When a mysterious device allows those holding it to cross into a parallel universe its time to send in the Bishops and the F.B.I. right? No, this isn't the plot for the newest Fringe episode but for a surprisingly good episode of Smallville.
That's right Fox doesn't own the creative rights to parallel universes so Smallville takes a page out of J.J. Abram's Fringe handbook and puts their own spin on the idea of an alternate reality. So instead of harmonic rods and Corexiphan induced federal agents Smallville puts their own Kryptonian twist on the idea that there is two of everything in the latest episode entitled "Luthor".
Since Tess is now known as a Luthor she inherits a certain piece of Kryptonian technology, from Lionel Luthor's secret collection, called the mirror box. While track down a lead about the missing Lex clone with Clark the mirror box falls out of Tess's purse to his surprise. A betrayed feeling Clark Kent accidentally activates the relic from his home world that takes him to an alternate, darker, reality. In this new version of Earth Clark is found by the Luthors, not the Kents, during his crash in Smallville as an infant and is raised in Lionel's image as Clark Luthor. Also, unlike Clark's heroic persona 'The Blur', on this other side his alter ego is the masochistic 'Ultraman' who kills anyone who stands in his way. To make matters worse when Clark Kent unintentionally send himself to the other universe he also sends Clark Luthor to his world.
"Luthor" had enough story to be split up into two episodes--one for each reality--yet shockingly enough Smallville's writers were able balance the two and make it work. Now with that in mind they weren't able to explore the little differences between the two worlds that make the show Fringe as great as it is, but Smallville gets a pass because of the time constraints. The writers still do get to have some fun with some different darker angles like: Clark having murdered Lex, Oliver and Lois being an item [who both hate him], or weirdest of all Clark and Tess being romantically involved (regardless of both being legally related).
Though "Luthor" had some tricky concepts to execute, even for Smallville, again the episode was enhanced by the remarkable range shown by it's star Tom Welling. Welling's take on this possible Clark Luthor puts his portrayal of Bizarro, from seasons 6 & 7, to shame. Like Anna Torv's two different Olivias in Fringe, Welling makes the audience believe there were two different actors in this episode he is that good. Since Welling fully commits to each performance (equally) the audience recognises their regular comforting Mr. Kent, while also being terrified by the frightening outbursts from his opposite, Clark Luthor. However, as great as Tom Welling's double dose of Clark is he has one of the best co-stars Smallville has ever had to make him and the episode even better.... JOHN GLOVER
That's right the legendary (at least I think so) John Glover himself returns to Smallville as the powerful Lionel Luthor. Since Glover's absences after Lionel's death in season 7, as well as Michael Rosenbaum's exit, the show hasn't quite been the same. With both Luthors gone from the Smallville universe it did allow certain positive for the show to happen like Justin Hartley becoming a series regular and more importantly Erica Durance having more a central role. The trade-off was losing the only two formidable villains for Clark to face on his road to becoming Superman. Well the writers came up with a great idea to end "Luthor" with an intriguing twist that teases at Lionel returning to Smallville for good (maybe). It may not be the kinder version of Lionel, that was used as Jor-El's vessel, but with the darker version of Lionel sneaking his way into Clark Kent's universe it opens up so many possibilities and directions the show can now take. Fingers crossed that Glover is back for more episodes, emphasis on the plural, and is able to lure Rosenbaum back.
This episode had both an exciting cool new direction with the multi-universe concept, but also had a nostalgic feeling to it. It was fun to see the LuthorCorp penthouse office set being used again. And even cooler is when Lionel outfits Clark's fortress set with the similar tech that he had back in season 2 when he was investigating the Kawatche caves origins. For the most part, as a fan, it was a treat to watch John Glover do his thing again. Personally I didn't start watching Smallville until it's fourth season was ending, but as when watched seasons 1-3 to catch up on the show you can see a noticeable difference after Glover was upgraded to series regular in the second season.
Smallville's producers should re-watch "Luthor" again to see how much more this show can be with the right people evolved and then write Michael Rosenbaum a big fat cheque so he and Welling can have the face-off that everyone wants to see.
Andrew Burns loves film and comics, and can be found writing about when those worlds converge. You can follow him on Twitter at @myAndrewBurns.