After a promising first half of Smallville‘s 8th season, including a pretty good cliffhanger that teased us with a Doomsday showdown, the January premiere was a huge letdown.

It wasn’t just that we STILL haven’t gotten the Doomsday/Clark Kent battle (maybe next week?), it was that the episode seemed to have dropped in quality back to the soap opera lameness of season 7.

The episode (Legion) opens and the first person we see is Lana walking through the wreckage from the previous episode – and my immediate thought was “Ugh, Lana is STILL on the damned show.” From there we cut to Clark getting almost literally slaughtered by a masked guy with an axe who looks like they borrowed the “Frankenstein” mask from the recent Death Race movie. It turns out he’s a villain from the 31st century, and the Legion of Superheroes shows up just in time to save Clark and send the baddie back to the future.

Let’s cut to the chase – they were awful.

Now I get it – maybe in the comic books this is how “Lightning Lad” (Calum Worthy) acts, but to have someone as a member of something called the “Legion of Superheroes” who acts like a 12 year old twit was frankly, beyond annoying and just plain stupid. You’d think that 1,000 years in the future teenagers with such responsibility would be more mature. 8-)

I suppose the leader of the group (Rokk, played by Ryan Kennedy) was vaguely passable, but Imra (played by Alexz Johnson), the young lady in the group seemed like she got the job because she was related to a producer or some exec. Her acting was fairly awful in this episode. I see on IMDB that she’s actually won some awards for her performances so I suppose I’ll lay the blame at the foot of director Glen Winter and writer Geoff Johns.

And while Allison Mack is not exactly a performing tour de force, she was also terrible in this episode as a Brainiac-possessed Chloe. Maybe she just doesn’t know how to do “utterly evil.” It was almost a moustache-twirling performance.

Tom Welling was, well, Tom Welling.

The best things about the episode ironically came from Garth aka Lightning Lad – the writers gave him all the snarky lines about Clark not yet being able to fly, asking him where his cape was and those sorts of insider jokes aimed right at the fans.

Either this episode was a one-time down note in this season’s decent quality so far – or we’re in trouble.