‘Crusade’ begins Smallville‘s fourth season in a very entertaining fashion; but alas, some of the weaknesses that will consume the series during season four are already apparent, even if they are just bubbling below the surface at this stage.
One of the biggest strengths of the season greets the audience immediately, as we’re introduced to Lois Lane. Erica Durance steps into the role with effortless ease as if she has been playing the character for a while. The series cannot help but throw Clark (literally) into scenes with her right away and having a famous (but new for Smallville) dynamic gives the opening scenes of the episode a very enjoyable feel right off the bat.
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There has always been a strange relationship between film and television when it comes to DC’s comic book properties. For whatever reason, Warner Bros’ movie division has frequently put a stop to certain characters appearing in both mediums, most famously in recent years when they managed to halt any further appearances from Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad in Arrow as a different version made their way to the silver screen.
Initially it appeared as if a similar stance would stop Lois Lane from appearing on Smallville, but thankfully that didn’t stick and we got Durance putting her mark on the role. That she does it in the same episode where Margot Kidder makes an appearance as Dr Swann’s colleague Bridgette Crosby gives the episode a gentle passing of the torch of sorts, while once again playing into the series’ ability to magnificently pay tribute to Superman productions of the past.
Even with an emotionally suppressed Clark, there is already a hint of something special on the cards here, and it feels as if the series is beginning to make plans for a post-Lana Lang future, except Lana is inexplicably still here. Most television shows use the “I’m moving to Paris” trope as either a way to kickstart more drama or as a way to explain a character’s exit. The season three finale felt like a natural exit for the character, but the writers on the series seem reluctant to let her go.
The episode spends considerable time with the character and her new boyfriend/rival for Clark, Jason Teague (and it’s here we say hello to a pre-Supernatural Jensen Ackles) in Paris on what initially feels like a filler sub-plot but which will disappointingly become the main thrust of this season’s story arc.
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After the intense brilliance of so much of the third season, there’s a sense that the series is moving towards story threads of a more supernatural nature, which feels like the wrong kind of fantasy in comparison to the more sci-fi leanings of its storytelling in previous seasons. It cannot help but give one pause for concern in an episode that otherwise flies high. Literally in the case of Clark in his Kal-El persona.
It might feel like the series is partly abandoning the “no flights” rule of its famous approach to the character and his powers, but you can’t help but get a little buzzed at the image of Tom Welling in the sky and that whole airplane sequence, which is characteristic of Smallville at its very best.