It has been 19 years to the day (Oct. 16, 2001) since “Smallville” premiered with its “Pilot” episode. The series forever changed my life, inspiring me to become a journalist and urging me to make the Daily Planet a reality. I honestly can’t thank everyone involved with the show enough.
The pilot episode saw a young Clark Kent fawning over the elusive Lana Lang, introduced Chloe Sullivan into the Superman fold and showed us a more relaxed, less evil, Lex Luthor. The pilot was eloquent, exciting and every teenager’s dream back in 2001.
Being introduced to the show halfway through its series’ run (sometime around 2005-06), I watched the pilot episode after already being well acquainted with the season five versions of Smallville’s characters. Buying the box sets and binge watching past, historical moments in the show’s bygone years was surreal. It gave me a new understanding of these beloved characters and it made me miss those who have moved on.
Watching the 200th consecutive episode, which premiered almost nine years after the pilot, felt a lot like that.
A decade ago yesterday, Oct. 15, “Smallville” season 10 premiered its 200th episode of the series. An historic milestone for the superhero genre and a record still unbroken to this day. Season 10, episode four, was appropriately called “Homecoming” and it was one of the strongest episodes the show has ever produced.
I loved every minute of it. It didn’t feel like a show but rather a full fledged Superman movie –– complete with origins and a climactic superheroic rescue. For that, I give “Homecoming” 4.5 out of 5 Daily Planet globes, but for now we’ll have to settle with stars.
Smallville is a decade-long original take on Superman’s origins telling of how a young Clark Kent became the famed Metropolis marvel. It ran for 217 episodes and the entire series would take nine consecutive days to binge. It’s currently available on Hulu.
“Homecoming” dug deep into the “Smallville” archives and pulled out some flashbacks to some of the series’ most pivotal moments. It reminded us of the long, tumultuous journey and showed us just how much life can change, even for a comic book superhero.
So far this season we’ve lost Chloe, got re-acquainted with Supergirl, discovered a growing hatred for the world’s heroes and learned that Clark’s defeat of the Kandorians tore a rift in our universe welcoming a malevolent evil into our midst. It’s been a crazy season and “Homecoming” is only the fourth one so far. After this there will be 17 more jaw dropping, destiny embracing episodes left.
The episode opens at none other than the famed Kent Barn. Clark is looking over some overly critical headlines regarding his heroics and ponders over whether he truly is meant to be Earth’s greatest hero. As he questions this, the one person equipped to reassure our red, blue boyscout comes treading up the storied wooden stairs into the barn’s loft. Lois Lane greets Clark with a knowing smile (apparently they’re just friends at this point) and secretly and decisively tells the love of her life that he’s great. Clark contemplates quitting his heroics but Lois won’t allow it. This is why every Superman needs Lois Lane.
This is a perfect Clois scene. Lois, who knows Clark has powers, understands Clark so well that she understands the hero hate is getting to him. Recognizing this, she expresses her love for the Blur and points out all the good the hero has done.
Clark, who is unaware that Lois knows of his abilities, isn’t so sure and takes some major convincing. I remember him not telling Lois the truth was getting frustrating to me back in the day, but witnessing these coy little interactions always made me smile.
Lois was so determined to prove to Clark that they could have an honest, strong and healthy relationship that she held onto the faith of Clark opening up about his powers to her. I want to either be Lois Lane or be with someone who cares for and believes in me as much as she does Clark.
“You put the Smallville in Smallville, Smallville.”Lois Lane
Anyway she convinces Clark that a stroll down memory lane may prove beneficial and the two decide to attend Smallville High’s Class of 2005 reunion.
Meanwhile, at Smallville High, a location that hasn’t been seen since season four, an emotional guidance counselor sits at an overly cluttered desk mumbling over papers and files of students looking for aid and assistance to get into college. Overwhelmed, she utters to herself and points out that none of the students with criminal records (Meteor Freaks) will be any college’s first pick. Distraught, she picks up a familiar looking voodoo doll and places all the blame on the person it’s modeled after –– Clark Kent. She lunges at the doll with a sharp object, papers flying everywhere, and time freezes. In walks an old foe, Brainiac.
I have to admit, this introduction was a bit too “Wall of Weird” for my taste. I don’t really think it was necessary besides reintroducing one of the series’ main overarching villains. The last time we saw Brainiac, he was possessing Chloe in season 8. After a wedding from Hell, Chloe was rescued and Milton Fine (Brainiac) was brought to the 31st century for somatic reprogramming by the Legion of Superheroes.
In fact, the only time we see the councilor again is when Clark runs into her at the main entry of the high school and experiences a flashback of Lana. Then she’s gone. This portion of the episode is why I only ranked it at 4.5 stars.
But I digress. For a show inspired by Superman, “Smallville” lacked a lot of screen time for Superman. And that’s okay because it’s a coming-of-age story about the planet’s protector. It was literally designed to be this way. That’s why “Homecoming” was so frickin awesome. We got to see Clark in all his mild mannered glory, Lois at her star status and we were even served with a teased glimmer of the red and blue super dude.
What’s not to love?
Lana: Nietzsche? I didn’t realize you had a dark side, Clark.
Clark: Well, doesn’t everybody?
Lana: Yeah, I guess so. So what are you, man or superman?
In my review of season 10, episode 2, “Shield,” I discussed the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, and his impact on Superman’s name. Besides being mentioned by Lana in season one, as depicted in Clark’s flashback, Lois also utters the term “Superman.” As the character who coins the name for the hero, seeing the seed of inspiration planted is always awesome.
In his 1883 book “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” Nietzsche has his character Zarathustra posit the Übermensch as a goal for humanity to set for itself. A way for us all to strive to become more super versions of ourselves.
As Clark snaps from his daydream, we see an awkward guidance counselor and a weirded out Lois waiting for this alien to come back down to Earth. Honestly, if I were in the guidance counselor’s shoes, I would’ve smacked Clark with a book and asked him to snap out of it. Like a total two minutes have passed and Clark is just kneeling on the ground holding the books he and Lois knocked out of the councilors hands.
As he’s brought back to reality, Clark and Lois enter the school only for nobody to recognize her. Not surprising given she only showed up for five school days out of the 20 something she was enrolled there.
After this awkward interaction, the camera pans to a car parked near the main stoop of the school. Its Metropolis license plate reads “raknid” while cicada noises flood over the background. The camera pans past the car’s detail work and up to reveal the face of the driver. It’s Smallville’s second documented meteor freak, the bug manipulating man that tried to forcibly mate with Lana, Greg Arkin.
It’s safe to assume that this arachnid bug man, who was presumably thought to be dead for the past decade, is up to no good in this episode. Let’s find out.
After bug boy’s reintroduction we find ourselves following an awkward Lois Lane trying to reminisce with her Smallville High classmates. None of them remember her but numerous women fall over Clark. Soon it dawns on Lois that Lana could show up at the reunion and all of her season eight anxieties brought on by Clark loving both women flows back into her face. I really appreciated this aspect. Lois is often shown as strong and resilient, but when it comes to matters of the heart, she’s just as fragile as the rest of us.
Clark basically expresses that he chose Lois, and he loves Lois, with a simple glance.
Afterwards Clark wanders through the hallways into the doors of the high school newspaper, the Smallville Torch. There Clark remembers the first time his best friend Chloe shows him the Wall of Weird and he and Lois meet the current editorial staff, an over exuberant dynamic duo obsessed with Chloe. The two question Lois on what it was like to date Oliver Queen, who revealed himself to be the Green Arrow in the last episode, and she pointed out that their relationship was quicker than his quiver.
“It was really quick, just a flash. But I would date one again in a heartbeat.”Lois Lane
As she said this she did the two index finger touch thing (before it was cool) and smiled nervously at Clark. Iconic.
Some playful banter happens between the two aspiring journalists and the dynamic duo of the Daily Planet, and we inevitably learn that Clark is reunion royalty, something he obviously destains. Lois, however, couldn’t get enough. As the two sit on stage, time freezes and only Clark is immune.
The CGI and effects for this episode were fantastic, even by today’s CW standards. I still believe that the people, objects and everything else was actually frozen. Kudos to the amazing actors who participated in that scene’s mannequin challenge. You made it very believable.
This is when Clark is reunited with Milton Fine (Brainiac) who tells the Kryptonian that he’s been purged of all his corruption and now he’s come back to walk Kal-El through his version of “A Christmas Carol.” As we rewind to 100 episodes ago (season 5, episode 12, “Reckoning.”) Brainiac reveals that he’s from the future where he’s in allegiance with the 31st century’s Legion of Superheroes.
This version of Brainiac, known as Brainiac 5, has come back to save Clark from the seed of doubt, darkness and destain growing in his soul.
“The problem is, Kal-El, you and I aren’t very different. We were both created in one way or another by Jor-El. Both intended to save civilizations, to bring peace to a brutal world. But neither of us was immune to corruption, to darkness.”Brainiac 5
Like all of us, corruption has crept into Clark’s soul. It’s not an evil darkness, no. It’s this growing doubt that keeps him from reaching his ultimate potential. Like Clark and Brainy, we’re all created to benefit society in one way or another with our variable gifts and talents. Yet we tend to doubt ourselves. We sometimes become convinced that we can’t really make a difference. What Brainiac is trying to prove is… we’re wrong. Clark was wrong. We all can make an impact. And we must.
Like so many others, Clark’s seed of doubt and wavering faith for a better tomorrow stems from grief. His grief, however, roots deeper because he blames himself for the death of his father. Jonathan Kent died five years earlier and Clark still struggles with that heartache. Something I feel with the loss of my mother. It’s excruciating to lose someone unexpectedly. You never truly get over the grief but you do learn how to live with it.
That’s what I believe this journey through time to be for Clark. Milton first brings Clark to his dad’s funeral. A truly beautiful ceremony of remembrance, pointing out that Clark’s seed of darkness was planted on this day. Brought back deeper into the past, Clark, who still blames himself, then watches as Jonathan beats the crap out of Lionel Luthor. Jonathan made his own decision to defend Clark and his body just couldn’t handle the mounting pressure. His death was not in anyone’s control and Brainy blatantly points this out to a weary Clark.
After this lesson Clark and Milton are transported to Oliver Queen’s penthouse office suit where the billionaire archer sits and watches a news channel. The GOD AWFUL reporter on his screen is leading interviews and bullying Oliver on live television as the emerald vigilante makes a call to his secretary. He asks her if Clark called which she reluctantly states “no.”
Clark, who is in the same room (just not visible to Oliver) understands that at this very minute, while he was at a reunion with Lois, one of his best friends and closest allies is hurting. Oliver needs his friend and Clark was so caught up in the spewing hatred and antihero propaganda to notice.
It’s kind of an allegory to today. We’re all caught up in political mudslinging and celebrity trash talk that we sometimes overlook what really matters. I guess even a superman loses his way sometimes.
We also all need a friend to confide in. Some are lucky enough to find that, but some tend to fall into neglect and despair.
“The darkness is the past. And you hold on to it and you dwell. You punish yourself and everyone around you for past mistakes. Let it go.”Milton Fine
After that life lesson we’re brought back to the Smallville High gym where a lonely Lois sits waiting for Clark. While Lois lingers over the food and beverage table, the woman tending to the snacks harasses my girl and preys on her insecurities. A complete stranger makes Lois feel like she’s not right for Clark. Who does that!?
*clears throat and reacclimates himself*
Anyway, as Lois is standing stunned like me at the exiting woman’s crudeness Clark and Brainiac are watching from a distance. As the woman mentions Lana Lang, you can see Clark cringe as he recognizes that Lois doesn’t deserve to be told about his first broken love.
Before I quote Brainiac 5 yet again I have to say one thing. Damn. Milton Fine’s lines in this episode are so anecdotal and honest. I guess it comes from the heightened intellect and future knowledge.
“Correct me if I’m mistaken, but you care about Lois, don’t you?”Milton Fine
You really hit the proverbial hammer on the metaphorical nail head there, brainy!
Clark: All I’ve ever done is protect her after what happened with Lana.
Brainiac: Interesting outcome. Lois doesn’t seem especially protected. You spend so much time dwelling on the darkness of what happened in the past you’re missing the present that’s right in front of your eyes.
Oof. This episode is truly transfering from a life lesson for Clark into a wakeup call for me. Let’s move on. After telling Clark what’s up, the arachnid man appears before Lois. Fearing the bug boy’s wrath Clark tampers with the Legion ring and is thrown into 2017’s Daily Planet bullpen.
Once there he finds the illustrious, Pulitzer prize winning, Lois Lane who shoves him into one of the lobby’s built in phone booths. After scolding Clark for wearing his primary color palette, Lois flirts and urges her past boyfriend to put on the specs and change.
Confused, Clark trails after her as she goes about her busy schedule. If you’ve seen any Superman title before you’d feel right at home in this moment. A bumbling Clark following the love of his life through the buzzing offices of the Daily Planet is classic Superman trope. The performance is so well done that I wish a Superman centric season would’ve happened. Who knows, maybe they’ll animate the season 11 comic adaption one day?
This entire portion of the episode was epic. It felt like we were not only transported into Clark’s future, but into the pages of a DC Comics title. It was surreal, superb and sublime. It was super, man. Clois scenes were abundant and bore many ripe plot heavy fruit for fanatics such as myself. I can’t believe this show is over.
Erica Durance and Tom Welling played iconic versions of their respective characters and they just radiated chemistry. I honestly could go on for days regarding these scenes at the Daily Planet and how happy they made me. The only off thing for me, however, was the lighting. For such scenarios that give you the warm tinglies, the gray and white light scheme gave you a touch of frostbite.
The nod to the Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder’s “Superman: The Movie” (1978) scene where Superman saves Lois from a plummeting doomed helicopter was just the cherry on top, or should I say golden globe on top, that I needed to forget about my disgust for the futures lighting because it was warm and welcoming on the Daily Planet roof.
As a disaster looms on the other side of Metropolis, Superman of 2017 stops the calamity but can’t prevent Lois and an unnamed, underpaid Daily Planet helicopter pilot from plummeting to their death. This is where 2010 Clark comes in and saves the day… in a t-shirt and jeans. In an effort to protect Clark, Lois elbows the pilot in the face (this is why he’s underpaid) and knocks him out.
After a massive liplock beneath the rotating Metropolis landmark globe with Lois, Clark leaves the future with a newfound glow.
Milton Fine: Not every man is destined to find a woman like Lois.
Clark: She’s definitely one of a kind.
Milton wanted Clark to see the outcome of his life because he wanted Krypton’s last son to understand that darkness comes from not only dwelling on the past but also in fearing the future. Something many can relate to. The writers definitely knew what they were doing.
As Milton and Clark travel back to his present he finds himself with a disgruntled Lois Lane at the 2010 class of ‘05 Smallville High reunion once more. Former bug boy, Greg Arkin, confronts Lois about his former foe Clark Kent.
“You know Clark is the reason a lot of us are still here. I kind of got caught up in my web of obsession, and he set me straight. It’s not every place that has a hometown hero like Clark Kent. Tell him thank you”Greg Arkin
You’ve got to love a good full circle moment. Although, I feel compelled to point out that Greg killed his mother and the “web of obsession” he was referring to was a young Lana Lang, whom he tried to plant bug eggs in. Oh well, I’ll let him have his redemption. Smallville somewhat lacked in that department for those infected by Kryptonite anyway.
The point of Greg telling Lois to thank Clark is to express the power an individual has by simply making a positive impact on someone’s life in a single moment.
“A hero is made in the moment. Not from questioning the past or fearing what’s to come.”Milton Fine
As Brainiac 5 stated this, he traveled back to the future leaving Clark to his choices. Learning from this experience, a new light enters Clark. After the reunion, Clark says his final farewells to his dad and shows his support to Oliver, who’s tangled up in a nasty interview with Metropolis’ worst reporter. By the way, Clark’s new blur outfit… thank you Smallville costume designers.
As Oliver is grilled and made out to be a rich billionaire bratt, Clark appears in solidarity and Oliver opens up about his losses, expressing that he’s trying to make the world a better place. That’s why he does what he does as the Green Arrow.
He goes on a bit of an inspirational rant repeating the episode’s main lesson and puts the repulsive reporter in her place. I’m so proud that “Smallville” stopped focusing mainly on the past and started to look to the future.
It was weighing on the characters in past seasons and I’m happy to say that it made the show’s final episodes feel more Superman based rather than farm boy Clark Kent dominant. Truly refreshing. Every season brought a new take that added a little flair, but the shedding of the past to move into the future felt relieving.
As the episode drew to a close, Clark and Lois grew closer. To make up for leaving Lois alone at the reunion a well dressed Clark positioned a disco ball in the Kent Barn and played a romantic melody as a backdrop.
The scene was romantic, perfected by Clark flying for the first time with Lois. The two were so taken with each other that neither of them noticed. This was an excellent way to close out the 200th episode of the series. It was beautiful, bright and brilliant. Well done “Smallville” showrunners.
Come back next week as we review one of Smallville’s more interesting episodes, “Isis.”