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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Television Review: 'Smallville' Finale

This is the story of an amazing boy, who grew up in the fields of Kansas, in a little town called Smallville.

These words open the final episode Smallville, the ten-year old voyage of Clark Kent from awkward teenager to the Man of Steel. Final episodes of long-running programs often have an impossible task: resolve the series and tie up any loose ends that will satisfy the rabid fans who have followed from the outset. With series such as The Fugitive, Lost and Smallville, expectations are set from the first episode as to where the story will finally end.

Was it a satisfactory ending? Yes. And then some.

More than any episode previously, this one has Clark struggling with what he is going to become and what he must do to take the next step. Does he go it alone and leave his past behind, or does he embrace his upbringing and use what he has learned over the years to become a better hero? This is Clark’s final quest.

Darkseid gets to the heart of the matter.
Smartly, the episode is not a cavalcade of appearances from former cast members. Instead we have appearances from characters who are integral to the story. Most importantly are the inclusion of John Schneider (as Jonathan Kent) and Annette O’Toole (as Martha Kent). Both actors act as the heart of the story as they believably guide their son to his destiny as he continues to doubt the direction he should take.

My favorite scenes though were those centering on the relationship of Lois and Clark. Tom Welling and Erica Durance have fostered a touching and believable chemistry with one another, which brings earnestness to all of their scenes. The strongest being one in which Lois has decided to marry Clark, after waffling, and she confesses her love to her future husband. One small detail, which encouraged a big smile, was when Clark is reading Lois’ vows and she has copyediting marks all over them. It was small moments like this that proved that the writing team on the finale poured their hearts into telling a story that we would remember.

While Clark and Lois face their struggles a darkness is descending upon the Earth in the guise of Darkseid. The dark lord’s infamous minions Granny Goodness, Desaad and Glorious Godfrey have given a possessed Oliver Queen a gold kryptonite wedding band for Clark—gold kryptonite permanently strips Kryptonians of their powers. Darkseid knows that there is a bright force on Earth than can prevent him from taking control of the world.

It becomes clear at this point that Chloe wasn’t kidding when she says “he was about to face his greatest challenge.” Apokolips is moving closer to Earth—almost like Mongul’s War World—and is near to causing devastation across the planet.

One of many tender moments between Clark and Lois.

Of course we also get the triumphant return of Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor. Lionel Luthor (the ever villainous John Glover) searches for a heart to bring his son back to life and gets assistance from a surprising accomplice. The writers were smart to not try to incorporate a final Lex Luthor plot—Lex is on hand to establish the acrimonious relationship he and Clark will share for a long, long time. Rosenbaum slips back into his Luthor skin with ease and gets a couple of strong scenes with Clark and Tess (Cassidy Freeman).

Lois realizes that the United States government is prepared to go to catastrophic means to take on the approaching Apokolips. The intrepid reporter knocks out a co-worker to stow away on Air Force One to warn the President that he is making a mistake. Yeah. Of course she does. She is Lois Lane after all. This was another sequence of events that could not have made me more gleeful. Durance has perfectly embodied everything I have ever imagined about Lois Lane. I eagerly await to see what is next for Durance.

Finally we get come to the show’s final act. Clark and Lex finally meet again and Lex informs Clark that he’s the planet’s chosen savior

Clark: “I’m not so sure that Clark Kent can save the entire world on his own.”

Lex: “He can’t. But we both know who can.”

Clark faces off against Darkseid in the Kent barn and is struck by the dark lord. In one of the more unexpected scenes in the episode, Clark finds himself in the Fortress of Solitude as Jor-El (Terrence Stamp) explains that everything Clark has accomplished in Smallville has been a series of trials. We return back to the barn where we see that only a moment has passed and Clark is levitating in midair. He can fly. He is stronger. “You are ready,” says Jor-El. “Seize your destiny.”

We’re back in the Fortress of Solitude for one last time. Jor-El tells Clark that his journey has come to an end and tells him how proud he is of his son. Every note about this scene is perfect and hits the inspirational tone you would expect from a Superman story. Jor-El reminds Clark that it was his time in Smallville that made him a hero then the spirit of Jonathan Kent hands Clark his famous costume. “Always hold onto Smallville,” says his Earth father. Clark soars through the top of the fortress. He is Superman now.

Superman prevents Air Force One from crashing (and shares a tender glance with Lois), pushes Apokolips away from Earth, and saves the population from Darkseid’s Anti-Life Equation. To say this was more than anyone could have expected in terms of seeing Clark transform into Superman would be an understatement.

We jump ahead seven years into the future to the Daily Planet in an epilogue that features all of the famous notes of John Williams’ iconic Superman theme. The scene is brief but magical, playing off of fans’ nostalgia and love for all things Superman. Lois fights with Jimmy Olsen over his latest photos, Perry White (Michael McKean) screams “Great Cesar’s Ghost!” from his office, and Lois and Clark’s postponed nuptials are postponed for a few more minutes as Clark leaps into action, revealing the famous “S” on his chest.

The Smallville series finale has had a lot to live up to. For ten years fans have wondered whether or not the Man of Steel would ever appear. Was it worth the wait?

Without a doubt.

Smallville “Finale” Part I
Written by Al Septien & Turi Meyer
Directed by Kevin Fair

Smallville “Finale” Part II
Written by Brian Peterson & Kelly Souders
Directed by Greg Beeman

For more on the Smallville series finale listen to our review podcast here.

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