After a few episodes that saw the momentum of Smallville‘s fifth season dissipate just a little, it is a relief to see the season direct itself into its finale with a renewed sense of vigour. Admittedly we still have the love triangle to deal with, but Caroline Dries’ teleplay actually manages to make even that work in its favour, with some of the best interactions and exploration of the Clark/Lana/Lex dynamic to date. Much of that mainly comes from Lois’ attempts at playing peacekeeper and confidant to Lana and Clark.
It’s a lovely reminder of just how great an addition to the series Erica Durance has been since joining last season. The final moments of the episode between herself and Clark are perhaps a testament of sorts that the series really needs to start moving beyond Clark’s feelings for Lana at this stage. One can’t help but feel the series is about to fall into the same trap as How I Met Your Mother in portraying Clark as someone who constantly realises Lana isn’t the one for him but has to make that realisation every other week.
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It also helps that the presence of Lois is reassuringly fun and dramatic in a way that feels fresh and different to the show. She comes across as smart and knowing, whereas Lana falling for Lex and believing his lies is threatening to do away with any notable character development over the past five seasons.
This all may sound highly critical, but rest assured this is a very good episode and a great moving of the pieces as we go into the finale. There is something coldly chilling and yet very entertaining about watching Lex manoeuvre himself into supervillainy mode and align himself with Milton Fine. Lex may talk about wanting to end all human diseases, but the audience is already primed for his plan to go wrong, and Rosenbaum brilliantly plays the whole thing as if Lex truly believes in his goals in an altruistic way.
Where ‘Oracle’ truly succeeds is in exploring how far Smallville has come this season. We get a ghostly return visit from Jonathan Kent, and an increasingly suspenseful air as to what Lionel’s motivations are at this stage. You get the sense that the series may be on the cusp of achieving something of a redemption for Lionel, at least in the future, and there is something beautifully dramatic in having both Lex and Lionel swap places in terms of motivations and pure intent. Of course, five seasons of the series still leave one a little unsure of Lionel and what he hopes to achieve, but that potential change appears more dramatic and interesting than having Lex become the next Whitney or Jason.
It all builds up to a great cliff-hanger of an ending and one that promises the type of dramatic chaos that Smallville has frequently shown itself to be adept at producing for its finales.