The season 6 premiere of ‘Smallville’ is full of reasons why the show is often referred to as “great.” For at least one hour, we are free of the mind numbing WB-like teen crap drama that usually infests so much of the show. Every minute is packed with plot driving force, and barely a second is spared. If you’ve found yourself waning in your ‘Smallville’ viewing, last night’s episode just might bring you back. Of course, we will go back to the banal stuff soon enough. Every now and then though, ‘Smallville’ rises to the occasion.

This is never truer than when Michael Rosenbaum taps into Lex’s evil side. While I wasn’t sure how it would work, it’s clear that he was the best choice to play Zod. If only some of that pure evil rubbed off on Lex to force him into the criminal mastermind he is destined to be. If that’s what this season has in store for us, then we may get the first truly great full season of ‘Smallville.’ I certainly hope this is the case, because even when it gets muddled in the trite “will they, won’t they” mess of Clark and Lana I still eventually come back.

Welcome Lex, please stick around and scheme a bit.

On to the recap. I plan to go the character route with this, as that seems to be the easiest (on both myself and you) way to get it all in without writing a 10 page thesis each week. So, just remember that not every minute is recounted and some minor story points are omitted to make this as pithy as possible with such a packed episode. Please comment and let me know what you think I missed, or what you thought of the episode.

Martha wakes up after the plane crash in the north and finds Lois near death in the snow. After promising to get them out of there, she goes to the cockpit to try the radio. Instead she sees the Fortress of Solitude. Martha takes Lois into the fortress. Jor-El explains what’s happened and tells her she has to finish Clark’s mission. This is a major turn for the show, as Jor-El has always been an antagonist on ‘Smallville.’ With the premiere tonight, we see the perception change. Martha and Lois are sent back to Smallville, and Martha finds the knife. Lana shows up and says she’s the only who can get close enough to kill Zod.

Lana is with Zod on top of the LuthorCorp. Building in Metropolis. Throughout the episode Zod is as deliciously evil as can be, with numerous obvious references to Superman II. Zod plans to use the hard drive from the black ship to reform Earth’s crust into a new Krypton.

Lana believes that Lex is still somewhere in his body, even though Zod tells her that Lex is dead. Finally, Lana realizes how bad things are and takes a weapon from the wall and attacks Zod. Zod takes the weapon from Lana and pins her hand to the wall saying, “We’ll discuss this further when I return from your Pentagon.” This is it; this is the very reason that this show is so often great. When the writers are willing to go full on with the evilness of their villains, ‘Smallville’ shines. Unfortunately the show has always been inconsistent. Pinning Lana’s hand is cold and evil, exactly as a Superman villain should be. I admit to having paused the episode for a minor geek out.

Lana pulls herself free and then comes back with the knife she got from Martha. Zod returns to the mansion with a computer from the Pentagon that he uses to send a pulse around Earth, causing earthquakes as the crust reforms itself. Lana fails to seduce Zod and stab him with the knife. Instead, she is thrown across the room. Zod breaks the knife, then grabs Lana and chokes her. He tells her she will die with the rest, just as Clark arrives to stop him.

At the end of last season, Zod banished Kal-El to the Phantom Zone, and this is where we find him in the premiere. Dementory things are attacking Clark, and he’s being cut and bruised easily. A mysterious Bedouin looking person, who takes him back to her camp, saves him. When Clark tells her he was born on Krypton but raised on Earth, the woman calls him Kal-El. It turns out that the woman is Raya, one of Jor-El’s assistants. She explains that Jor-El built this place, and the only way out is through a gate that can be opened solely by the line of El. Clark convinces her to help him escape, but during it some of the phantoms get out as well.

Clark does a patented crater landing in a field in Smallville. He arrives at the Luthor Mansion and destroys the hard drive. Then, they battle. Oh yes, they frickin’ battle. In a short but holy-crap-I-can’t-believe-they-are-able-to-do-something-this-awesome-on-a-tv-show fight. Zod pounds on Clark, and tosses him like a rag doll into a field. Standing before him, Zod demands Kal-El’s allegiance in return for the people he loves most being spared. Clark gets on his knees and takes Zod’s hand. The crystal is in it, and it pulls the Zod phantom out of Lex and into the crystal.

Clark goes to the hospital to visit Lois and he holds her hand, which elicits an awkward response from both of them. Lex goes to Lana and becomes all wishy-washy weak Lex by begging for her to forgive him, and saying while he can’t expect it he’s willing to try and rebuild everyone’s trust in him. This is the one moment in the show where I wanted to gag.

After returning from the Fortress of Solitude, Clark tells his mother he has no one to turn to for advice because Jor-El is no longer there. She tells him to follow his heart and that every world needs its heroes to inspire the people to be better than they are. That is the essence of Superman as a character. He’s not there to solve the world’s problems, but to inspire people to take care of them.

The episode ends in Argentina as we see one of the phantoms racing towards the camera.

While I may be biased by my love of Superman II, this is one of the best episodes of ‘Smallville’ I’ve seen. Tom Welling plays a good Clark/Superman, but let’s be honest with ourselves…Superman is a pretty boring character. What make the comics great are Lex Luthor and a few of the other villains. Rosenbaum steals every scene he’s in as evil Lex. The writer’s insistence on castrating him so often, especially in the first few seasons, is where the show goes wrong. Yeah, I find the Clark/Lana stuff to be superficial teen junk. But I can deal with that because they do have to fill up full seasons. But there’s so much background to pull from that I’m amazed it’s taken them so long to tap into one of the greatest villains in comic history. My hope is this season ends with Lex finally becoming Superman’s enemy, which is the only thing that could top bringing Zod into the show.

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