Season two of the WB network's popular Smallville upheld its excellent ratings by adhering religiously to the same mixture as before: combining tantalizing elements of the Superman legend with the sort of "teen angst" indigenous to such series as Beverly Hills 90210 and Dawson's Creek, all the while effectively weaving a mythos of its own. The first episode of the new season resolved the cliffhanger left over from season one, with teenager Clark Kent (Tom Welling) -- who 13 years earlier had crash-landed in a spaceship in the tiny Kansas farming community of Smallville -- rescuing local high school homecoming queen Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk) from a devastating tornado. At the same time, local playboy and aspiring business mogul Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum), heir apparent to the billion-dollar LutherCorp firm, forgot his differences with his ruthless CEO father, Lionel Luthor (John Glover, graduating from "recurring" to "regular" status), long enough to rescue his dad from a certain-death situation. Also returning to the series were John Schneider and Annette O'Toole as farming couple Jonathan and Martha Kent, adoptive parents to Clark; Allison Mack as budding journalist and teenaged paranormal specialist Chloe Sullivan, who by now had resigned herself to being merely Clark's friend rather than his sweetheart; and Sam Jones III as Clark's best bud, Pete Ross, who a few episodes into season two became the only person other than Jonathan and Martha to be apprised that Clark was actually a "visitor" from the planet Krypton. Gone were Eric Johnson as Whitney Fordham, Clark's rival for the hand and heart of Lana Lang; and Tom O'Brien as unscrupulous reporter Roger Nixon, who was conveniently killed off just as he was poised to reveal Clark's true identity to the world.
Among the more prominent of the new cast members was Emmanuelle Vaugier as Dr. Helen Bryce, an anger-control specialist hired by Lionel Luthor to curb Lex's violent temper. Ultimately, Lex and Helen would fall in love and marry, but this union was sorely threatened by events occurring in the second season's cliffhanger finale. New plot complications involved another of Clark's newly emerging superpowers, "heat vision," and the introduction of red kryptonite, a mineral indigenous to Clark's home planet, which in true hallucinogenic fashion had the capability of transforming our straight-arrow hero into a violently rebellious teenaged punk. In other developments, the orphaned Lana Lang discovered that her biological father was still alive, while Martha Kent went to work for LutherCorp as Lionel Luthor's personal assistant. In the extraordinary season-closing cliffhanger, Clark Kent received mystical messages from his late Krypton-dwelling father, Jor-El, informing him that he was destined to rule the world. Choosing instead to continue striving for "human" normality, Clark was moved to a desperate act that had devastating consequences on his friends and loved ones -- and pushed him into a dangerous dependence on the addictive red kryptonite, which led him into a life of crime in the wicked city of Metropolis. Hoping to retrieve his adopted son, Jonathan entered into a bargain with the spirit of Jor-El, briefly developing superpowers of his own, while wife Martha mourned the death of her unborn child (one of those aforementioned devastating consequences). And as if that wasn't enough, Lex Luthor found himself on a plane that was doomed to crash -- a disaster that may or may not have been engineered by someone very, very close to him. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi