After a very disappointing mess of an episode last week Smallville brings back Aquaman for a little help getting back on track. With the series star, Tom Welling, both in front and behind the camera for this week's episode there was less of a chance for back to back disasters. Thankful this was true, yet "Patriot" still has its fair share of head scratching moments, even with Kal-El at the helm.
"Patriot" is a decent attempt to show why the new vigilante registration act (or VRA) doesn't work in favour for the people, but rather works for the government's own agendas. With the added public pressure for the first masked hero to sign up for the VRA, Clark realizes that if the Blur registers it would send the people the right message. With Oliver's secret identity already public he signs up instead to give Clark and the rest of Watchtower an inside look at the VRA and what they are really up to. Only after Oliver signs up does he find out that the new man in charge of the VRA, General Slade Wilson, only has plans to imprison these heroes. Arthur Curry (aka AC or Aquaman) and his new wife Mera, already on to the VRA, have been destroying their secret prisons disguised as oil rigs only to be seen as terrorists in the public's eye. Clark pays AC a visit to find out the truth and get Oliver back.
With a new character from the DC universe being introduced almost weekly this season it's nice to see some that actually work for the plot. Alan Richson guest stars, again, reprising his role as the fan favourite under water crime fighter, AC / Aquaman. However, this time he doesn't come alone as Elena Satine is cast as his wife Mera. Since both AC and Mera are very serious about their cause it doesn't make for the typical happy go lucky version of Richson for his return to Smallville. As much as I would have liked Richson, Welling and Justin Hartley exchange one-liners again AC new tone suits the episode and is a refreshing change. As for the introduction of Mera into the Smallville universe the writers seemed to find the right balance for establishing her character without spending any unnecessary time on her origins.
As for the other guest star in "Patriot" Battlestar Galactica alum, Michael Hogan, is cast as General Slade Wilson. Slade (aka Deathstroke) is yet another DC villain tied into the Darkseid angle for this season. So far Hogan has played the most formidable opponent this season after the abysmal Granny Goodness and Godfrey the local talk radio host. I'm not familiar with the costumed character of Slade in the comics, but him as an US General was an interesting angle; especially when he started referring to the vigilantes to Stalin, Hitler, and Saddam. This different approach was unique, making it seem like the vigilantes are a treat from within, with some kind of hidden agenda; to rise as saviours only to turn into tyrants once they secured their power. My only problem with Slade, as a character, is the same problem I have with all the villains so far this season, their knowledge of kryptonite. It doesn't make sense that everyone knows that kryptonite is Clark's weakness and even stranger that they know there are different kinds and each of their different properties. I guess it's easier than trying to write magic into the show again.
The little misses and awkward moments, a trend so far this season, still seem to make their way into this episode. Justin Hartley's little workout montage was completely unnecessary, looking like just another excuse for the producers to get his shirt off. The other little hiccup in the episode was when Lois gets so upset about Clark being out of contact for a couple of days. It seemed like a big leap, even for Lois, but by the end of the episode I understood that it was more of a minor plot device to get Clark to tell her and everyone at Watchtower about the 'darkness'. Which for the record, is still sounding lame because it's not completely making sense yet. All of these minor episode glitches would normally upset a fan like myself but since Welling directed this episode, is an executive produce for two different series (Smallville & Hellcats), as well as be the show's lead, he gets a little leeway in that quality department. With all of these extra responsibilities I give Welling even more credit to be able to do all of these different jobs and still keep his Superman physique. One thing Welling made sure he didn't screw up on was making sure that his snazzy leather superman jacket was open during a stunt, when they use the squibs on his chest for gun fire, so it didn't get ruined. But I bet some fans wouldn't mind if something unfortunate happened to it, to make way for the cape.
"Patriot", again, was a decent rebound episode after the mess of "Abandoned", but the most exciting part was the preview that followed after. You get a small glimpse of John Glover returning as Lionel Luthor for the next episode, aptly title "Luthor". With one of Smallville's strongest past characters returning the episode should be very promising, while also giving some more much needed insight into this 'darkness' we've heard so much about.
Andrew Burns loves film and comics, and can be found writing about when those worlds converge. You can follow him on Twitter at @myAndrewBurns.