I don't think Clark has ever felt more alone than he does right now. Everyone around him in this episode questioned his judgment, and told him his plan to dispatch Doomsday would fail. They urged him to kill the monster instead, if that's even possible. But convinced by Chloe's passion in the Fortress, and the drastic actions she has taken, he has resolved to find a way to save Davis before following through with his original plan of banishing Doomsday to the Phantom Zone. I think looking to Black!K for a solution is a desperate measure, with no predicate for success in this situation. I also think Clark is giving Davis too much benefit of the doubt. Clark hasn't seen all the sides of him that we have, and I remain convinced that Davis is but a thin veneer covering the beast within, and that the woobie part of him is more manipulation than truth. I love Clark for his faith in Davis's humanity, but I have a bad feeling about this.
This week Tess assembled the Injustice League, a group of meteor freaks that included Plastique, Parasite, Livewire, Neutron, and Mirror. She had them hunting for Davis and Chloe, just as Clark and Oliver's Justice League were doing, but for an entirely different reason. Tess still hopes to force the confrontation between Clark and Doomsday, believing it is the necessary final test Clark must face before he can emerge victorious as the savior of the world. The IJL didn't know Clark was the fabled Traveler, but they knew he played a part in Tess's plan, and that was good enough for them. Mirror, a shapeshifter, pretended to be Chloe, and used some very creepy tactics in an attempt to prey on Clark's devotion to his best friend and convince him to do exactly what Tess wanted.
When Clark found Chloe, frantic and traumatized on a lonely road through the woods, she was dirty and disheveled, and appeared to be naked under her short trench coat. Back at the farm, she was jumpy and tearful, and could barely speak about her experience, her voice shaking as she described how afraid she was. And later, when Oliver asked Clark how Chloe was, he cryptically answered, "Something happened." Was Tess setting Clark up to believe Chloe had been sexually assaulted by Davis? If so, she truly is ruthless. And sure enough, Clark blamed himself for everything he thought had happened to Chloe, attributing her decision to lie to him and run off with Davis to some failing on his part, rather than her lack of faith in him as a hero. I get that Chloe would never have been exposed to Brainiac or Doomsday if she weren't in Clark's life, but she chose to be with Davis, and she knowingly betrayed Clark. Having good intentions doesn't make her blameless.
Clark's relationship with Oliver continues to deteriorate. Oliver is a handy ally, but Clark has been reduced to lying to him to get him to do what he wants. Not good, and behavior beneath the future Supes, I think, but it reflects just how deeply Clark distrusts Oliver now. And his feelings were only validated by the shocking revelation that the head of the Justice League keeps and wears a kryptonite ring, and his subsequent admission that he murdered Lex. Even though he shares Clark's desire to keep the world safe, Oliver hardly seems like one of the good guys anymore.
That said, however, I actually found Oliver more sympathetic than usual in his conversations with Clark in this episode. For once he didn't hurl wild, unfounded insults at Clark, but rather expressed a lot of frustration that was at least understandable. I still believe he's totally wrong, of course, but I imagine he speaks for a certain segment of the audience who are not necessarily Superman fans, and are feeling their own impatience with Clark's reluctance to bend his rules in Davis's case. The conflict between Oliver and Clark gives our hero the perfect opportunity to articulate what his moral code is, and to present an alternative to Oliver's vigilante justice, but I worry that the growing rift between them will prove impossible to mend. :(
I also delighted in Oliver's scenes with Tess, as he played the sexy spy. Except for Clark's hilarious first line of the episode, Ollie provided the only moments in Injustice that made me smile, and I thought his charming antics were adorable. And he still looks amazing without his shirt. Or pants, for that matter! :) I had to laugh when Tess told him it was time for him to leave, and he spread his hands to indicate his glorious bare chest and asked, incredulously, "Really?" As in, have you seen this body?! :D He was the definition of incorrigible. And I still think there's something there between these two. Oliver was working his seduction skills way too hard to be completely faking it, and Tess freaked when she thought he was hurt. Plus he raged out of control when Plastique and Parasite hurt her, and seemed to cradle her quite tenderly as he carried her away. I find that fascinating to ponder. Will Ollie decide he has more in common with Tess than Clark?
Tess just keeps getting crazier, and more dangerous. "Clark, the mark of a true hero is somebody who's willing to sacrifice his own personal morality to help keep the world safe." WTF? I never know what Tess is going to do or say next, but I always love where she takes us. And she's such a bundle of contradictions! She's utterly devoted to Clark, without question. Did you see how devastated she was when he said she was just like Lex? And yet she thinks nothing of lying to him, manipulating him, and trying to change him. She has the passionate fervor of a religious zealot, but also the cold ruthlessness of a sociopath, murdering anyone who gets in her way without hesitation or remorse. I continue to enjoy how straightforward she is as well. There is no more pretense between Clark and Tess about the existence of his abilities, although he still refuses to discuss them with her, or use them in front of her. Do we see more of Smallville's convenient unconsciousness in her future? ;) And the best thing about Tess is the actress who plays her. Cassidy Freeman more than owns this role, giving us a performance that is unpredictable, yet consistent, and always captivating.
I was stunned to see Tess communicating with the orb at the end of the episode. That explains why she chose its symbol for the IJL jackets. I don't believe for a moment that anyone from Kandor is speaking to her; that has to be Zod. We don't know how or where Tess came to possess the orb, do we? I can only speculate that while Brainiac was in Chloe's body, where, as a human, he could touch the orb freely, he somehow located it, reprogrammed it to serve his only purpose, to bring Zod to Earth, and then delivered it to Tess. Or not. I don't know, I'm totally guessing here! :) Does Tess mean to repopulate the Earth with Kryptonians? Or simply bring more of what she sees as a superior race to our world? And how does Clark figure into all of this? Does she seek to give him back a piece of his home planet? In any case, after hearing what the orb said to her about being the savior of Kandor, I'm seeing some of the things she said in the episode in a whole new light:
"Clark, don't you see that I'm doing all this for you?"
"I understand that if everyone was more like you, the world would be a better place."
"That's simple, Clark. An entire civilization's survival depends on it."
I can't wait for next week!
Clark was every inch the hero this week, in spite of one devastating hit after another. First he believed Chloe had suffered unspeakable horrors in the name of protecting him. The he discovered just how far Tess was willing to go to manipulate him. Again and again he had his judgment questioned; again and again people tried to thwart his plans. Oliver had a kryptonite ring, and refused to give it up. Further, he confessed to Lex's murder. Tess stole and destroyed the PZ crystal. And whether Clark could bring himself to recognize it or not, Chloe continued to choose staying with Davis over trusting her best friend to know what's right. Clark's world was falling apart around him, but still he stayed strong. He did what he needed to do to put his plan in motion, and he kept his resolve. And when Oliver railed at him, AGAIN, he responded with a speech that made me want to stand up and cheer:
"My responsibility is to do what's right. Like it or not, we stand for something. We set an example for others to follow, and if we don't, then we're no better than the people we fight."
After the events of this episode, Clark is hurt, angry, and frustrated. And utterly alone. But he is far from lost. He's worried about Chloe, and he's more worried about the world. But he's working on a plan, and he's not backing down. And through it all, in spite of seemingly universal opposition, he remains true to a belief that lies at the core of every choice he has made with regard to Davis Bloom:
"No one has the right to choose who lives and dies."
I believe in you, Clark Kent. You go take care of Doomsday the best way you know how; just promise me you'll come home safe after, okay?
Tom Welling's performance was wonderful. He always seems so comfortable in his own skin when he directs himself. I loved the strength and fire he gave to Clark, and I equally loved his tenderness and vulnerability. The bleak look in Clark's eyes after he lied to Oliver, his complete devastation when he thought Chloe had died in his arms, and the quiet, wounded way he asked Oliver about the kryptonite ring, all broke my heart. His heroic moments were just as moving. And I think I have to give thanks to both actor Tom and director Tom for the insane amount of pretty in this one. Between the killer wardrobe, the great hair, the beautiful lighting, the stunning close-ups, and all the shots of that perfect profile, I was swooning every other second. Tom may not do interviews, but he still knows how to give with both hands to his fans. ;)
I don't pretend to know a lot about directing, but I think Tom's skill behind the camera is obvious. Injustice was a compelling, dramatic episode, and I was impressed by the choices Tom made with the blocking, the camera angles, the lighting, and many other details. I do have some favorite moments. The Chlark reunion in the woods was both intense and haunting, with a beautiful ethereal quality. Seeing a desolate Clark through the glass of Ollie's office window, the buildings of nighttime Metropolis reflected on its shiny surface, was a heartbreaking reminder of how alone Clark was at that moment, even surrounded by the big, busy city. I loved the use of slow motion in the climactic scene in Tess's study. I held my breath on a gasp when Clark and Oliver locked gazes as Green Arrow stalked out with Tess in his arms. Clark's eyes narrowed in anger and renewed distrust, while Oliver's face was stony and unapologetic, and we saw every nuance that passed between them. And finally, I found the last scene between Clark and Tess in the barn breathtaking. The warm, pretty lighting and the incredible beauty of the two actors belied the ugly menace of Tess's ravings. I think Tom should be proud.
Dr. Emil Hamilton rocks. I love his unflappable demeanor and his dry delivery. There was no mistaking his meaning when he explained to Clark that there had been two witnesses to Doomsday's latest rampage, a man and a woman, and then looked straight at Chloe as he pointedly added, "both dead." hee! I don't think he liked the way she threatened him last week. :) He works with John Jones, he appears to be a deductive genius, he's a capable hacker, and Alessandro Juliani can deliver exposition with the best of them. Plus I think the character has great chemistry with Clark. I hope we see lots more of him in S9.
I thought the troubled teens of the IJL worked well, although Brendan Fletcher will always be Max Miller from Supernatural to me. :) His Parasite was suitably creepy, and I liked Jessica Parker Kennedy's portrayal of Bette much better this time around. With another season (or two!) to go, I suppose we might see these two again. Neutron was kind of hot; it's too bad they didn't give the actor even one line before they killed him off. ;)
Random thoughts: Chloe's control sure didn't last long. Just a week has gone by, and Doomsday is killing again. Lex had his blue water bottles, and now Ollie has green ones! How did Tess miss the unconscious guard Oliver carelessly left lying in the hallway on the way to her bedroom? I thought the effect used to show Clark's powers leaving and reentering his body was cool. And Clark was at the corner of Marshall and Beeman? hee!
Now that Tess has destroyed the PZ crystal, it looks as though the fight she wants so badly will come to pass after all. Clark changed his mind about Davis because of Chloe, and will now try to save the man before taking on the beast. When that plan goes horribly awry (and you know it will), will he take that as proof that he needs to retreat from such close relationships with humans, or will he find further cause to heap guilt and blame on his own shoulders? Either way, I see even darker days for Clark ahead. There's a showdown coming, with consequences for our hero we can't even imagine yet. I'm afraid this season's finale will bring us a far from happy ending, but I'll be there, front and center, to see it for myself. Bring it on, Smallville!
Cross-posted at Starkville House of El Podcast.
There was so much pretty in this episode I couldn't possibly limit myself to just ten examples. My top twenty caps from Injustice:
Screen caps courtesy of Home of the Nutty, with my thanks!