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'Smallville' recap: Gladiator Superman gets caught in Zod's game of thrones. Get to the wedding already!

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“Dominion” – a Brave and the Bold team-up of Clark and Oliver set in the negative-land of The Phantom Zone — may have been one of my least favorite episodes of Smallville in awhile, though not for a lack of trying. In fact, from the super-stylized visuals to the overly intense acting, I got the sense that Tom Welling and company – under the direction of castmate Justin Hartley  – were trying very hard to make a whole lot from very little. Nonetheless, the sum total was as blah as the desaturated colors of Zod’s pocket dimension prison, and no amount of Spartacus-flavored blood spurting and tremulous, pensive acting could make me feel anything for it. I liked Lois’ Whitesnake pillow. But “Is This Love?” No. Kneel before Zod? Only as I collapsed from boredom and snored at his feet.

In the grand scheme of Smallville’s season-long Darkseid saga, “Dominion” served the purpose of reminding us that the storyline is still very much in play after several weeks of not acknowledging it at all, and that Omega-branded Oliver is a ticking time bomb of Dark Side of the Force turmoil that’s likely to detonate at a most inconvenient time. Say… Lois & Clark’s wedding? Beyond that bit of busywork, “Dominion” offered an excuse to bring back Callum Blue’s riveting Zod one last time before the end of the series, now two weeks away. If only the episode was worthy of his charisma. Still, for anyone who considered the villain’s exile a loose end that required tying before Smallville bowed out, this one was for you.

The plot had Zod tricking the son of Jor-El into The Phantom Zone for the purpose of exacting some bloody vengeance. The corrupt Kryptonian snared Oliver, too, and forced both of them to duel to the death via Gladiator-esque bloodsport. We were encouraged to believe that Zod had seduced Oliver by appealing to their common bond: Membership in the brotherhood of Darkseid. The Dark Lord had laid waste to The Phantom Zone, but promised Zod he could have the dimension for himself if he removed Darkseid’s biggest obstacle to conquering Earth, i.e. Clark. In turn, Zod offered Oliver a position of power in his sham kingdom if the conflicted hero betrayed his friend. (Better to rule in purgatory than serve as Superman’s best man, I guess.) (Speaking of all this throne-y gamesmanship: Anyone else kept waiting for Zod to intone “Winter is coming” during the episode?) I must admit that I gasped when Oliver skewered Clark with the sword… but of course, it was all part of a risky gambit hatched by Clark to draw Zod close and snatch the crystal that could heal his wound and send he and Oliver back home. The Phantom Zone was destroyed. Adios, Zod.

“Dominion” tried to compliment The Phantom Zone storyline with a parallel subplot involving Lois proving her stand-by-your-man superhero wife bona fides by subverting Tess’ mandate to destroy The Phantom Zone if Clark’s mission went awry. Clark thought he had been gone for a few hours, but Lois revealed he had been gone for three weeks. By putting an indefinite delay on the doomsday order, Lois demonstrated an impressive until-death-do-us-part faithfulness that… had somehow been in question? I thought we were past her whole cold feet thing. It was an awkward attempt to give Lois something to do in a relatively thin episode for everyone. Smallville has spent a lot of time this season exploring the meaning of marriage, through allegorical storylines and thoughtfully written, well-acted scenes in which Clark and Lois do nothing more than intensely discuss the subject. In doing so, they have modeled a mature relationship between two people willing to be bravely, even heroically vulnerable with each other. Yayyy! But this week? Wheel-spinning tedium. It’s time to get these two to the altar already – and time for Smallville to engage its apocalyptic endgame.

@EWDocJensen

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