This review contains spoilers.
You can't help but feel cheated watching the season opener of "Smallville," especially when the series is on the verge of achieving its destiny and becoming "Superman." Sure, Clark (Tom Welling) almost flies, and Lois (Erica Durance) finally learns the true identity of The Blur, but "Lazarus" is far from the epic launch into the Superman mythology.
Uneven from the get-go, "Lazarus" struggles to resolve the jaw dropping conclusion to last season's Kandorian-heavy arc and instead goes for the quick fix by resolving the loose threads from last season in the teaser, sending Clark off on a quest to find a new greater evil. The message that he is about to face a new threat is clumsily delivered in a dream-like, near death state and fails to reach the levels of intrigue that the series has proven itself more than capable of delivering.
One thing "Smallville" has always been guilty of is failing to follow through the big moments, and forgetting about the pivotal character moments in the flurry to move into new territory. "Lazarus" is one of those episodes, and the fight with Zod and the other Kandorians is forgotten as if it never even took place.
Instead, "Smallville" presses onwards with teases, hints, nudges and winks that Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) may actually return later this season and even goes so far to re-cast the character for a limited and uninspiring run. The only strand from last year that really gets some substantial time is the notion that Chloe (Allison Mack) is poised to become the new Dr. Fate, and the results of her decision to don the mask are never really explained.
What prevents the episode from being a total loss is John Schneider.
The influence that he had on the series is not to be taken lightly and, although short-lived, his appearance in "Lazarus" was a welcome return to the old days. Ol' Papa Kent was back on form, delivering words of wisdom to the young Superman-in-training as if he was never gone. The dynamic between Schneider and Welling was always one of "Smallville's" strongest attributes and their reunion has a warmth to it that the show has been lacking.
Many fans are already debating the "coolness" factor of the final shot in the Fortress of Solitude but in reality it only damages the episode further by re-affirming that this season will be about the obvious transformation of The Blur into Superman instead of the personal and characteristics of making a hero : something that the series would do well to focus on.
The nods to the origins of the series are incredibly well executed; Lois being staked in a cornfield is a wonderful tribute to Clark in the pilot episode (also teases that Lois may be about to start her own journey towards her destiny), Jonathan is once again offering Clark a shoulder to lean on and the advice he needs to become a hero, and the return of Jonathan was a welcome addition. And there was something almost "Buffy" about his warning that "something dark is coming," and the sighting of Darkseid at the end of the episode also comes with a gentle reminder of The First from the vampire staking series (which coincidentally, was also the final villain on that series).
Equally so, Clark saving the people of Metropolis was a nice little nod to a similar scene in "Superman Returns."
Mackenzie Gray also deserves a special mention for his portrayal of Lex. Sure, he's no Michael Rosenbaum but he does a good job as being a mangled version of the Lex we knew and deserves the credit for taking on such a difficult role.
And the episode also deserves kudos for shameful re-use of the "Superman Returns" super-suit.
What Didn't Work
The episode's opening -- featuring Clark in limbo -- was utterly pointless and failed to contribute to the rest of the episode beyond acting as a re-introduction to the mythology of the series. Jor-El's hopes for Kal-El are quickly discussed before sending Clark back to the land of the living, and are only touched on towards the episodes end in the Fortress of Solitude as Jor-El abandons his son.
Even more disappointing was the ease with which Lois heals Clark after his fall from a Metropolis skyscraper. Impaled by blue Kryptonite, Clark was rendered mortal and vulnerable to everything that could kill a human (like, for example, falling from the top of a skyscraper) yet somehow his injuries after such a fall are limited to a brief period of unconsciousness and a small scrape on the chest. Pulling the proverbial sword from the stone may have restored Clark to his Man-of-Steel self but his injuries would surely have been more than a few bumps and bruises.
Equally annoying is the ease with which Tess' resurrection is swept under the rug and out of sight, not to mention the directionlessness of Oliver's (Justin Hartley) kidnapping.
Little Alexander's reveal that the Lx's have been created to "heal the creator" offers the hope that Lex either survived his explosion at the hands of Oliver Queen and the clones are now being bred to heal his mortal wounds (despite what the "bad" Lx said) or that these clones will lead to a new Lex Luthor (likely a growth spurt from Alexander). As the insane clone states, there can be only one Lex Luthor...and these half baked mutants are not him, not even little Alexander.
The series also bid adieu to the usual razor sharp dialogue and verbal dueling between the leading reporting duo, instead welcome ham handed dialogue involving a lost pen under the table. Come on, "Smallville," you're better than this!
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
"Lazarus" was written by Don Whitehead and Holly Henderson, and was directed by Kevin G. Fair. "Smallville" stars Tom Welling, Erica Durance, Allison Mack, Justin Hartley and Cassidy Freeman.
"Smallville" airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.
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