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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Smallville's final season and the return of Lex Luthor

If you have not watched Smallville's 10th Season premiere, "Lazarus", please watch it before reading this review, as it contains plenty of spoilers about that episode.

You may want to click here to read my review of Smallville's 9th season finale, "Salvation", last May.

     The single most important thing in Smallville's 10th season is this: Lex Luthor is back.  Michael Rosenbaum, the actor who played him for most of the series, is not, but the writers have gotten creative in getting around that absence.  In the first episode, Clark (Tom Welling) is told once again that Lex will be his biggest foe, but he wonders at that, as Lex was last seen blowing up two years ago.  Tess (Cassidy Freeman), who was seen dying the in the hospital at the end of season nine, wakes up in a lab miraculously healed.  She is surrounded by Lex clones, some closer to the real Lex than others.  The worst of the batch escapes, killing almost all of the others, except for a young child version named Alexander (Jakob Davies), whom Tess takes home with her.

     I don't believe that the bad Lex clone will be the true nemesis that Clark will have to face.   He's already dying, and he lis considerably older than Lex.  Even though the bad clone says that the creator died two years ago, I have my doubts.  For one thing, who was in the hood, rescuing Tess? Sure, there will be other villains besides Lex this season, but without a strong Lex presence in the series finale, the last episode is sure to feel off.  I don't know why Rosenbaum keeps resisting overtures, but his return would be much more satisfying than having another actor take over this late in the game.

     The most compelling plot in the premiere, and likely throughout the season, is Clark's battle with inner darkness.  In the premiere, we see both a supportive Jor-El (Terrence Stamp), who wants Clark to vanquish his foes, and one who has deep doubts about whether Clark will ultimately be a villain or a hero.  Because Clark's encounters with Jor-El are dream-like sequences, there is no real way to tell which, if either, actually happened.  However, as Clark's Superman suit ended up in the Fortress at the end of the episode, the disappointed Jor-El is more likely the correct one.  The nice one may well have been Jonathan Kent (John Schneider), who returned to tell Clark how proud he was of his son, and express his faith that Clark would do the right thing.  Jonathan died years ago on the show, but his trippy return may have been something real in some way.  If Clark can talk to his deceased Kryptonian father, why not his human one, too?  Whatever it was, Schneider's return was welcome.

     With only four and a half main characters this year, Smallville is spending the money saved on principal actors by bringing back plenty of important guest stars.  Besides Jonathan Kent, also set to return this season are John Glover as Lionel Luther, who is also dead, Laura Vandervoort (V) as Clark's cousin, Kara, and quite likely Kristin Kreuk as Lana Lang, at least in flashback.  I don't much care if the deal with Kruek is finalized or not, as Lana had a fine ending, and there is no real need to see her again.  Keri Lynn Pratt will be bringing to life the comic book character of Kat Grant beginning with next week's episode, "Shield".  As long as Momma Kent (Annette O'Toole) and Perry White (her real-life husband, Michael McKean) come back as well, everyone essential will be covered.

     It must also be noted that Allison Mack, who plays the only original cast member left besides Clark, Chloe Sullivan, is only doing a limited number of episodes in the final season.  She remains in the theme song, at least in the first episode, but she traded herself to save Oliver (Justin Hartley) from his torturers, so I think it unlikely we will be seeing her again soon.  She has promised to return, and we can only hope she does a sizeable arc that includes the finale, as Chloe is such an essential part of the show.

     And with all that going on, Lois (Erica Durance) discovering Clark's secret was actually played quite minorly in the episode.  It's a huge event in the Superman saga, so I was surprised at how little it impacted the main plot, though she did have to be saved by evil Lex, and it did spur her to leave for Africa.  Her discovery will surely have lasting effects, though, and I doubt that the meat of it has been played out.

     Smallville airs Friday nights at 8pm on the CW.

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