Nothing says an American Thanksgiving quite like your sister and your four star general father walking in on you and your alien boyfriend about to do the horizontal boogie. Or is it football and turkey? I can never remember. But in Smallville it's just your typical holiday for Lois Lane. Michael Ironside and Peyton List guest star in "Ambush", returning to Smallville -- both for the first time since season 4 -- as Lois's father General Sam Lane and sister Lucy.
With an even amount of hit and miss episodes this season, Smallville's seventh episode, "Ambush", puts this final season back on track (even though I've said that before). Lois & Clark's hot and heavy period of their relationship is interrupted when her father and sister pop by unannounced for Thanksgiving dinner. Clark, already being in hot water for dating daddy's little girl, butts heads with General Lane over the new vigilante registration act and its up to Lois to try and keep the peace. Meanwhile, the Suicide Squad is back and targeting the General because of his involvement supporting said vigilante registration act. All of this puts Clark in a tight spot having him try to balance being nice to his potential father in-law, or standing up to what he believes in against the vigilante registration, while still being the Blur in between.
"Ambush" makes good use of its two guest stars, Ironside and Peyton, making them central to the episode's story while still adding to the show's mythology. The scenes between Tom Welling and Ironside help represent both sides of this new vigilante registration act. Because each character is passionate on where they stand on that issue, it makes for great performances between the two seasoned actors in pretty much every scene. When the General has Clark investigated by the Pentagon, the debate gets more intense and Welling really lets loose. It's always nice to see a nice guy like Clark get pushed to his breaking point because it doesn't normally happen, unless he is dealing with Jor-El or some villain. As for the other guest star, Peyton, she mostly has scenes with Erica Durance. I loved seeing the two sisters get into arguments back and forth but, because the episode focused mostly on the new registration act, Lucy & Lois only really got one main scene together.
The episode starts a new direction that this season will probably take with the Suicide Squad being at war against the American government's new vigilante registration act; and having Clark and his other super-powered buddies caught in the middle. Now I've always been more of a Marvel guy than a DC fan. So the first thing that came to mind when Smallville's writers decided to take this super-hero registration angle was that they were borrowing/copying Marvel's idea from a couple years ago: the idea that all super-heroes had to publicly enlist or they were breaking the law. I hadn't being an avid comic book fan or reader for well over a decade but in 2008, when Iron Man came out, I started buying new issues of Marvel comics for a couple of months. Basically, Marvel had a similar storyline that divided most of the big names in the Marvel universe against each other and had good guy vs. good guy -- most notably, Iron Man being pro-registration and Captain America being anti-registration, and that had the two Avenger teammates at war with each other. Like Marvel's Tony Stark, Smallville's Oliver Queen is an unmasked hero in the public eye with billions at his disposal, making him the perfect poster boy to help the government get the rest of the heroes to come forward.
In any case, I hope this new vigilante story arc doesn't pit hero against hero, as interesting as it would be. Smallville just doesn't have the episodes left in the series to do it properly. Granted, when Marvel did this similar storyline it was in the comic book medium, but it still took them over a year, spanning over 20 titles and close to 100 issues (maybe more), to tell that story accurately and do it justice. This would have been a great story arc for season 9, instead of the whole General Zod debacle. The writers could take this registration in a different direction and use Marvel's example as more of an inspiration than a guide to follow.
This episode has another reflection of this series' earliest episodes, a turning point for many storylines and the end for others: the scene where Clark is chopping fire wood by only using his fist was fun to watch, since they hadn't done that stunt since the first season; the hint at Clark possibly popping the big question down the line; but maybe most importantly, the end of the Talon set and Lois' apartment. It could make way for a new set to be built or most likely just an excuse to have Lois and Clark living together. There is only one minor glitch in the episode: when the Suicide Squad is tracking General Lane at the beginning of the episode but still needing Lucy to plant a tracking device on him later.
Aside from that small oversight, "Ambush" is a solid stand-alone episode. With rumours that Smallville's special effects budget is much smaller than previous years, it seems like the producers have learned from their mistakes this year (ex. "Supergirl") and are starting to pace themselves. I just hope they don't continue to add new arcs for the season just so they can fit everything they want to do into the show before the series is done.
Andrew Burns loves film and comics, and can be found writing about when those worlds converge. You can follow him on Twitter at @myAndrewBurns.