"Lazarus," the first episode of Smallville's tenth and final season, resurrects old foes and introduces new nasties. It also packs a million things into a scant 60 minutes, but this rapid-fire pacing ultimately works. Here's our 99% spoiler-free review.
Let's recap real quick where Season 9 left Smallville viewers. This episode picks up exactly where the finale left off — Clark has just exiled the Kandorians to another dimension using the Book of Rao. Clark avoids being whisked away after he stabs himself with Zod's blue Kryptonite dagger. Zod is hoisted by his own petard into the Kryptonian Party Dimension, and Clark plummets to Earth messiah-style. Meanwhile, Lois has discovered that Clark is the Blur (by means of surreptitious kiss in the shadows), and Ollie is captured by mysterious assailants en route to stop Zod. Tess dies, but a mysterious knitting woman absconds with her body.
In the season finale, I'd say about 80% of the episode focused on the Kandorians, and the other 20% was preoccupied with the ancillary characters. In "Lazarus," the Kandorians are gone, and 15 minutes after their departure, Clark and the gang are already investigating a new shadowy threat. Sure, we learn that there are villainous repercussions to opening the Book of Rao, but that's it. The pacing resembles that of an episode of True Blood, where Sookie jumps from supernatural threat from the next (Werewolves! Witches! Meth were-panthers!) so often that she forgets to button her blouse. Heck, the season premiere echoes of True Blood in minor details, what with all the hypersonic power-walking and the blond guy being more fun than the moody brunette.
And you know what? The show is better off for it.
Smallville knows it's reaching its end game, and it appears they're trying to jam-pack as many revelatory and emotional moments into every episode as possible. This may sound fatiguing, but this pop freneticism really leavens the melodrama. The weakest parts of Season 9 were the inevitable, slooow conflict between Zod and Clark and the one-off episodes that drew out their simmering feud (cough cough, bed-and-breakfast episode). Now that there's something at stake, Smallville doesn't have time to spin its own wheels. And heck, a last-minute cameo from a former series regular won't leave a dry eye in the house.
The episode is poppy, fast, and fun, but there are still kinks. The Christ metaphors beat you over the head like a Roman scourge. Everyone still meets at that goddamn barn. Allison Mack is only onboard for five episodes this season, and Chloe gets lost in the shuffle here. Jor-El is an ass. On the plus side, Tess is now poised to become something more than a totally Machiavellian ice queen. If the show keeps up this pace, Season 10 should be a satisfying watch. Sure, there's no nudity, but since when did Superman ever get naked? (Oh, right.)
Smallville debuts tonight at 8 PM on the CW.