We pick up right where we left off, with a distraught Lois (Erica Durance) rushing to Clark’s (Tom Welling) side after his battle with Zod (Callum Blue), fearing him for dead. As it is, he’s having a near-death experience which includes a chat with Jor-El and a glimpse at his tombstone. Jor-El informs him that he was “meant to be Earth’s greatest protector,” not to sacrifice himself, especially in the face of an even greater evil. Clark decides he has to go back, and gets a brief glimpse of Lex Luthor (is that Michael Rosenbaum or just a convenient lookalike?) before he comes while Lois looks on.
Meanwhile, Chloe (Allison Mack) is continuing her search for the missing Oliver (Justin Hartley), starting with viewing the video he left behind. His last words are that he loves her, before the bad guys tell her “We’re coming for all of you.” She grabs a key and is about to go somewhere to use it when she’s met by Clark, who tells her “I guess I kind of died.” (Memo: there’s dead and there’s not dead. There’s not ‘kind of’ dead. We learned that in the first season of 24.) He shares with her his suspicion that this greater evil is Lex, and the two of them theorize that maybe Lex has resurrected some very old project (read: evil scheme) from well before they could track it digitaly, in which case there would be a hard copy of any story done on it at the Daily Planet.
Surprise – we cut to Lois at the offices, looking over old high school newspapers before Clark pays her a visit. She tells him that she postponed her trip to Africa because she believes the Red-Blue Blur needs her. The resulting exchange is horribly awkward, ending in the words “we need to talk” and with plans to meet up later. Clark gets what he needs, though: a file on a research facility called Cadmus Labs. When he calls Chloe with the information, much to his horror, she’s at Justice Society headquarters taking a good, long look at Dr. Fate’s helmet. “I knew you’d only try and stop me,” she tells him before hanging up and using the key to get access to the helmet. When she demands to be shown where Oliver is, the Disembodied Voice only asks her if she would sacrifice her sanity to save him before the helmet attaches itself to her head. Clark later finds her unconscious on the floor.
So where is Oliver, exactly? Blindfolded, naked and tied to a chair, because that’s how these things go. (Everyone’s seen Casino Royale, right? That.) The guy doing the torturing has all sorts of questions for him, and Oliver insists he’s “not guilty of anything except trying to save the world.”
Cut from his being tortured to a not really dead and no longer disfigured Tess Mercer (Cassidy Freeman) waking up on a slab in one of Cadmus Labs’ creepy little rooms. She attempts to make a hasty escape, and in so doing finds a bunch of even creepier holding tanks, and a little kid trapped in a holding cell who calls himself “Alexander.” He tells her the poor guys in the holding tanks are his “brothers,” and she deduces that they’re all engineered from Lex’s DNA. Not all of them came out okay, she’s told. Some of them are sick, or aged too fast. She opens the wrong door, which apparently goes to the psychotic one who wants to choke her, at least until he figures out who she is. “There can only be one Lex Luthor,” he says ominously.
Clark’s gotten a doctor to tend to Chloe, and he says “it’s as if her body is going through massive trauma.” However, she regains consciousness still hell-bent on finding Oliver. She swears she saw that everything is going to be fine, despite the fire she glimpsed in a lab which she assumes is Cadmus.
Lois is hanging out on the Kent family farm, and she gives us our first real glimpse at the Superman costume we know and love, before Psychotic Not-Lex shows up and knocks her out cold. Clark finds his way to what remains of Cadmus, where he finds Tess tied to a table and gets the story from her about Lex’s cloning project and the escaped clone. She gives him a message: that he could save her, and that when he did, it would finally be time for the two of them to face off. She tells him where Not-Lex is, along with Lois, who’s now been tied to the post out in the middle of the field, a callback to the series premiere ten seasons earlier. Not-Lex says she is Clark’s greatest weakness before he lights the field on fire.
Not long after, Clark confronts Not-Lex demanding to know where the real one is. Not-Lex informs him that the real Lex Luthor died several years earlier, but then wants to reminisce, and talk about how alike they are. “I’m nothing like you,” Clark tells him evenly, before giving him a good choke for being annoying. Not-Lex regrets that he won’t live long enough to see the world turn on Clark. He tells him that he can decide to save innocent lives at the Daily Planet, or save Lois from a fiery demise – the hero’s ultimate Catch-22.
The globe atop the Daily Planet offices begins to tumble to earth as Lois chokes on the smoke she’s inhaling. Clark shows up and uses his super-speed to put out the fire and get her down from the post, leaving her alone but unharmed in the field. He then races back into Metropolis, barely averting the crash of the beacon, to applause from a grateful crowd of people. As dawn breaks, he returns to the farm to uncover the iconic Superman costume for himself…but then is whisked away yet again to the Fortress of Solitude. He’s convinced that he’s a hero now, but Jor-El is not impressed.
“The evil is you, Kal-El,” he tells him. “Once this darkness consumes you, you will be Earth’s greatest enemy. You cannot be a beacon of hope when you have darkness in your heart.”
Whoops. Clark, needless to say, is more than a little brassed off about that, and his father’s further less than flattering remarks. He defiantly says that while Jor-El may not see him as a hero, the rest of the world does.
Oliver’s captor has decided to let him go, even as Oliver swears revenge on this mysterious man who knows that he is Green Arrow (before Ollie is knocked unconscious). We see him brought out in a big black SUV, where he finds himself traded for another prisoner. It’s not until the exchange is complete that we realize said other captive is none other than Chloe! She has, in fact, sacrificed herself – if not her sanity – to save him.
Tess is trying to take care of little Alexander, while Lois has gone to Africa after all, without telling Clark – leaving behind just a brief note. Clark is down about this, but surprised to run into his adoptive father, Jonathan (John Schneider in a very welcome reappearance). Unlike Jor-El, Jonathan is actually a supportive parent, telling him how proud he is of him. Clark believes that Jor-El is right, that he is capable of killing and has failed himself somehow. Jonathan reminds him that he had his own anger problem, which contributed to the heart problem that caused his death. He tells Clark to make good on his second chance, seeing as how most people don’t get one. He does reaffirm, however, that something is definitely coming.
What is that something? Inquiring minds want to know. Thus we’re treated to a big, ominous black fog that manifests itself looking a whole lot like Darkseid, and a last shot of the Superman costume encased in the Fortress of Solitude. Uh-oh.
“Lazarus” is an effective set-up piece for the season. We have a main plotline with Not-Lex that effectively serves to illustrate Clark’s inner conflict; I’m reminded of an interview where Joss Whedon once said his monsters of the week were meant to be representations of conflict within or surrounding his characters. That’s exactly what this episode is. Not-Lex brings to light the aspects of Clark’s personality that are also brought up by Jor-El, so we can see (however reluctantly) both sides of the argument. We feel Clark’s frustration but we also understand why his father is saying what he’s saying, because we see it come out in the plot. However, one can’t help but wonder if he isn’t going to need that proverbial dark side in going up against Darkseid. Good guys can’t always do the good thing, because bad guys don’t play by the good guys’ rules.
As for the other characters, everyone has a little something to do, even if it’s not much. Die-hard Clark/Lois fans will no doubt be disappointed by the lack of romantic moments between the two, but saving her life in a pretty spectacular scene is romantic in its own right. Tess gets to play sort of the “damsel in distress” role, and I wonder how big a factor her adoption of Alexander is going to be in her storylines this year.
Undoubtedly, however, the biggest storyline is that of Chloe and Oliver. Fans had long speculated that Chloe would be the next Dr. Fate, something that seems all but assured given her use of Fate’s helmet in this episode. Furthermore, it’s been known for some time that Allison Mack will not be back as a regular this season, and when that announcement was made, it was semi-spoiled that she would do something drastic for the man she loves. No doubt, this storyline will provide opportunities for her to hopefully return at a later date, although presumably worse for wear. Mack and Hartley sell the storyline as best they can, although the latter doesn’t get as much chance to show off his acting chops, and the final reveal between the two of them – as they unknowingly pass each other without a chance to say goodbye – is probably the most poignant of the episode. I’ve long maintained that Justin Hartley was a huge breath of fresh air into Smallville, and I look forward to seeing what he’ll do with an Oliver who will no doubt be out for revenge once he realizes what’s happened.
“Lazarus” sets the stage for a final season that we know ends with Clark Kent becoming Superman, making it the most ambitious season ever in my eyes. It has to pay off the entire ten-season investment of the fans and deliver that moment we’ve all been waiting for. I’m certainly excited to see how the series gets going on the way to what will be a truly (pun intended) super ending.