From the day I first saw the Smallville pilot, I've been in love with Clark Kent. I've celebrated his joys, and shed tears for his sorrows. I've cheered his triumphs, and anguished over his setbacks. And I've always felt that the show overburdened him with guilt, heartache, and pain. His journey has been uplifting, inspirational, and glorious, but it has never been easy. More than anything else, I wanted S10 to show me that eventually Clark would emerge from his trials not only strong, confident, and ready to take to the skies, but also happy, and at peace with who he is. With Homecoming I got that wish, and so much more. The episode was a tribute to our hero, to all he's been through, all he's accomplished, and all he is yet to be. I laughed, I cried, I gasped, I swooned, and when it was all over I watched it again, so many times I lost count. In the end, the incredible milestone that was Smallville’s 200th episode exceeded my expectations in every way.
Homecoming began with Clark suffering a crisis of confidence, understandably discouraged by recent events. Jor-El told him he would never be Earth’s savior, Kara said to leave everything to her, and Oliver’s impromptu announcement had sparked a new wave of public outcry against heroes who took the law into their own hands. Lois came by the farm to find out why Clark had gone MIA, and gave him one of her patented loft pep talks. When that failed to shake him out of his funk, she tried a diversionary tactic, convincing him to go with her to the Smallville High 5-year reunion, and setting the stage for Clark Kent’s own personal version of A Christmas Carol, with Brainiac 5 playing the part of all the ghosts.
Once again we heard about Clark’s darkness, and once again it meant something completely different. Jor-El and Clone!Lex described it as overweening pride coupled with murderous rage, Kara and Gordon Godfrey characterized it as doubt, weakness, and corruptibility, and now Brainiac said it was the inability to let go of the past. The inconsistencies made my head spin, and I still think “darkness” is the wrong word to describe what lies at the heart of Clark’s inner struggle, but at least the show finally settled on a definition for what is holding him back that I agree with. Clark feels guilty for every bad thing that happens, and it’s no wonder, because Smallville constantly makes it seem like everything is his fault. That guilt makes him hesitate, afraid he will cause more harm, and he ends up frozen, questioning whether he is even doing good in the world. In Homecoming Brainiac said some things that Clark fans have been saying for years, and his words were music to my ears.
Clark’s visit to the past started with his own memories of Lana and Chloe, and ended with Brainiac showing him what really happened on the night his father died. Clark has always blamed himself for Jonathan’s death, and that imagined sin has haunted him more than any other. Brainiac reminded him that Jonathan made his own choices in life, choices that ultimately led to his tragic collapse in the arms of his family. Jonathan chose to make a deal with Jor-El that took a terrible toll on his heart, and he chose to let his anger get the better of him when he fought Lionel in the barn. Similarly, Lana chose to put on Lex’s power suit and seek her own heroic path, and Chloe chose to become the eyes and ears of the superhero set. And those choices took them all away from Clark.
In the present, Clark saw that although Oliver made the impulsive decision to come out to the world all by himself, once in the limelight he was lost without the leadership and support only Clark could provide. Maybe Clark hasn’t rallied to Ollie's side in the wake of his rash announcement, but I thought it was ridiculous to suggest that Clark has been punishing him for his past mistakes. Given his long history of hurling insults and accusations at Clark, not to mention that little matter of shooting him in the back with a kryptonite arrow, I think our boy has been more than forgiving. In any case, Brainiac showed Clark how much even the other superheroes look up to him, and are inspired by him.
Back at the reunion, Lois put on a brave face as Punchbowl Maddie grilled her about her relationship with Clark, but we could all see her vulnerability as each question made her place in his life seem more tenuous. As Clark watched, perhaps realizing for the first time how keeping the woman he loved at arm’s length must make her feel, Greg Arkin approached. Desperate to protect Lois, Clark grabbed the Legion ring, and went hurtling into the best part of the episode: the future!
I can’t even begin to describe how much I loved Clark’s glimpse of what could lie ahead for him. It was a squeefest from start to finish, and I didn’t want it to end. From Clark meeting the future version of himself, to seeing what life could be like if he would just open his heart to Lois, to every little iconic shout-out, it was a dream come true. Clark’s Salvation dream come true, in fact.
Was I disappointed that Clark was shown his future, rather than being left to discover it on his own? I was at first, but then I remembered that Clark had already been shown one version of the future, in Pandora, and what he saw was pretty grim. Even though Zod was gone, Clark probably wondered every day if he would travel a different path to that same bleak fate. He deserved to see the possibility of another outcome, and I’m sure he knew this new and brighter future wasn’t any more set in stone than the one that gave Lois nightmares. It’s still all about the choices he makes. But I have to admit the squee factor helped smooth over my objections as well.
Clark meeting Clark was beyond awesome, and I thanked the heavens for DVR technology as I hit rewind again and again. I loved the Future!Clark that Tom Welling gave us, all buttoned-up business and deep-voiced command, his limitless power barely contained beneath his mild-mannered exterior. I didn't need to see the suit to recognize my Superman. Plus he matched the equally polished Future!Lois perfectly. Was I the only one imagining him taking down her hair later that night, and her mussing up his GQ look as she ripped off his tie? Future!Clark's iconic glasses and slicked-back hair were HOT, and the way he vaulted out of the elevator, halfway to flying already, made my heart skip a beat. And our Clark’s irreverent reaction to him was too funny.
It was moving to see the pride and awe in Clark's eyes as he watched his future self in action, but I don’t agree that he would never become the hero he’s meant to be without that moment. I have more faith in him than that. Besides, that whole concept set up one of those circular time travel paradoxes that makes my head hurt: if Clark has to see the future in order to make it happen, how could that future ever exist to inspire him in the first place? It was Pandora all over again: how could there be a future where Lois never came back, when she DID come back, three weeks later? I don’t get it, but then, I’m no physicist. Everything I know about time travel I learned from The Terminator and Timecop.
Erica Durance was a delight as Future!Lois. What made her characterization so cool was that she didn’t reinvent Lois; she gave us the same vibrant woman we already know and love, with the added layer of confidence and competence that comes with experience, and the knowledge that you’re making a difference in the world by being part of something bigger than yourself. A whirlwind of energy with a take-charge attitude, she left me breathless and begging for more. And how adorable was her eye-circling gesture to remind Clark to put on his glasses?
Best of all was seeing that Lois with our Clark. The Clark and Lois we know are always holding back, longing for each other but afraid to make a move. The future showed us all that Lois has to give, the endless depth of her love for Clark, and the fire that will smolder between them when their walls are finally knocked down. Clark was utterly captivated, losing himself in her eyes, staring at her lips, and unconsciously leaning in for a kiss whenever she stepped close. Clark knew this wasn’t his Lois, not yet, anyway, but when she grabbed him and planted one on him, he couldn’t resist, and surrendered, just for a moment, to complete happiness. I had a big, stupid grin on my face as he reluctantly tore himself away to look for a way home.
I’m no expert, so I’m sure I missed any number of Superman references during Homecoming’s future sequence, but the ones I noticed were a lot of fun. The “Superman Saves the Day” headline, complete with a photo of him soaring across the sky, told us immediately that our boy had landed in the future. Clark and Lois were star reporters now, in a big office upstairs. We heard Lois talking to Perry White, and saw a Jimmy Olsen photo credit. Clark even saved Lois from a helicopter that threatened to plummet off the roof of the Daily Planet building! My favorite was seeing Lois shove Clark into a phone booth to change him out of his red letterman jacket (his version of the cape) and into Clark Kent’s trademark horn-rimmed frames, a disguise that worked like a charm to fool a couple of curious coworkers.
When Clark returned to the present, he had one more revelation in store. In spite of the hilariously crazy eyes Greg Arkin displayed at the reunion’s coronation ceremony, he wasn't there for revenge. He just wanted to deliver a message of thanks to Clark, for helping to turn his meteor-infected life around. Even those who Clark fought against and put away have reason to appreciate him, and that has been true from the very start.
Brainiac gave Clark permission to let go of his guilt for past mistakes, both real and imagined, but it was Clark who looked inside himself and saw why that had been so difficult. Shouldering that burden was his way of keeping his father, and the other ghosts of his past, in his life, and letting go also meant letting go of them, and truly saying goodbye. Once Clark realized what he was doing, and how it was keeping him from his destiny, he made the choice to move on. In a touching scene that had me in tears, Clark visited Jonathan’s grave, and said a final farewell to the man who had been his own personal hero. And when he talked about holding on to Smallville, his voice full of emotion, I couldn’t help but wonder if Tom’s feelings for the show that has been his life for the last ten years crept in, giving his performance a special poignancy.
Next Clark visited Oliver as he faced the press, his mere presence lending the media's latest victim the strength and courage to stand up for superheroes everywhere. I liked Oliver’s speech, and I vastly preferred this man to the one who was used as a human punching bag and pined over Chloe. This is the Ollie I love: upbeat, heroic, and standing by Clark’s side, ready to be both a friend and a brother in arms. Justin Hartley plays the good guy so well, and it doesn’t hurt that he looks dreamy in a suit either. But I still think this entire storyline is stealing Clark’s thunder.
Homecoming ended with one of the most romantic scenes I’ve ever watched on Smallville. Finally ready to leave the past behind him, Clark invited Lois to the barn to tell her what was in his heart, not because the future assured him she would return his feelings, but because the present made him realize he couldn’t go one more day letting her think he didn’t treasure her in every way. He started by re-creating the dance they missed, not at the reunion, but on that very spot two years ago, disco ball glittering overhead, at Chloe’s wedding. This time Clark wasn’t leaving Lois alone on the dance floor to turn to the past once again. This time he was ready to move forward.
Clark has never been sexier than he was in that moment. He was completely focused on Lois, sure of his feelings, and ready to share them. He brushed aside her nervous babbling, fixed her with his heated gaze, and said, his voice all husky and full of promise, “Lois. Get over here.” He took her in his arms, and when he said those three little words, and she said them back, it was perfect. I loved their dance together: the beautiful song that was all their own, the sweet awkwardness at the beginning, his quiet declaration, her emotional reply, and then his spontaneous, dazzling smile. Seeing Clark reach for happiness and find it, after all these years, made me cry. Free from the weight of his past, he quite literally floated on air. Can flight be far behind?
It made sense to me that Clark ended up saving his secret for another day. Telling Lois he loved her was all about how special she is to him, and I don’t think he wanted to overshadow that with the enormous news that he’s a superpowered alien. He just wanted to enjoy the simple pleasure of being in her arms, loving her, and knowing she loved him, too. The bigger questions of intergalactic relationships and saving the world could wait.
Homecoming was definitely an event episode, with big scenes full of extras, impressive special effects, a location shoot, a helicopter stunt, flashbacks, and lots more. It was written by Brian and Kelly, directed by Jeannot Swarcz, and featured the return of the phenomenal James Marsters as Brainiac. It was everything a 200th episode should be. But what made it truly shine for me were the performances from Tom Welling and Erica Durance. They both showed us a wonderful depth and range of emotion, bringing the comedy, drama, and romance with talent and finesse. They created future versions of their characters who were delightfully different, yet still familiar. And they played off each other beautifully. Tom gets extra kudos for acting opposite himself, and for Clark’s priceless reactions to everything that happened in the future. I will never get tired of watching those scenes.
Random thoughts: It was sobering to remember that the two students we saw in the counselor’s files, Alicia Baker and Jake Pollen, were both killed by vigilantes who feared and hated the meteor-infected. Those who call the Blur a vigilante would do well to remember what that word can really represent. And perhaps the bigger message is that even Superman can’t save us from the poison of condemning someone just because they're different. :( Did Tom recruit some of his Hellcats stunt doubles to perform those high-flying cheers? "All of a sudden everyone's telling me that I have a darkness within me, but I don't understand what it is or how I'm supposed to change it." Me neither, Clark. It's all crazy talk to me. That mean TV reporter was Maddie’s foster mom in Fragile. I didn't know Legion rings could make you invisible during time travel. Lois wasn’t wearing any rings in the future, and the show didn’t spell out the exact status of her relationship with Clark. I liked that most of what's to come was left a mystery. And yay for Jeff the Intern! In the future he was a full-fledged reporter, assigned to Clark’s old desk!
Last season Smallville finished on an incredible high, and then immediately undercut that triumph in the first episode of S10. Clark’s so-called darkness came out of nowhere, and still seems completely contrived to me, manufactured to send our hero to a new low, just so he can rise again in this final season, starting with the 200th episode. I see what you did there, show. But even so, I loved Homecoming. I guess when it comes to Smallville, I’m something of a cheap date. I was won over by the pure entertainment value of this episode, and let go of my concerns to enjoy the ride. And if I’m being perfectly honest, just as Clark’s sneak peek of the future reassured him, it reassured me, too, giving me hope that TPTB really do have a clue what I want to see as this show comes to an end, and that they just might know how to deliver it. How we get there remains to be seen, and my optimism could blow up in my face, but Homecoming put some fears to rest that I’ve been carrying around for a very long time, and right now I'm just happy we get 18 more episodes of Smallville, and Tom, before we have to say goodbye.
I could easily have chosen twice as many pretties to share. Twenty of my favorite caps from Homecoming:
Screen caps courtesy of KEakaCK, with my thanks!