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SMALLVILLE (The CW)
(Thursdays at 8:00/7:00c beginning tonight)
The network's description: "THE JUSTICE LEAGUE RETURNS TO FIND CLARK AFTER THE COLLAPSE OF THE FORTRESS; THE NEW CEO OF LUTHORCORP COMES TO TOWN The Justice League, lead by the Green Arrow (Justin Hartley), hits the Artic in search of Clark (Tom Welling), who disappeared after the fortress collapsed. The team immediately has a confrontation with the new CEO of Luthorcorp, Tess Mercer (Cassidy Freeman). Meanwhile, Chloe (Allison Mack) is being held prisoner by a suspicious group who has discovered she has a new power, and Clark has been stripped of his powers by Jor-El. Erica Durance and Aaron Ashmore also star. Kevin Fair directed the episode with the story by Brian Peterson & Kelly Souders and teleplay by Todd Slavkin & Darren Swimmer."
What did they leave out? John Glover, Kristin Kreuk, Laura Vandervoort and Michael Rosenbaum have all been dropped from the opening credits. Joining the title sequence then are Justin Hartley, Sam Witwer and Cassidy Freeman. Witwer however doesn't appear in the season opener.
The plot in a nutshell: Oliver (Justin Hartley) and the rest of the de facto "Justice League" (Alan Ritchson, Alaina Huffman) have spent the past month looking for Clark (Tom Welling), who along with Lex and the Fortress disappeared into the Arctic following the events of last season's finale. Also missing in action is Chloe (Allison Mack), who was snatched up by the Department of Domestic Security and now spends her days helping them decrypt terrorist transmissions in exchange for not going to jail. It seems that in addition to her healing powers, she's now something of a techno-savant, able to do in seconds what would take years for a server farm. (No that's not a pithy comment, she really does develop said abilities out of nowhere - one assumes because of something Brainiac did to her.) On the flip side, newly promoted Luthorcorp CEO Tess Mercer (Cassidy Freeman) is also on the hunt to find Lex, not to mention the mysterious Traveler whom she blames for his disappearance. Rounding out the action then is Lois (Erica Durance), who's got a lead on Chloe's whereabouts, which like all things evil in "Smallville," may be tied to Luthorcorp.
What works: To its credit, jettisoning the whole Lex/Lana/Brainiac albatross seems to hold the promise of potentially opening the show up a little. In other words, actually putting Clark on the path to become the man we all know he's destined to be.
What doesn't: Now in its eighth season, "Smallville" has reached that critic-proof status where you pretty much either follow the gospel of the show or you don't. Is it silly that in its 153rd episode, people who don't know Clark's secret are still getting knocked unconscious so that it conveniently allows those who do to speak freely? Absolutely. Is it worth getting fired up about? Not really. Is the show's mythology now just a Scotch Taped cross-section of mysterious pregnancies, switched bodies, faked deaths and cosmic reset buttons? Without a doubt. Again, is it worth starting a drum beat over? Nope. Is all the goodwill that came from the show's early years - in which fate made Clark and Lex brothers and a certain girl literally made the former weak in the knees - nearly snuffed out? Probably. Should I make a fuss about it? No. But it definitely makes me sad.
The bottom line: Do you still follow the gospel of the show?
SUPERNATURAL (The CW)
(Thursdays at 9:00/8:00c beginning tonight)
The network's description: "DEAN RETURNS It's four months later and Dean (Jensen Ackles) wakes in a pine box. He's been freed from Hell. He has a joyful reunion with Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Bobby (Jim Beaver), but it isn't long before the three wonder what exactly pulled Dean from Hell and what it will want in return. Kim Manners directed the episode written by Eric Kripke. / MEG AND AGENT HENRICKSEN RETURN TO HAUNT SAM AND DEAN Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jenson Ackles) are stunned when the spirits of Meg (guest star Nikki Aycox) and Agent Henricksen (guest star C. Malik Whitfield) appear and accuse the Winchesters of failing them. Although rattled, the brothers must pull together to save Bobby (Jim Beaver), who is too crippled with guilt to fight off the angry ghosts of the young children he couldn't save. Phil Sgriccia directed the episode. Written by Sera Gamble."
What did they leave out? Get ready for a huge expansion to the "Supernatural" mythology.
The plot in a nutshell: It's been four months since Dean (Jenson Ackles), having sold his soul to the demon Lilith to save his brother Sam (Jared Padalecki), had his marker called in. Lucky for him, someone or something has just smuggled his soul out of hell and back into his body. And so - in a genuinely creepy sequence - after digging himself out of his own grave, Dean tries to reconnect with Sam and Bobby (the always great to see Jim Beaver) only to find both have gone through some changes: Sam's taken on their father's role of reckless loner, leaving a trail of pretty girls behind him (including "Wildfire's" Genevieve Cortese); while Bobby's been hitting the bottle pretty hard. And as you'd guess, they're not that quick to believe that Dean is back all shiny and new. Even Dean is a little skeptical himself, especially when he notices a handprint scar on his shoulder or the fact radios, TV sets and windows randomly explode around him. Bobby suggests they reach out to a nearby psychic (Traci Dinwiddie, yet another supermodel the boys always seem to stumble across) only to watch her pay a horrifying price for gazing upon Castiel (Misha Collins), the person behind all the hocus-pocus. What follows is... well, I won't spoil - or can't actually as the screener literally spelled out three things not to say about the two episodes provided for review. In any case the result of said event sets Sam and Dean on an entirely new path, one which continues in the season's second episode as the "Rising of the Witnesses" (the ghosts of those that Sam, Dean and Bobby couldn't save) signals the first battle in their new war.
What works: The new addition to the "Supernatural" universe proves to be exceedingly clever, if only because it gives us a new window into the character of Dean. Not surprisingly it's hard to talk about this using vagaries and allusions but suffice it to say Dean's reaction to this revelation is decidedly, well... Dean. It's also a testament to the actors, writers and so forth that even with a shake up to its mythology, the show never strays too far from its two-brothers-with-guns-and-Zeppelin premise. Whether it be Sam returning Dean's necklace without hesitation or Dean remarking about Sam's new iPod dock in the car, "You were supposed to take care of her, not douche her up!" - it really is just about these two boys. Plus kicking demon ass - "As in apocalypse, apocalypse?" Dean quips about their latest predicament. "The four horsemen, Pestilence, $5 a gallon gas apocalypse?" - and cool toys - Sam: "You built a [ghost proof] panic room?" Bobby: "I had a weekend off."
What doesn't: The second episode gets a little too pat in places - haven't we seen the why-didn't-you-save-me-lecture from beyond before? - but in the end it serves its purpose.
The bottom line: Every year my enjoyment of this show continues to grow.