“I don’t think Clark Kent can save the entire world”
“He can’t. But I think we both know who can.”
- Clark Kent and Lex Luthor, “Finale”
Every season finale I look forward to the incredible “Previously on Smallville” montages at the beginning of the episode. Ever since season four, I believe, these things have been the best produced videos I’ve seen for any television show. They just perfectly tied together everything that has happened thus far and it really makes the finale seem like a big deal. I could only imagine what they would put together for the end of the series. And it did not disappoint!
Last week I discussed how I was hoping that the wedding cancelation was a fake out, and that we’d still see the big event happen. Thankfully, that was the case, and it kicked off on just the right note with Clark outright refusing to accept Lois’ decision – in his own charming, understanding way. But what I really loved was Chloe’s speech to Lois, as she perfectly expressed what I had been saying. Yes, Clark has some very important and life saving responsibilities, but he’s also a man who deserves to love, be loved, and to just have a break. Is it fair to deprive him of that because of his mission to protect those in need? I’m glad Lois saw the err of her ways.
I also thought the wedding scene, while brief, was pretty brilliant and flawless. I loved Lois’ reaction to walking down the aisle. She went into the moment so confident, but when it all sunk in you can sense her uncontrollable feeling of utter loneliness. I don’t mean “lonely” in the “I don’t have anybody” sense. Only that, at that given moment, she was literally all alone. And just as I expected her to do an about face and bolt out of the church, Clark grabbed her hand and, unconventionally, they walked down the aisle together – both now feeling a fullness where there was once emptiness.
Another scene I loved was when Clark visited Jonathan’s grave. I love how he looked up, right at where Jonathan was kneeling, at the very last moment. Was he acknowledging that Jonathan was there with him? Or was he just responding to Oliver’s arrival? I prefer to think the former, but I loved the ambiguity of the scene.
In fact, I loved everything that had to do with Clark and his parents. Actually, I was a little thrown off by Clark’s first scene with Martha, where she chastised him for selling the farm. At first I thought she was some sort of apparition – a means to damage Clark’s psyche and feeling of hope – but it quickly became apparent that this wasn’t the case. And it still struck me as odd – we’ve never seen Martha speak to Clark in that way. And for that matter, we’ve never seen her question his judgment. Further, we’ve never seen Clark act so cold in response, the way he blew off his past in order to move forward into his future.
All of these scenes gave way to a great theme for Clark Kent’s journey to become Superman, and it was all encompassing. For Clark, we understood that Clark needed to appreciate his past in order to take hold of his future. And the answer wasn’t to reject his Kryptonian or human side, as he had done in the past. He had to embrace both sides of his being in order to achieve his full powers and capabilities. But this theme of acceptance extended far beyond Clark. It was Jonathan who urged Clark to reach out to Jor-El, because despite all his human parents had done for him, he would never reach his full abilities without Jor-El. This is completely at odds with what we had seen over the past ten years, where – even as Jor-El’s personality had lightened – Clark’s earth and alien fathers were completely at odds with each other. And once Clark did take hold of his destiny, it was Jor-El who confessed that his power might be from his blood, but Clark is the great, heroic person he is because of the hard work of Jonathan and Martha Kent. And it was rather poetic and beautiful seeing Jor-El and Jonathan cohesively giving Clark his Superman outfit.
Perhaps my favorite scene of the entire episode though, was Clark taking Jonathan’s advice that he has to let Jor-El guide him now, leading Clark to spiritually transport to the Fortress where Jor-El tells him, “You have always had the power, my son.” From there, we see a wonderful montage – set beautifully to the Superman music – chronicling Clark’s heroics over the past ten years. From Clark saving Lex in the Pilot to rescuing Lana in the tornado to protecting an innocent child from a meteor shower, we come to realize that Jor-El’s trials and Clark’s training had nothing to do with uploading Kryptonian information into Clark’s mind. It was about putting Clark into real life challenging situations and seeing how he reacts. And it wasn’t always about strength – it was about actions and character. He didn’t quite understand his abilities when he rescued Lex from drowning. And he didn’t have his abilities at all when he saved Perry White. Yet he still faced and overcame the challenge. In the end, Jor-El’s trials weren’t about Clark having to show up at the Fortress before sunset. It was about the moments over the past decade. And after Jor-El assures him that he’s now “ready” and that he should embrace his destiny, we return to the barn where we see Clark floating in the air. And then, in true Superman fashion, he extends his fists out and flies at the Ghost of Jacob Marley (oh wait, you mean that was Darkseid?) I enjoyed the scene so much that I even relented and admitted that it was probably the right choice to wait for the finale to have Clark fly. And that’s saying a lot.
Of course, how could I gush without talking about the return of the supremely talented Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor. His scenes were somewhat fleeting – he only had two extended scenes, if I recall correctly – but they were quite awesome. Like I said, there were only two real scenes that he appeared, but they were shared with the right people. The first was with Clark, of course, and man was it great seeing these two verbally spar one last time. Everything was out in the open, no more secrets, but unlike their last encounter in the Fortress, these two really did seem like enemies. The pitch was perfect as well. Lex was envious, but not to the extent that he looked pathetic. Clark was remorseful, but not so much so that you felt compassion or Lex. Their scene, while brief, reminded us of the descent of their friendship, and paved the way for their future relationship as two opposite sides of the coin. There was a logical, character-consistent reason laid out for why Lex doesn’t just up and kill Clark right then or there (or reveal his identity, for that matter). It was really great and definitely worth the wait.
Lex’s second scene, appropriately enough, was with Tess. It’s odd, Tess has only been on the show a few years, at no point in which Lex was on, yet these two characters are so intimately attached to each other that it would have been disappointing had they not shared a scene with one another. And, again, the tone was just right. Tess was jilted, having felt used and abused for idolizing (and if you want to get all creepy, loving) Lex, all while Lex knew the truth about their relationship. And Lex’s unwavering belief that the ends justify the means was great. From his using of her to his ultimately killing her, everything he did was right and was even for her own good. In the past, Tess would have bought right into that. But now, we learned that Tess was a changed person and that she would get that redemption she had so longed for.
Now, I’m not going to spend this entire column gushing, because there were a few things that I found disappointing. Remember how, all season, I’ve been saying that I hope they don’t go the Davis Bloom/Doomsday route regarding how they handle Darkseid? Well, seeing this supposed God occupying the body of a decrepit, zombified Lionel Luthor was probably even worse. After all the build up and clouds of smoke, we deserved to see a bad ass, imposing monster.
Going along with this complaint, I was a little disappointed with how easily these threats were vanquished. We were led to believe that this was the greatest threat we could have possibly imagined, yet regular human Oliver Queen is able to eliminate the three powerful disciples at once with three arrows? And Clark’s battle with Darkseid, which should have been absolutely epic, was limited to five minutes and two punches? The gladiator fights a few weeks ago were more exciting.
And finally, I understand the reasoning behind delaying the big reveal of Clark in the Superman outfit, but the manner in which they did it prevented us from actually seeing anything. We sorta saw him save Air Force One, and that was acceptable, but I was just baffled by the whole Apokolips thing. As in, what exactly did Clark do? Did the mere sight of him give everybody so much hope that the gravitational pull of the Omega sign propelled the planet away? I find that hard to believe, because they hadn’t yet seen Lois’ story of what happened on Air Force One, and Clark was moving way too fast for them to actually comprehend what he was doing. Did he physically push the planet back into outer space? How would that even work? What ended up happening is a season long story arc that was supposed to lead to the official creation of Superman was essentially resolved off screen.
There are two scenes I’m not completely decided on – the first being Lex’s memory getting wiped out. Quite frankly, Smallville created their own little universe and are at the point that they shouldn’t necessarily feel restricted to the Superman mythos. As such, I think the “future” could have been written appropriately with Lex knowing that Superman is Clark Kent. Along with that, the development of Lex’s character over the past decade has been phenomenal. His progression from a man determined to not turn into his father to a man driven to the dark side by bitterness and jealousy was believable. In season three, I bought that Clark and Lex were best friends. In season six, I believed their disdain for each other. With all of these memories being wiped, I just don’t know if I buy the motivation that Lex wants to destroy Superman. And honestly, I just sorta hate the idea of the guy losing ALL of his memories. I mean, Tess tells him that he won’t remember a thing before that very moment – yet the guy seemingly has no reaction to the fact that there’s a dead body in his office and the world is ending.
At the same time, I understand why this was done. The writers felt it necessary to wipe Lex’s memories so that he doesn’t know Superman’s secret identity. In their eyes, it was probably a necessary evil. And speaking of “evil,” how could I hate any scene that gives us Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor? I mean, the dude was brilliant in this role. I also appreciated the fact that Lex’s final moments, with his memories intact, had him doing something incredibly evil (murdering his sister), while acting jealous of Clark (accusing him of being the one thing Tess can’t have), only to end up feeling inferior to him (with Tess telling him that Clark already saved her). How wonderfully fitting.
The second scene I’m unsure of was the final one. I thought it was absolutely magnificent, with the Superman theme (the actual theme, not just music used in the movies) as he took off his glasses and tore open his shirt to reveal his Superman outfit. It really felt epic – truly grand. I just felt that it deprived us of the one moment they were holding back from in the climactic battle, namely Clark in the Superman suit.
Overall, was it a satisfying finale? Absolutely. I would go as far as saying it was a great finale. It wasn’t perfect, and some decisions were questionable, but I think that’s expected. The purpose of the series was always supposed to be about Clark Kent’s journey, and in that regard I think it was a massive success. Not to mention a really fun ride. While not technically a prequel, it can be difficult to get fans invested in a story when they know the ending, yet Smallville pulled that off. In the end, I think this great quote from Jor-El sums up the series as a whole:
“I ask you to remember one thing: Your abilities may be of my blood, but it’s your time in Smallville with Jonathan and Martha Kent, and all the people there, that made you a hero, Kal-El.”