Just forget the words and sing along

Monday, May 16, 2011

My Thoughts on the Smallville Finale

Despite the fact that I’m a bit of a comic book geek, and I’ve always leaned towards DC, I’ve never been more than a casual fan of Smallville. At the outset, it seemed like a good idea: Clark Kent’s teen years, as his powers first start kicking in and he starts out on the path to becoming Superman. But, like a lot of people, I found the whole “will they or won’t they” romance between Clark and Lana Lang to go on for too long and get too drawn out and annoying as hell. Plus, those early seasons really fell into a “monster of the week” kind of format, and it got formulaic really quick.

As I’ve blogged many times before, what brought me back – what was the one thing that made Smallville compelling to me – was watching Lex Luthor’s descent to the dark side. Every heartbreak, every twinge of paranoia that his best buddy Clark was keeping something from him, the pressure from his father to be this great modern-day conqueror/captain of industry...it was all adding up and serving to blacken his soul. And because it was episodic television, that descent to the dark side was painfully slow. Lex Luthor was what made that show for me.

And, well, because my earliest conscious memories of television are of watching The Dukes of Hazzard, it was also kind of neat to see Bo Duke as Pa Kent.

When Lex Luthor left, I pretty much gave up on the show completely. I’d tune in whenever I heard that some classic Superman villain was being introduced with a new twist, or some other superhero was making a guest appearance. I think the last time I actually sat down and watched it was last year’s epic 2-hour episode with the Justice Society of America. I heard that this was the final season, so I figured if I was going to watch just one last episode, it may as well be the final episode.

So, apparently, Clark Kent and Lois Lane are getting married. Or, they aren’t now, as Lois has decided not go through with it so Clark can be free to be a superhero. Clark’s not buying it. And the first 45 minutes of this 2-hour final episode is nothing but the “will they or won’t they” romantic crap that made this series so grating in the first place. What is notable, though, in order to start his new life with Lois and as a hero, Clark has decided to cut ties with his past completely, and this is not sitting well with the spirits of his two father: Jonathon Kent and Jor-El.

Apparently, the big bad for this final season was none other than the personification of all evil in the DCU, Darkseid, and he’s possessed Oliver Queen, and Oliver is seeking to sabotage the wedding. He’s replaced Clark’s wedding ring with one made of gold kryptonite, which has the power to permanently remove Clark Kent’s powers.

So, the wedding is going ahead, Chloe notices that Oliver, in his role as best man, has gotten a different ring for the groom. So, she stops the wedding, the church is evacuated, and Clark Kent and Oliver Queen throw down and Clark drives the evil from Oliver. They look up into the sky to see Darkseid’s home planet of Apokalypse descending on the Earth. End part 1.

Part 2, our heroes have gathered and are determining what to do. Tess Mercer – who is, apparently, Lex Luthor’s sister, is heading off to help our heroes but is mysteriously abducted. As I said, casual fan, so a lot of this continuity is lost to me. They make a plan. Clark talks with the spirit of Jonathon Kent, saying he was wrong to try to turn his back on his past, and he needs his father’s guidance more than ever. Pa Kent says that yes, Clark does need his father’s guidance on this...his other father, Jor-El. So, does Clark head on up to the Fortress of Solitude, get Jor-El’s advice, become Superman, and start kicking ass and saving the world? Nope. He goes looking for Tess.

Tess, as it turns out, was abducted by Lionel Luthor. I thought he died, but as I said, I’m pretty much just tuning in. Turns out Lionel has been cloning a new body for Lex (they wrote him out of the show by killing him off), but the one thing they still haven’t gotten right in this new clone body is a heart, so they seek to harvest Tess’s. Tess, however, kicks ass, frees herself, and shoots her father in his shoulder as she makes her escape. Lionel’s body, slowly losing life, crawls towards the currently lifeless body of Lex. Darkseid appears to Lionel, and Lionel sells his soul to Darkseid so Lex may live.

In his search for Tess, Clark goes to the burnt-out ruins of Luthor Manor. Remember those scenes in the show that quickly became cliché, where Clark would burst into Lex’s office in the Manor and confront Lex with the details of Lex’s evil plan, and Lex would just sit there all smug and evil? Well, we’re treated to one last one. As I said, Lex was always the most compelling character to me, so I was looking forward to this. Lex goes on to state his new philosophy, that he once thought people were defined by their friends or families, but he finally accepts that people are defined by their enemies, so he dedicates his life to being an enemy of Clark Kent’s. I half-expected him to quote the Joker from The Dark Knight: “I expect we’ll be doing this dance for years.” And Clark’s final line to Lex seemed somewhat poignant: “I’m sorry I couldn’t save you, Lex.”

Finally, Clark’s going to go to the Fortress of Solitude! He goes back to his old barn in Smallville to get the crystal that activates the Fortress, but he’s confronted by Darkseid, possessing Lionel Luthor’s body. Darkseid knows Clark is the only one that can stop him, and Darkseid throws Clark through a wall. Clark freezes in midair, and we retreat into his mind where he talks with Jor-El. We’re treated to a montage of all of Clark’s heroics throughout the series, and Clark finally understands that these were trials from him to prove his worthiness as a hero. Jor-El says Clark has been a hero all along. We then come out of this astral plane, and see that Clark did not freeze in midair...he’s floating.

That’s right, after every other Kryptonian who arrived on Earth and figured it out instantly...after every evil entity that possessed Clark was able to figure it out instantly...Clark Kent finally figured out how to fly. He takes out Darkseid with a flying punch, and flies north to the Fortress of Solitude.

In the Fortress, Clark communes with Jor-El and realizes that he must also accept his Kryptonian heritage to become the hero he’s destined to be. Jor-El admits his pride in his son, and says that Clark is ready. Jor-El says that while it’s Clark’s Kryptonian heritage that gives him his powers, it was Clark’s life in Smallville that made him a hero. The spirit of Jonathon Kent appears to present Clark with...the suit. Clark suits up, finally becomes Superman, and flies off to save the world.

Hey, what happened to Tess after she escaped from Lionel? Turns out she tracked down Lex in the Luthorcorp offices. Brother and sister have on last moment, in which Lex kills Tess. But, with her dying breath, Tess smears a neurotoxin on Lex’s face. This toxin will wipe out all of Lex’s memories. So Lex’s knowledge of Clark Kent’s powers...Lex’s tragic childhood...all of it, gone from Lex’s memories. I was really starting to wonder how they’d get rid of Lex’s knowledge of Clark Kent’s true identity, so I’m glad they remembered to do something about that in this final episode. With his memories gone, and nothing but a dark heart remaining, Lex Luthor looks out at the world. The gravitational forces of Apokolypse being so close to Earth smashes some of the letters in the “Luthorcorp” sign on the roof of the Luthorcorp tower. The remaining letters spell out “Lexcorp.”

We catch up with Superman. He saves Air Force One, and Lois Lane is on board, so she gets to break the story of Superman’s revelation to the world. Superman hurls Apokolypse into the darkest reaches of space. And Superman looks down on the world and prepares for his destiny. We never see Superman in close-up, though...just in wide shots, with his cape flapping in the breeze.

And here’s where things turn into total fan service.

The traditional score of the series fades away. They start recycling the classic John Williams score from the Richard Donner film. We flash forward seven years, and see that this entire episode has been a bedtime story that Chloe was reading to her young son. Apparently, Chloe married Oliver and is in the throes of living happily ever after. (I have to put on my Continuity Cop cap and point out that Green Arrow’s one true love is Black Canary, but whatever.) With her son down for the night, Chloe phones her cousin Lois Lane in Metropolis.

Lois Lane is an ace reporter at the Daily Planet. Perry White is angry as usual as Lois is missing her deadlines. Lois dispenses some advice to the recently-hired Jimmy Olson.

(“Hey,” you might be thinking. “Jimmy Olson was a regular character a few seasons back, and they killed him off. What the what?” Well, in Jimmy’s final appearance, they revealed that he was actually the older brother of the real Jimmy Olson, and the younger Jimmy decided to take his older brother’s name and follow in his legacy. Lois reaffirms this by telling Jimmy he’s got a long way to go to fill the shoes of his big brother.)

We see a shot of a TV monitor that announces Lex Luthor has just been elected President of the United States. Lois bumps into Clark in the hallway, and we learn that they’ve been putting off their wedding for the last seven years, because Clark always gets called away to perform superheroics...but they’re good to go for tonight! Just then, a Daily Planet staffer yells out that terrorists are threatening to blow up a building in downtown Metropolis. Clark tells Lois he might be a few minutes late, and runs up to the roof.

The classic John Williams Superman theme kicks in. Clark Kent goes through the classic transformation of removing his glasses and tearing open his shirt to reveal the Superman logo. We hold on the logo, and the end credits roll in the style of the classic Richard Donner film.

And that’s the end of Smallville. It was pretty good. Not going to lie, I stood up and cheered when Clark finally discovered how to fly. The references to Darkseid, and all the other references to the Superman mythology, as always, made me squee. But that first 45-minutes was a painful reminder of why the show started getting on my nerves.

It’s over now. Maybe someday I’ll pick up the DVDs and acquaint myself with the show properly. But all in all, it was a good ride.

No comments: