Last night's Smallville managed the impressive feat of simultaneously feel like an episode of the first few seasons of the show with their "meteor freak of the week" format while also demonstrating how far (some) characters have come in the last few years of the series. They also introduced the hunky new medic who's may just end up killing the near-Man of Steel and got our fanboy-sense tingling with the (admittedly unlikely) possibilities offered up if a particular spoiler turns out to be true. Has the CW's superhero soap opera somehow become good when we weren't paying attention?
While I wasn't too impressed by the generic main plot of the episode - Bus explodes even though there was no bomb onboard (Well, at least it didn't get filled with some fast-setting magic goo), girl turns out to be able to make things explode - it was saved by the apparent new status quo of the show, the freshest part of which is definitely Clark being pro-active and actually seeming to be on his way to becoming Superman for a change: It's not just that he saved the people on the bus and stuck around afterwards to help without giving it any thought instead of running away at superspeed to feel upset about his powers, but much moreso his attempt at inspirational speaking at the end of the episode to Bette, The Bomb-Girl - For the first time ever on the show, you got the feeling that he just might grow up to become the Superman that we know and love. If anything, the familiarity of the plot helped bring home how different the show and characters have become since its start, eight years ago. It wasn't only Clark's new assertiveness, but also the way that the show's Lois has started to settle into a go-getting reporter role closer to her comic book counterpart (but with added awkward comedy from her not being as good at her job as she'd like), Chloe getting a B-plot to herself (although, seriously, haven't we done the "female lead falls for bad guy" plot many times before on this show? For shame, people), and the complete lack of emo angst - or death of the villain, for that matter. It's like a whole new show that's ripping off old Smallville but doing it better.
Two particular things reinforced the "better" idea this week. Firstly, the introduction of new villain Doomsday was... well, not as terrible as it could've been, really. Sure, in theory I'm still entirely against Doomsday being a human transformed into an unstoppable monster thanks to Kryptonite meteors, but damned if Sam Witwer didn't make newcomer Davis Bloome into an unexpectedly charming figure that even managed to pull off the "shock" final scene of his naked, transforming, body. Much more squee-worthy was the by-now-traditional scene of newLex, Tess Mercer - not as bald, but just as evil - recruiting the villain for nefarious ends, although the reason for my excitement is more likely than not entirely in my head. Let me explain. We've heard - thanks to Charlie - that evil New God Darkseid may be on top to appear this season. Well, watching Tess recruit Bette to her "team" made me wonder/hope: What if Tess isn't Tess? What if she's a disguised version of Darkseid's hencholdwoman, Granny Goodness, recruiting supervillains to a new televisual team of Female Furies? It'll probably never happen, but such an idea is 100% Smallville: Taking an idea from the comic books and making it work on television involving attractive young people wearing form-fitting clothes. If anyone from the show's writing staff is reading this: You know what to do to make me happy. But even the fact that I'm fanboy excited about the possibility of something like that happening goes to demonstrate that Smallville is continuing to turn itself around and quietly become one of the more enjoyable (guilty) pleasures on TV right now. Will wonders never cease?