Usually an AU is a cautionary tale rather than an ominous prediction. The hero, thrust into or shown a world where all our worst fears have come to pass, uses what he learns there to avert disaster in his own reality, often with a single action that is deceptively simple in its execution. Sometimes it's even played for laughs, and the adventure ends with a knowing chuckle, because we're all in on the joke. But Smallville declined to take the easy way out. They've done this before, and to great effect, in Lexmas, where we saw Lex visit a future in which he found true happiness, only to sacrifice his very soul in the hope of saving the life of the woman he loved. But in Pandora they not only took away my happy ending, they unforgivably undermined my hero, and left me totally confused as to what lesson Lois's trip to the future was supposed to teach me.
The interesting twist about Pandora's future was that we saw it through Lois's eyes. If she didn't see it, neither did we, and that definitely left some gaps in the story. We'll never know exactly how that future came to be; countless events conspired to create the desolate world we saw. Right after Lois first disappeared, Clark had not fully realized the feelings he had for her, he had no idea that Zod existed on Earth, and his focus was on exploring his Kryptonian heritage and saving lives as the Blur. So the turning point everyone spoke of, where Clark couldn't bear to be around those who reminded him of Lois, and went off on his own to fight Zod, must have happened later, and there had to be more to that story. Not knowing how we got to the future we're now desperate to prevent is supposed to be part of the fun; it gives the writers the freedom to make all kinds of crazy things happen. But I had a hard time wrapping my mind around what this episode seemed to imply, and it made the suspension of my disbelief much more difficult.
Presumably Clark somehow let his guard down, and Zod's solar tower sneaked up on him, leaving him suddenly and completely powerless. But how would that happen, exactly? Are we supposed to believe that Clark remained ignorant of Zod's presence until after the tower was complete? That he had no opportunity to make a move against him until it was too late? That seems ridiculous, but how else do you explain a fight in which Zod was not instantly defeated? Clark has superpowers! To suggest that Zod could be a formidable opponent without them is just laughable. So what could make Clark so blind to the signs that there was an alien presence on Earth, or that Tess was up to something suspicious with that behemoth structure she was building? Was he locked up in the Fortress for months on end, oblivious to the outside world? Was it the fact that he didn't have Chloe to clue him in? Or are we supposed to think he was just too lovesick to care? None of it makes any sense to me.
Once Clark did lose his powers, why show him to be so ineffective without them? He really wasn't much more than a bystander in the future we saw. Clark is so much more than the powers our yellow sun gives him; he is a hero with or without his abilities, as he has already shown us in episodes like Leech and Mortal. I also didn't like the suggestion that Lois's absence from his life would cripple him. Of course I believe that he loves her and would be devastated by her loss, but I also believe he would rise above it, and tragically carry on, because that is the man he is. And what's wrong with him taking on the big bad all by himself? Superman does that all the time. Even with Lois by his side, his life will always have a solitary quality, a burden of loneliness he bears for our sake, his to carry as the last remaining... Oh, wait.
Pandora's Future!Clark kept talking about all the mistakes he had made, and I'm beginning to think that's all the writers see in Clark anymore. Lately their job seems to be to remind us why Clark isn't Superman yet, because the minute he is, the show's over. And that's exactly what I'd love to see the show explore, but I think what they've hit upon is that he screws up, just like the rest of us. Evidently I was wrong to think Clark was special, or unique, or inherently wise and right, or already better than the rest of us. Whatever Jonathan and Martha taught him, it must not have been nearly enough, because the show keeps telling me that he acts rashly, makes bad decisions, lets people down, and fails to protect the world. I have no confidence that the decision Clark made about Zod is the right one, and after this episode, I have a terrible feeling that the journey TPTB have planned for him for the rest of the season will be a series of missteps, with guilt and blame to follow, and people telling him how he's doing it wrong.
At this point I'm cynical enough to wonder if this whole future storyline was born when TPTB went into the writers' room and said, "We need to figure out a way for Clark and Lois to have sex, without Clark and Lois really having sex. Go!" But believe it or not, I actually enjoyed a lot of Pandora. And if anyone is still reading this after all my ranting, I'll tell you why. :)
I loved Clark in this episode. In the present day he was the man of action in every way. It was immensely satisfying to see him confront Chloe. She may have been innocent this time, but his suspicions were completely justified, and her snide remark about working on his apology later didn't win her any sympathy points from me. His next move was to go after Tess to rescue Lois, in spite of the kryptonite that surrounded her. Then, after his glimpse of the future, Clark decided to try to work with Zod instead of against him, and as ill-advised as that seems to me, I still admire him for having the courage of his convictions. And he didn't waste any time putting his plan into action, tracking down and confronting Zod immediately. Now things should really get interesting.
But my favorite scene with Clark, and also my favorite of the episode, was when Lois returned to the Daily Planet after her ordeal with Tess. After everything he felt when Lois went missing, and everything he saw in his glimpse of the future, Clark wasn't going to take any more chances on letting this relationship slip through his fingers. He was direct, asking Lois flat out where they stood as a couple. He was relentless, brushing aside all of her evasions and excuses. And he was incredibly sexy as he pursued her, staring into her eyes with that intense green gaze. I defy anyone to say no to him! I've never seen Clark go after his own happiness that way before, and it was glorious to behold. Plus he and Lois were adorable together. When she took his hand in the elevator, it was too cute. The whole scene was romantic, charming, and hopeful, and the perfect antidote to the darkness that preceded it.
Future!Clark definitely had his moments, too. He mostly stood on the sidelines until he regained his powers, but Tom Welling gave him an inner strength and somber courage that took my breath away. Clark knelt before Zod with dignity, never looking away even as his conqueror drew sword to kill him, and never betraying an ounce of fear except when he thought Lois was in danger. Did you see that look he and Zod exchanged as the resistance fighters battled the Kandorians? Angry!Clark is HOT. And the tender emotion he displayed with Lois was beautiful and bittersweet. Plus he looked AMAZING. Dirty, scruffy Clark, with his deliciously unruly curls and the same snug henley he wore in last season's Odyssey, made me weak in the knees, and he looked even better when he cleaned up for an impromptu date night with Lois, losing his shirt in the process. Yum.
I didn't blame Lois and Clark one bit for falling into bed together. They were in love, and neither knew what the next day would bring. Sure, there were reasons why it wasn't prudent, what with Lois going back to make sure this future, and this Clark, never happened, but I would have seized the moment, too. I'm not entirely comfortable with Lois and Clark's first time being between Lois from the present and Clark from the future, but I guess the writers fixed that by making sure she won't remember it. :/ And I suppose they're saving the super sex to make their "real" first time together the one that counts. The whole thing seems a little contrived to me, a cheat TPTB cooked up to give the shippers what they want, but who am I to argue with the hotness of what they gave us? I thought that rushed montage of flashes we've seen before was awkward and jarring, though.
Lois had just one conscious scene in the present day, with Clark at the DP, and she was wonderful in it. Her near panic when Clark insisted on talking about "Lois and Clark, Clark and Lois, as a couple" was too funny, and the way she outlined their future dates once he won her over was pure Lois. Clark delighted in it as much as I did, as demonstrated by the way he floated into the Watchtower on cloud nine after their lunch. And he sent her five dozen roses! *draws sparkly hearts around them* I can't help it, seeing Clark have even a little happiness makes me squee. I don't know if the show will let it last, but I'll enjoy every second of it while I can.
Lois was in every scene of the future, of course, since we experienced it through her memories. I was impressed with her courage as she struggled to make sense of what she was seeing, and I thought Erica Durance did a great job of letting Lois's strength and fire shine through, while still allowing us to see her rising panic as stark reality set in. I'm sure the experience was traumatic for Lois, but I wish they had found a better way to help her than a memory wipe. I just don't think anyone has the right to mess around with someone else's brain without their knowledge or consent, and of all the things Clark, Oliver, and Chloe have chosen to keep secret from Lois over the years, her own memories seem the most indefensible. Besides, what if there were something she could remember that Clark didn't see, something that turned out to be critical in defeating Zod? I wonder, since Lois didn't learn Clark's secret in the future, is it possible the wipe isn't meant to stick?
Oliver was awesome in Pandora. In the present he was loyal to Clark, and understanding of his feelings for Lois. He may have disagreed with Clark's plan for Zod, but he voiced his concerns without any condescension or snide remarks. He was just a good guy. And he was pretty much the same in the future. The biggest difference I saw was that he was content to follow rather than lead, but his inner hero couldn't help but break free. It was cool to see him in action during the rebel attack, and I loved how glad he was to see his Green Arrow gear again: "Honey, I'm home." :) Surprisingly, he seemed to have survived the brutality of that future world without significant emotional damage: he was genuinely happy to see Lois, he mourned for Tess in spite of her betrayal, and he was ready to welcome Clark back into the fold. I think that is Oliver's gift: his natural joie de vivre. It not only sustains him, but inspires others, and makes the impossible seem possible to them as well. I wasn't surprised to see him go down fighting, a hero until the end.
Chloe was the most changed in the future, although we can see those sharp edges of her personality beginning to emerge even now. In the present day she continued to treat Clark with disdain, and she didn't seem overly concerned with her cousin's well-being, or Stuart's life. She's all about the end game of saving the world now, and she has no patience for anyone who gets in her way, including Clark. Wow, she and Tess sound more alike every day. In the future Chloe was cold, empty, and hard. I give her props for leading the resistance and coming up with a virus that could take down Zod's tower, and I loved her triumphant, rock-infused return to the Watchtower, but the personal price she paid was chilling to see. Allison Mack's finely tuned performance made it easy to believe that our Chloe could one day become that harsh automaton of the future, and that scared me.
Tess confused me the most. There was nothing surprising about the fact that she kidnapped Lois, and while it was shocking to see her almost casually gun down Stuart for opposing her, it was hardly out of character. But why was Future!Tess still aligned with Zod? He clearly saw humans as second class citizens at best, and was well on his way to wiping them from the face of the Earth. Were Tess's marine biology roots showing? Did she truly place saving the planet above the survival of the human race? And it didn't look like Zod's tower was doing Earth any favors anyway, scorching everything in sight and laying waste to Smallville's lush farmland. What really intrigues me is how witnessing her own death will change Tess. Will her allegiances shift? Will she reconsider the wisdom of the path she is on? Or will she simply set her sights on Chloe, determined to provide a permanent solution to that potential threat? I can't wait to see what she does next.
I was glad to see Stuart and Emil return to Smallville, and I thought it was interesting how each played the role of conscience to his respective boss, and without success. Of course Emil didn't get shot for his trouble, and Chloe is still worlds away from Tess in playing the puppet master, but it's a fascinating parallel the show draws for us nonetheless. I'm glad Stuart isn't dead, especially now that we know he's not all bad. Something tells me Tess won't get charged with attempted murder, though. And I hope they find a reason to bring Emil back soon. I think he should be around as much as possible; he makes every scene better just by being in it.
Can someone please tell me what the story is with Alia? She is a mess of contradictions, and either she's the world's worst continuity error, or there's way more to her than meets the eye. I'm guessing it's the latter. First of all, she has those freaky blue eyes. There has to be a reason for that. Second, we're always getting these shots of her where the camera lingers and she stares ominously, as if her moments are weighted with some special significance. Third, why in the world would she accept Jonathan's watch, with a broken crystal no less, as a bribe? And if you look at her actions, the chick just doesn't add up. In Savior she seemed like she had a history with Clark, and that she admired him, even as she tried to kill him. In Pandora she let Lois go at his behest, but she also burned a man with her heat vision, and murdered Chloe. In Savior she said she followed Lois to find Clark, and she came with a plan, packing Blue!K. In Pandora she just happened to be around when Clark put the Legion ring on Lois's finger, and seemed to spontaneously hitch a ride to the past by grabbing Lois's hand. They left the future together, but arrived in the present separately. And most puzzling of all, she appears to have powers under both the yellow and red suns. Who is she?!
And finally, let's talk about Zod. He seemed barely changed at all in the future. We saw the same monster we have from the beginning, who lops off the heads of those who dare to defy him, acts ruthlessly in all things, and seeks to exercise his power through intimidation and domination, often with disturbingly sexual overtones. But of course Clark, watching Lois's memories, didn't know that. At that point he still hadn't met Zod, and had based his initial opinion of him, in Kandor, on another future that played out on Krypton and produced the master Brainiac served. At the end of Pandora Clark reconsidered that judgment. He knew he had to change something to prevent the future to which Lois had travelled, and it all seemed to hinge on Zod. For all Clark knew, Future!Zod was as different from his present-day counterpart as Chloe was, and entirely capable of being saved. Plus Jor-El had implored him with his dying breath to try. I can't find fault with Clark's plan, or condemn him for wanting to give even Zod a chance. But I don't think he'll succeed.
And this is where I lose faith in the show. I have met this Zod, and I know exactly how devious and manipulative he is. I didn't trust a word that Future!Zod said, and I'm sure his vision of a paradise on Earth was a warped one. I can't believe, after what we've already seen, that Zod will ever be satisfied with anything less than complete and absolute power. Which makes me think that the show is setting Clark up to fail, and to do so in a very big way. And I don't understand why that's the story TPTB want to tell. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't see how this can end well. I just hope Clark remembers to keep knocking that tower down while he works on being Zod's BFF.
Random thoughts: I hope they didn't hurt Erica's feet dragging her down that hallway. Or do you suppose she had a foot double for that part? Tess's memory retrieval device looked like a cross between the technology they used on Kara in Lara, and the machine that linked Clark and Lex together in Fracture. Why were Faora and Basqat dressed in outfits so reminiscent of the Blur's in the future? Was it just to give us that misleading flash that made us think Clark had joined forces with Zod? Belle Reve! Summerholt! Don't you love continuity? I still want to know what Jor-El took out of the wall at the farm, and why Chloe hasn't told Clark about it. Oh, and show? If you're going to make Lana into an invulnerable superhero who is steeped in kryptonite, will love Clark forever, and only stays away because she's poison to him, don't you think you might mention why she didn't swoop in to save the day, and then have a romp with Clark before they turned the tower off? Yeah, I'm STILL not over it. *sigh*
If I ignore my problems with how Smallville seems determined to make everything Clark's fault, Pandora was a great episode. It gave us an impressively grim look at the future, with action, suspense, heroism, love, sex, sacrifice, and death. Plus a little romantic comedy back in the present day. The entire cast was featured, and every actor turned in a memorable performance. And it set up a world of possibilities for the second half of the season, which I will be pondering for the next two months, until the show returns from hiatus. Last season the back half brought a lot of darkness for Clark, and I hope this season is different. But if not, at least this time Clark has Lois, to temper the darkness with the light she brings into his life. And as we saw in Pandora, that may be just what he needs to find the strength to go on.
ophelia_77 has made gorgeous caps of this episode! Check them out HERE at her journal!
So much hotness in this one! Twenty-five of my favorite caps from Pandora:
Screen caps courtesy of ophelia_77 and Home of the Nutty, with my thanks!