New York. Clark enters a cluttered lab and finds Reeve-Swann sitting behind a table, looking ~*~mysterious~*~. “Hello, Clark,” he says. “I’ve been expecting you.”
He explains that he owns the planetarium they’re in, and turns on a screen. Kryptonese characters scroll past. “It’s a message from the stars,” he explains. “All my life I’ve been staring into space, wondering if there’s anybody else out there, and 13 years ago I got an answer.” “The day of the meteor shower,” Clark realizes.
Rebecca: Oh my god the first strains of the John Williams Superman score in a minor key are playing. This shouldn’t work on me but it does right this second????
Jess: I NO RITE.
Swann says that one of his satellites picked up a message that he finally decoded after years of study: “This is Kal-El of Krypton. Our infant son. Our last hope. Please protect him and deliver him from evil.” “Kal-El,” Clark says, and touches the letters wonderingly. (Well, woodenly, but Welling’s doing his best.) “Krypton.”
OKAY I ADMIT IT, I AM ACTUALLY CRYING OVER THIS. I expect to be beyond tired of Kryptonian/Jor-Elian shenanigans before long but this moment of discovery and identity is really touching, and they slammed me with a Chloe/Lana scene and a Kent family hug first. My defenses were low!
Rebecca: Also Reeve is really terrific here. Ugh. Ughhhh.
Jess: Swann explains that he realized who Clark was when he saw the story about the barn and discovered that the farmer had an adopted child. Clark tries a half-assed denial and Swann says he’s not trying to expose Clark – but if Clark leaves now, he’ll never know the second part of the message.
Rebecca: This is where the Williams leitmotif starts in earnest and we’ve already gone too far, but I’ll allow it for just this episode. After this, I promise to be exasperated with it.
Jess: Clark hesitates, then asks to see the second screen. “We will be with you, Kal-El, for all the days of your life.” STILL CRYING. Clark spots a star map with some stars highlighted and asks if that’s where Krypton is. “No, that’s where Krypton was,” Swann says, and Clark’s little face FALLS, and UGH THIS EPISODE HOW DARE IT. HOW DARE IT.
Rebecca: UP UNTIL THIS POINT CLARK THOUGHT THERE MIGHT BE MORE. :(:(:(:(:(:(
Jess: Swann says he followed the signal but found nothing. Clark asks what happened and Swann says it could have been “war, famine, disease.” Disease that destroyed the actual planet? “I can’t be the only one. There must be others like me,” Clark says a little desperately. “There was only one message,” Swann says, not particularly kindly. Clark asks why him and Swann tells him the answer lies within himself, ugh, seriously? “You must write your own destiny, Kal-El.” Thbbbbppt.
Kent Farm. Jonathan finds Clark in the storm cellar and tells him that if he wants to talk about it, he and Martha are there to listen. Clark says he knows now for sure that he’s alone. Jonathan tells him he’s never alone and that they love him. I wish they’d given this scene to Martha.
Rebecca: Unrelated, but Annette O’Toole has been tweeting a lot about knitting lately. ANNETTE. (@_amckean)
Jess: Clark says he figured out what some random piece of the ship he’s holding is: “It’s the ship’s heart.” (Rebecca: It’s the piece Jonathan showed him in the pilot. Jess: Are we really supposed to remember all the way back to that? Rebecca: …I do?) But he didn’t want to test it alone, aw. They put the key in and the ship finally opens up properly, revealing the space where baby Kal lay. “It’s hard to believe you were ever that small,” Jonathan tells his enormous son, smiling fondly. AWWW.
Rebecca: How dare etc.
Jess: He hands Clark the “heart” and Clark plugs it into the ship. Kryptonese letters swirl around inside it. Clark IDs it as a message from his biological father, but he thinks he’s reading it wrong: “On this third planet from this star, Sol, you will be a god among men. They are a flawed race. Rule them with strength, my son. That is where your greatness lies.” He turns away. “I think I was sent here to conquer. What kind of planet am I from?”
Rebecca: Fucking Jor-El.
Jess: They’re both alarmed by the message, but Jonathan insists that Clark decides who he becomes – not the Kents and not his biological parents. “You’re here to be a force for good.” They hug, but Clark still looks freaked, as the Williams soundtrack soars all minor key-ish and ominous. What an unreasonably good episode.
Rebecca: There was a time after “Rosetta” when I still thought the show was capable of pulling off this kind of episode again but…it kind of wasn’t? Like, there are other pretty good episodes, but this is, you know, the kind of show Smallville should have always been. It’s thematically cohesive and tied to Supermanly ideas, it’s working to the cast’s strengths, it does a great job utilizing Christopher Reeve without being too anvilly about things, and it manages to be a bit surprising rather than completely rote. In a way, it’s a high point. (Sorry about the next 8 seasons.)
Jess: Yeah, this episode is ridiculous. Lex is actually ambiguously evil! The subplot is coherent and relevant! It actually feels like it’s about Superman! Extra bonus points for sticking the landing on the crucial, iconic discovery of Krypton and Clark’s birth name so, so hard, and with the best possible casting…and then flipping that moment on its head with Evil Conqueror Jor-El. Like, I know, I KNOW I am going to be SO SICK of Jor-El and everything he represents within, like, an episode, but right now I am fascinated by this change to the mythology and its ramifications. Somewhere there’s an alternate universe where Smallville lives up to the promise of this episode, and I want to go to there.
Rating: Taking a great big leap off the barn roof.
Next week: Despite having just been told in no uncertain terms that he’s the only one, Clark thinks that maybe he’s not the only one.
Jess: Doesn’t he know that’s the most wonderful thing about tiggers?