At various times throughout the nearly 10-season history of Smallville, I’ve been its biggest defender (especially during its early years) and its harshest critic (during its middle years). The eighth season left me cold despite scattered bright spots, but the ninth season really hit the ground running and never let up. Its tenth and final season, culminating in Friday’s airing of the 200th episode, is on track to be the show’s best (despite a few silly stumbles, which seem doomed to be par for this show’s course, no matter how mature it gets).
Season 10, Episode 1: “Lazarus”
The season premiere, “Lazarus,” found Clark being challenged yet again in the Fortress of Solitude by the voice of his long-dead Kryptonian father, Jor-El, who remains certain that Clark will never be the man Jor-El sent him to Earth to be. It’s a classic case of the show’s frustrating penchant for inconsistency — the classic second season episode “Rosetta” (guest-starring Christopher Reeve!) revealed that Jor-El had sent Clark to Earth to rule it rather than save it, so why is Jor-El suddenly concerned that Clark can’t be a hero? Sillier still is that Jor-El locked away the Superman costume made for Clark by his Earth mother, Martha Kent (Annette O’Toole). Why? Jor-El obviously had no problem with Clark running around dressed in black with a silver “S” emblazoned across his chest last season, so what’s the point of suddenly throwing a galactic fit over Clark wearing it in red and gold against a blue background with a cape? It’s not as if the suit is some kind of Kryptonian artifact that Jor-El doesn’t feel Clark is ready to wear. It basically boils down to, “I’m not going to let you wear the colorful little outfit your mommy made you! Take that, Kal-El!”
Another tangent, if I may. The show’s Jor-El is voiced by Terence Stamp, who played General Zod in the Christopher Reeve movies. Since Tom Welling played Jor-El in the third season episode “Relic,” and since Tom Welling sounds nothing like Terence Stamp, I always assumed the show’s “Jor-El” was really going to turn out to be Zod, who was “guiding” Clark with bad information and would eventually try to possess Clark and rule our planet through the son of Jor-El. It would have been an awesome twist to the legend, but the original Smallville producers (replaced in 2008) never realized how cool that could have been and instead seemed okay with just allowing Jor-El to be a jerk.
I was always bothered by that inconsistency. If Tom Welling played Jor-El, then why didn’t Jor-El sound like Tom Welling? The new producers haven’t exactly been innocent of confusing things even more, having hired Julian Sands — who looks nothing like Tom Welling and sounds nothing like Terence Stamp — to play a clone of Jor-El in last season’s “Kandor” episode.
Anyway, back to the season premiere. Lex Luthor’s replacement, Tess Mercer (Cassidy Freeman), wakes up in a secret lab to find that the massive burns on her face from last season’s finale have miraculously healed — and that she’s mysteriously alive, when she should be dead. She finds a hidden room of vats filled with grotesquely failed clones of Lex, meeting a little redheaded boy (whom she takes back to her mansion at episode’s end) and an older, twisted version of the missing Mr. Luthor played awesomely by Canadian actor Mackenzie Gray. (It’s unfair to ask any actor to put on the shoes regrettably left empty by Michael Rosenbaum’s departure at the end of the seventh season, but Gray finds a way to tap into the darkest corners of Lex’s heart without losing grasp of the tragedies of Lex’s inherently flawed humanity.)
The Lex clone knocks out Tess, kidnaps Lois Lane (Erica Durance), and gives Clark a classic moral dilemma — rescue the woman he loves from being burned alive in the same cornfield where Lex once rescued Clark, or stop the sabotaged Daily Planet globe from spinning off the roof to pancake the pedestrians in the streets below.
Clark pulls a Man of Steel and does both. Even though the effects on this show are often lacking (which is understandable given its low budget), I always enjoy the ideas behind them — the transition from cornfields to city lights with Clark’s face in profile as he zooms to Metropolis after whirlwinding out the flames surrounding Lois was done particularly well, even if the globe rescue looked more than a little off.
I also had some issues with photography choices, from the weird color casts in the cornfield in the opening scene to the beautifully acted reunion between Clark and his Earth father, Jonathan Kent (John Schneider), at the end. I know they’re trying to set off these surreal scenes visually, but less is usually more. The Clark/Jonathan scene in particular had a strange yellow glow to it that almost interfered with the actors. We know Jonathan’s no longer alive. We know Jonathan’s not really on the farm talking to Clark. So why obscure John and Tom behind yellow filters?
Meanwhile, we’ve got Oliver Queen (Justin Hartley), the Green Arrow, being brutally interrogated by Rick Flag from the Suicide Squad, while Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack) trades herself to the bad guys in exchange for his freedom (even though he doesn’t know it yet) at the end. What drove me crazy about this whole scenario is that Clark asked Chloe how everyone — including her, Oliver, and the other Justice Society members who’d helped them in the season finale — was doing at the beginning of the episode, and if everyone was safe. It would have been a perfect time for Chloe to say, “Well, Oliver was taken by mysterious assailants,” which would have resulted in Clark zooming to Oliver’s safety and punching said assailants into orbit, but she chose instead to put on Dr. Fate’s helmet and do things her own way. I realize they’re trying to work around the very small handful of episodes Allison Mack will be in this season by keeping her out of the picture as much as possible, but there are smarter ways to handle things. Don’t dumb down your characters just to solve a plot dilemma.
I also love the fact that Lois knows Clark’s secret without Clark knowing that she knows. It’s about time (even though he should have trusted her a long time ago), and Erica played her scenes with Tom with an engaging mix of mischief and wonder. Lois wants to tell him she knows, but she also doesn’t want to be a distraction, and I like how the season is shaping up not only to turn Clark into Superman, but to show Clark and Lois why their love for — and trust in — each other is one of the main ingredients in why Superman is the greatest hero of them all. The writers have to send her running away to Africa to illustrate this, of course, but that’s okay, because it only lasts one episode.
And then we got the big reveal of … Darkseid! The CGI was typical Smallville quality, and I’ve always thought of Darkseid as someone who uses his muscles and might instead of possessing the weak of spirit as a cloud of evil fog, but this show always takes it own liberties with the legend, we’ll see how it all plays out. It does tie in nicely with the appearance of Darkseid’s chief lieutenant, Granny Goodness, last seen knitting outside of Tess’s hospital room in the season finale. How is she connected to Tess’s resurrection?
Not exactly what I was expecting from the season premiere, but it still did a nice job of putting things in motion.
Season 10, Episode 2: “Shield”
I loved this one on so many levels. First of all, we get the Smallville version of DC Comics villain Deadshot. I think turning him into an Old West-style gunslinger was a little lame, but the bit at the end with the official formation of the Suicide Squad was worth it.
I loved all of the Africa stuff, with Lois meeting Carter “Hawkman” Hall (Michael Shanks) and realizing the higher calling behind her love for Clark through the perspective of Carter’s own love for his centuries-old soulmate, Shayera. It’s classic stuff when Lois is comparing Clark to the Egyptian sun god Ra so as not to tip Carter off about who she’s talking about, and then he finally just says, “Why don’t you just ask Clark?” Because again, we get another important step forward not just in Clark’s heroic journey, but in Lois’s, as well, and insight into why those journeys are intertwined. Superman can do his job because he’s got a Lois Lane to make right the things in his world that he can’t always make right for others.
Back in Metropolis, Clark’s new reporter partner, Cat Grant (the absolutely adorable Keri Lynn Pratt), is hiding a secret of her own. And when Clark initially thinks Deadshot’s target is Cat, Tess Mercer helps him see that someone’s really trying to test Clark’s limits, instead.
One of the things I didn’t like about last season was how badly the writers had Clark treat Tess. I know her actions haven’t always been sparked by the purest of intentions, but she’s not a bad person, and she truly does believe in Clark, and she has protected his secret. Freeman is outrageously gorgeous and a wonderful actress, and I hope to see more scenes like these where Clark doesn’t treat Tess like an antagonist.
The bit with Clark catching Deadshot’s projectile and slapping it on Cat’s bulletproof vest to make it look like it was the vest that saved her was priceless, and the special effects in Clark’s rescue of Cat from the exploding car where handled really well, too. I think all the dialogue about the differences between heroes and vigilantes felt too forced, but I understand what they were trying to illustrate.
The coolest bit about this episode, of course, was the ending, which revealed Clark’s new costume — dark boots and jeans, with a blue shirt under a deep red leather jacket with a high collar and a raised “S” emblem on the chest. I want one. (And if I had $2500, I could buy one.)
Season 10, Episode 3: “Supergirl”
Clark’s superpowered Kryptonian cousin, Kara (Laura Vandervoort), arrives in Metropolis on a mission from Jor-El just as Lois returns to try to work things out with Clark. Kara warns Clark that Darkseid will seek to possess him via the doubts that cloud his judgment and keep him from letting go long enough to, among other things, finally learn how to fly.
Darkseid possesses hateful radio personality Gordon Godfrey, who turns the tables on Lois when she unknowingly tries to battle an ancient, intergalactic evil with good old-fashioned journalism (and a sexy leather undercover outfit when she follows him into Club Desaad, named for another of Darkseid’s minions).
The whole “Clark doubts himself and gets a good scolding from Jor-El and/or Kara” bit is getting old, but it’s good to see Laura Vandervoort back in action. She looks amazing in the classic Supergirl colors, and her civilian disguise makes her look shockingly like Lynda Carter’s Diana Prince from the classic Wonder Woman series.
But I think the actor who gets the best material in this episode is Justin Hartley, who is breathtaking in his pitch-perfect resistance to overplaying the chat Oliver has in a church with a photo of his long-dead parents. He just absolutely nails it.
I didn’t like the way Oliver was written in earlier seasons and unfairly held that against Hartley. But last year the writers really allowed Ollie to become the hero and leader I’ve always felt the character to be, and Hartley works as hard for the show (both on screen and off) as anyone. Tonight was perhaps his finest hour as an actor, even if Ollie’s “I am Green Arrow” confession to the press was a blatant ripoff of the end of the first Iron Man movie. I do love the fact that Oliver is drawing a line in the sand by standing up for all the heroes being vilified by the press.
And still the question remains — who will Darkseid possess next?
Season 10, Episode 4: “Homecoming” (200th Episode)
Sometimes a show gathers up every big and little thing that made you love it in the first place and focuses those energies on one glorious hour of television. Smallville did this with its 200th episode Friday night, with the unintentional (and all the more awesome for it) side effect that the bar for the new Superman movie has possibly been raised impossibly high.
Smallville’s high school reunion isn’t easy for either Clark or Lois. The doubts he’s feeling in the present are amplified by his inability to let go of the past, while she worries that she’ll never be able to compete with all the ghosts that still haunt him. Enter Brainiac (James Marsters), the Brain Interactive Construct that last appeared as an evil force from beyond. But Brainiac reveals that Clark and the Legion of Super Heroes didn’t destroy him. In fact, they saved him, and now Brainiac wants to return the favor by showing Clark glimpses of the life he’s been missing in the present and past — building toward an accidental glimpse into one hell of an exciting future.
The early scenes balance heart and humor, with Clark reacting to old memories of Lana and Chloe while Lois can’t figure out why no one at Smallville High remembers her from the five days she was actually a student. Clark can’t see beyond his own fog, but when Brainiac first appears, he’s all hero, offering to sacrifice himself to save his old classmates.
But Brainiac has other plans. He shows Clark how the day Jonathan Kent died was the day Clark began blaming himself for everything. In the present, he reveals the hardships Oliver Queen is enduring in the wake of his decision to go public with being the Green Arrow, and Clark sees that his friend needs his help, his support, and — more than anything else right now — his leadership.
He also sees how much Lois is suffering. When Lois is approached by Greg Arkin (Chad E. Donella), the “Bug Boy” from the show’s second episode ever, Clark demands to be released by Brainiac so he can run to Lois’s rescue. But in doing so, he recklessly touches Brainiac’s Legion ring.
The first person he meets is Lois. Not yet realizing this is Clark from seven years in the past, she drags him into their office and scolds him for not wearing his glasses. Erica is absolutely on fire in every possible way in this scene, perfectly playing Lois with the sweet, lusty gusto of loyalty and love. And as Lois rushes away to a waiting helicopter to take her to her interview with the mayor, Clark finds himself in an elevator with … himself.
And it’s just one of the most awesome and iconic Superman moments of all time. Present Clark, clad as usual in a blue T-shirt and jeans, can’t believe his future self looks so uptight and nerdy, with slicked back hair and big, thickly framed glasses.
But the second Future Clark speaks, he’s all action, all authority, and pure, 100% bad-ass.
Future Clark: “You’re right on time.”
Present Clark: “You knew I’d be here?”
Future Clark: “Time travel. Think it through.” (Tom’s delivery of this line? Awesome.)
Present Clark: “Because you were me when you went through this, and I’m …”
Future Clark: “Well done, my man.”
Present Clark: “How did I become so uptight? And nerdy?”
Future Clark: “There’s no time to chat about how, where, and why. We’ve been through weirder things. I need you on the roof.”
Present Clark: “When did I start taking orders?”
Future Clark: “There’s a nuclear reactor about to blow in an abandoned plant on the outside of town. I can’t be two places at once.”
Present Clark: “But if you knew it was going to happen, why didn’t you stop it?”
Future Clark: “You never would have experienced all this, and you never would have become me.”
Present Clark: “That’s too bad.”
Future Clark: “Roof. Now.”
And out he zooms, flying in a blue and crimson flash across town while Present Clark watches him contain a nuclear explosion from the Daily Planet‘s window.
“That’s what I become,” he says, finally getting it.
But the noise on the roof tells him Lois is in trouble, as Present Clark rushes to save her in the show’s homage to the helicopter rescue from Superman: The Movie. Lois, still not certain why Clark’s not wearing his glasses at work, knocks out the pilot with a well-placed elbow and can’t stop kissing her savior, who finally realizes what he should have known all along — that he can trust her not just with anything, but with everything.
How adorable and sexy is Erica here? I love it! “What are you doing?” she asks him, waving circles around her eyes to mimic glasses. While she’s yapping about the pilot as she hops out of the chopper, Clark brings her close. “Lois,” he says. “You protected my secret.”
Cue the kiss hotter than the nuclear explosion Future Clark just contained across town, and her breathless reply of, “What else was I gonna do? I’d do anything for you. Hardly a news flash. Thank you.” More kissing. “You drive me crazy.”
Brainiac appears again, reminding Clark not only to let go of past failings but also to stop being afraid of the future.
Back at the class reunion, just when you think Bug Boy is going to do something awful to Lois, the show takes a lovely turn. Bug Boy’s “message for Clark Kent” isn’t threatening at all; he wants Lois to tell Clark that Clark is the reason he got his life back together, and that not every town has a hometown hero like Clark Kent. “It’s the kind of guy he is,” Lois says, as Clark finally accepts everything Brainiac has been trying to tell him. It’s time to stop being afraid. It’s time to learn that when you push people away because you think you’re protecting them, you’re really just hurting them even more. Let them in. Be who you are, and let them be there for you, and let them know you appreciate them.
Clark and Lois begin a slow dance just as the lights go up and the reunion ends, but it’s not over yet.
First, we get Clark showing up on the set of Ollie’s latest television appearance, where the interviewer is talking down to him like he’s a dog. Just seeing Clark standing there gives Ollie the strength he needs to realize he was right for coming out publicly as the Green Arrow, and it’s just a lovely moment of seeing how much Superman’s influence means to the other heroes who look up to him.
Try not to cry during the next scene, when Clark, dressed in his new red and blue uniform, visits Jonathan Kent’s grave and buries Jonathan’s beloved watch in front of the gravestone, recalling the way Clark dropped a handful of dirt on Jonathan’s casket back in episode 100 in the fifth season. It’s another moving moment of seeing Clark let go of the guilt without forgetting the people whose love and example made him who he is.
And finally, the episode finds a way to one-up itself yet again. Lois comes into the barn to talk to Clark about what she knows, but he has other plans. The disco ball hanging from the ceiling lights up, and the soft, lovely notes of Kim Taylor’s “Baby, I need You” wafts through the rafters, as Clark invites Lois to share the dance he made her miss at the class reunion.
Watch how she initially smiles and then holds it back, not sure if she should let herself go with it, not sure if she can trust it.
“I’m sory we missed our dance,” Clark says.
“You don’t have have to worry about me, Clark. If anybody understands deadlines and urgent things, it’s me.”
“I’m not worried about you,” he says, knowing he no longer has to be. “I missed you.”
“Oh,” she says, barely able to speak. “Well. I don’t know; neither of us is primed for Dancing with the Stars, and speaking strictly as friends, I don ‘t know if this is such a good idea …”
“Lois,” he says softly, but firmly. “Get over here.”
But talking is her defense mechanism. “I’m not sure how we’re going to make this work without the jukebox nostalgia and the balloons and …”
“Shut up? Right. Shut up.”
As they begin their dance, he apologizes for stepping on her feet.
“Hey, I’m the one who put my feet under yours,” she says.
“Let’s try this.” He lifts her up so she can put her feet on top of his.
“I love you,” he tells her.
“I love you too,” she says, and it’s one of the most perfectly delivered lines in the history of all things filmed. Listen to how her voice cracks, like she can’t believe she finally gets to say it after all these years, and that she finally gets to say it to him, because of who and what he is, and because she knows he truly loves her, too. Watch how she instinctively looks away, the brave reporter reduced to a middle school girl again. It’s just unbearably beautiful and sweet.
With her face warm and safe against his shoulder, she says, “Clark, there’s something we need to talk about it.”
“Just for now,” he says, teasing her hair with his cheek, “can we leave tomorrow until tomorrow, and just have this?”
“Mmm-hmm,” she purrs into his chest, and so they dance, and so the disco ball gets closer and closer to Clark’s head … because they’re both so lost in the moment that they don’t realize Clark is floating them up, up and away toward it.
Whew! Truly one of the most iconic and romantic Superman moments you could ever ask for.
In summary, we’ve got Clark accepting the mantle of hero, Clark letting go of the past, Clark telling Lois he loves her, and Clark realizing she’s the key to the accomplishments of his future. Will the show find a way to backtrack from all of this in the coming weeks? Undoubtedly so, and it’s going to make me really angry when they do. But for now it’s impossible not to revel in it, and as I said before, Tom and Erica were so amazing in this episode that I really feel sorry for the actors cast as these two characters in the new movie. The question for Nolan and Snyder must become this: “If we can’t do it as well as Tom and Erica do it on Smallville, then why are we even doing it?”
Congratulations to the Smallville cast and crew of past and present for making it to 200 episodes and for giving us the glimpse into Superman’s future we’ve been waiting for. I couldn’t possibly have loved this landmark episode more.