SMALLVILLE: Lazarus – Review

 The Season 10 premiere of SMALLVILLE was a decidedly mixed bag. The were some really good moments, and some disappointing ones, along with a number of incidents that might make you say :“Huh?”

SmallV_lazarus_WellingPicking up where the season nine finale, Salvation left off, Lazarus lives up to its title, with a number of resurrections. Clark Kent (Tom Welling) is saved from a state between life and death by Lois Lane (Erica Durance), who removes the Blue Kryptonite dagger from Clark’s side. This took away all his powers, and yet he fell off the roof of a building and was not splattered. Nor was the street cracked or showing signs of blood. But never mind, I don’t really expect science fiction-level logic; on this show fantasy logic and lapses of probability are more common, and forgivable.  Lois hides herself, choosing not to reveal that she knows Clark secret.
Tess Mercer (Cassidy Freeman) wakes up from being pronounced dead, taken to Cadmus Labs, her severe facial burns healed. There she discovers a young boy named Alexander (Jakob Davies), who explains that the many deformed or otherwise unready creatures growing in tanks are his “brothers”, clones of the (allegedly dead) Lex Luthor. She’s caught by surprise by one of the “bad” ones, out of the tank and seeking revenge. This Luthor (Mackenzie Gray) is an aged version, claiming all of Lex’s memories.
Chloe Sullivan (Alison Mack) is on the trail of the missing Oliver Queen (Justin Hartley), whose kidnapping seems to be the work of Earth humans, even though their sudden arrival in Salvation suggested teleportation or some other exotic means. The blindfolded Oliver, the Green Arrow, is being tortured (by guest star Ted Whittall, possibly to be seen again) for information about recent events that the Kandorians were responsible for last season. He refuses to talk.
Desperate to learn where he’s being held, Chloe goes to the Justice Society headquarters, and dons the helmet of Doctor Fate, despite warnings from the spirit of Nabu against that act. She falls to the floor, unconscious or dead.
SmallV_Lois_FieldThe Lex clone has kidnapped Lois, and she awakens to find herself strapped to a cruciform object in the same cornfield where, in the series’ very first episode, a young, more innocent and less embittered Lex Luthor  found Clark in a similar condition. But instead of rescue, this Luthor intends to use her to hurt Clark, setting the field ablaze.
Chloe is revived by Clark and Dr. Hamilton (Alessandro Juliani of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA). She has had visions of the present and future, some of which she reveals.
Clark arrives to challenge the Lex clone, who berates him for arrogance and pride, “forcing” that Luthor to act against him as a danger to the world. This is not what Clark wants to hear, and he nearly kills the clone, which would be proving his point. The already dying “Luthor” proposes to force Clark make an impossible choice: Save the woman he loves or save dozens in Metropolis, where he’s triggered an explosion that topples the giant metal globe atop the Daily Planet.
In a iconic scene, Clark uses his powers to save Lois in a super-speed comic book fashion, then races to Metropolis where he leaps the tall building in a single bound, catches the sphere and restores it to the top. It’s a great moment and Clark enjoys the cheers of the crowd, feeling he’s finally become the hero everyone’s been pushing him to be for the past few years.
Buoyed by this, he returns to the Kent farm, considering donning the classic Superman uniform given to him by his mother last season. But Jor-El (voice of Terrance Stamp) teleports him to the Fortress of Solitude, and chastises him severely, essentially saying the Luthor clone is correct; Clark is prideful and reckless, and will never be the hero Earth needs.
This is one of the frustrating things about SMALLVILLE; Clark Kent is never allowed to be happy for more than a short while.
We see that Olivier is let loose from his captivity, and that Chloe seems to have willingly taken his place –- I think. It’s a slightly confused scene.
Back at the Kent farm, and already downcast Clark discovers that Lois has taken off for Egypt (a possibility from last year) after all. But then he sees what appears to be his dead Earth father, Jonathan Kent (John Schneider). He seems to be real enough, and acknowledges his own passing, also giving the stricken Clark affection and encouragement.
 Regarding becoming a hero, the elder Kent assures him he is on that path, and that he should do what he always does: “Prove Jor-El wrong.” Which is all very uplifting, but the Jor-El A.I. — though sometimes cold, unyielding, and prone to harrowing tests and harsh penalties — is almost always right.
Somewhat comforted, though plagued by doubt and guilt, Clark is surprised to see his father is gone, without telling him the exact nature of the terrible danger that is coming. The audience is given a creepy foretaste of what that menace is, and also shown Jor-El’s punishment, that the red and blue Superman outfit has been taken away, sealed in ice or crystal in the Fortress of Solitude.
I’ve given a much more detailed synopsis here than I usually do —and I’ve left a number of incidents out intentionally— because this episode is literally crammed full of plot and incidents, somewhat to it’s detriment, I thought.  It feels noticeably rushed.  (Especially since the running time seems shorter than ever; supposedly they’re 42 minutes sans commericals, but it seemed more like 40, though I was only casually counting time spent on station breaks.)
 Some of this is due to the fact that Alison Mack’s Chloe is only going to be appearing in five episodes (barring stock or unused footage turning up in others). She’ll be the one missing, and Oliver will be looking for her, until her next episodes arrive. Well and good, one has to allow for outside pressures, but then there all the other plot elements jammed into the script. Lazarus could easily have been stretched to two episodes, and probably should have been.
The show continues its one step forward two steps back routine of giving the characters some good moments, and teasing the Superman mythos, then snatching these pleasurable developments away. It can be frustrating for the viewer. The scenes with Pa Kent and Jor-El both seemed slightly off, leading me to suspect that there may be more going on than appears on the surface. If not, then they were awkwardly written. Some of Jor-El ‘s dialog seems to imply that he would have been quite content to let Clark die, because he was ‘foolishly’ self-sacrificing—as if the computer mind was now vindictively  and absurdly petulant.
SMALLVILLETom Welling and John Schneider give very good performances in their scene together, even if you were left wondering more about how and why the visitation happened, rather than its warmth and personal meaning.
So it’s a good premiere,  in terms of resolving cliffhangers and setting up the multiple plot threads that will run this season.  However, it’s not the  rousing, audience-pleasing episode it could easily have been, if only they’d been willing and able to hold off turning so quickly to the darkside of things.   
SMALLVILLE: LAZARUS (2010) — Warner Brothers Television
Written By Don Whitehead & Holly Henderson, Directed by Kevin Fair, Produced by Brian Wayne Peterson,  Kelly Souders, and Tom Welling, among others.

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