'Smallville' recap: A timely 'Booster' shot of comic book fanboy fun


Image Credit: Jack Rowand/The CW

It’s been a rough year for sports heroes. Barry Bonds was busted for lying about steroids. Tiger Woods was exposed as a philanderer. Kobe Bryant was caught on video using a hateful slur to disparage a referee. And then, of course, there was that certain one-time championship talent, celebrated for its ability to outlast, outwit, and outplay his competitors, who still can’t straighten himself out with the Internal Revenue Service. The flaws and foibles and offensive f-ups of our cultural idols offer us an invitation to reflect on our own moral integrity, capacity for forgiveness, philosophy of justice, and belief in forgiveness. Or gossip. Mostly gossip. Put another way, the phenomenon of the fallen hero is always good for revealing how we define heroism at any given moment of time. Last night’s episode of Smallville played like a parable for all these themes. On the surface, “Booster” — written by comic book superstar Geoff Johns and directed by Smallville star Tom Welling — was noteworthy for its DC Comics-imported fanboy fun (Booster Gold! Blue Beetle! Ted Kord! The Legion of Super-Heroes!) and totally cornball “just believe in yourself” homily. But “Booster” may have also been one of the more timely episodes of Smallville in quite a while, a comic book mirror to a moment of tarnished icons that reflected back some of the qualities we most need from our public role models. 

I never gave the Booster Gold comics a try when the character was introduced in 1986. Everything about him was knowingly ridiculous, but all I saw was the ridiculous. In retrospect, I recognize Dan Jurgens’ creation as a commentary on increasingly commercialized pop culture and increasingly ironic super-heroes; Booster Gold allowed for stories that asked an audience coming of age in such a world if they could actually believe in something like selfless, sincere heroism. Smallville hewed to the basic facts and essential spirit of the character’s origin story. We met him saving a kid from getting creamed by a runaway SUV. The pedestrians applauded this latest colorfully clad do-gooder to hit the streets of Metropolis — and Booster Gold, smug and smarmy, drank in their adulation and begged for more, and specifically, a Daily Planet profile written by rising star reporter and media “hero-maker” Lois Lane. He declared himself an improvement upon “The Blur” that refused to show his face and make himself known: Booster Gold positioned himself as open source and Transparent. I took him to be reality pop incarnate, a gloating, limelight-loving showboat, more vain and craven than Heidi and Spencer combined. He was well-played by actor Eric Martsolf (Days of Our Lives), who had great fun blowing out Booster’s preening, puffed-up pompousness. The jaunty jerk wore strength-augmenting body armor tricked out with energy blasting thingamajiggers and accessorized with jet boots and festooned with the logos of his corporate sponsors – a patchy NASCAR driver’s jump suit on steroids. He also sported golden shades and a kept a blue tooth device that hooked him up to an A.I. named Skeetz with supreme knowledge of all criminal activity going down at given moment in Metropolis, which allowed Booster to always be at the right place at the right time.

Too good to be true? You bet. Turned out this self-styled “golden guardian” came from the 25th century and was building up his resume by trading off the historical record and inserting himself into crisis situations where Superman had saved the day. In doing so, though, Booster was gradually changing the very timeline he was exploiting. Eventually, Skeetz was rendered useless, the databank of inside intel worthless. But what the fraudulent do-gooder couldn’t erase was the crushing shame in his head that had driven him back in time in the first place: Quantum Leaping Booster had been a stud athlete who brought disgrace upon himself for gambling on and throwing his games. He wanted to run away to place (and time) that could give him a clean slate. He also wanted to feel like a star again, to feel “the rush of being the miracle people are looking for.” So he McFlyed it backward by 1000 years and made like Biff Tannen with his history-scamming conspiracy to steal Superman’s destiny. “It was easier to lose than to try to win,” Booster eventually explained to Clark. “I came here to make a fresh start and I made all the same mistakes.” Because he had acquitted himself well enough in the episode’s other storyline (more on that in a second), and more impressively because he demonstrated the ability to reflect, confess, and change, Clark granted the penitent poser forgiveness and encouraged him to stick around and earn the hero stripes he tried to swipe. BURNING QUESTION FOR SMALLVILLE FANS: Would you be game for a Booster Gold spin-off to fill Smallville’s place on The CW schedule next season?

“Booster” explored the theme of heroic character via a different but related angle with the sadsack plight of a bumbling, stumbling, everyone-picks-on-him teenager named Jaime (Jaren Brandt Bartlett), the young man who Booster saved from the aforementioned SUV. The vehicle — owned by a Tony Stark-ish munitions maker/private security mogul named Ted Kord — happened to be carrying a tube containing a cybernetic parasitical organism of extraterrestrial origin and beetle-like shape that could encase its host body with a mighty morphin’ power suit. It looked more stiff than that that “E.T.” get-up Katy Perry sported on American Idol last Thursday. “The Scarab” latched itself onto Jaime’s back and burrowed into his skin like a tick, establishing a potentially deadly symbiotic relationship. Nerd Boy was suddenly empowered, but it was power he could not control. The Scarab was built for war, and when this Venom-meets-Iron Man alien intelligence exerted its will, the bad-ass mecha wanted to scrap, and there was nothing its humble young host could do about it. Or could he? No less than Booster Gold saved the day by urging the boy take control of the battle ‘bot. In a moment of truth, Jaime dug deep and… believed in himself? Tapped the strength of his innate goodness? Something like that. Jaime tamed the savage beetle beast in his breast. And because all of this adhered to air-tight real-world logic, Kord let the clutzy, picked-on bully-magnet keep the sentient killing machine that wants to blow up stuff, because THAT WOULD HAPPEN. And why not? The Kick-Me Kid was the only one who made The Scarab work — functionally and morally. Jaime had hit the Revenge of the Nerds jackpot. See kids! It really does get better… as long as you get possessed by a Transformer and make it your friend. Okay, the real lesson: Clothes don’t make a hero, let alone a man. Character does. Groan. But true. Right?

Lightly threaded through the episode was another arc about Smallville’s true star, Clark Kent, that had the future Superman trying to settle on a viable alter-ego that would allow “The Blur” to go public — and undisguised — while not being confused for Clark Kent. After ogling gawky-clumsy Jaime on the street, Lois pitched her fiancé of steel on going full dork, accessorizing his newly adopted spectacles with some bumbling, stumbling quirks of his own. “Before that handsome hero face turns up on Jumbotron screens in all your red and blue glory, we have to make sure there is nothing handsome or heroic about Clark Kent,” Lois said. In previous recaps, I have bemoaned this approach to Clark Kent. Clark Kent himself wasn’t a big fan, either. “Lois, I was like that in Smallville,” Clark said after watching Jaime struggle to unfold a map. “The thought of going back to that…” He couldn’t finish, but I will: Clark had paid his adolescent dues. He was a man now, strong and secure, and he had earned the right to feel super every moment of his day, be it while doing good in his red and blue outfit or reporting in those slickly tailored suits that all journalists wear. Except me. And most every other journalist I know. (How much do they pay at The Daily Planet, anyway? And… are they hiring?) Lois came around to being sympathetic to Clark’s perspective as a result of getting to know Jaime, and being moved by his put-upon plight. Still, it didn’t seem like Clark moved any closer to making peace with the whole “mild mannered” thing, except to recognize that at the end of the day, he had nothing to prove — and that he got to come home every night to a woman he considered The Hottest Babe On The Planet. As far as ego boosters go, Lois was all he needed.

Loved the moment where Clark spied the phone booth on the street and used it as a superhero changing room, thought it got me thinking: Are there still phone booths in the world anymore?

Your thoughts?

Follow Jeff on Twitter @EWDocJensen

Read more:
EW’s ‘Smallville’ recaps
‘Smallville': Eric Martsolf on arrival of Booster Gold, Tom Welling’s directing skills

Comments (86 total) Add your comment
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  • joblo

    I enjoyed the episode and thought it fit into Clark’s identity arc well. But at the same time it feels really wierd seeing stuff like this when there are only a handful of episodes left. It feels like we should be rushing towards an epic ending but the series has yet to stick it into a higher gear. Which means when it does it’s going to seem very abrupt. I hope they can pull it off.

    • Zach Liwe

      What are you talking about?!? There are tons of things moving the story along! This season has been really great (with the exception of ‘Isis’ and ‘Fortune’).

      • joblo

        Hardly. The Darkness was supposed to be the greatest evil Clark has yet faced. Yet it’s been almost forgotten about – rarely mentioned – half the season. We’re almost at show’s end and did it come up last night at all? Not to my memory.

  • Brett

    Hey – Clark lives in a world where there’s a major metropolitan newspaper – in KANSAS. Since it’s clearly a fantasy, why couldn’t there still be phone booths?

    • Zach Liwe

      It was a movie set!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Dave

    What about Booster telling Clark The Blur was the wrong kinda name and that it should be someting Super?

    • Zach Liwe


  • Mike

    On it’s own it was a fine episode, but with so few episodes left I wish they wouldn’t of done a filler episode with a little destiny talk thrown in.

    Where the hell is Darkseid?

    • EV

      I asked the same question last week. Darkseid is supposed to be the Big Bad but has been absent for weeks.

    • diesel

      This was the 1st good episode since the 2nd half of the season started. I am a big fan of the show but they should be focusing more on the battle with Darkseid. I would have also had Ryan Reynolds guest star to help fight Darkseid’s minions and advertise for the new movie coming out. So many lost opportunities for the WB. I am very happy Lex is back.

  • Michael

    Booster look Sweet and I love how they show Darkseid

    • Baba Booey Can’t Throw

      Was it just me, or did Jaren Brandt Bartlett look like he could be the son of Gary “Baba Booey” Dell’Abate? Jaren looked more like Tata Toothy than John Oates of Hall & Oates.

      • fergalicious

        This comment is very amusing. I really Laughed Out Loud!!! Thanks for making my day.

  • rick

    2nd or 3rd tier characters like booster gold and/or the blue beetle are great fun to read in comics, but their lack of a buolt-in fanbase amongst non-comicbook fans would lead the show to an early demise, probably lasting a season or 2 at most, sharing a similar fate to shows like “the cape” and “no ordinary family”. Still, i have high hopes for both “wonder woman” and “the incredible hulk”, as these are well known and beloved characters both inside and outside of the comicbook nerdiverse.

    • Brian1

      WW, Hulk, etc. weren’t household names either before they got their series. Never know how a character will do until they try.

      • EV

        The fact that the kid could control the Scarab and wanted to explore its powers smells to me like the setup for a possible spinoff: “The Blue Scarab”.

        I have to confess that when Booster and Clark had their meeting and Booster said that he was going to be the new hero, I expected him to whip out some Green K as part of the plan to take down Clark.

      • Ted Knight

        Wonder Woman was well-known for decades prior to the TV show.

      • AndyLuvr

        Wonder Woman has been around since 1941 and was the cover of MS. MAGAZINE when it debuted. She was well-known well before the TV version that featured Lynda Carter, who’s, in my view, the definitive live action Wonder Woman. (The less said about the Cathy Lee Crosby version, the better.) Plus, she’s unique in that Wonder Woman is her own character and not a mere derivative of an already established male superhero, e.g., Batgirl, Supergirl, Power Girl etc.

      • Brian1

        I stand corrected. But still, no reason not to try to make other heroes household names by giving them series or test-run miniseries.

  • JaySin420

    Umm it’s The Daily Planet not Entertainment Weekly, so yea they have some money to throw around lol.

    I’d watch a Booster spinoff for a few episodes but then I’d probably get bored with it.

    How about we stop messing around and just get right to the Superman spinoff?

    • Zach Liwe


  • Zach Liwe

    This is a great article. Only one thing I think needs to be stressed about “Booster”- the phone booth chane scene. Every thing I keep reading is about how there aren’t any phonebooths left ‘in’ the world and how Clark must have found the only one ‘in’ 1000 miles to change into. Weeelll- it was just part of the set for Boosters commercial. Clark just saw it and used it to change ‘in’. It was a homage to the classic transition that worked based on where they were. Genious! As Smallville always does. Just enough things to be familiar while also letting the legend if Superman grow and be retold for a modern era.

    • Meg

      Except L&C have been crowding into the phone booth in the DP offices since season 6, and the phone booth on THE ONE STREET IN METROPOLIS has obviously been a huge part of last season and this.

  • AndyLuvr

    I was happily surprised at how much I enjoyed last night’s SMALLVILLE given that I too don’t have a lot of love for both Booster Gold and any incarnation of the Blue Beetle – Dan Garrett, Ted Kord and Jaime Reyes. But Geoff Johns gave Michael Jon Carter (I wish they used Booster Gold’s civilian name last night) some depth that I never thought the character had. And kudos to Eric Martsolf for hitting all the right notes with his portrayal of Booster Gold. His is probably the most accurate depiction of a second tier DC Universe comic book character that SMALLVILLE brought to the small screen. Great stuff.

    Plus, I really dig the fact that SMALLVILLE’s version of Lois Lane is just as instrumental as Clark Kent himself in creating the secret identity of Superman. I believe this is the first time Lois Lane has been as instrumental in sculpting the man behind the Superman. The final scene between Tom Welling and Erica Durance was nicely acted, lit and shot. Loved it.

    • darclyte

      I noticed that Dan Garrett was the name of the person who the Beetle had bonded to but had died when the beetle was removed.

      • AndyLuvr

        Yup. Dan Garrett is the first Blue Beetle in the comic books. He was just an Easter Egg in SMALLVILLE.

    • Lea

      Well, considering she’s been calling him Smallville and considering him a total dork for seven seasons now, I’d say it’s not much of a surprise.

  • Lemonhead

    Loved Eric Martsolf -he was never this much fun on PASSIONS. Pity he had no scenes with Justin Hartley- and hope he gets on primetime. Much better than the material. Gave up on SMALLVILLE long ago, when it just stop even trying, but I’ve caught GJ’s episodes. A mixed bag, as Johns suffocates everything he works with. Still, seeing even skewed versions of the LSH and the JSA was sweet.

    The Blue Beetle angle didn’t work at all – even the Dan Garret shoutout. Ted Kord was Steve Ditko’s character, and this character had no relation at all to Te Kord, or to the Blue & Gold team of the Giffen era Justice League – where Booster and Ted were Bing & Bob Hope.

    Still, with Welling so palpably bored ( rightly so), Martsolf walked away with this

  • Rob

    Missed the episode due to the tornadoes in Saint Louis. Sounded like it was entertaining!

  • Orac

    I can’t believe you made it through that review without the most obvious comment. Jaime turned into a Big Bad Beetleborg. And yes, a Booster series would be cool. It’s usually more interesting to explore heroes through their flaws than through their perfection. Especially if it ended up like the animated Batman: The Brave and the Bold. (i.e. with DC Universe guest stars)

  • jean

    Great episode and great season. Love the seeds they’ve been planting as Clark moves away from the Blur to becoming Superman. Loved the Real Man of Steel sign and “S” cookies. I knew nothing about Booster Gold until last night and really enjoyed his character and the actor was perfect.

  • BruceK

    Booster Gold was faithful to his comic book portrayal, but who wants to see a second-rate character such as him? SMALLVILLE continues to distract us from the story they should be telling, which is Clark’s ascension to Superman.

    As well, they have a huge problem to solve in the few remaining episodes, which is how to convince scores of people who know what Clark looks like – sans glasses – and will no doubt recognize him as Superman. Or should … given the ill-logic this mixed-bag series has thrown at its audience, they will likely gloss over it.

    • Brian1

      That’s why they made a point of saying that they had to establish the new Clark Kent personality before going public. I think this episode should’ve happened earlier, but at least it’s not a lightswitch that no other characters will notice.

      • EV

        When I was a kid, I watched the George Reeves version of Superman. I remember asking my father how it was that no one could tell that the only difference between Superman and Clark was the glasses. His response to that was that people did not expect Clark to be Superman and so were blind to what we know as viewers. People see what they want to see.

    • Mara

      Well, they live in a universe where being the son of a U.S. senator, boyfriend of a general’s daughter, BFF to several millionaires who control the city, and occasional front page reporter doesn’t affect his popularity, so…

      • Brian1

        I don’t hear much of anything about general’s children in the news, and Ollie, Tess, and Lex already know his secret and aren’t going to spill.

      • Brian1

        And I never hear anything about billionaires’ friends either.

  • darclyte

    I didn’t like the way they made Blue Beetle’s suit look like Iron Man. They should make it more like a blue diver’s suit with the “antennae” coming out of the shoulders. I don’t know about a Booster Gold spinoff, but a Justice League would be nifty. They could have Green Arrow, Booster, Beetle (in a different suit,) Cyborg, and Black Canary. The guy who plays Aquaman can’t act, and I don’t care about the character of his wife. They could have Flash, but would have to recast since they’ll NEVER get Kyle Gallner back to play him. I doubt Allison Mack would return, so they could say that she and GA broke up and that’s what leads to GA and BC getting together. The rumored Metropolis seems unlikely, as doe JL, but JL might be an easier sell what with Superman being rebooted for the Big Screen.

    • JEREMY

      I SECOND AND THIRD the motion for a Justice League spinoff.
      It’s a most logical move,and they could even have Lex Luthor as the villain,in this case his target could be Green Arrow since he and Oliver Queen have been enemies since their school years.With Blue Beetle on the team,they could have more than just one millionaire as their FWB,since Oliver and Ted Kord wouud no doubt become fast friends.

      Something to rally for.
      Let’s try to get some kind of online/multimedia push for this show ASAP.

      • Brian1

        I’m all for a JLA show, but I doubt they’d get Rosenbaum to do it when it took them this long just to get him back to SV.
        But “Mission: Impossible” with superheroes sounds like it could be very cool!

    • MattS

      Are you insane? Have you ever watched Blue Mountain State? Will Toale is hysterical and amazing. Aquaman is supposed to be subdued and “cool.”

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