Hero Corner Archive: Smallville Finale
(The following is a Hero Corner review originally posted in 2011 on the now-defunct That Guy With The Glasses website. All comments and expositions are as they were originally posted with only minor editorial changes.)
Previously in “Smallville”: Meteor shower hits Smallville, turning young Lex Luthor bald and dropping a naked kid in front of Jonathan and Martha Kent (John Schneider and Annette O’Toole). Flash-forward to 2001, where young Clark Kent (Tom Welling) saves Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) after running him over. Clark discovers he’s an alien, he meets Lois Lane (Erica Durance), builds the Fortress of Solitude, joins the Daily Planet, takes on General Zod, and in general wastes six out of his ten years not wanting anything to do with what DC Comics fans have expected him to do…namely fly and put on the blue-and-red costume with the cape and the “S-shield”. Yes, this isn’t “Superman”, this is SLACKERMAN, aka “The Blur” or “The Red-Blue-Blur”, and THIS is his FINAL episode.
And now the review of the finale of Smallville… (Oh, and “Huge Stinking Spoiler Alert”)
We start with Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack) reading a comic book to a little boy. Wait… WHAT? You mean to tell me the whole TEN YEARS of this series was nothing more than a COMIC BOOK STORY?
No… NO… I’m sorry but… NO… I’m a writer and comic book creator and even I couldn’t come up with the kind of convoluted misery-fest that the WB/CW people have strung the audience with for ONE season, never mind SIX OUT OF TEN. “It’s your destiny!” “I don’t want my destiny!” “You must choose!” “You don’t tell me what to do!” “You must embrace your Kryptonian heritage.” “I’m denying my Kryptonian heritage.” “You’re not yet ready.” “There is no fate but what we make…” Oh, wait, sorry, started to channel “The Terminator” series there. Seriously, you REALLY want to tell us that for ten years this was nothing but an ongoing comic book?
Oh, and leading into the opening title sequence, we have this HUGE PLANET OF DOOM flying past Saturn, and yet it doesn’t rip out the gaseous atmosphere due to the gravity wake of the much LARGER planet hurtling past it. SCIENCE!
Okay, so we go into the “comic book”, with Lois and Clark in the Daily Planet and Lois is trying to call off “THE WEDDING”. For those who didn’t watch the previous week’s charade, Lois got to use Clark’s superpowers for a day and she was so overwhelmed by all that he has to put up with in the world that she says she can’t marry him. The world is so much “more important”. But Clark is determined to go through with it and he says if she doesn’t want to get married, she’ll have to leave him at the altar. (Be careful, Clark… Mary Jane Watson actually did that in “Spider-Man 2”.)
Speaking of which, Oliver Queen (Justin Hartley) and Chloe are finishing decorating the little chapel where the blessed union is going to take place and Oliver can’t help but show off the very simple golden wedding rings. Oh, and as they leave, the baptism tub starts filling up with black liquid. DOOM-DOOM-DOOM-DOOOOOOOOM!
Back at the Kent Farm, Martha Kent, now a U.S. Senator, is looking at all of the memories packed away into boxes. Clark explains to her that he’s sold the house since he’s living in Metropolis and she’s now in Washington. Martha is upset and explains that it was not why she gave the deed to the farm to Clark and Lois. She starts going on about memories and holding on to the things that matter… Uh, excuse me Senator, but the reason WHY Clark has become Slackerman instead of Superman has been the fact that he refuses to let go of the farm! You’re really not helping here!
And all the while, we see the “Ghost of Jonathan” paying them both a visit. Yes, Jonathan Kent has been dead for five years, but that hasn’t stopped the writers from bringing him back in this final season to remind us of how the series used to be before they played the six-year tease on us, and he does so CONTINUALLY in this finale!
Meanwhile, Tess Mercer (Cassidy Freeman) is busy rebuilding the Luthor Mansion when she is visited by Granny Goodness, one of the minions to Mister Shadow… I mean DARKSEID… and Granny warns her that there is still time to avoid the DOOM that is coming… the DOOM that is called “Darkseid’s A-POK-O’LEEPS”. And yes, that is precisely how she pronounced it. “A-POK-O’LEEPS.”
Later on, Granny meets with her fellow minions Dessad and Godfrey as they are visited by their most recent minion, Oliver. They give Oliver a new ring to put on Clark, which is a weirdly-crusted golden ring full of Gold Kryptonite. Just FYI: Gold K takes Clark’s powers away forever… a little bit that hopefully you caught briefly in the “previously” segment. Well, Blue K is supposed to do that too, but not “permanently”. And don’t get me started on the Black and Silver K, K?
Okay, so Chloe has a heart-to-heart with Lois, Oliver has a buddy-buddy chat with Clark, Lois ends up reading Clark’s vows and gets all emotional, and suddenly the wedding is back on… although it is WITHOUT anyone from Lois’ family because “The General” has been called to service along with Slade “Deathstroke” Wilson. (Wait… no Michael Ironside to play Daddy Lane? Maybe that means he’ll be doing the voice of Darkseid again. Sweet!)
Back at the Watchtower, Tess discovers that someone has been shutting down the satellite feeds, but they didn’t shut down the new orbiting (NON-Justice) League station, so we get to see the lumbering approach of… GALLIFREY… I mean, the HUGE PLANET OF DOOM! Plus she finds out that Oliver was the one that was shutting down the satellites. So she races in her car to call someone, anyone, only to have the Men in Black intercept her. (Go ahead and break out the Will Smith song.)
So we have “THE WEDDING”, and since Daddy Lane isn’t there to walk Lois down the isle, Clark – minus his glasses – is doing it. Yeah, I’m sure nobody in the Daily Planet is there to notice that Clark looks like “The Blur” (aka SLACKERMAN). Even “Ghost of Jonathan” is there right next to Martha, smiling on. Okay, even I have to admit this was touching.
We have the exchange of vows (which would be the second time we hear them), then we have the exchange of rings… and Chloe realizes that Clark’s ring is FAR from the “simple” ring that Oliver showed her earlier… and it starts to glow as it nears Clark’s hand, which means that it’s laced with Kryptonite, so she kicks it away. Oliver goes all “Exorcist” on everyone, and Clark has to talk the evil out of Oliver. Okay, since WHEN was “super-pep-curing-talk” one of Kal-El’s powers? And that is when we see the ominous presence of…. GALACTUS…. Whoops, I mean HUGE PLANET OF DOOM… as it starts to eclipse the sun.
Martha (as the “Red Queen”) says she’s got “her people” out on the field. (This is a very lame reference to her running “Checkmate”.) Chloe heads to Star City to rally “the heroes”, but not before saying “See you in the funny pages.” (OW! OW! OW! OW! OW! OW! OW! OW! OW!) Oliver, meanwhile, pulls out his Green Arrow gear.
Tess wakes up and we see that it’s Lionel-From-Evil-Universe Luthor that kidnapped her. Seems Project Cadmus-slash-33.1-Something-Including-The-Word-“LEX” is still making Lex-Clones and taking the best of them to make Lex-Zero; almost all of the knowledge and none of the pesky “being blown to smithereens” thing. SCIENCE! But Lex-Zero still needed… a heart. (Wow… Lex needs a heart? Who knew?) Lionel-From-Evil-Universe makes a quick reference to Conner (aka “the clone-not-to-be-called-Superboy”) and then asks Tess what better way to show family love than by having Lex get a heart from his long-lost sister. Gee, how about a Hallmark card instead?
But then, whoops, Tess manages to “Matrix” her way out the restraints and grabs a gun and put a few slugs in Lionel-From-Evil-Universe’s heart before running off. You’d think after doing this a few times that people would figure out that you don’t put her hands or feet near anything sharp. Dying, Lionel-From-Evil-Universe crawls to Lex’s side for a little mourning, when he is approached (again) by Mister Smoke… whoops, I mean DARKSEID. (Oh, and it’s not voiced by Michael Ironside. NUTS!) Apparently Lionel-From-Evil-Universe initially spurned Darkseid’s offer, but now that he’s dying, he gladly offers his heart for Lex to live. Darksmoke agrees and rips out Lionel-From-Evil-Universe’s heart and takes over the rest of Lionel-From-Evil-Universe’s body.
Oh, and remember those three minions of Darksmoke… I mean, Darkseid? Well Oliver, as Green Arrow, shows up and pulls out three arrows and gets rid of them in one felled swoop and three puffs of smoke. Yes, all-powerful, all-corrupting EVIL forces being felled by an arrow. For those who haven’t figured it out yet, this is called a FAIL.
After the commercial break, we see Lex wake up. Lois and Clark are at the Daily Planet, where people are being told by the President of the United States that the INCONVENIENT PLOT DEVICE… I mean, HUGE PLANET OF DOOM is really just an “asteroid” that will be taken down with a “strategic strike”. Once again the White House underestimates the danger!
What? An “asteroid”? Well then where’s Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck and two space shuttles and a catchy Aerosmith tune? Or better yet, have Bruce Willis show up with Milla Jovovich and the four stones and a cross-dressing Chris Tucker. At least Bruce Willis has experience dealing with huge chucks of rock bearing down on the planet. Why is the last hope of humanity a twenty-something slacker who doesn’t want to put on a pair of tights and a cape and has dual-daddy issues?
Clark realizes that everyone is pretty much “corrupted” by Darksmoke’s power now, that the corruption is somehow “drawing” the HUGE PLANET OF DOOM in, and that he’ll need something pretty powerful to stop it. Yes, we know; but, unfortunately for us, Christopher Reeve died a few years ago. Lois, meanwhile, realizes that the words “strategic strike” and the lack of Daddy Lane at her non-wedding means that they’re going to try to nuke the “asteroid”, so she knocks out the Planet’s White House reporter so she could sneak aboard Air Force One. (Looking forward to seeing the sit-down with Human Resources over that stunt.)
Clark shows up at the Luthor Mansion, where he has a little conversation with newly-restored Lex to catch up on old times. It’s a needless conversation, but it basically has the two characters back together to talk about how they’ve embraced their respective destinies. Lex will always be the arch-enemy and Clark will always be there to stop him.
Clark then goes to the No-Longer-Kent-Farm to grab “The Crystal” that would restart the Fortress of Solitude (you mean he was going to actually LEAVE that there for the new owners?), only to come face-to-face with… SMOKING LIONEL-FROM-EVIL-UNIVERSE! Oh, wait, that’s supposed to be Deathsmoke… I mean DARKSEID! Our “Big Bad Boss” pulls a few Darth Vader tricks and boasts about how much of a badass he is before hurling Clark into the loft. It’s here that Clark finds himself surrounded by the “Ghost of Jor-El”, who shows him through a lengthy video montage that everything he’s gone through in the past ten years has been “a trial” and that the power was within him all this time. NO KIDDING! So then we see Clark hovering over Darkseid… supposedly to show that he’s now FLYING… and he flies right into Darksmoke to cause him to disappear. Good riddance Lionel-From-Another-World and Darksmoke. Oh, and, by the way, this too is a FAIL.
Over at Luthor Corp in Metropolis, Tess has a reunion with her brother that ends with him sticking her with a dagger. As she’s dying, he tells her that he’s actually saving her from being like him. She replies that Clark already beat Lex to it and then smears him with some contact goo that would erase his memories. SCIENCE! So everything that Lex did for the past ten years, including killing his father, forcing Lana Lang to marry him and bearing his genetic “child” goo, and how Clark is an alien and saved his life, all of that just burns away in yet another video montage. The last shot we see is some freak lightning striking the building and destroying just enough of the Luthor Corp sign for it to spell out… wait for it… LEXCORP! Okay, this qualifies as a HALF-FAIL.
Lois has her obligatory Air Force One confrontation with the President’s people, who give “the heroes” five minutes before they start launching nukes at the HUGE PLANET OF DOOM. Great. Now will someone please call up Brandon Routh? Or maybe even Dean Cain if he’s not too busy doing grade-Z movies for the SyFy network.
At the Fortress, Clark has a heart-to-heart with “Ghost of Jor-El”, followed by the presentation of… THE SUIT! Yes, the Superman costume that Martha made for Clark at the end of Season Nine that “Ghost of Jor-El” stole at the start of Season Ten rises up, and then is presented to him by “Ghost of Jonathan”, who tells Clark that he should always keep Smallville in his heart. (But… isn’t that what has been keeping him from BEING Superman in the first place?) Clark takes the suit, then crouches down for a needless thirty-second build-up before hurling himself up through the top of the Fortress, his cape flowing behind him, and then we see… a CGI-animated Superman flying to the sky (in shades of “Superman Returns”).
ZYRA… I mean, HUGE PLANET OF DOOM… makes contact with the atmosphere, causing Air Force One to suddenly lose altitude. SCIENCE! Everyone is hurled about (again, from “Superman Returns”), and then CGI-animated Superman catches the plane and rights it from the left engine (in shades of “Superman: the Movie”). Lois runs over to the nearest window and catches a headshot of Clark with what appears to be a cape around his neck before seeing him flying off. She sees a video camera and tries to announce to the world of what just happened when the President interrupts her.
We see a CGI-animated streak fly across the sky over Metropolis, with Oliver – no longer in his Green Arrow outfit – cheering Clark on. Hey Oliver, aren’t you supposed to be one of those “HEROES” that people are talking about? Why aren’t you out there as Green Arrow? Then we see the crashing GALLIFREY… GALACTUS… ZYRA… HUGE PLANET OF DOOM… oh heck, it’s supposed to be APOKOLIPS, okay?…. we see this thing suddenly… GO AWAY.
No, seriously. It just gets pushed away like a beach ball in a pool. Think about the physics of it… or lack thereof. And as it does, everyone that was infected by “the darkness” is suddenly cured by… sunlight?
If you happen to feel a slight tremor right about now, don’t panic; that would be Jack Kirby – the guy that created Darkseid and Apokolips and everything connected to it – violently rolling over in his grave.
EPIC SOURCE WALL FAIL!
We get a few more seconds of CGI-animated Superman and some more headshots of Clark-with-cape hovering over Earth before it cuts back to a comic book page, and Chloe says that this was how the “boy from Smallville became Superman”. She tells the child that it’s time for bed, and as Chloe leaves the room we see that he’s got a bow-and-arrow set all his own, with yellow feathers on the arrows instead of green. (I’m guessing this means that this is the future “Speedy”?) Chloe then calls up Lois and asks her if she got the gift of “something blue”. Lois says that she did get the little blue bow and that it was perfect.
Wait… where is Chloe that it’s nighttime when it’s still midday in Metropolis? Never mind, it’s close to the end and logic has already abandoned us.
We find out that this is now the year 2018: Lex Luthor was just elected President (just go with it), Perry White (whom you don’t see – because I’m guessing Michael McKeen wasn’t available) is yelling “Great Caesar’s Ghost” a few dozen times behind the Editor’s office door, young Jimmy Olson (not to be confused with his dead brother from the series – who was also called “Jimmy” – but now is played by the same actor with a newsboy cap) is now a photographer, and Lois and Clark are going to try AGAIN to get married, but that he’s going to be a little late because of a bomb alert. We FINALLY end this mess with a scene of Clark in slow-motion going to the roof and ripping open his shirt to reveal the famous Superman logo with the legendary John Williams theme music, and the ending credits all done in the classic movie style.
Let’s see… where do we begin?
Let’s start with the huge letdown of CGI-Superman. In the 1940’s movie serials, and again in the “Atom Man vs. Superman” movie, Kirk Alyn pretended to fly as “Superman” through the use of close-up footage of him holding his arms in front of huge fans, and then using a cartoon-animated Superman to show a more distant version of him “flying”. Nobody ever believed that Kirk Alyn was actually flying in the movie because, quite frankly, the technology wasn’t there for it back then, and that was understandable. Well that is the same situation that we see with a CGI-animated Superman in lieu of seeing Tom Welling actually IN the Superman costume. The only difference is that that there’s really NO EXCUSE FOR THIS!
Smallville fans had to put up with SIX YEARS of Clark Kent shunning capes, HATING capes, throwing red capes away, turning down anything that resembled the Superman outfit, and doing everything in his power to NOT BE SUPERMAN. And how do we get rewarded for this six-year cape-tease? With close-up head-shots, CGI animation, and a comic book rendition of Superman. THIS IS A MAJOR FAIL!
Seriously… what was the problem? Did you ever see Dean Cain as Superman? He wasn’t bulky. He was rather average as Superman. The bar is set pretty low for this, so there really was NO EXCUSE WHATSOEVER!
The main problem with this finale is that this was clearly a THREE-HOUR story (maybe even FOUR) in which two-thirds of it was compressed into the last forty-five minutes. They had a lot of things going on at the same time, and they ended up rushing them all to conclusion. This is especially the case with Darkseid, his minions, and the HUGE PLANET OF DOOM, and the suspension of physics, logic, reason, and story.
WHERE WERE… Pete Ross, Lucy Lane, Black Canary, Stargirl, Martian Manhunter, Impulse, Aquaman, Mera, Zatanna, Mia (aka “Speedy”), Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, the Wonder Twins, Connor Kent (aka “Never-Call-Him-Superboy”), Emil Hamilton, Rick Flag, Plastique, Deadshot, and Amanda Waller? Those were the characters that were at least alive by the time of the finale. They could and should have played a role in the finale, even if they were just there to try to keep the peace. I could understand why Lana Lang had to stay away (storyline-dictated), and that Supergirl went to the future (also storyline-dictated), and they explained the loss of “The General”, but who were all those other people in the church? Seriously. Whose friends were they? By the way, where was flaky Cat Grant? She was always good for some idealistic comic relief.
Then we have the mixed messages… holding on but also letting go, don’t rely on parents and yet being told that Clark HAS to rely on “Ghost of Jor-El”. These mixed messages were behind the eternal tease of the series in its last six seasons, and it was somewhat insulting to see them continue up to the very end.
Speaking of mixed messages, one of the reviewers on the Huffington Post responded to my pointing-out that our six-year wait was rewarded with an Alyn-esque cheat by trying to explain that the minute Clark “became” Superman, he became “The Myth”. Maybe that would have worked if the series ended after the fourth year, when the Fortress of Solitude was created and people were EXPECTING to see Superman; but we are talking about a SIX YEAR prolonged tease whereby the actors and producers would intentionally hint that something would happen that would result in Clark becoming Superman, only to have that moment be rudely taken away from us at the last minute. This is the equivalent of showing “Batman Begins” without any scene involving Christian Bale actually IN the Batman outfit and then rationalizing it by saying that he’s become “the urban legend”. Fans that have put up with Smallville’s cape-tease for six out of ten years DESERVED to see Tom Welling WEARING the Superman outfit instead of just teasing it with CGI and head-shot close-ups.
There was also the messianic element that has been pushed into this series, with Clark being killed and then coming back to life, or his blood being used to bring people back to life, or just being told that he’s going to be SO MONUMENTALLY PHENOMENAL that human civilization itself would be transformed just by him becoming Superman. Hey, that’s a pretty high bar to set. And then to have “Ghost of Jor-El” (the substitute for an all-powerful deity) declare that he’s “just not ready” or “just not worthy” right when he SHOULD BE, that was just lame.
One of the big fails that HAS to be addressed is the “HUGE PLANET OF DOOM” plot device. Okay, here you have a brand-new Superman, he JUST started to actually fly, and all-of-a-sudden he’s rescuing Air Force One and pushing cosmic bodies around like oversized beach balls? No, I’m sorry, but N-O, NO!
Like I’ve said before… I am a writer, and I know there is a FAR EASIER way to resolve this plot device than to just say “Superman pushes the plot device away from Earth and everyone is instantly cleansed.” They could have had a head-on footage of CGI-Superman approach the plot device, and as he gets nearer and nearer, the people start feeling hopeful, and one-by-one the “darkness” leaves them, and then you hear the voice of “Darkseid” say that “there will be other battles” and then have him “will” the plot device away before CGI-Superman reaches it. YES IT IS THAT SIMPLE! And all it would need is one extra minute of airtime. JUST ONE EXTRA MINUTE! Okay, so that’s one less minute of needless montage… one less minute of “build-up to flight”… one less minute of “Ghost of Jonathan”… but it would have MADE MORE SENSE!
Or maybe even that was expecting too much from them? This is a series that clearly showed an aversion to everything that people expected to see. Their “no flights, no tights” commandment – forged from day one of the series – served as both their albatross and their excuse for not doing the right thing. Sure they got around it sometimes (“leaps” instead of flights, “leather” instead of tights), but they had no problems invoking it to justify keeping the series going for one more season without giving the fans what they were teasing all this time.
BUT… it’s over. It’s FINALLY over. We can put away the perpetual FAIL machine that is “Smallville” once and for all and put it all behind us. And we can even put the CW network behind us. We can look forward to the next series of movies that actually feature SUPERMAN. We can look forward to the next direct-to-video animated movie that actually features SUPERMAN. We can look forward to more appearances in the “Young Justice” animated series that actually has SUPERMAN. And we can try to FORGET the fact that for ten years, the CW network tried to sell us this idea that there could be a Clark Kent WITHOUT SUPERMAN.
NOW cue the John Williams music and the shot of Superman flying over the horizon!