While ''Ambush'' may very well finish with a literal bang, I couldn't help but feel underwhelmed by Lois Lane's family reunion and the return of the Suicide Squad. The thing that bugged me the most about this episode - and it's something that bugs me on a general level - is when Smallville comes across too frilly nilly, there's a forced sit-com feel to the proceedings that completely drains every single ounce of drama and weight from a scene. Almost every moment between General Lane and Clark felt off; the dialogue was completely flat and any attempt to muster up some suspense about the vigilante registration act loses out to the 'oh isn't this wacky!' score that drowns out both actors.
Even though last week slowed things down to an almost snail-like degree, I appreciated the attempts made at simply focusing on our main characters. It was a nice change of pace and scenery, but we're back in the thick of things once again, and there are more than enough worrying signs that the show-runners have not learned their lessons. I can almost taste the villainy overload already: Suicide Squad, Darkseid, Granny Goodness, Lex Luthor, Tess Mercer (c'mon, you know it's inevitable). The writers know they have a lot on their plate this season, and so they're making huge strides with certain developments for the sake of the overall arc and the plethora of villains that will pepper (and no doubt complicate) the rest of the season.
What good is a villain if we're not emotionally invested in our heroes? There's some considerable effort made here to bind Tess Mercer to her new role as Watchtower. I really enjoyed all of Oliver's references to their rich history together, especially referring to Watchtower as an island of sorts, and Cassidy and Justin always spark whenever they share screen-time. But none of it feels natural. Oliver can't seem to stand Tess near the beginning of the hour and yet considers her as close as family before the credits. It feels like a strategic chess move to shoehorn Tess into the thick of it just in time for the mid-season finale and her ultimate betrayal, willingly or unwillingly.
What of mini-Lex? Last week Tess had her hands full with Lex's clone. She barely left the mansion. We saw Alexander shave off all of his hair and embrace his true calling. This week, Tess can't get enough of Watchtower. She even brought in some of her own furniture! There's no natural flow to the episodes and it's exploring this kind of transition (in this instance, something as mundane as moving furniture) that could do wonders for the likes of Tess. We need to see this character as a human being at some stage otherwise what's the point? Even with only two separate story-lines this season for her character, it's already proving too much as they're such contrasting arcs that any progress made on one side is completely undermined by her actions the following week on the other.
As for the rest of the episode, it never really takes off. Erica Durance gives it her all when confronting her father about the relationship she has with Clark, but his presence only serves as a nuisance and not the reality check I'm sure the writers intended him to be. Lucy doesn't really have a purpose in this episode...but at least she's pretty. This episode felt like your typical episode of Smallville from a few season back, replete with sloppy character work, perfunctory storytelling and hammy acting.
Come on, Smallville, you're better than this.