Even when a show has as dramatic a finale as last season's Smallville, you can't help but wonder - did these guys set up something they're going to pay off, or is the season premiere just going to be a big, disappointing mess?
But the show comes through this year with flying colors. From the opening shots to final cliffhanger, this is good TV. It's compelling, it's chock full of emotion and development, and damned if they don't make you think at least three main characters are dead.
The closing of last season introduced a favorite of Superman fans - the evil Bizarro, Clark Kent's exact opposite - and came up with a way to fit him into both the standard Superman framework and that of this incarnation.
We found out last year that Chloe might be a "meteor freak" herself - and that paid off in spades over the finale and premiere episodes.
We also know that Supergirl (Laura Vandervoort) is going to be a force this season, and in this episode actually does the unthinkable - convinces Lex to turn himself in to the cops. After the last few seasons' set up of taking Lex closer and closer to the edge of absolute unredeemability, this is a treat. What more moral and ethical crises will push him back in the direction we know is his eventual destiny?
By the end of the premiere, there are more questions than answers, but everything left unbearably unsettled at the end of last season has been answered, at least enough to keep up happy and watching.
For a show that set out to merely put a classic superhero tale into a different focus, Smallville continues to surprise and excite. The writing is sharp; the characters continue to grow and grow up; and both fans of the comic and those less familiar with the legend of Superman can hardly be less than intrigued.
I already miss Annette O'Toole, whose name does not appear in this season's main credits. Hopefully she'll make some appearances, and hopefully Kara will be a character that lives up to her early promise.