It is almost fitting that I would be listening to Katy Perry’s “Futuristic Lover” on repeat all this week. It’s a song about a supernatural force living among humans, hypnotic with shades of good and evil. Entering Smallville‘s last season has been an interesting experience for me as a fan, because on one hand it generates much excitement and on the other, there is a certain element of sadness involved. But it has surprised me how much this season has, so far, in all three episodes, revolved primarily around faith. Of course, it is a secular version of faith focused mainly on Clark learning to trust himself without forgetting his own weaknesses, but it is there nevertheless — that seems to be the arc of the last 22 episodes of the popular series: faith and love.
Blogging about it is proving harder than I anticipated, because part of me just wants to soak in the episodes — but the other part of me knows I will regret not writing about them, so here I am. I will do one blog post at a time and see where it leads — if nothing else than to form memories of 2010. (Do you remember as a kid, when that number seemed so far away? I do.) So here goes…
The Story Last Week: Lois Lane has left the building… and taken off for Africa, where she winds up an archeological dig with Michael Shanks… err… Cater Hall. An ancient (ha, ha… sorry, if you are not a SG-1 fan, you are probably so lost right now) super-powered hero that lives underneath an eternal curse, it does not take Carter long to discern that Lois is now aware of the Blur’s identity. What results is an in-depth conversation about life dating superheroes that causes Lois to ultimately realize that she cannot run away from Clark Kent, she must return to him and be the rock he needs in his life. Carter also foreshadows his impending death, knowing that his hallucinations of his dead wife returning to him are warnings that soon he will perish and be reborn.
Meanwhile in Metropolis, Clark is paired up with an irritating new reporter named Cat Grant, who loves kitties and pink and absolutely hates super powered freaks. She spends half her time writing nasty things about them and the other half listening to hack radio stations spreading fear and distrust among the populace. But when she is caught in the crossfire between the Blur and a bullet that literally has his name on it, Clark must discern her genuine fears and how to put them to rest. Her complaint has merit, that maybe the people would not be afraid of a super hero that did not hide in the shadows. By the end of the episode, Clark has tossed aside his long dark coat and is standing in blue and red at the top of the Daily Planet, in the sunlight.
Oliver Queen also learns the truth about Chloe having gone missing — that she offered her life in exchange for his, and fights his deep emotions of loss and guilt.
The Story This Week: Anti-hero paranoia is spreading through the streets of Metropolis and one man is at the forefront. His book has just hit the best-seller list and as he unveils an anti-Blur billboard in the city square to roaring applause from the dimwitted masses, it nearly crushes all beneath when it topples. Out of the blue arrives Kara, Clark Kent’s super-chick cousin and one of the last remaining members of his race. Her appearance disconcerts him, for it means Jor-El no longer has faith in him to fight against the Shadow that has invaded their midst. It preys on anyone whose soul is not pure and knowing that his son has a darkness in him, Jor-El fears it may overwhelm the intended savior of mankind and transform him into a monster. Kara attempts to assist Clark in learning to fly and explore his other powers, but does not believe she can trust him in the end conflict. Clark meanwhile is concerned that Kara’s image is so public, fearing that the masses will turn on her.
Lois Lane has returned from Africa and is dancing around her conversations with Clark about the Blur, determined to be his cheerleader without revealing that she now knows his true identity. She is also determined to dig up a dark secret in the author’s life to take him out of the picture — and in doing so, discovers the Shadow has gained control of him. It nearly succeeds in killing her and in possessing Clark, but Kara intrudes with a powerful surge of light and it abates. Knowing she cannot remain public, Kara dons a wig and glasses and takes to the streets as an ordinary individual, but someone who intent on “keeping an eye” on Clark and Metropolis. Lois’ undercover expose of the author’s “twisted sex fetishes” discredits him and prevents him from revealing the identity of Oliver Queen, but the playboy millionaire is doing penance for losing Chloe and decides to announce his identity to the world…
There is a lot to think about in these last two episodes in terms of faith — is it blind or is it a choice we make? There is even meaning in the back history we learn about Carter Hall and his wife. Their love was forbidden so a curse was placed on them, that they would continue to live over and over again, growing up, finding one another, and then being forced to watch one another die. There is no chance of breaking the curse, since they are locked in an eternal cycle of life, love, and loss. One could probe deeper into this and say it is a classic example of the meaningless of life outside understanding and truth, that our lives are ultimately no more than a cycle of love and loss, and in that sense it represents the Phoenix. Ancient legends tell us this mythological bird was meant to live and die and be reborn from the ashes. One could argue it supports reincarnation, but if we go with what C.S. Lewis said about all myths pointing to scriptural truths, the Phoenix was an early foreshadowing of Christ’s death and resurrection.
Cal’s conversation with Lois is about more than not running away from love; essentially, it is all about faith — and her discovery of it. Lois has looked at life the same way since childhood, through cynical eyes — and in doing so, she never saw what was right in front of her. The knowledge that Clark is the Blur has shaken her to her very foundations — in a way, it’s tremendously exciting because she realizes that her love for Clark and the Blur is not divided, but whole. But it also contradicts everything she has known up until this point. Lois is experiencing a transition into faith — into believing Clark is a hero rather than the “farm boy” she thought he was. For the first time she enters into true understanding, which is different from grasping a concept — it is wholeheartedly believing in something. It changes Lois, and in the next episode we see it when she cannot brush off accusations about the Blur being a secret villain. She knows he isn’t. She knows the Blur personally. She has a relationship with him, and cannot bear to see him slandered.
I feel the same way about my Lord. I know Him, I have a relationship with Him, and I hate it when He is slandered, misunderstood, feared, or hated. Like Lois, I underwent a transition from curiosity into love that now compels me to defend Him… even if it will not make me popular, even if people think I am weak or stupid or foolish. If Clark is the Christ figure, Lois is the Christian. Ultimately, he always saves her, but she also goes out of her way to show devotion to him.
Clark is experiencing a dark time in his life — facing the darkness within himself, and the doubt that accompanies it. Jor-El has all but fallen silent. So where does this leave our hero? Fatherless. Abandoned. Alone. This is Clark’s Temptation in the Wilderness, the moment when he cries out, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” It is his time to decide who and what he is, to find purity of spirit. Jor-El does nothing without a purpose and there is a reason why Clark must experience this time of uncertainty. But just as Christ did not have to linger long alone, Jor-El sends an “angel” in the form of Kara, to bring him encouragement and light. One could also argue that Clark is wrestling with his humanity, with his mortal side which, since it is rather human, deals with the temptations and weaknesses that all of us face. In that respect, he is experiencing a plateau in his life — a time when his Father is silent and he must choose to continue in his faith regardless of dissenting voices.
Even Oliver is meaningful, for he has chosen to cast aside all concerns and reveal his identity, much like a sinner casting aside his shame and stepping forward in triumphant faith to show the masses what God has done in their life. He does it for Chloe, who gave her life in exchange for his… her sacrifice forces him to change. (Sound familiar?)
I found Cat Grant terribly annoying, probably because I have known girls like that — bubble headed. But otherwise the episodes were very meaningful and well written. The series really is investing in its characters this year and I love that. I think in the past at times it has been too much about the “freak of the week” and not enough about Clark’s transformation from a big-eyed farm boy into a bold super hero. I have to also admit that I am loving some of the subtle in-jokes this season, which only comic book fans or sci-fi fans would notice… like Michael Shanks. He entered last season and sure, it was a bit cheesy, but having him be on a dig? an archeological dig? fingering artifacts and looking all scholarly? Revealing his “ancient” history? Really? After he played an archeologist researching into the ancients for multiple seasons on Stargate and wound up immortal? That is… that is… freaking awesome. And not just because with this season, Smallville will pass up Stargate SG-1 as the longest ever running sci-fi series. (My geek status just went up, I know…)
The foreshadowing and ultimate villain this season is I think magnificent — he represents a power that is much more frightening than Zod or any number of other supercharged nut cases we have had over the years. It also raises all kinds of questions about Clark, the Fortress of Solitude, and Jor-El… have these three been impacted by the shadow at all? Is it really a singular force or is its influence reaching into multiple lives at once, bringing on this anti-hero hysteria? (If you know from reading the comics — do not tell me! I want to be surprised!)
After the disappointment of several previous seasons, for the first time this show has me excited again. Friday nights are now fixed in my mind as “cannot miss” television… which presents a problem considering Sanctuary starts up at the same time next week. Which one will be watched live and which one will be DVR’d? I do not know yet… but Amanda Tapping is going to have to pull out all the stops to get me to tear myself away from the 200th episode.
Hmm, I think I just made up my mind.