We start off in the loft, where the mood is somber. Clark is once again letting guilt weigh him down, and has decided he won't fight Brainiac's plan to kill Baby!Clark on Krypton before he is ever placed in his ship and sent to Earth. It's a difficult scene to play without having Clark come off like a mopey martyr, and Tom nails it. Clark has sent for Chloe, either because he hadn't made his decision until after he called her, or because he wanted to see her one more time and say goodbye. She passionately pleads with him to reconsider, and even forces the key into his hand. It's a total callback to Cure, and Allison Mack gives us one of the best performances I've ever seen from her. Light emerges from the key and envelops Clark. Thinking this is the end, Chloe looks stricken. Clark looks scared, but remains resolute. And then he disappears.
Clark comes to in the dark, still in the barn, but far from where he started. He's in a whole new world.
When viewing an AU episode of any show, I always say, consider the source. This AU was entirely of Jor-El's making, for the specific purpose of motivating Clark to accept his destiny and fight for his future. Once you realize that, it all makes perfect sense. Jor-El thinks that Clark's greatest weakness is how much he cares for the humans in his life, and how he lets his emotions rule his decisions. Indeed, in this episode, Clark contemplates what amounts to suicide because of how he believes his presence on Earth has hurt the humans all around him, particularly those about whom he cares the most. So Jor-El creates an AU where he can use those same emotions against Clark, to try and make him pull away from those he loves.
Who does Clark love most? His parents, Lana, and Chloe. Once upon a time, perhaps, Lex, but that relationship defies a simple explanation now. In Jor-El's AU, Clark's loved ones are all better off without him. His father is alive, and his parents are happy and successful. They even have a replacement Clark, a cute Canadian kid! :) Lana is happily married, and living in France, safe from meteor freaks, Lex, and Brainiac. And then there's that fiercely loyal blonde who keeps showing up in the Fortress to save Clark. I think Jor-El likes Chloe, but she did interrupt Clark's training that one time, and if their relationship gets any more serious, she could definitely prove to be an unacceptable distraction. So Clark is shown her happiness up close and personal. Chloe positively radiates joie de vivre in their encounter, and I don't think she's ever looked more beautiful. Clark can't deny she has thrived without him in her life.
Jor-El wants Clark to leave these people behind when he gets back to the real world, and showing him they would be better off without him is definitely going to motivate him to do so. We see that it's working right away, as Clark genuinely celebrates the happiness those he cares about have found. Sure, he looks a little bit wistful, but he never makes a move to change the future he sees, and he displays not even a hint of jealousy or self-pity. Jor-El is most certainly a bastard, but he's a smart bastard. First validate, then manipulate. Yes, Clark, you're right that the people in your life would be better off if you had never come to Earth. But the lesson isn't over yet, and what comes next is the most important part. The planet still needs you, Kal-El, and you can't turn your back on your destiny.
Now comes the fun part of the episode. I absolutely loved that Lex, Lois, and Jimmy were playing their iconic roles in this version of Clark's world. I don't care that we don't know how they got there; that's so not the point. I just thought the whole thing was a blast. And how cool was it that Clark switched into hero mode as soon as Lois was threatened? He can't help himself, it's just who he is, regardless of the fact that he's not even supposed to be a part of this reality.
Clark was every inch the superhero in the AU. So what was it about this world that made the difference? I honestly think it was being able to let go of his love for Lana, and all that it entailed. No longer held back by his reluctance to leave Lana behind, his fear to use his superpowers and appear alien to her, and his need to examine every action for its possible negative impact on her, he was free to finally be himself in every way, and transform into the hero he's destined to become. And it was an awesome transformation to behold! The AU Clark was smart, decisive, proactive, and intimidating. He was unwavering and unrelenting. And hot. Very, very hot.
I reveled in the Lois and Clark moments. I thought Erica Durance was wonderful. Her Lois was strong, confident, competent, and beautiful. And funny, too. Instead of clunky lines, she had cute ones: "Put your camera back in your pants, Olsen." hee! This is the Lois we met at the beginning of S4. If she had stayed like this, I would have been her biggest fan. I thought their scenes together had great chemistry, and a lot of cute moments, without stepping over into overt romance. I liked how Clark used his irresistible puppy dog eyes on her to win her trust. :) I also liked Jimmy, even though he was kind of annoying and a bit of a coward. That's okay, he's not the hero of the story. I laughed when he lost all his tough guy bravado and just caved when Clark lifted him up and slammed him into those shelves. Smart boy.
The baddies were the best. Michael Rosenbaum was amazing, of course, and it kills me to see such a brilliant performance and know we have only two more episodes with MR. *cries* Thank you, Michael, words cannot express what your Lex has meant to me over all these years. I can't imagine this show without you, but whatever you do next and forever, I'll be there. *takes deep breath* Anyway, POTUS Lex was chilling. And hot. :) I absolutely believed in his capacity to destroy mankind, all the while thinking he was saving us instead. I also thought it was interesting to note that he never fully accepted Kara, but always saw her first and foremost as an alien, keeping a gun loaded with kryptonite bullets at his side, always ready for the moment when she would betray him. We are shown, once again, that Clark's decision to never completely trust Lex was a wise one.
James Marsters, as usual, rocked as Brainiac. His performances on Smallville are always flawless, and he makes even the briefest scene exponentially better by his presence. Brainiac's cold ruthlessness is stunning to watch, especially on a show where emotions run high more often than not. He truly scares me. It seems you can never really kill Brainiac, and that's one of the things I love most about him! Something tells me we're not rid of him just yet.
The other baddie was Kara, and I thought she was convincing as Lex's minion who was beginning to have a few doubts. Once again, we see Jor-El's heavy hand in the fact that Kara was sent to Earth to kill Kal-El. Jor-El has always seen Kara as a potential threat to Clark. We aren't told exactly when Lionel discovered her ship, so we don't know how long she's been around, but evidently long enough to collect the stones and create her own fortress. I think the AU was set some years in the future anyway. Everyone looked a little older, a little more professional, and Lana already had two children. And unless they changed the Constitution, Lex had to be at least 35 years old.
As the action heats up, Clark learns that Lex's descent into darkness was destined with or without him. He also discovers that both meteor showers still happened, and there were still meteor freaks. Kara is on Earth, but she's working for Lex, and so is Brainiac! Zod is still trapped in the Phantom Zone, and Lex is still the chosen vessel for his deliverance. Standing by while Brainiac murders the infant version of himself won't spare the world all the things that Clark thought were his fault, his responsibility; it will only ensure that he isn't there to save the day. Whoa. In the end, all is lost in the AU, and when Jor-El ends the lesson just as Clark is about to get a kryptonite bullet in the brain, Clark is convinced that the world needs him after all.
Clark comes back to reality, and a giant relieved hug from Chloe. Evidently he was gone for just a second. But now it's a whole new Clark!
Clark goes to Krypton, and together he and Kara confront Brainiac. And Clark's first concern is for Lana. Oh, Clark. *sighs* Baby!Clark is beyond cute, and whoever captured that shot of him pulling his blanket up over his eyes deserves a bonus! Best shot ever! There's a great moment where Clark and Baby!Clark stare into each other's eyes, and Clark's contented smile tells me that he's remembering all the good this baby will see and do in the life that lies ahead of him, and that's when I know Clark won't be entertaining ideas of just fading away again anytime soon. Kara says Brainiac has been destroyed, but I don't know. We've heard that one before on this show. In any case, Clark, Kara, and the tiny spaceship all escape just in time before the planet explodes. And yeah, I know the science is whack, but I don't care. It's called suspension of disbelief, and Smallville always requires a healthy dose anyway.
Back on Earth, Lana's condition has worsened, but Clark at least seems to have put it in perspective. Kara's back, but she's giving off a weird vibe that seems suspicious, and the last scene of the episode confirms that something is terribly wrong with her. Brainiac, is that you? And Lex visits Clark in the loft. What? When was the last time that happened?! They have a fairly hostile conversation, where the words are all about Lana, but the subtext is all about Clark and his secrets. Lex still wants to know them, and Clark still won't talk, no matter what. The scene is beyond intense, and both actors portray their barely leashed emotions perfectly. As Lex leaves in anger, Clark looks as stoic as ever, but his throat works convulsively, and his eyes are bleak.
We also have a final scene between Clark and Lois, in the basement of the DP. A despondent Clark is researching comas on Lois's computer when she walks in. It's late, and the office is empty except for them. Lois remembers how Clark was there for her in Siren, and she reaches out to him. It's a sweet moment. Lois doesn't quite know what to do, so she puts all her cards on the table and says so. Clark is bemused, but also touched, and tells her she's a good friend. And Lois, uncomfortable with all the emotion, punches him in the shoulder. LOL! And then drags him out for a beer. Which is maybe exactly what the guy needs: a little downtime with a friend who doesn't know his secret and doesn't care to, where he can actually put all his troubles on the back burner for a minute or two. I liked that there was no hint of flirting or romance in this scene, just the beginnings of a deepening friendship. It totally worked for me.
So how awesome was Tom Welling this week? He was in almost every scene of the episode, and he directed as well! And his performance was one of my most favorite ever. I love Tom best when he directs himself, truly. Go back and watch his three episodes again, and you'll see what I mean. His Clark in those episodes is just more comfortable in his own skin somehow. He's more relaxed, more confident, more affectionate, and more charming. He's also funnier, but in very subtle ways. And in this episode, more than any other, I have a feeling we're seeing Tom's vision for Clark, the man he could be, if the show would just ease up on the guilt and the angst and the torture that always seems to fill his life. For Clark's character alone, I would watch this AU world every week if I could. Thank you, Tom!
Random thoughts: Chloe's BF is a hottie! Does he know she's a meteor freak? Does she? Lana married Pierre Rousseau? Is that French for Pete Ross? *snerk* Sheriff Adams! Yay! I'm still angry that they killed her off. Gabe wears a rug?! They brought back that weird roaring lion sound effect for Lex. And did it bother anyone else when Clark said, "I wish there was," to Lex in the loft? I wish there WERE. Sheesh.
This episode was a lot of fun for me. I liked playing in the AU, knowing it was just a fantasy, one of Jor-El's twisted lessons for Clark. There are some aspects I wish Clark could have brought back home to the real world, mostly having to do with Clark himself, and I can't help but wonder if some of what we saw was meant to test the waters for S8. Hmmm. In any case, Tom did a great job, both acting and directing, and all of the other actors stepped up as well. I enjoyed Apocalypse tremendously. And now on to the final two! See you back here next week, okay?