Because the show's going on holiday hiatus until January 28, Friday's Smallville — "Icarus" — pulled out all of the stops by cramming a half-dozen Very Important Events into 60 minutes. It wasn't exactly cogent storytelling, but it wasn't boring.
For the last season of Smallville, audiences are getting two kinds of episodes. We have episodes that advance the central Darkseid plot (wherein massive societal changes caused by the increasingly draconian Vigilante Registration Act happen overnight), and we have the side adventure episodes like last week's Ultraman episode (which tend to be punctuated by Lois and Clark relationship gooeyness).
Being the mid-season finale, "Icarus" was a mash-up of these two types of episodes. On one hand, we had the "Darkseid runs Homeland Security" subplot, which gave us such twists as Oliver Queen being branded a terrorist, the government spying on the Watchtower gang (Project ICARUS, which is a jab at the hubris of the heroes), and the FBI interrogating known superhero sympathizers. Also, Hawkman reveals that Darkseid may or may not be responsible for the Spanish Inquisition and the Third Reich. The metaphor hammer hasn't dropped, it's exploded.
It's not that I'm opposed to superhero narratives reflecting the political climate of the day, but Smallville is so hilariously unsubtle about its allusions. I mean, there's a Superhero Threat Level chart for crap's sake. What do the colors stand for? Is Green for Green Lantern? Purple for the Wonder Twins? Multi-color for Rainbow Raider? They really must explain this.
On the other hand, "Icarus" front-loaded all of the lovey-dovey stuff with Clark's big proposal. I feel like this would've carried more emotional weight if it wasn't so shamelessly tossed out there. The proposal would've had more significance at the end of the episode after Clark and Lois realize that his secret identity is in jeopardy — it would've reflected their maniac sense of commitment to each other despite all adversity. But hey, the fact that he proposed to her outside of a phone booth was cute.
On to the other major events of the episode. So after Lois agrees to marry her alien beau, we move to the Screamingly Obvious Commentary On Today's Political Climate! In this case, all the Daily Planet reporters must now get TSA-style metal detection before they enter their own office. Lois goes into the office to flaunt her new engagement ring, where she reads a letter from Chloe (Allison Mack appears in a flashback). Chloe sends Lois a (probably magical) necklace. I loved Tess' reaction when she heard Lois' engagement news — she was having an erotic interlude with alternate dimension Clark Kent last episode, and her face here is equal parts somewhat crestfallen and "oh, if you only knew."
After Clark and Lois' engagement party at Watchtower with Hawkman and Stargirl, Oliver (Clark's best man) is attacked by Metropolis' citizens after apprehending a mugger. I liked how Oliver is basically decked by Garrison Keillor and that the citizens find large rocks lying around the Metropolis streets to throw at Ollie.
Michael Hogan reprises his role as General Slade Wilson, only this time around he's looking extra John McCainy. The FBI begins to round up vigilante sympathizers (like Emil and Lois). This leads to Watchtower shutting down and all the superheroes going underground. The Hawkman versus the superpowered Slade battle was some of the better fight choreography we've seen on the show.
Also, Hawkman dies after Slade stabs him. He plummets to the Earth with his wings on fire, just like the Icarus of myth.
The episode ends with some cliffhangers. Clark exiles Slade to the Phantom Zone, and a mysterious artifact knocks out all the superheroes at Carter's umpteenth funeral. The end of the episode worked better than the disjointed beginning. When Smallville embraces its theatrics, it can put on a good show. Flashy character moments instead of political subtext work best here. When Booster Gold shows up in 2011, I hope he's not a grassroots organizer demanding to see Clark Kent's birth certificate or something.