A few weeks ago, I expressed some concern that Smallville would be spending too much time bringing back familiar faces and that decision would ultimately impact Clark’s last few steps of development. Thankfully though, every episode in this final run has included a major guest star — Jonathan, Booster Gold and now Zod — and still figured out how to tell interesting and important stories about Clark, and in this week’s case, Oliver and Lois. I would say that “Dominion” is the least successful of the last three episodes, but not dramatically so. I was a pretty big fan of Callum Blue’s Zod and to have him back and in full-on Zod mode, was one of those welcome returns of familiar faces that I can totally get behind.
The conceit of this episode is mostly ridiculous and really only an excuse to get Clark and Oliver back to the Phantom Zone: Somehow, someone has opened the portal in the PZ, sending General Slade back to earth. Clark and a very stubborn Oliver head in to the Zone, leaving Tess with secret directions to blow the door behind them if necessary. Lois is rightfully upset about this, but can do very little. Meanwhile, in the Zone, Clark and Oliver and thrown into Zod’s Gladiator-meets-300 arena, where they must fight to the death. Like many Smallville episodes, this one doesn’t need a lot of logical thought put into it, but instead of being stupidly obvious in its borrowing, I thought the Gladiator and 300 allusions were really well done here. It’s sort of hilarious and pathetic that the series can craft better fight sequences when Clark doesn’t actually have powers, but the choreography and direction (by Justin Hartley!) was rock solid in all the throw-downs. And much like the first two trips to the PZ in “Zod” and “Bloodline,” this foreign land looked tremendously distinctive and interesting. We all know that this series doesn’t have much of a budget, but sometimes they pull out some nice-looking television. This is one of those episodes.
In any event, “Dominion” actually provided us with some good moments for Clark, Oliver and Lois. Oliver’s been gone for a little bit so it was nice to have him return and jump right into the “darkness” nonsense. There’s going to come a moment here in the next three hours where Clark and Oliver are going to have it out over Oliver succumbing to the darkness and this episode did a nice job of hinting at that. Oliver clearly has Clark’s back, but for a second there, he was almost willing to buy what Zod was selling about letting the rage and hate take over. Oliver has always been testy and more conflicted inside than Clark, so I’ve really enjoyed how his final arc has been about (hopefully) overcoming that. It’s most certainly going to be a struggle and he’s apparently going on this random journey to find some bow that can prevent Darksied from spreading more darkness and evil. There’s obviously no way that Oliver randomly turns out Clark in the final few episodes, but I’m really interested to see how Oliver fits into this season’s endgame. The material wasn’t particularly specific, but I thought Justin Hartley did a really solid job conveying the obvious conflict Oliver is dealing with. I don’t think he was fully aware of his personal predicament until the very end of the episode, but the hints were there.
Elsewhere, although it wasn’t super-developed, I found the small Clark-Lois story to be a very effective one. Since the proposal, the series has done a really nice job of giving Lois and Clark some important moments without letting it completely overrun individual episodes. They are together and totally happy, but the writers have found a story every once in a while that can throw a temporary wrinkle into it, which I enjoy. Like a lot of stuff in this episode, there wasn’t a whole lot to work with, but I liked how Clark realized that sometimes he acts first without realizing the consequences of those actions. He was clearly trying to do the right thing for humanity, but he most certainly should have told Lois about his plan that could have trapped him in the PZ forever. It was sort of goofy that three weeks had randomly passed and we didn’t get a scene beforehand showing us Lois’ state during the intermediate period, but Tom Welling and Erica Durance sold it very, very well.
All in all, this episode didn’t provide much depth or forward motion to the season’s overall story. It reminded us that Darksied is still out there and reintroduced Oliver’s issues, but mostly this was just an excuse to bring back Zod and let Callum Blue be awesome. I’m mostly fine with that. The performances were really good despite the minuscule amount of material they had to work with, as it felt as if the script didn’t truly develop past the original pitch phase. Oh well, there have been much worse episodes this season. This one was fine.