"And now, the final season of Smallville." With those words, spoken by Tom Welling himself, we were off! I had chills!
All summer long I wondered what the tenth and final season of Smallville would bring. How could the show take the man we saw in Salvation and fill 22 episodes with reasons why he couldn’t put on the suit? Because that Clark? Was already there. He was strong, smart, confident, compassionate, heroic, and unwavering. He led with assurance, and inspired those around him. And he sacrificed himself to save the world he loved. He was, and is, my Superman. In fact, if you took the teaser from Salvation and put it at the end of the episode instead of the beginning, you only had to squint a little to see your series finale right there. I couldn’t imagine an overall arc for S10 that didn’t involve hitting a big reset button and regressing our hero. Well, evidently neither could the writers, because that’s exactly what they did. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t love Lazarus.
Let’s get my problems with the episode out of the way first. The focus of the premiere (and perhaps the entire season) was the ridiculous notion that Clark suffers from an excess of pride and vanity, born on the day he rescued Lex from a watery grave and realized the true extent of the abilities that set him apart from other men. We’re supposed to believe that he hides a heart full of darkness, and is motivated more by conceit than altruism. When he saved both Lois and the people of Metropolis from the deaths Clone!Lex had planned for them, he didn't feel relief that he had managed to get there in time, nor happiness that all their lives had been spared. No, after his first public act as the Blur, Clark stood high atop the Daily Planet building, basked in the adulation of the cheering crowd below, and let his ego swell to the size of the globe he held above his head. Seriously, Smallville? Have you MET Clark?
Who delivers this ludicrous message? A mutant monster fueled by psychotic hatred, and the sick, twisted computer program that has tormented Clark for years. I wouldn’t dream of questioning the credibility of such sources! *rolls eyes* And if I accept this nonsense, what am I supposed to think of Salvation? Do I view it as Clark’s failure now, instead of his triumph? Stupid show.
In Lazarus we welcomed back the Jor-El we love to hate. He’s been playing the benevolent father figure for a while now, but I guess S10 needed something a little more dramatic. Jor-El drives me crazy. He is the most inconsistently written character on the show. The writers constantly use him as a plot device, he contradicts himself at every turn, and his actions never make any sense to me. Why did he show up in Clark’s cornfield between life and death if he had no intention of sending him back? Just to pass judgment on him one more time, and send him off to eternity feeling like a failure? Later he whisked Clark off to the Fortress to berate him some more, telling him he was evil and weak, and that he would never be Earth’s savior, but her greatest enemy instead. That's when I started yelling at my TV screen.
One part that completely boggled my mind was when Jor-El was so outraged that Clark had almost killed Clone!Lex. This is the same Jor-El that vaporized an FBI agent in Covenant for eavesdropping, tried to freeze Chloe to death in Arrival for interrupting, is always telling his son he cares too much about humans, and treats the loss of those Clark loves best as nothing more than a necessary life lesson. And where does he get off taking the suit? That was a gift from Martha to Clark, and has nothing to do with him. Why does he care what Clark wears anyway? It’s all so contrived.
So I reject your premise, Smallville. You say Clark is full of pride and vanity? That’s just crazy talk. I think Chloe said it best:
“Clark, I think you’re so amazing. You save people’s lives and take zero credit for it. To me you’re more than just a hero. You’re a superhero.”
This retcon goes against everything I’ve ever seen on this show, so I choose to fanwank it. The way I see it, Clark’s obstacle is the same one he faced in S8: he’s still allowing others to shake his confidence, and make him question what he knows in his heart is right. Just as Chloe and Oliver were wrong then, Jor-El is wrong now. What Clark needs to work on in S10 is believing in himself, and figuring out how to delete that obnoxious AI from the Fortress mainframe once and for all.
Okay, rant over. Let’s talk about what I loved. First and foremost, Tom Welling’s performance! I think it was one of the very best of his career. Clark went through so many emotions in this episode, and every moment was a masterpiece of nuance and control. I was captivated, and caught up, and moved to tears. I know I’m being a gushy fangirl when I say this, but Tom makes me love Clark so much! And he has a way of rising above the material that leaves his character untouched by the storylines that make my head want to explode. As frustrated as I was with parts of Lazarus, Clark never let me down.
I especially liked the way Clark fought back against the accusations that Clone!Lex and Jor-El hurled at him. Some of them hit him like physical blows, and obviously left him shaken, but he showed great determination in the face of their condemnation, and didn’t give up. I didn't see Clark’s outburst in the Fortress as the ego-driven temper tantrum I suspect it was intended to be; I thought his anger was completely justified. I felt every ounce of his outrage, and cheered his every word. And I couldn’t stand that the one time Clark actually found a little joy in using his powers, Jor-El had to smack him down. What does he want from him?! Clark was understandably hurt and confused by the events of this episode, but never defeated, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
My favorite scene in Lazarus was Clark’s reunion with Jonathan. It was amazing, and magical, and like taking a step back in time. The dialogue was a little WTF at times, and I have no idea how or why Clark’s father reappeared right when he needed him most, but all that mattered was the incredible emotion of their conversation, Jonathan’s unshakable faith in Clark, and his complete disdain for anything Jor-El had to say. John Schneider was perfect, and just thinking about Tom in that scene brings tears to my eyes all over again. Clark's anguish broke my heart, and Jonathan's love for his son mended it. I cried buckets. And it felt real. Even the strongest among us have doubts about ourselves sometimes, and crave the reassurance of loving arms. It was everything Clark’s interactions with the AI were not, and it made me miss Jonathan and Martha more than ever.
Erica Durance was exceptional in the premiere. I think Lois knowing Clark's secret brings something fresh and exciting to Smallville's tenth season, and it looks like that new dimension has inspired Erica. She nailed every scene she was in, from the heartbreak of Lois finding Clark's seemingly lifeless body sprawled in the pouring rain, to the sacrifice of saying goodbye to him because she thought it was the right thing to do. We saw her deep love for our hero, her complete acceptance of who he is, and her struggle not to give in to fear in the face of his enemy. I'm so happy Clark has her by his side! Soon the last barriers of secrecy between them will be gone, but I'm glad the show is having a little fun with the situation first. I laughed all the way through the hilarious scene between Clark and Lois at the Daily Planet, especially the part with the pen. They're both such terrible liars! I think comedy is what Tom and Erica do best together, and I hope we get to see more of that this season, both before and after Clark finds out that Lois knows.
I liked how the dynamic between Clark and Lois was handled in the wake of the Salvation kiss. There was no false jealousy from Clark over the Blur, and no resentment from Lois that Clark didn't tell her sooner. Lois had a little fun with her knowledge of Clark's secret, but it wasn't at his expense. There was no question of how much she loves and admires Clark; it was there in her eyes every time she looked at him. In short, Smallville has moved beyond teenage angst and manufactured drama, and is giving us real, adult relationships. I approve. I understand why Lois didn't tell Clark she knows he's the Blur. She's following the same advice she gave to Chloe in Pariah, and waiting for him to come to her. And while I was sorry to see her leave Metropolis, I know she'll be back soon, and I look forward to seeing her choose to return to Clark.
Lazarus also brought us confirmation that TPTB are moving forward with a Lex storyline, with or without Michael Rosenbaum's return to the show. I've been adamant that they should leave Lex out of it unless he is played by Michael, and I still feel that way, but I can see the other side, too. Now that we're here, it does seem strange to finish Clark's story without the man whose life is destined to forever be entwined with his. Clone!Lex didn't bother me nearly as much as I expected. I thought the actor did a good job, and the fact that the character was so different, inside and out, from the real Lex was an effective reminder that we were dealing with damaged goods: a mutant, defective copy who was labeled the "bad" one in a lab full of monsters. It would have been awful to hear Lex say those things to Clark, but I could dismiss whatever Clone!Lex said as the ravings of a failed lab experiment. And I wouldn't have missed Tom in that scene for the world. He was incredible.
There were other things I liked about the Cadmus Labs storyline. It raised a lot of intriguing questions. The last time we saw Tess, she had just been declared dead, and Granny Goodness was slipping into her hospital room. The next thing we knew, she was waking up in Lex's lab, fully healed. Is there a connection between the Luthors and Darkseid? If Lex died two years ago, who has been running the place, and continuing his work there? If Lex's DNA could be used to heal Tess, does that mean they're related? Could she be another of Lionel's illegitimate offspring? Or is she a Lillian clone, destined to repeat history by raising an Alexander of her own? Speaking of him, is the last surviving clone the one they finally got right, or another dangerous aberration? That toy soldier in the fire seemed to suggest that at the very least he has some darker impulses. In any case, I'm fascinated by Tess and Alexander together.
And this may be more fanwanking on my part, but I believe we now have confirmation that the Fake!Lex we saw in Requiem was a clone. I know Clone!Lex said it was "the Creator" who died when that truck exploded, but I don't buy it. He was wearing a mask identical to the ones we saw in Lazarus, and his raw skin looked similar to deformities other clones had. I never understood how Fake!Lex's appearance was supposed to have been the result of being buried under tons of ice and snow anyway.
I don't have much to say about Oliver and Chloe. I hate torture scenes, even ones with perfectly chiseled, naked men. And I know they had to figure out a way to write Chloe off the show for now, but martyring herself for Oliver without even telling Clark he had been taken seems ill-advised at best. I can only guess that the helmet showed her something that explains it all, and that she has a plan. The exchange scene, beautifully filmed in slow motion, was haunting.
Random thoughts: No more shirtless Ollie in the credits? :( NEEDS MOAR EMIL. Loved all the call backs, like Chloe listing off all the Luthor projects, Lois looking at old Torch stories, and Jonathan wearing the jacket we remember so well. Did everyone recognize Clone!Lex as the evil doctor in Cyborg? Did his dialogue sound like a page out of the Clark hater's handbook to anyone else? We could tell Jor-El and Clark were on the outs again; Clark was back to bellowing in the Fortress. I love that VAST song, but the lyrics drove me mad in Veritas, and I didn't like them any better here. I can't help but think that the show is telling me that the person who is wrong is Clark. And I still say Clark was right to take down the RAO tower.
I totally understand that there has always been a trade-off between letting Clark progress on the path to his destiny, and keeping Tom Welling on my TV screen every week, so I really do try to cut the show some slack whenever I can. I found Jor-El's latest attempt to wreak havoc on Clark's life particularly offensive not only because it was a retcon of whiplash-inducing proportions, but also because it undermined the awesomeness that was Salvation. I give the show credit, however, for providing an opposing viewpoint, and a staunch Clark advocate, in Jonathan Kent. Team Jonathan all the way! And I love that Lois can be there for Clark in every way now, instead of always missing a few pieces of the puzzle. Already since figuring out he is the Blur, she has saved his life, pulling him back from the brink of death and out of Jor-El's manipulative clutches. I can't wait to see what happens between them when she can finally tell him that she loves him, all of him, with all his secrets revealed.
Lazarus, like most episodes of Smallville, was a mixed bag for me. I'm wary of where the writers are going with Lex, and, as usual, I'd like to punt Jor-El into the next galaxy. But overall I loved how the show kicked off S10. The episode was all about Clark, it set up some truly intriguing storylines, and the actors were phenomenal, especially Tom. I'm super pumped about Shield, and I plan to savor every moment I can as we count down to the end of this show that owns my life.
On a shallow note, Tom was impossibly beautiful. I don't know how he does it, but each season he comes back more handsome than before. Twenty of my favorite caps from Lazarus:
Screen caps courtesy of KEakaCK, with my thanks!