This was not a good episode.
I’m not a fan of saying that, or typing it. Most times I can even find a way that an episode is actually good and underrated. This episode, however, doesn’t really have many redeeming features. It feels like the show took a wrong turn, and didn’t stop to think that maybe it just can’t do certain types of stories effectively.
It’s my belief that the ‘themed’ episode of Smallville are usually the ones that don’t translate as well as hoped. While this isn’t an episode set on Halloween, it’s clearly a horror episode of sorts designed to play on (or near) Halloween. And, for me, it falls into the same trap that “Thirst” (the Kitty-Cat Vampire Lana episode) and ‘Lexmas” did. While “Lexmas” is a better episode for the fact that it supplies a logical foundation for Lex’s character, it ultimately doesn’t feel complete. The Christmas aspects of that story feel shoehorned in and on the nose. Now in relation to “Thirst,” this episode feels too much in the ‘we need a Halloween episode, let’s do that’ instead of a logical story progression.
Which is sad, because buried within this episode is a good horror story. One not focused on gore so much as pseudo-intellectual horror. Unfortunately, the writers take a bad turn in the execution of the episode. While one can see that it’s playing on the idea of Clark as a savior and the darkness of man, it doesn’t really feel connected to the big themes of the season in a way that connects the arc and the psychological constructs.
There’s also the problem that Smallville, for all that it does right, can’t pull off horror. It can try, but the horror elements never feel like they’re being sold to us properly. While Smallville can pull off magic themes, it lacks that Supernatural ability to tell a cracking horror story with procedural overtones. What we’re left with is a laudable attempt that comes up wanting.
I’m also a tad frustrated that they didn’t go the obvious route, and have Darkseid play on the darkness of the people threatening to sacrifice Lois. If Darkseid possessed the leader of the village, it would force Clark to try and spur humanity on through faith in themselves. The way Smallville played it, Clark became a God who frowned upon their religion – which goes down a completely different psychological path. Now these people of religion see Clark the same way he sees Darkseid, as a threat who’ll stomp them down if they misbehave. And that isn’t Clark – he’s meant to see the good in humanity. To help them help themselves in the pursuit of a better day. In this episode, he just goes back to that age old ‘do it and I’ll spank you’ mentality that hardly helps people defend their choice of religion. It could have been handled a lot better.
Luckily, the other story arc works a tad better.
It comes off the heels off Tess’s redemption in the last episode, and crushes it. This is purely human horror, Tess unable to stop Alexander from becoming Lex. As he devolves, she loses her faith in everything. The story beats may happen too fast for my liking (and how does Lex know about Tess and Zod? Real Lex died in S8, and Tess never mentioned it), but the central spine of the story is exceptionally dark and well-written. It’s just a shame this mini-section on faith was thrust into an episode where the core didn’t add up to the sum of its parts.
I will concede that Lois and Clark’s chat about the alien menaces was rather funny and touching, it’s just that I feel the episode could’ve been better conceived and involved more relevance to the bigger picture.