Saturday, December 4, 2010

Smallville - "Luthor"

     Going in, I knew that this week's episode of Smallville, titled "Luthor", would feature the return of John Glover as Lionel Luthor, but I wasn't sure what that meant for the series or the plot.  I have long missed the complicated, often villainous, Lionel.  His untimely death mid-season years ago was hard to take, and I have wished for his comeback ever since that day.  Now that it's hear, I'm not sure this was the best Smallville episode.  It wasn't bad, but I was expecting more.  Hopefully, we'll get it when Lionel returns again early next year.

     Lionel himself was as brilliantly performed as he ever was.  Glover still inhabits the character like skin.  The alternate universe premise, though, is tired.  How many shows have used it over the years?  I get it; we get to see a favorite charcter in an evil incarnation.  In this case, there was also the nature vs. nurture argument, and once again glimpsing how Clark (Tom Welling) could have ended up evil if he was raised differently.  In Clark's case, we've already seen it before enough time that this was far from novel.  What was strange, as compared to most alternate universes in screen and literature, is that Lois (Erica Durance) and Oliver (Justin Hartley) seem to be the same people on both sides of the mirror.

     How big a presence the Luthor name will be in the final season of Smallville has been a topic of much debate among fans.  Obviously, for anyone who cares about the Superman character, Lex Luthor is the ultimate foil.  The character was so wonderfully handled on this series by Michael Rosenbaum, and the actor's reluctance to return has caused grief.  The show's writers have kept things under wraps, but a number of possibilities are brewing.  Tess (Cassidy Freeman), though not a surprising revelation, is fully out as a Luthor family member.  The alternate Lionel, still living long after he died off in the show's normal universe, secretly crossed over, unnoticed by the other characters.  He will be featured in at least one more episode early next year, the season's 13th, which also boasts returning former series stars Annette O'Toole and Allison Mack, according to the imdb page, even though there is no title assigned yet.  Additionally, a young reborn clone of Lex named Alexander is apparently grown and on the loose.  When he is next seen, will he be played by Rosenbaum, as fans long for, or someone else?

     The only character that got serious development this week was Tess.  Her secrets have been exposed to Clark, and although the beginning of the episode, when he initially found out, felt awkward and out of character for them both, the resolution at the end was sweet and true.  I am an ardent fan of Tess, and if anyone could succeed Rosenbaum, as regretable as it is that he needed a fill-in, it's Freeman.  Her struggle with humanity and moral goodness mirrors Lex's own, but unlike him, she seems to mostly be winning hers.  Her inclusion at Watchtower was one of the most emotionally rewarding of the series, and her final season arc has been fantastic.  I can't wait to see how it ends, and how the return of other Luthors will affect her.

     As final seasons go, this one has had far more hits than misses (this week's episode leaning slightly towards hit, despite its problems, because of what it set up), and I believe the series is having one of it's strongest years yet.  Smallville's fall finale will be next Friday night, and will feature many recurring characters including Cat Grant (Keri Lynn Pratt), the not-dead Slade Wilson (Michael Hogan, bringing back the eyepatch again, as he did in Battlestar Galactica), Stargirl (Brittney Irvin), Hawkman (Michael Shanks), and Black Canary (Alaina Huffman).  Plus, this week's Entertainment Weekly showed a picture from the episode with Clark on bended knee to Lois, holding a ring.  It will surely be amazing, and you won't want to miss it.

     Smallville airs Friday nights at 8pm on the CW.

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