This is one of those sneaky little episodes that seems to be a stand-alone holiday-themed romp, and quickly becomes something a bit more substantial. It's something that the best genre shows have mastered in the past, and it's good to see Smallville take a page from that book. Too often, it's easy to see where the writers are planning to go by episode's end.
Frankly, that's a good thing. If there's any doubt that Erica Durance's version of Lois Lane has evolved into something solid, her shift into a more "traditional" mold should silence the critics. Lois may be occasionally softer than one would expect, but she's a far cry from the passive homemaker in this episode. Some of Lois' usual drive and spark shined through, but it was still damned disturbing.
I was also wary of how the writers would treat this latest spin on kryptonite when Chloe decided to protect Clark "by any means necessary"Â. Her confrontation with Lois just didn't seem to go far enough. Given Chloe's darker turn of late, I would have expected something more violent and shocking. Perhaps this was just a matter of working within network constraints, and the pragmatic need to keep Lois and Chloe on relatively good terms.
That said, the fight between Tess and Chloe was surprisingly good, and Clark's brutal treatment of Tess went about as far as the writers could have taken it, while still keeping Clark's hands relatively clean. Taken in conjunction with the behavior of the Kandorians this season, I am reminded of how many people were stunned by Jor-El's original harsh directives to Clark in earlier seasons.
Jor-El's demand that Clark take his place as something of a ruler over humanity was a surprising direction to take, but the Kandorians are actually acting in a similar mold. While Kara and Jor-El were a bit more measured in their arrogance and violent temperance, it seems that Kryptonians as a people were fairly bloodthirsty and violent. They may have been enlightened in some academic areas, but they certainly had a draconian society.
Of course, that may have simply been the military's code of justice, or something specific to Zod. But since Zod was, at this time in his career, considered to be a hero of Kandor, his methods and traditions could be seen as representative of Kryptonian ways. What Clark (and the audience) is led to assume as particular to Zod may not be so specific. After all, Alia killed Jor-El, and it doesn't seem that it was under Zod's orders, either. Zod keeps having to execute people for taking extreme action and violating moral codes.
This is an intriguing point, because it could so easily be lost in translation. Zod may be absolutely right when he says that Clark is rejecting his Kryptonian legacy, and thus rejecting his people on Earth. Zod's ambition for power may be incurable, but it might be cultural in origin. This isn't an excuse for Zod's behavior; it simply changes the nature of the problem. Clark isn't fighting someone evil to the core, and corrupting others in his image. He's fighting a symbol of everything that was wrong with Krypton as a whole.
And that could be seen as an outward expression of an internal battle that was supposed to be at the heart of the season, and hasn't really been that obvious. In the wake of Doomsday, Clark was intent on embracing his Kryptonian legacy. Major Zod and the Kandorians are that legacy, and Clark is discovering just what that is. While using Zod as an antagonist has worked well to flesh out the character's back story, making it more viable within the "Smallville"Â mythos, it may have also distracted from the big picture by providing a character that is too inherently easy to label as "evil"Â. It's hard to think of Zod as simply another Kryptonian, even if that's what he essentially is at this point.
Clark's decision to destroy the tower is all but a declaration of war against Zod and the Kandorians, and it should be interesting to see how long it takes Zod to realize that fact. It certainly sends the season arc into a different direction. Hopefully this isn't another example of the writers changing the game in the back nine of a season. Too often, the writers stick with the original premise of a season, only to falter in the resolution. So far, this season has been fairly cohesive, so if the writers can stay on course, this could end well.