Final Season: Smallville & Facing the Past

Few television shows reach the monumental 200th episode, but Smallville passed that milestone last night with a very special episode that reconnected us to the past in unexpected and touching ways. It seems strange to speak about the ending right at the beginning, but I loved it so much I just have to indulge in it. The episode concludes with Lois and Clark dancing together. It is such an iconic image, for so many reasons — but what comes to my mind is that Clark has danced with each of his leading ladies at some point. The first time was with Chloe, in the first season finale, “Tempest,” and then with Lana three seasons later in “Spirit.” And now with Lois in “Homecoming.” Each time was meaningful and each time was different, signifying the major changes in his life. But it only happened with Lois because Clark was able to look into the past, present, and future and overcome his fear to make it happen.

In many ways, what this episode focuses on is learning to move beyond the past — in that regard, the title is misleading, because it is not a nostalgic exploration so much as Clark at long last taking dramatic steps to become Superman. That is after all the reason we tuned in at the first, and will keep us watching until the end — but here we got a taste of his future self, and it was glorious.

 

The Story: Clark Kent returns to Smallville High, the scene of many memorable moments from his past, along with an enthusiastic Lois, who is disconcerted and insulted that no one seems to remember her at the High School Reunion (even if she did only attend for five days!). Having won the last football game of the season in his senior year as the quarterback, Clark is hailed as a hero — but his humiliation is short lived when Brainiac appears from the future, wearing on of the traveling rings. He has come to show Clark the way to the light, to assist him in avoiding the mistakes that will cause him to become evil in the future. Warning Clark that he must abandon his guilt and doubts about the past, he shows him what really happened the night Jonathan Kent died and encourages him to abandon his overwhelming sense of responsibility — Jonathan chose his own path.

In the present, he opens Clark’s eyes to how insecure and unloved Lois feels, as well as reveals how much Clark’s friendship means to the solitary and deeply lonely Oliver, who is faltering in his new reputation as a public vigilante. Brainiac also shows him a glimpse into his future as Superman. In the future, Clark meets a much older and wiser version of himself, glasses and all — working out of an impressive office in the Daily Planet, dating Lois in secret (or maybe more than dating…), and flying out to contain a nuclear explosion. This inspires Clark to reach out to Oliver and stand with him in the wake of his public confessions, to realize that his life has made a positive impact in the most unexpected of places, to shed what happened in the past, and above all, become the man he was born to be.

The Symbolism:

There is really a lot to love about this episode, in a wide variety of ways, but what stood out to me the most was the emphasis on “becoming who you were born to be.” They have not touched on this much in the past, but I think it is a beautiful summary of the series on the whole. I must confess that at times in the past Clark frustrated me, because he was a tad judgmental and self-righteous, but at the same time took on more than his fair share of guilt. He has been blaming himself for many things for a long time, right down to the fact that if he had not landed in Smallville, Lana’s parents would not have died and the town would not be populated with meteor freaks. It is nice for once to see a stronger authority figure like Brainiac tell him to simply let go. Much of what has happened he could not help, and the world is a much better place with him in it than it would have been without him in it. I think the best example of this is when “Bug Boy” from the second episode of the first season turns up at the reunion and asks Lois to thank Clark for putting his head on straight. He is now successful and sane, because Clark showed him a better path (even if he did smash him in the process!).

Most of what we have seen in the past were bitter rivals so it’s touching for once to see that a “bad guy” was inspired thanks to Clark to completely turn his life around. (Another subtle savior undercurrent? You decide.)

But the story is not just about Clark becoming Superman — it is also about Lois becoming Lois Lane, and Ollie becoming Oliver Queen. Where Lois is concerned, she is such a loud-mouth (and I love her for it) that we never really see her as insecure, but she actually is. An army brat forced to knock about with the best of the boys, she never really was first choice when it came to the dating game. So walking in the long shadow of Lana unsettles her, particularly when Lana is so well remembered in Smallville. But I think Clark ultimately choosing her, and being the love of her life, makes a tremendous difference in Lois. It may not be as dramatic as Clark shedding the past to don the blue and red outfit one day, but Lois is changing too — future Lois is pretty darn awesome.

Yet this is also about Ollie — and granted, he is a bit of a muck-up of a human being. He’s what Lex Luthor could have been with a better moral center, but even he needs Clark to be there for him, to hold him to that sense of higher calling. I loved it when his entire countenance changed when Clark entered the press conference. “Yes,” he said with confidence, “I am a hero.”

But I must admit that my favorite moment, and bit of unintentional symbolism, came at the very end — Lois Lane standing on Clark Kent’s toes while he dances with her — because, naturally, she instinctively wanted to lead and got stepped on. This is in so many ways characteristic of their entire relationship, past, present, and future — that Lois is strong but is willing to allow him to lead. I love that. Lois doesn’t “need” him like Lana did; she is his equal in every way. She is independent and strong, but to him she will relinquish her lead. I think that is the perfect kind of relationship, when one is not reliant on the other and does not have to give in, but chooses to out of affection, devotion, and love.

Immaterial Thoughts:

I confess that on a couple of fronts this episode was not as perfect as it might have been — the teacher in the beginning was absolutely pointless and immaterial. I guess she was both an acknowledgment to the old style of the series, in which we meet the villain right off the bat, but I neither remember her from earlier in the series nor found her all that engaging. (Someone did suggest to me that she was the teacher who told the truth when Chloe was prompting the genuine truth out of everyone she met, so maybe that’s it?) And… this episode did suffer from a lack of familiar faces. I understand why Chloe could not be there, but in a way it felt incomplete without Lana present — and coming from me, someone who kinda hates Lana nowadays, that’s pretty major.

My biggest concern though is that while addressing the topic of wrongful choices in the past, Lex never came up. I know I must sound like a broken record on this point but since the series up until a couple of years ago was all about their relationship, it feels strange to have no reference to it at all. In many ways, that along with Jonathan’s death may be Clark’s biggest failure — and while they have touched on it now and again, no one has ever really confronted the fact that Clark is indirectly responsible for what Lex became. He stopped pushing Lex to be a good person and started accusing him of being a bad one. Lex lost his moral center when Clark abandoned him. If I had one complaint about previous seasons, it would be that Clark came off, in my mind, looking bad in that department. So why not leave out the three minutes with the teacher and have Brainiac talk to Clark about Lex and overcoming his guilt? (Unless he has no guilt… maybe not…)

Lois was marvelous in this episode. She’s usually marvelous but was especially so this time around, since you get both a feeling that she is desperate to fit in and feel included and a sense that she’s different from pretty much everyone in Smallville. Bombing out on people recognizing her, not finding her name tag, standing alone at the punch bowl, it was all quite sad in a humorous sort of way. But what got me the most was her confession that she’s not with Clark, or dating Clark, they’re just sort of… friends. And therein comes the chick at the punch bowl. I admit, what I had to say about her tyrannical little rant did not endear me to her. I called her a rather impolite name when she left Lois standing there looking mortified. And then I realized… she is the embodiment of the Alternative Shippers. The viewers who insist Clark belongs with Lana or Chloe and not Lois, for all the reasons stated by the witch standing by the punch bowl. Oh, dear me, that was clever… and may God bless them in their delusional state.

Lois & Clark Forever. The End. Or in this episode’s case, the official beginning.

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