So it looks like this is going to be it: The final season of Smallville. Will season 8 go out with a bang - or a laughable whimper? Let's see how things start...
In the season 7 finale they actually went easy on the cliffhangers - all we had was Chloe (Allison Mack) being hauled off by Federal agents, Lex (Michael Rosenbaum) activating the device that would control Clark, and both he and Clark (Tom Welling) apparently buried under tons of ice in the Fortress of Solitude.
There are major, detailed spoilers in this review.
This episode opens in a makeshift camp in the Arctic set up by LutherCorp in order to find Lex. We soon meet a woman who is destined to take the place of Lex on the show as the manipulative baddie: Tess Mercer (played by Cassidy Freeman).
Mercer is a VP from some never before mentioned branch of LuthorCorp, and for no reason given - she has been left in control of the company. Immediately we see that she is not the nicest person you'll ever meet as she asserts herself with Lex's right hand man/bodyguard.
Soon a mysterious man arrives and it's soon obvious that it is Oliver Queen (aka Green Arrow, played by Justin Hartley). He is joined promptly by Black Canary (Alaina Kalanj) and Aquaman (Alan Ritchson) and of course they wreak havoc and soon have control of the camp. Unfortunately, it turns out to be no help in locating Clark (or Lex, who is still missing).
So far, so good... but come back from the first commercial break and we find Lois Lane (Erica Durance) sniffing around the Luthor mansion in no less than a French maid costume.
I kid you not.
Mercer shows up knowing who Lois really is and there's a minor confrontation showing neither of them is intimidated by the other. It turns out Chloe was NOT arrested by the Feds, but was instead spirited away by Lex's private army to a facility in Montana.
Chloe at this point thinks she is in the government's hands and is given the choice to help track down terrorists or go to prison for 20 years. How can she help? It seems that she now has a new power - the ability to process information faster than a supercomputer.
Oliver refuses to give up on his search for Clark, even when the other two members of the soon to be Justice League throw in the towel. It turns out that Clark has ended up in Russia, without his powers, and is being held captive as basically slave labor. He tries to escape but without powers is no match for a bunch of armed men.
Meanwhile Chloe decides to help her captors, by decoding an encoded satellite transmission, pulling out cell phone numbers. When she gets to the third one, she recognizes it as Oliver Queen's and refuses to help further (and figures out this isn't the government).
Back in Russia, Clark demonstrates that even without his powers he still has balls as he tries repeatedly to escape and takes a two by four to his captor. These scenes were actually pretty damned cool, and actually made mild-mannered Clark look pretty bad-ass. At this point Queen shows up, fakes a fistfight with Clark and figures a way to get him out of there.
Clark is determined to rescue Chloe, powers or not so he and Queen head to the facility in Montana (where Aquaman and Black Canary are being held after Chloe helped track them down). It turns out that the "control" aspect of the Veritas device that was so much the focus of last season was that it would just remove Clark's super-powers, not turn him into some super-automaton.
On a side note: So far, the only really silly thing was the French maid costume - at this point it occurred to me that the episode has been pretty solid so far. Also, the female replacement for Lex is going to have to grow on me... I'm still not sure about her as a character.
Of course when Clark and Oliver arrive, Lois also happens to be there (ah, coincidence) and she and Clark knock out a couple of guards, with Lois grabbing the handgun. She carries it like she knows what she's doing, and I thought she was pretty convincing.
Lex's bodyguard doses Green Arrow with a drug that makes him obey commands for a short period of time, and for some reason the bodyguard tells him to find out where Lex is. At this point I didn't think any of the facility staff knew that Clark was there, so how the heck was Oliver supposed to find out where Lex is?
Anyway, in a cool scene that follows, Green Arrow confronts Clark and shoots him just above the heart with an arrow as a warning. When Clark says he doesn't know where Lex is he is shot straight through the heart and it looks like he's done for (yeah, right). Chloe shows up and is ready to use her healing power to save Clark - except that she no longer has it.
That was pretty effective, and Clark saw his life flash before his eyes: His mom and dad, Lana, the farm, etc. Just as he fades, Martian Manhunter shows up out of nowhere and whisks Clark into space, towards the healing power (for Clark) of the Sun.
Clark wakes up back in the barn with Martian Manhunter there - powers restored. Unfortunately the Sun takes power away from MM, and he's now just a regular guy. I thought this was terrible, because MM is supposed to be a member of the Justice League... but of course on Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV shows everything is reversible. :-)
Clark decides based upon his near death experience that it's time to leave the farm behind - so at long last, we DO seem to FINALLY be moving towards the Superman mythos we know and love.
There were allusions to his need for a double identity and even a joke about him needing a form-fitting costume.
In the end, Clark has just gotten an entry level reporter job at the Daily Planet, sitting right across from Lois Lane.
Overall I'd say this season is starting off as a VAST improvement over last season, and the ending actually left me with a sense that just MAYBE we'll be blessed by having less soap opera-ish crap on the show. I really don't have much to nitpick about this episode that I haven't already mentioned, and considering my critical eye towards Smallville, that's really saying something.
My only real concern at this point revolves around the fact that they MUST put some closure on the Lex/Clark situation: Lex is missing but we KNOW he's not dead - and he finally knows about Clark's powers.
I'm hoping this final season opener was not a fluke and the show holds up to a better standard of quality than it has recently. I'm actually looking forward to watching it this season with a little bit of excitement and anticipation.
Go figure. :-P