Episode Title: "Dominion"
Writer: John Chisholm
Director: Justin Hartley
Previously on "Smallville":
Weeks before his immanent marriage to Lois Lane (Erica Durance) and his emergence as Superman, Clark Kent (Tom Welling) was stunned when a new hero called Booster Gold (Eric Martsolf) came swooping into Metropolis and stole the spotlight away from Clark's alter ego, The Blur. During one of Booster's first rescues, a teenager called Jaime Reyes (Jaren Brandt Bartlett) was accidentally joined with an alien weapon. At the same time, Lois tried to coach Clark in his new nerdy persona to allow The Blur to emerge without wearing a mask.
Booster confronted Clark and admitted that he came from the future to steal Clark's destiny. But Clark's words on the nature of heroism moved Booster enough that he was able to help Jamie gain control over the weapon and become a new hero, the Blue Beetle. Later, Clark came to terms with his new public identity but he was blissfully unaware that his friend Oliver Queen (Justin Hartley) had been infected by Darkseid months before.
As Clark and Lois slowly unpack in their new apartment, Tess Mercer (Cassidy Freeman) calls and tells them that Slade Wilson has been found comatose, despite the fact that Clark locked him in the Phantom Zone. Theorizing that someone from his bloodline must have released Slade, Clark makes arrangements with Tess to enter the Zone and plug the leak. Olivier offers to come with him, but Clark refuses his aid. In response, Olivier simply jumps after Clark while the portal is open, propelling them both into the Zone. Once there, they notice that several skulls bear the Omega mark of Darkseid. They also find that the crystal that powers the gate home has been removed.
Back on Earth, Lois arrives at Watchtower as Tess tries to reestablish contact with Clark. But in the Zone, Clark and Oliver are captured by Phantoms and taken before the new ruler of the land: Major Zod (Callum Blue). Zod explains that the new Kanorians exiled him to the Phantom Zone where he merged with the Phantom of the original Zod. He even says that Clark and he are "blood brothers" now, which is how he freed Slade on Darkseid's behalf to lure Clark into the Zone. He then forces Clark into a gladiatorial match to the death. When Clark wins and refuses to kill his opponent, Zod simply does it for him.
Back on Earth, Lois realizes that Tess intends to destroy the portal back to Earth if Clark and Oliver don't arrive home in two hours. Lois holds Tess at gunpoint and is stunned to learn that Tess was acting on Clark's orders. Tess tells Lois that a hero's wife needs to accept sacrifices while Lois retorts that her role is to never accept defeat. Back in the Phantom Zone, Zod senses that Oliver has been touched by Darkseid and he tries to sway him to his side by promises of power and brotherhood. He then sets Oliver and Clark up in a brutal match against each other. Without his powers, Clark is beaten and fatally stabbed by Oliver.
However, Zod insists upon finishing off Clark himself, allowing Oliver to grab the crystal from his neck and give it to Clark; who heals almost instantly. As they travel back to our world, Clark crushes the crystal to ensure that Zod and his followers remain trapped. Back in Watchtower, Tess treats Oliver's wounds while Clark admits that their battle in the arena was all a part of their plan. Clark then goes to see Lois at their apartment and he is stunned to find that she unpacked completely. Lois explains that Clark was gone for three weeks but she never lost faith that he would return. She didn't even postpone their wedding, which is in two days.
Later, Oliver is about to confide in Clark about being infected by the Darkness, but Clark continues his knack of saying just the wrong thing by suggesting that anyone they know who gets infected will have to be locked up. Oliver than meets with Tess in secret for help in finding the Bow of Orion, an object on Earth that may be a weapon that will work on Darkseid. But as Oliver walks by an angel in church, its eyes spontaneously bleed.
I'm kind of torn on this episode. There are definitely things I like about it as well as things that I can't stand.
First off, the return of Callum Blue as Zod was extremely welcome and the twist that he is now both versions of Zod is actually really brilliant. If there was something that the ninth season of "Smallville" did better than this season, it was the way that Zod was always present as a villain. This year, we've only gotten a few glimpses of "Darkseid" and what should have been an epic storyline has felt like an afterthought. Instead, we got episodes ripping off "The Matrix," "Inception" and even the f***ing "Hangover"!
To add to that, this week's episode was a riff on "300" and "Spartacus: Blood and Sand." I have no idea why the producers of "Smallville" have been so hellbent on making several episodes of their final season into low budget knockoffs of popular movies, but it's extremely annoying. There's a kind of inherent laziness to that which I don't appreciate. I was happy with the return of Zod and I can live with the gladiatorial games. But did it have to be so derivative? That lens flare really got on my nerves as well.
I sometimes wonder about Cassidy Freeman's acting abilities, because when she's called upon to hold her own in dramatic scenes like her confrontation with Lois, she looks like she's a deer staring into headlights. The whole "countdown to shutting off the portal" was a poorly executed ticking clock, especially since Clark and Oliver were gone for weeks instead of hours.
However, the Lois and Clark scenes really worked well. I attribute that to the chemistry between Welling and Durance. That last scene between them in the apartment was especially good. It's refreshing that Lois wasn't in histrionics when Clark returned and that her faith in him was so strong that she didn't even push back their wedding. Although I'm curious how she explained his absence from work.
Even Clark's partnership with Oliver was a welcome change from the last few installments. For better or worse, Oliver's been Clark's Batman for the last few years and he needs to be in the show through the end. But I'm hoping the whole "Omega brand" story for Oliver wraps up next week. The finale should be about Clark's story and nothing else.
And I'm more than ready to finally see Clark become Superman.
Crave Online Rating: 7 out of 10.