This review may contain spoilers.
Lionel Luthor (John Glover) is a legend.
During his tenure on "Smallville" we were treated to the exploits of one complex individual, with the business tycoon regularly flirting with evil incarnate and reformed humanitarian.
Now, with an alternate universe Lionel now stomping the streets of Metropolis, "Smallville" has an almost like a soap-opera twist on its hands (minus the shower curtain and panicked screams of course), but it is incredibly easy to overlook that when Glover brings so much to "Beacon."
What makes his presence a truly fun to experience is that this is the pre-reform Lionel, which means he has his own sinister agenda and is now back as a villain. However, this is clearly a different Lionel than the one we know as he continues to sport a soft spot for Martha Kent (Annette O'Toole) and also sees Clark (Tom Welling) as an extension of his own family, further complicating his relationship with Lex.
Almost as the antithesis to his diabolical schemes is Martha who is now a Senator and an activist in support of vigilantes protecting those in need. O'Toole is also the real delight of the episode and works to balance the darkness at work between the Luthors. Mrs. Kent has always been a force for good in "Smallville" and the re-appearance of Lionel shows that she has claws of her own.
In "Smallville's" glory days, the feud between the Kents and the Luthors was also masked behind veils of lies and unspoken agreements, which is partially why it was so entertaining and lasted so long. The return of both Martha Kent and Lionel Luthor allows the series to explore an area that was always avoided, with the secrets of both families now out in the open and the main players back in the game.
Points Of Interest
1. "Beacon" has a nice identity crisis: is Clark Kent the disguise or is Superman?
2. Wouldn't there have been Kryptonite dust on Martha's shirt after being hit by the meteor-rock bullet?
3. The episode also included something of a Star Wars vibe, with Lionel proclaiming "Your hate can make you strong."
There is something so false about the opening teaser, with Tess strolling through the corridors to the smiling faces of reporters only to be ambushed by Lois (Erica Durance), who lays down the editorial problems of The Daily Planet: someone has been censoring articles and filling them with propaganda. However, that can all be easily overlooked thanks to what comes next.
Lionel spinning round on Tess' (Cassidy Freeman) chair muttering "Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated," simply oozes cool and makes you feel like you are watching one of those early episodes where Lionel was the big bad of the show and Clark was still trying to learn of his origins. It is hard not to feel a thrill at the scene with Glover back in "Smallville" and back to his sinister tricks in a very Luthor way.
Martha's speech against the VRA is inspiring, again showing that Annette O'Toole has a place on "Smallville" and more than deserves a heftier involvement. Following on from that, the scene as Clark and Lois watch her work the crowd on television only to hear the echoes of gunshots was terrifically executed and a haunting moment.
The exchange between Chloe (Allison Mack) and Martha was deeply touching, coming a wonderful conclusion to each of their individual journeys and as a nice salute to both of their involvement in the series since day one.
"Beacon" is also host to an entire series of guilty pleasures for long-term fans of the show, like the re-creation of Lionel and Lex's Luthorcorp office and the re-appearance of Lucas Gabreel as Alexander. One of the key staples of the episode is the burning of the Luthor mansion, a set that has been home to so much evil in Smallville. There is an interesting symbolism there, showing that one that evil has been washed away, Clark can embrace his destiny as Superman.
Gabreel is again terrific as the younger version of Lex, mastering all of the character complexities that made Michael Rosenbaum a joy to behold in the first 7 years of the series … especially when it comes to Lionel and his fascination with Clark Kent.
Best of all, the Blur going viral is an intensely moving sequence showcasing exactly why the world needs the Blur. This is swiftly followed by the extended Kent family celebration over the repeal of the VRA, giving hope to the heroes.
What Didn't Work
News that a national vote will determine the outcome of the VRA comes as a disappointment and seems like an easy way out. The show has already established that Martha Kent has been working very hard, albeit off-screen, to overturn the law requiring heroes to unmask and for such major events that will sway the direction of the seasonal arc (and prove crucial in Clark's transformation into Superman) to occur of screen is a massive letdown … especially since the introduction of the VRA and Darkseid was heavily featured in the opening episodes of the season.
In "Beacon" though, her political exploits take a step into the spotlight in a very mixed-reaction sequence of events. The scene as Clark and Lois watch her rallying speech only to hear gunshots echoing from the screen was terrific, but the effect is immediately canceled out a simple explanation of a bullet proof vest.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
"Beacon" was written by Holly Henderson and Don Whitehead, and was directed by Mike Rohl.
"Smallville" airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.
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