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'Smallville' recap: 'Supergirl,' secret identities, and latex

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What a clever final season Smallville is having. The series is concentrating on that combination of power and doubt that Clark Kent has always had difficulty sorting out and using it to fuel the final story-lines. This week, Laura Vandervoort’s Kara returned to warn Clark of a coming “darkness.”

We already know it’s Darkseid, but this week, some essence of that dark malevolence invaded the body of Gordon Godfrey. Godfrey is a yammering talk-radio-show host and author who inveighs against “illegal aliens” and confides that he wants to “plant a seed of doubt within people [who will then] be ready to be led down a different path.” Think Glenn Beck crossed with Lou Dobbs with a pinch of Keith Olbermann’s temper, and you’ve got Smallville‘s version of the “Glorious” villain comic-book fans know from Jack Kirby’s Fourth World mythos.

Kara arrived as the bearer of bad news for Clark/Kal-El’s insecurities, telling him that Jor-El had “disowned” him — “He said you’re not ready.” She added her own thoughts on the matter of Clark/Kal’s slow maturation: “You’ve been on Earth all this time and you can’t even fly.” The shrewd script by Anne Cofell Saunders articulated the sometimes-frustrating, sometimes-happy-torture Smallville fans endure, waiting for Clark to fully morph into Superboy or, by now, Superman.

What makes Darkseid’s Smallville presence interesting is the way it throws into high relief the notions that have long floated through the series. As Kara explained it, this evil “can’t possess someone who has pure clarity of purpose,” a quality that Kara, Jor-El, and Clark himself doubt Clark has truly attained, even at this late stage of the game.

The subplots included Godfrey’s threat to expose details of Green Arrow’s life. Intrepid Lois was back from her blessedly brief stint as a foreign correspondent (are we all glad that Cat Grant was nowhere to be seen?), and she helped prevent Godfrey’s plot against GA.

The night’s sauciest moments occurred in a delightfully gratuitous scene in the significantly named Club Desaad, which hosted a “fetish party” to which Godfrey paid a visit. Lois procured compromising photos of the self-righteous baddie by donning a disguise that included a blonde wig and black latex. By the time Godfrey had her trussed up in captivity, comic book fans with a sense of history probably made the connection the script was alluding to: Images of damsels in bondage that inspired Godfrey-like crusaders such as Frederic Wertham, author of the anti-comic-book study Seduction of the Innocent.

Increasingly, Smallville is addressing issues of identity and the misuse of power for its most dramatic moments. The show also uses Lois (in the always snappy, smart performance of Erica Durance) to lighten the mood, as when she fumbled in conversation with Clark for the right word to describe Kara: “Uber-girl? Mega-girl? Your cousin needs a better handle.” The episode was called “Supergirl,” after all.

Ultimately, Kara took on her own sort of secret identity, shrouding herself in a dark wig and black horn-rim glasses, telling Clark, “I’m not going anywhere… Leave the darkness to me; this isn’t your fight.”

And the hour culminated with the abandonment of a secret identity: Ollie calling a press conference to announce that he’s Green Arrow.

All in all, another strong addition to a season that’s making the most of some core characters, don’t you think?

Follow: @kentucker