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Friday, 23 of April of 2021

Smallville – “Finale”

“I’ll always be there to stop you. Always.”
“Oh I’m counting on it.”

Darkseid’s forces are growing larger and stronger. Old enemies resurface as this new enemy literally hurls Clark’s greatest challenge at him. Everyone has their part to play in stopping this threat and helping Clark become the Man of Steel.

Finales often show us a lot of where we came from before a show takes that final bow. For Smallville that look back was not only cathartic for the audience, but essential for Clark to realize his destiny. He had to realize that moving forward did not mean forgetting his past. He is a culmination of all the experiences he has had and the people he has met. He is a personification if his journey, a journey that we have had the privilege of joining him on for the past decade.

To really understand Smallville, not only in its finale but as a whole, we must do as Clark had to: look at those important to him and the experiences he has had, the hardships he has endured and the trials he has faced that have shaped him into the man he is now and the hero he would become.

Let’s start with his parents. Both John Schneider and Annette O’Toole return as Jonathan and Martha Kent. Clark misunderstood the meaning behind Martha giving him the deed to the farm. It wasn’t about dumping his past to make room the future, it was about never forgetting the people and lessons of his past that helped shape him into who he is now. He is the man he is because of that farm and because of his father and he can never forget that. But Clark disagrees. He feels that putting aside the past is the only way to move on. Some of this, of course, is stemming from having to convince himself to let go of Lois since she has broken off the wedding. More on that later.

Clark goes to Jonathan’s grave. He says he thought he had it all figured out about becoming the hero he’s seen he will become. Lois wants him to move on and Martha wants him to hold on and he’s confused. He doesn’t know how to go forward now. He needs Jonathan, needs Jor-El but he’s at a point were they can’t help him any longer. Jonathan continuing to show up throughout the episode was one of the most important aspects of the finale. He wasn’t a ghost, he didn’t return from another dimension, he didn’t even interact with anyone he shared scenes with until the end. But he was there, he always has been and always will be, and that’s what’s important. Once Clark finally gets it, that he has to hold on to those dear to him, he can see actually Jonathan again and he asks for his help. Jonathan says he will always be there in his heart and he must not forget that, but he and Martha have helped him as much as they can but he has to go back to Jor-El for help with this one. He’s his biological father and while Clark has turned his back on him he will understand. Once again, we’ll come back to this.

First I want to move on to Lois, arguably (but not in my opinion) the most influential person in Clark’s life. In the beginning of the episode she was still serious about not marrying Clark. As usual she was stubborn and misguided in trying to do the right thing. I understand where she’s coming from, that every moment he spends with her is a moment where he could be saving someone’s life, but I agree with Clark that the League is there to help out in the world saving duties. He’s not doing it alone, which does allow him the time to be with her.

Lois wasn’t looking at their relationship from the right perspective. Chloe tries to reason with her. She says that Clark needs her to ground him. And that’s exactly what Lois is afraid of: grounding him, holding him back. But she’s got it backwards. Someone like Clark needs someone to come home to, someone to love and escape from all of his hero responsibilities with. It’s a very important role in his life to play. Chloe gives Lois Clark’s written vows so she can hear it in his own words and she realizes what an idiot she’s been.

Clark goes to end it with Lois, who now wants the wedding back on. Now they are arguing opposite sides of the issue. And doing so through a closed door because Lois is in her wedding gown and Clark can’t see her. He agrees they should be together again after reading her vows. It took really listening to what was in each others hearts to convince them of what they’ve both really known all along.Good. Clark is learning. Some things, some memories, some people are not only important as parts of your past but are crucial to your future. No one believes in him more than Lois. She sneaks aboard Air Force One to convince the President to hold off blowing up a nuke to try and stop Apokolips so that Clark can save the day. It is her belief in him that is one of the greatest sources of his strength.

Oliver has represented many different facets of heroism and has offered a great foil to Clark. While he began as a Robin Hood type hero and somewhat rival/to Clark, he has now become one of his greatest friends and allies. He has shown Clark’s ability to lead and inspire and bring the best out in people. This is important not just between the to of them, but in reference to the Justice League as a whole. The same compassion and knowledge he imparts on Oliver have been why the rest of the League members have chosen to follow his example as well. And it’s not just Green Arrow and the other heroes who have learned from Clark, Clark has learned the importance of trusting and relying on others for help. That lesson began with Oliver.

This friendship has faced many ups and downs in the past and is now facing its greatest challenge. Oliver has given in to the darkness. He disabled all of Watchtower’s satellites so that no one will know of the approach of Apokolis. He has one more task to complete: giving Clark his “wedding ring” made of gold kryptonite which will remove his powers, leaving him unable to do battle with Darkseid.

At the wedding Oliver gives Lois the gold kryptonite ring. Luckily Chloe recognizes what it is and smacks it away. Everyone vacates the chapel and Clark and a darkness powered Oliver begin to fight. Clark knows that while Oliver has given up on himself and made some bad decisions in the past, he has a good heart. He knows he can fight it, he has to. They have to save the world together. Oliver fights it and purges the darkness. Which is great because Clark needs him. He’s the one who defeats Granny Goodness and the other members of Darkseid’s Triumvirate. No bad for someone with no superpowers.

Jor-El has been very hard to read since his introduction into Smallville. He is a teacher to Clark but at times has been more of a scorned father and moody mentor. He’s not a very good guy for someone who’s supposed to be a good guy. But everything he’s done, for better or for worse, has all been to help ready Clark. It’s all been a part of his trials. Jor-El says Clark may have his Kryptonian strength, but it is the people of Smallville, those important to him, who have made him the hero he is. It’s those words, coupled with images of Clark (and the audience) of some of his greatest saves and most heroic achievements throughout the years that finally shwo Clark he is ready to face his greatest trial yet:

Darkseid. One who is able to feed on the darkness within us all and use it as a magnet to bring his world, his Apokolips, crashing down upon the Earth. Yep, sounds like the greatest challenge Clark has ever faced. Their actual confrontation occurs when Darkseid (in Lionel’s body) comes to kill Clark, the only one capable of stopping him. This is Clark’s final trial to realize his destiny. And as Darkseid throws him through the air, he stops himself. His flies, his final power manifested. He flies straight through Darkseid, killing him. Then, finally in the iconic suit we all recognize, he flies to Apokolips and pushes it back out into space.

Darkseid was the final villain Clark needed to become Superman. This shows us what the point of the iconic antagonists was throughout the series. Clark didn’t need to be Superman to defeat Doomsday or Zod or Darkseid, he had to beat them to become Superman. They were all trials as important as any internal conflict he faced or any obstacle Jor-El may have used to test him. It was because of those villains that Clark was able to realize his full potential and become Superman.

And he would need all of that to continue to do battle with his greatest foe of all time, one who could not match him in strength, yet was his equal in drive and determination: Lex Luthor, my vote for the most influential person in Clark’s life.

The Clark and Lex conversation hit the exact essence of their relationship: Jealousy. Clark had this great power that he didn’t understand and didn’t even want. He was so much better than everyone else. There was no competition and it ate Lex alive. It consumed him, drove him to obsession. He could be this great man, but he could never get out of Clark’s shadow. He realized he couldn’t take Clark’s destiny so he had to forge his own. They would both be great men, but fight on different sides. Lex would strive to test Clark, obtain greatness in trying to better him and Clark would have to work to stop him. They will continue to push one another.

Lex hits the nail on the head. The greatest heroes and villains are created by one another. Some, Like Batman and Joker, may be more literal than others, but the reason Lex is who he is is because he can’t be like Clark. That’s where their vicious cycle comes from. And Clark feels that responsibility. “I’m sorry I couldn’t save you, Lex.” It’s an odd ending to their reunion. Lex knows that the savior, the one who will usher the world out of darkness, is Clark. But not just Clark, he has to be more. He believes in him, he has to, because he must survive so that they can continue their cycle.

Lex tells Tess he loves her and then proceeds to stabs her because that’s how Luthors express love for one another. He says he’s saving her from turning into him. She tells he’s too late, Clark already did that. Once again he has failed where Clark has succeeded. Tess has a gift for Lex as well. She hits him with a neurotoxin that will wipe his memory. What a brilliant way for Lex to forget who Clark is, but he will of course still harbor his extreme hatred and rivalry towards him. We get a nice look back at important Lex moments as they are wiped from his memory.

“But Matt, what about Chloe and Lana and other important people in Clark’s life?” Well, let me touch on those. Chloe could do no more for Clark. That’s why she left to nurture and guide future young heroes. She had played her sidekick and confidante role and has since moved on. Was she important to Clark at one point? Of course she was. But in the end she forged a different path and in a way became an equal. Lana had her exit already. There would be no way to bring her back at this point and really no reason to either. Lois is the love of his life, the one who wold stand beside him as a man, as a hero. And while Tess was an important team member her story, while dealing with others, was more about her own self-discovery and redemption. In the end, it didn’t have much real impact on Clark.

It may seem like this review touched on all of the other characters more than Clark, but that’s kind of my point. As he learned in the episode, Clark is who he is because of all of these people and experiences. They make him up. As I stated before: to understand Clark and the show is to understand how all of these things have molded him. So I did discuss Clark at length in excruciating detail in this review. He’s everywhere.

Smallville could not have ended anymore more perfectly than it did. The series was book-ended with meteors (the meteor shower from the pilot and Apokolips crashing into earth) and the finale itself was book-ended well with glimpses into the future. The story of the finale was told by Chloe to her son. If there was any speculation that Oliver was not the boy’s father, the red and yellow arrows (trademark colors of Speedy, Green Arrow’s sidekick) in his room should dispel that theory. We also get to see the Daily Planet with Perry yelling from his Editor’s office and Jimmy Olsen sharing some photos with Lois. And of course it ends with Clark running towards toe screen, removing his shirt before taking flight to save the day again, the iconic John Williams score playing as the Red S fills the screen.

10 years is a long time. For a show to last that long, let alone surviving numerous schedule changes and a network merger, is quite a feat. Perhaps Smallville‘s greatest accomplishment though is doing something storytellers have struggled to do for many years now: make Superman relatable. Because at its core, this show is not about Superman. It’s not even about Clark Kent becoming Superman. It’s the story of a boy who doesn’t know where he comes from trying to find himself. It’s about forging one’s path, realizing one’s potential and fulfilling your destiny. Just look at the title of the episode: “Finale”. If it were really about Superman, that’s what it would have been called. But it’s not about Superman, it’s about the journey of a young man as he navigates towards his destiny. That’s something that anyone can relate to.

Thank you, Smallville. It has been a fantastic 10 year ride. Television will not be the same without you. My generation now has its Wonder Woman, its Hulk. And I dare the next generation to do better. Jonathan Kent put it best: “Always hold on to Smallville.”

And we will.

Final Thoughts:

  • Just hearing Tom Welling say “And now the series finale of Smallville” made my eyes water.
  • “You’re not in my way, Lois. You’re by my side.”
  • Other hero references made: Zatanna, Martian Manhunter and Superboy.
  • I loved that the vows Lois wrote had proofreading marks on them. Such a journalist.
  • Such a sad and sweet moment when Martha looks to her side in the chapel at the place where Jonathan should be sitting next to her.
  • The greatest easter egg in the future glimpse by far is Lex’s presidential election.

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