“Smallville” Recap: Episode 7.8

So, I take it more than a few of you were upset with last week’s recap. And that’s fine, that’s your right, and if I’m going to put my words and thoughts out on Al Gore’s internet, I can take the lumps that come with it. I would beg to differ, however, with several assertions that I straight up hate Smallville. Absolutely, positively false, and for giving that impression I will apologize. Its highs are incredibly high, but its lows are staggering, especially when contrasted with what the show can do when running on all cylinders.

To wit, let’s look at how I ended last week’s review:

Big picture? A potentially epic Season 7 is shaping up: Supergirl. Braniac. Lex prepping for intergalactic war. Jor-El and Zor-El’s battle echoing into present day Earth. All the trappings of a HUGE battle. So, Smallville, cut the Benny Hill-esque supersex and get to the good stuff already, will you?

That was my way of saying that there’s been some great stuff in Season 7, and while I didn’t like last week’s Lana-centric episode, it didn’t mean I hated Smallville as a whole. And guess what? This week’s episode seemingly heard my plea, ramped all of it up to 11, and had me absolutely stunned for an hour. It was that good, people. You know it, I know it, and the replicant of your dead mother raised from the dead with all of her memories and your father’s Victory Ring knows it.

49357.jpgI wanted big, and boy, Zor-El does nothing small. Looking like The Merovingian from “The Matrix,” he did not mess around, essentially saying, “For my first act, I’m going to blot out the sun!” Fantastic. Much better, than say, using his powers to win beauty contests as a cover for robbing banks. Of course, this wasn’t actually Zor-El, nor was it actually Lara, Clark’s birth mother. They were self-aware replicants, with all the memories and knowledge of their former selves. In short, they’ve gone way, way, way beyond Dolly the Sheep in terms of cloning techniques on Krypton. No wonder Zor-El wants to kill everyone and, in his own words, “repopulate the planet.”

Zor-El’s keen on ruling not as a merely a despot, however, but as newly appointed leader of the House of El. In essence, he sees the foursome of himself, Lara, Kara, and Kal as the “true” El family, stripped free from the perversion of Jor-El’s presence. Course, his familial bonds last as long as his family lives in a constant state of fear and deference to his will, and so Zor-El pulls a bait and switch on Clark, using the blue kryptonite in Jor-El’s Victory Ring to render Clark powerless. As a man married mere months ago, I can relate to the feeling of a ring rendering feelings of powerlessness.

Luckily, before Clark’s impotence, we saw a sweet, and I do mean a bisyllabic “suh-weet” move where Clark defended the vessel of his father from the replicant of his uncle. That sounds ridiculous in print but looked phenomenal onscreen, and in a few CGI-‘ed moments summed up why this particular struggle works so well: it’s not merely a global threat (as Season 5’s Braniac/Zod threat was), but extremely personal as well (at stake is Clark’s family and very identity). Having those two in combination is always essential, yet often unfulfilled on this show.

49382.jpgAnd yet, even having protected his dad’s vessel, Clark’s still in the doghouse, much like at the beginning of Season 5. And much like the beginning of Season 7, Clark is once again powerless, unable to remove the Ring of Impotence. And Kara: well, Surfer Girl’s in Detroit with amnesia, the only really “ugh” part of the entire episode. Why Detroit? Maybe because they make super…cars? Beats me. But amnesia plots, aside from maybe “Memento,” almost never end well. (I’m looking at you, Peter Petrelli.) In that it makes Clark feel as alone as ever (thanks to his need to see his faux mother), it’s fine for now, but hopefully 1) she remembers her identity before the end of sweeps, or 2) this sets in motion a “Braniac 2.0 trains Lara to be Zor-El’s fist on Earth” storyline. Otherwise, this is just laziness on the part of Smallville.

But hey, let’s move on from one dysfunctional family to another: the Luthors! I’d personally love to watch The House of El and the House of Luthor go at it on Family Feud. That would be spectacular.

Host: Name something you wear when going out on the town.
Lionel Luthor: A tuxedo.
Gabriel Grant: The neverending shame due to not living up to my father’s expectations.
Clark: Drat, Gabriel just took my answer.
Zor-El: The entrails of my victims.

49378.jpgAnyways, turns out there’s one more member of the Luthor clan than we thought: our favorite inappropriately young Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Planet Grant Gabriel is in fact the long-thought-to-be-dead Julian Luthor! Alllllrighty then. So much for post-partum depression-fueled murder, I suppose. I’m not often a fan of soap opera twists such as this, but it does explain how a guy so young could be Editor-in-Chief, as well as why he’s loyal to Lex. I’m still not sold on Michael Cassidy as an actor, but I’m at least glad that Grant is no longer portrayed as a mere Luthor stooge.

As for his romance with Lois: meh. At least Chloe got in a few good, “Girl, you realize you’re setting feminism back 50 years, right?” type of lines across Lois’ massive forehead, but every scene between them requires both to go on and on about how hot and heavy their chemistry is. That’s not good. That means the writers have to spell out what’s supposed to happening on screen. If this were a radio play? Sure, fine and dandy. But onscreen, I need to not merely hear how passionate they are, I have to see it. And so far? Not seeing it.

Speaking of not seeing it, not a lot of Lana this week, hmmm? She mainly made tea for Lara and got thrown against a chainlink wall. While sipping tea in an insanely awkward “I can’t believe I’m having Earl Grey with my boyfriend’s dead mom” moment, NotLara actually said, “You’re worried he’ll see the darkness within you,” at which point I thought, “Wow, this is one perceptive replicant.” She can see what Clark cannot, even when faced with the carnage that ensued from Lana’s temporary power-up last week. You’ll never see me at a Lana-Con, trust me, but having her at least aware that she might have too much anger and hate to be worthy of Clark’s affection makes her character less annoying, makes any further acts of goodness more earned, and makes any slip back into the black that much more harmful.

All in all, this is what I want in an hour of Smallville. Not perfect, but a thrilling hour of television all the same. I just hope the Zor-El stuff is merely paused, not stopped: there’s tons of legroom left in that story for this season. But again, the presence of Braniac 2.0, the amnesia of Lara, and the anger of Jor-El all point to the fact that Clark will essentially have to rebuild for the rest of the season if he ever hopes to enjoy victory against Zor-El for good.

What did you think of tonight’s episode? Did you like the Grant-as-Julian twist? And how many married men are checking their bands for blue kryptonite right now?