This review may contain spoilers.
The last three episodes have been dark : apocalyptically so, which is exactly why “Echo” comes as such a breath of fresh air.
Forget the guilt that’s eating away at Oliver (Justin Hartley) now that he has cast off his green leathers for good and gone to the bottle, this episode is fun, flirtatious and something of a romantic comedy.
With a new found ability (admittedly one that is foreign to the Superman mythology), Clark (Tom Welling) is granted the ability to hear the thoughts of those around him – including Lois (Erica Durance). Writer Bryan Q. Miller wisely glosses over the moral ambiguities of listening in on the private moments of the cast and instead focuses on how much fun the Last Son of Krypton can have with such an ability. There are no “with great power comes great responsibility speeches” that have been so engrained in other new ability stories, keeping the experience uplifting and light.
Given the “will-they, won’t-they” chemistry between the infamous reporting-duo, Clark and Lois are wonderful to behold (so much so that the name Lana Lang is just a distant memory). Their interview montage at Metropolis General is amusing to say the least and shows that this couple can be every bit as interesting as Lois and The Blur.
It is too much to ask though that this aloof adventure remain so distant from the dark themes that the series has been toying with and so in amongst the romance is a fairly heavy subplot involving Oliver Queen and the psychological repercussions of murdering another man. It’s a story that needs to be told and it was nice to see how Mercy (Freema Cassidy) could push him in that respect (oddly humanizing her given the flash-forwards of her joining Zod’s army).
The problem is, however, his journey relies too heavily on the events of the previous season. Epic they may be, the intricacies of corporate politics are too much to be sequestered into a cumulative five minutes and without the back-story, Toyman (who, despite the ludicrous ability to build human looking toys, adds to the fun) becomes just another freak-of-the-week.
On a variety of levels, the title works marvelously. On the surface, Clark is hearing the echoes of what those around him think. However, on a more serious note, Oliver Queen is an echo of the man he once was. When he first entered the series, he was smart, confident and knew the line between good and evil – he was the one who first encouraged Clark to go looking for trouble instead of letting trouble find him. But through his quest for justice he became the villain he was hunting. Now he’s a shallow, frivolous and semi-comedic drunk who likes to flaunt his money around.
Clark as a hardnosed reporter is one of the better examples of his journalist development and steadily pushes him away from the farm boy image that Clark has held on to for all these years. “Smallville” has done some serious grown up over the last few years and it’s great to see the Man-of-Steel do the same. Even at the episodes end, there is a wonderful lesson to be learned as Clark realizes he has ignored the needs of Oliver instead of helping him.
And with Tess and Oliver thrown back together again, the tension is building that she may one day learn the truth of who murdered Lex Luthor.
What Didn’t Work
Lois and her sharing with Chloe (Allison Mack) lacks the same charm that the flirtatious banter that exists between Lois and Clark. It is also disappointingly reminiscent of Chloe’s pining over Clark during its freshman year.
And as if the life-sized robot wasn’t unbelievable enough, Clark following a hunch and melting its face off with heat vision was also as far flung from the comic book hero as you can get.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
“Smallville” stars Tom Welling, Erica Durance, Allison Mack, Justin Hartley, Cassidy Freeman and Callum Blue. “Echo” was written by Bryan Q. Miller and directed by Wayne Rose.
“Smallville” airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.