It’s with a heavy heart that we reach something of a low-point in Smallville‘s fourth season, and something of a low-point for the series as a whole. In rewatching the season, one might be easily struck by its better moments and episodes in retrospect than in remembering it from memory. Some of the stand-alone episodes have been more effective than one might be inclined to look back on, but there is still a massive problem with the ongoing story threads that are driving the arc of this season, and unfortunately those weaknesses make their presence felt and then some with ‘Sacred’.
This is a transitional year of the series. Clark, Lana and Chloe are all getting ready to graduate from high school and the series as a whole is preparing to move into the next phase of Clark’s life. Lois Lane has shown up and there have subtly delivered hints that she will play a role in his future, while Chloe has finally learned of Clark’s secret. Frustratingly, the series has been unwilling to let go of Lana Lang and the entire reincarnation/witchcraft/stones of power storyline going on this season is not only an egregious misstep in Smallville‘s use of genre, but it is also a reminder that the series should have used Lana going to Paris at the end of last season as an excuse to move on from the character.
What’s most upsetting about ‘Sacred’ is that it’s an episode that should be firing on all cylinders, but instead it falls off the cliff at every turn. Disappointingly, the script for this one is courtesy of Kelly Souders and Brian Peterson, frequently the writers behind so many of Smallville‘s best episodes, but even they’re struggling to make any of this work.
The sad death of Christopher Reeve meant that there was no possibility of return appearances from Dr Swann, something the episode acknowledges with news of the character’s death reaching Clark. This initially leads into a return of Jor-El, with Terence Stamp’s always welcome booming voice reverberating throughout the episode, leaving the viewer giddy at the prospect of another Superman mythology heavy episode of the series.
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Instead, we get Clark and Lana chasing Lex and Jason to China, more dramatically exhausted plot strands involving Jason’s family and Lana’s supernatural connections to Isobel, and the deflating feeling that Smallville‘s fourth season is turning into a soapy WB fever dream of teen superheroes and witchcraft tropes straight out of Charmed, only nowhere near as fun as when the Halliwell sisters are involved.
This really ought to be a season highlight, bringing together ongoing plot strands, taking the characters out of home turf for an episode and shifting the threads of the series’ mythology with high octane drama. Instead, all it does is remind you that everything involving the Stones of Power, Lana/Isobel and the Teague family is as far from the high benchmark of last season as the series can get.