I read Superman comics as a kid, but I haven't kept up, and at first I had no idea who Geoff Johns was, or why all the fanboys were flailing over the prospect of him bringing the Legion of Super-Heroes to Smallville. The Supes love that I have, and that brought me to this show, was born out of TV and film. But after listening to everyone wax rhapsodic over the man, I made it my mission to hunt down and read what the mighty Geoff Johns had written. And I fell in love. Because he is a great storyteller, but also because this guy's Superman is the hero of my dreams. And along with the Legion, that's what he brought to Smallville.
The story in Legion was deceptively simple: Clark has to stop Brainiac, hopefully without killing Chloe, and the Legionnaires stick around to help because of the Persuader's damaging interference. But the episode itself was rich and complex, full of conflict and heroism, exploring concepts that lie at the heart of the Superman mythos, advancing Clark's storyline within the series, and bringing in enough elements from the DCU to satisfy even the biggest comics geek. Plus it was just a rollicking good time, with action, special effects, and humor. I loved it!
The Legion members were wonderfully written and perfectly cast. Cosmic Boy was every inch the leader, strong and resolute. I'm already half in love with him. Saturn Girl displayed the understanding that comes with knowing everyone's thoughts and feelings. She radiated empathy. And Lightning Lad was the ultimate fanboy, expressing the adoration the Supes fans among us all feel. He made me laugh. They were true to their comic book counterparts, right down to their costumes, executed with that special Smallville twist. From our first glimpse of them with that glorious shot of Rokk's flight ring, to that last, loaded warning before they left, every moment was a thrill. You didn't have to be a comics fan to fully appreciate the Legion, but if you were, there were lots of extra little details that made the episode even more fun.
With the Legion we were able to explore what destiny means: is it a path or a prison? And what is the difference between a legend and the man who inspires it? Garth was rocked to his core to discover a Clark who didn't embody his idol Kal-El in every way. I think Clark, in turn, was both touched and intimidated by what his future evidently holds. This season we've seen him expand his heroics from mostly friends and family to anyone who needs his help, and from the confines of Smallville to the crowded streets of Metropolis. Now he's told that's just the beginning, that his influence will be felt across the universe. That's heady stuff.
The Legion also brought up the question of history, and how it both illuminates and obscures. Can Clark trust their version of his story? I especially liked how the Legion members gave voice to some of the questions that have been plaguing fans for years. Why, exactly, hasn't Clark learned how to fly? Why has Chloe's name, and her importance in Clark's life, been lost to the past, and what does that portend for her future? Does she die, and in so doing finally inspire Clark to take to the skies? Or does she take another name, one that perhaps they already know all too well? It was a relief just to hear the show acknowledge these questions, even if they did leave them all unanswered.
I can't say I appreciated another hint at the Chlois theory, though, right on the heels of the Clois almost-kiss in Bride. In a fandom that sometimes seems to be dominated by its shipper wars, we don't need any more fuel for that fire. Pick a ship and run with it, show, and stop trying to pander to all fan groups at once. Actually, as much as I've enjoyed the flirty, funny moments Clark and Lois have shared this season, one of the things I liked best about Legion was its complete lack of romantic entanglements. Give me a smart, heroic Clark, a compelling big bad, some superpowers, and a good story, and I'm a happy fangirl. Even the comic book stuff was just icing on the cake for me.
I loved the Clark that Geoff Johns gave us in Legion. He was my hero, showing great leadership and strength of character, absolute conviction in his beliefs, and the determination to think and act independently that has become his trademark in S8. He was, in a word, my Superman. I have enjoyed every step of Clark's journey on Smallville, truly, but after seven seasons of watching, this Clark is exactly the man for whom I've been waiting, and I can't even express how happy I am to see him emerge. And Tom Welling plays him perfectly, as if he's been waiting his whole life to show us the man Clark is destined to become. My secret wish is to see Tom in a romantic comedy, not a Superman film, but I've never been more convinced he could pull off the suit and the cape on the big screen than I was when Legion ended.
I also loved Clark's interaction with the Legionnaires. It was gratifying to see their open admiration of Clark, and how deeply that affected him. And I liked how the relationship between them developed, how it was broken and then forged anew as they learned to see Clark as a man instead of a legend, but to trust him all the same. The cute moments, like when Garth asked Clark where his cape was, or when Clark signed the baseball with his heat vision, were a delight to watch. But most of all I celebrated how Clark rose to this occasion, and passionately made it clear that he doesn't kill, inspiring the Legion to make his personal code their own. He made me proud.
Allison Mack was amazing this week, as usual. Her Brainiac was chilling. Ruthless, relentless, and completely devoid of emotion, her total disregard for human life was unmistakable. The return of the real Chloe at the end of the episode was nothing short of a transformation. And I'm glad to have Clark's unadulterated BFF back. Analyzing her every word and action, trying to discern what was Chloe and what was Brainiac, was beginning to make my head hurt. Her conversation with Clark before leaving for Star City cleared up a few things in that regard, thankfully. We now know that while Brainiac definitely influenced her during his possession, Chloe evidently decided to marry Jimmy of her own free will, and is anxious to be reunited with her new husband. In fact, the ambivalence her attraction to Davis seemed to indicate was all Brainiac's doing. And Chloe has ALL her memories back. Good move, I approve, but it all seemed kind of anti-climactic to me. I guess I'm not sure why the show bothered to take her memories of Clark's secret away in the first place, if they were going to give them back so easily. What purpose did it all serve? And is Clark ever going to tell Chloe what he did?
If I have fewer questions about Chloe, I'm left with even more about Davis. Brainiac said Davis isn't human, and has no free will. Is that true? And if so, with Brainiac gone, who controls the beast? With his incubation interrupted, what state is Davis in, exactly? And if he's nothing but a monster on the inside, am I supposed to be unmoved by his obvious anguish over what he's become? Are we looking at a showdown between Clark and Doomsday to bring this season to a close? If so, how in the world are the writers supposed to craft a final story arc that can serve equally well to end the season or the series? I have a bad feeling about this.
Finally, I really struggled with my reaction to Lana this week. First off, I absolutely hated that she had to tell Clark that killing Chloe was not an option. I wanted to see him come to that conclusion on his own, not be scolded into it by Lana. Why does her presence always have to diminish Clark? I wasn't thrilled about the extreme hero worship Imra had for her, either, but I can at least rationalize that as idealized fangirling of her legendary status in future history. I like Lana's new maturity in S8, and the fact that they're giving her an identity outside of being someone's love interest. I applaud her faith in Clark, and her loyalty to Chloe. And I appreciate that her fans want to see a fitting farewell to a character they adore. But do they have to lay it on so thick? For all that's different in S8, some things are very much the same.
Random thoughts: Lana's hairstyle continues to be a disturbing distraction. Kristin Kreuk's new 'do looks fabulous, why not let Lana have it, too? At the end of Bride, Lana was in a hospital gown, in a bed at Metropolis General. And then she put her bloody dress back on and drove back to the farm? Clark is hot when he's angry. And Tom was gorgeous in that white shirt. I'm sorry, but I had to laugh when Clark just ran away from the Legionnaires. It looked kind of silly. And it took me right back to him running away so hilariously from Lois in Crimson. Did you see the Torch article about Alicia in Chloe's binder? Continuity FTW! What's the status of the Fortress now? Did the way Rokk exorcised Brainiac remind anyone else of Sam Winchester? :) And I think Ryan Kennedy is almost as tall as Tom!
We were given a rare treat this week, a true crossover between Smallville and the DCU. The result was a blast, and it seems everyone involved enjoyed the collaboration. Way to think outside the box, show! I'd love to see you do it again sometime. Legion was a fun ride, and it was also a great way to wrap up the first half of the season. Brainiac is gone, Chloe's back, Doomsday has been unleashed, and Clark is more aware than ever of the destiny that awaits him, and of his importance to the entire world. I can't wait to see what happens next!
Cross-posted at Starkville House of El Podcast.
Because I loved Geoff Johns' words, here are my top ten quotes from Legion:
Clark: Who are you? What's going on?
Rokk: Kal-El, it is an absolute honor, and a privilege.
Clark: How do you know that name?
Imra: We are the Legion.
Rokk: We've come from the 31st century.
Garth: Hey, Kal. Where's your cape?
Rokk: Kal-El, your influence will reach far beyond Earth. It's because of you that the world learns to welcome alien immigrants with open arms.
Clark: What do you know about aliens?
Garth: Kal, I may have the smoldering good looks of a human, but I'm actually from a hunk of mud called Winath. Rokk and Imra are from different planets, too.
Imra: We've come together from across the universe to form the Legion, to help others as you do. Without you, none of that would have happened.
Davis: Chloe, if you're in there anywhere, you know that the feelings I have for you are real.
Chloiac: Feelings? That was just a program I was running to get you to me. Your journey's just beginning. Now it's time for you to incubate in your Kryptonian chrysalis. Once you emerge there will be no more pain, no doubt, only absolute rage, and unparalleled power.
Rokk: Kal-El, I have to tell you, we've heard of Lois Lane, Lana Lang, even Jimmy Olsen, but we've never heard a thing about any Chloe Sullivan.
Clark: Then you don't know me as well as you think.
Imra: Her name was probably just lost in the annals of history.
Garth: What she's trying to say is that Chloe Sullivan probably isn't in the history books because she didn't survive.
Clark: Chloe Sullivan doesn't die! Hear me?
Rokk: Lightning Lad! You might want to take your AC foot out of your DC mouth before you short yourself out.
Garth: Right, Rokk. I thought Kal-El was known for doing whatever it took to save the world. Are you sure we got the right guy?
Rokk: It's him.
Garth. I don't know. No glasses, no tights, no flights? So far, he's nothing like the Man of Steel.
Chloiac: Go on, kill me. I knew you'd never harm me in this human skin. Why do you think I chose her?
Clark: Does your Legion have any principles? You speak of a code. But if it had anything to do with me, rule number one would be do not kill. Ever!
Clark: If you ever believed in me, and even if you don't now, help me! There's a human being inside there. We need to help her, and together I think we can.
Clark: Chloe! Are you okay?
Chloe: I'm fine. I definitely feel a whole lot dumber.
Chloe: Thanks for not giving up on me.
Clark: I'd never give up on you, Chloe, you know that.
Chloe: I just hope that if it turned out that there was no other choice, you would choose to do the right thing.
Clark: What choice would that be?
Chloe: To do what's best for the world, and not for me. Know that I'd understand.
Clark: As long as I'm around, that's never gonna happen.
Clark: You sure you want to take that with you?
Rokk: I'm sure we'll be able to re-program what's left of Brainiac into something useful.
Imra: Let's hope Brainiac 5 is a little more friendly.
Rokk: I'm sorry I doubted you, Kal. You did stop Brainiac, and without taking a life.
Clark: There's always a way, Rokk. If it ever seems like there isn't, just remember what we accomplished here today.
Rokk: Preserve life at all costs. That will be the number one rule in Legion code from now on.
And because you know I can't resist the pretty, here are my top twenty caps from the episode. And if you're surprised that all but one are of Tom, then you don't know me at all. :)
Screen caps courtesy of KEakaCK, with my thanks!