"Prophecy" is two stories in one. The first would make many cringe, but the second is definitely worth following. The episode starts with Clark meeting Lois at The Daily Planet. She is surrounded by a sea of paper from a potential big story she stumbled upon while finalizing preparation for their upcoming wedding. What follows is the typical fast-paced conversation used to deliver details (the writers believe) that we need to know in order to understand what will follow (a ten-year run and a slew of writers would do that to any show). My sirens went blazing when Clark seemed to embrace Kryptonian values surrounding weddings. Since when did the Fortress qualify as his father? And even if it did, since when did Clark feel so Kryptonian? When his powers were transferred to Lois I was relieved to see the plot device exposed. This is the less appealing story.
The next scene shows our favorite archer in his quest for the Bow of Orion. No time is wasted in the steps leading Oliver to the specific location, so we directly see him going down a rope in some sort of cave. I have to say I liked it. It spared us from some contrived explanation. When he reaches the bottom he stumbles upon Kara, Clark's cousin, who is held captive by the safeguard traps put in place to protect the bow. She vanished at the beginning of the season after helping Clark during his first encounter with The Darkness, so it makes sense to find her trying to get hold of the weapon that can defeat the dark force. I chose to ignore the mythology linking the mighty hunter to The Darkness. This is the more appealing story.
The Super-Lois storyline didn't quite work for two main reasons: Clark's ambiguous relationship with Jor-El and the presence of the Toyman. Smallville established very early on that it chronicled the story of a farm boy from Kansas who only happened to be an alien. In the process, they made Jonathan Kent the father figure and Jor-El the untrustworthy biological father with hidden agendas. The result is that ten years later, Clark is still unable to make us really believe he understands Jor-El's wishes let alone care for the memory of his father left in the Fortress. He is very much aware of the Fortress's power but that is about it. This is why I was surprised when he went ahead and presented Lois to Jor-El, and why I wasn't surprised when his mistrust of Jor-El's intentions showed after the power transfer, even though he knew it would last only until sunset.
The Toyman didn't help the story. The thing with human villains is that they always run the risk of appearing like caricatures. What works for The Darkness doesn't for a human villain. The former is pure evil and that's it. Its minions don't need to worry about appearing as one-dimensional characters and we don't wonder about them because we know they are being used by the dark lord or lady for that matter. There is a reason why Smallville went to the trouble of showing Lex Luthor's gradual transformation. Whatever Smallville's Lex does, there is no way he will seem like a caricature.
In the Bow of Orion storyline, the villain had no character issues and the old lady from the orphanage could afford to be as evil as she wanted without being ridiculous, but that is not why the story ultimately worked. It did work because the two protagonists — Oliver and Kara — had issues of their own, so the viewer while following them in their verbal jousting and riddle solving was wondering what will happen. Oliver ultimately failed to solve his problem and Kara chose the solution less appealing to her. This is basic storytelling well executed, with some superior Jor-El speech to Kara to make it even better. I liked it so much that I am more than willing to turn a blind eye on the Orion mythology and the inscription written in "English" on the bow!
There were random bits of scenes that I liked very much: Clark and Lois in the Fortress holding hands; the nonverbal communication between Tess and Clark when Super-Lois left them both in the tower; and of course the close-up of Superman's costume! In spite of its issues, I must say the Super-Lois story reached its goals beyond everybody's expectations. Lois was humbled by what Clark has to deal with so much so that she couldn't accept being a distraction to him by becoming his wife. I didn't see that one coming...