Sorry for the delay folks, with the holidays and the end of the semester coming up, it’s going to be something of a crazy time for me.
After last week’s episode solidified a number of things in the overarching plot, “Patriot” pushes that narrative forward in a very satisfying way, while still dealing with some interesting ground between Clark and Lois. This being Smallville, the passing of the VRA happens off-screen and we don’t actually see anyone in the outside world reacting to it, so we have to take all the main characters’ word for what’s really going on out there. However, because Clark and company, including the guesting A.C. and his new wife, sell the dire circumstances of this new feeling of uneasiness, “Patriot” works on most level.
Even though we don’t often see it because there are so many members of the Proto Justice League and the series can’t afford it, they apparently work as a well-oiled machine that supports one another when necessary. So when A.C. and his wife are apparently going rogue and not communicating with the rest of the group, it’s a problem. And when Oliver takes Clark’s advice and decides to enroll in the VRA, everyone else is noticeably worried. Therefore, “Patriot” is a nice sign of solidarity between the members of the PJL, especially in the midst of this whole VRA nonsense.
Moreover, bringing in other members of the team always works because it helps Clark. In the past, these appearances would always paint Clark in a weaker light and he’d learn some valuable lesson about how to be a real hero, which while important, felt like a smack in the face to him as a character. But, hey, that’s how almost every episode went down during the series’ low point. But in recent seasons, things have switched a little bit, so when A.C. shows up and acts a fool, Clark is able to entrench in his morals and seem more right than wrong, which helps paint him as the most heroic of the heroes. In this case, he is of course too moralistic, but A.C. is smart enough to also see that he’s wrong too, so they come to a nice compromise that while fighting back against the VRA seems realistic, it doesn’t seem like the smartest plan when dealing with individuals influenced by Darkseid’s…darkness.
Speaking of those people, this episode introduces this military dude Slade (Michael Hogan), who is one bad mofo. He’s been brought on to execute the VRA, literally. He tortures Oliver for information and then kidnaps A.C. when he breaks in. Clark zooms in to save the day and sees that Slade is somehow under the influence of Darkseid, so he lets him die. Except for Slade doesn’t die and presumably, he’s even more powered by Darkseid now that he’s back. This suggests things are only going to get worse for the PJL, and I think this situation showed them that they should stick together and basically get in line behind Clark, which is a great move for the series.
Finally, “Patriot” works because it handles an issue that Clark and really, I, didn’t recognize as an issue. There’s this feeling that after Clark told Lois the secret and they handled some personal issues, everything was going to be smooth sailing. I mean what else could come up, she knew everything! She knew where he was from, why he did what he did, etc.! But just Clark, it’s kind of easy to forget that while Lois knows everything about Clark personally, she doesn’t know about those people who he works with. Thus, as this episode unspools, it’s enjoyable to watch her slowly figure out about Watchtower, Emil and most hilariously, Tess.
The episode doesn’t make too much out of Clark not sharing his team life with Lois because he’s obviously trying to protect her, and that’s nice. If this were season seven, it would be a completely melodramatic thing strung out for a series of episodes, but here, Clark and Lois are both honest enough to quickly dispatch with their issues and move forward. They know it’s a tricky situation they find themselves in, but that doesn’t mean they can’t figure it out as they go.
“Patriot” is enough important step on the road to a larger battle and one that has enough character moments to be one of, if not the, strongest non-“Homecoming” episodes of the season.