Whether or not there was an actual memo involved or just some unspoken commandment from the fandom, the writers have certainly gotten the message this season. This is easily one of the most consistent seasons of the series, and it has a forward momentum that is carrying it ever closer to that fateful moment of Superman's birth.
This is another episode that hits all the right notes. Jimmy is the somewhat naÃÂ¯ve newshound grasping after the truth behind a story that Clark cannot allow him to uncover (even after Jimmy has done so). Chloe and Oliver do their best to make Clark see that the time has come for him to assume an alias and secret identity. Clark resists, but for all intent purposes, the stage has been set. Clark may not have created the identity as a persona to assume, but within the press and among the masses, the faceless hero in red and blue exists.
So it becomes a matter of perception. Clark resists the actuality of having the secret identity; he has no intention of physically wearing tights and a cape while on the hero clock. But he might as well be wearing the costume, because he is now hiding behind that newly created image. It both protects his current identity while freeing him to act. It is the metaphorical equivalent of Oliver's hood and leathers.
It's surprising to see the writers take on such an interesting philosophical point, considering how they've struggled with the basics of storytelling just last season. More importantly, this is the logical progression of elements seeded in every episode since the premiere. It's not just a topic explored with Clark, but also with Oliver, and all of it touches on the debate that they started back in the sixth season.
I was so pleased with the direction taken on this subject that I was able to overlook the glaring issue of Clark's very recognizable face, and how hard it's going to be to explain the sudden lack of perception of everyone around him. (Perhaps they will use one of the original comic strip concepts, and Clark will simply keep his face in a blur of motion to foil cameras and onlookers.) I'm just happy to see the writers moving the story forward and linking it to the past enough to make it seem like the natural evolution of the past seven seasons.
Two other things add to my appreciation of the episode. First, we continue to see Tess Mercer pull together the resources from Black Creek towards some unknown goal. Individually, a lot of these villains have made for reasonable foes in previous episodes, but the thought of an impending confrontation between Clark and a collective band of villains brings enormous anticipation. This is especially true when Clark's involvement with Oliver of late could lead into the Justice League coming for a return visit. Two super teams going at it in Metropolis? That could be where the season is heading.
There's also the evolution of Lois into someone closer to the iconic version of the character: the risk-taking reporter who occasionally gets in over her head. I still agree with those who say the character came onto the show far too early, but that ship has long since sailed, and the course correction this season is doing wonders to make Lois a character with more depth.
This is not our father's "Superman" mythos, but it's working. And I'm stunned by the realization that "Smallville" is providing better entertainment and storytelling than "Heroes" this season. Who could have seen that coming?