Four weeks are left until the CW’s Smallville series finale. The show has been on there air for a decade. Ten full years. There aren’t many series that can boast such a long run, and the show now is drastically different from the way it began. With a primary cast of only four characters (five, if counting Allison Mack’s Chloe, though she is only doing a handful of episodes this season), the focus has shifted fully into Clark Kent (Tom Welling) becoming Superman. Sure, that has always been the understood journey of the show, but with the end fast approaching, it is more prevalent than ever.
This week, in “Kent”, Clark is sent back to the alternate universe by his doppelgänger, Clark Luthor. Luthor is hunted in his world, and everyone knows how to kill him, thanks to the now deceased Oliver Queen (Justin Hartley). Clark Kent runs into Oliver’s widow, Lois (Erica Durance), and then finds the shell of a man that is Jonathan Kent (John Schneider). Jonathan captures Clark, intending to hand him in for the reward money. But would-be father and son bond, and Jonathan lets Clark go, both having new perspectives on their lives.
Jonathan Kent died in the regular universe years ago, but having Clark face his father once more, right before the end, is not just a throwback to who he was. Jonathan has shaped who Clark has become. He also helps his son see that things in life aren’t nearly as important as the people. Clark does know Lois is the most cherished element in his life, but this bit of advice gives him the courage to go through with a momentous event in his life: selling the Kent family farm.
Giving up his boyhood home may not seen like a major step to many. In fact, many origin Superman stories on screen have dispersed with the farmhouse early in the movie or series. But as the entirety of Smallville takes place prior to Clark putting on the cape and tights, getting rid of the homestead reminds us that the end is very near, and he will soon become the hero he is meant to be. This particular Clark’s journey is finishing, as he is about to become the character beloved for decades.
Back in the ‘real’ universe, Lois quickly realizes the imposter. She enlists Emil’s (Alessandro Juliani) assistance in repairing the one device that can bring her love back home again. Unlike other incarnations of Superman, where Lois is a fiercely independent woman who doesn’t ‘need’ Clark, this Lois has known him since his geeky days, and understands the role they play in each other’s lives. It does not detract from her strength to be so bonded to Clark. Rather, it makes them both more complex, interesting individuals as they balance the duality of individualism with their romance. Smallville shows this better than any other version of the story told before. This may be the closest look at Lois and Clark’s relationship ever shown on screen.
Clark Luthor has come to the commonly considered standard reality to find Lionel Luthor (John Glover), his adopted father, who escaped to this side months ago, and kill him. It is a really well illustrated example of nurture winning out over nature. Yet, while Clark Luthor does not accomplish his wicked goal, Clark Kent sees something in his counterpart that may be redeemable. When Clark Luthor is sent back to his universe in the Fortress, it appears he may finally consider Jor-El’s (Terence Stamp) wisdom. Even after everything that has happened, a good father figure, as well as a peek into what might have been, could still save his soul. If nothing else, it’s a comforting idea. And a reminder that Superman is, at his core, optimistic.
Caught up in Clark Luthor’s games is his half sister, Tess (Cassidy Freeman). Recently realizing she is a Luthor, and struggling over how to deal with her biological father, Lionel, Clark Luthor tells Tess she must help him kill their daddy, or face death herself. She pretends to go along with Clark’s wishes, but betrays him, almost resulting in her death. Thanks to a timely rescue, which is never assured so close to a series’ end, Tess will breathe for at least another week.
The fact that Tess chose good shows a real character development for her. Ever since her introduction, she has straddled the line between good and evil, much as Lex (Michael Rosenbaum) used to. As his replacement, that is appropriate. But she is making the opposite decision than her brother did. While Tess’s ultimate loyalty may still be up in the air, it seems likely she will stick to the right choice.
Tess, more than anyone, is not given her due. She is a complicated person, with deeply dark hues. Freeman is an excellent actress, managing to do much with what little she is given. With only four weeks left, Tess will be the one character that provides the least satisfaction. She could be taken so much further than she will be. Freeman deserves much gratitude from the fan base for her contribution to the show.
Smallville still airs Friday nights at 8 p.m. ET on the CW, though not for much longer.
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