Perhaps the best part about the Season Premiere of Smallville Season 10: When the pre-season wrap-up ended and that bold voice declared, “And now…the Final Season of Smallville.” As someone who started to watch Seasons 1-8 back-to-back on DVD over the course of about 4 months last autumn to catch up for Season 9, I was certainly ready to start up another batch of episodes in the series that somehow made me come to appreciate Superman as a character, a task no other interpretation of the caped crusader has managed to do. That said, by now I’m getting a bit weary and wonder if perhaps the show would’ve done better to have some narrative integrity and quit while it was ahead years ago. The intro to the final season has left me with a funny feeling in my gut, pondering if this show that had a brilliant first few seasons has any hope of reclaiming the sense of originality and wonder that it once possessed. Over-the-top nonsensical sci-fi drama is getting a bit stale in this arena. Let’s discuss the details – and obviously we’re talking spoilers here. So hit the article after the page break only if you’re OK with spoilers.
It seems as if this episode focused on two main components: writing Lex Luthor’s role back into the show from passive to active, and establishing Clark Kent’s (seemingly) final hurdle to clear before he can truly become the hero Metropolis deserves (as opposed to the one it needs?). Lex, it turns out, has been cloning himself in an effort to harvest parts of various clones to recreate himself back to his former brilliant bald glory, if not better than before. Unfortunately, one of his clones felt this was a bad idea and opted to torch the lab housing these bodies before his own overdeveloped body crapped out on him. We find this all out through the eyes of Tess Mercer (that woman who came into possession of the Luthor company rule) who starts the season off with her burns from earlier miraculously healed. There is no explanation as to why this is, who would want to heal her, and why she was left unattended in this lab. We see Lex and Clark interacting in the episode a little later when the malformed clone who destroyed the original’s research captures Lois. This was intriguing in principal since they haven’t squared off for quite some while, but it’s just not the same without Michael Rosenbaum in the role and it felt a bit forced to me. The fact that a young Lex clone (played by the kid we’ve been seeing in flashbacks, etc. for so long) was rescued by Tess Mercer implies that the little Alexander will somehow become the villain that Superman eventually must face. How all of that will play out is of course still a mystery, and if this is in fact the case it kind of cheapens one of the key components of the series: establishing the idea that Clark and Lex had a troubled past in which they were once friends that had a falling out due to a mutual lack of trust. The almost poetic tragedy of two pals giving up on one another and relying on dishonesty to hold things together is all lost to the ether if this little Lex becomes the villain since, obviously, it’s not actually the same being with the same history. I’d rather see Lex patch himself together from clones – which is, of course, very crazy and ridiculous – than a clone of Lex being the one to take his place. This is all still in the air, so perhaps I’m jumping the gun, but based on the direction the plot is currently pointing at I must express my doubts. At the very least, the silver lining here is that Lex has once again come back to the show as a core idea that should be on our minds. I certainly hope it culminates into something worthy of the faceoff Clark shared with him on the last day they saw each other seasons ago.
The other main plot device thrown on the table is pride: Clark’s original alien father (or the essence of him left over in the Fortress of Solitude) is disappointed in how his son has stooped to levels of human emotion like arrogance and self-righteousness. Clark stops the clone Lex’s hair-brained scheme without a hitch – because running so fast that time doesn’t pass around you doesn’t give you an unfair advantage, or anything. After this, Clark ignorantly assumes that all is well and he’s a wonderful hero who’s fulfilled his fate. Daddy’s not pleased with that kind of ‘tude and it was at once enjoyable to see Clark get knocked a peg or two yet disappointing to see him rebel against what has become a significant issue for him and only prove his Kryptonian father right. This scene, too, was a bit hamfisted and rapid in its narrative delivery, as I don’t recall Clark being quite all that bad last season, but it’s a plot element that leaves Clark with something else to overcome. After all, we’ve got a whole season ahead of us yet.
Despite all these clouds with fragments of silver linings, there was one element introduced in earnest – at last – that is sure to be a redeeming factor in the final season despite all levels of sci-fi monstrosity that might occur. Lois Lane has discovered Clark’s identity as the Blur. Fingers crossed that it’s not a dream, or that she doesn’t get mind-wiped, or whatever nonsense seems to have transpired every other time this has happened. It’s adorable, it’s comical, and it’s romantic to see the two interact with each other now that Lois is aware of the truth, especially since Clark still thinks he has her fooled, giving her an angle from which to tease him. But even here, alas, Lois runs off to Africa at the end of the episode. So who knows how much of that entertaining duo we’ll be seeing in the episodes to come? I also must confess that I found the scene toward the end with a cameo from the deceased Mr. Kent to hit the right kind of chord for me. Obviously, the man is dead, but there was no nonsensical explanation here – it was presented in a rather metaphorical way that felt a lot more organic than a lot of what the episode offered otherwise. The presentation felt less like Mr. Kent was back from the dead and more that Clark was having this conversation in his own mind with the memory of his dad.
This episode as a whole just felt entirely forced to me, pushing us with its imagery and music and melodrama to to evoke a sense of “epicness” and doing so a bit poorly in too high a concentration. All in all, as a more recent but active fan of Smallville who greatly appreciated the first four seasons but has since seen his interest gradually dwindling, this premiere did little to restore my faith in the series and has only left me doubting what is yet to come. Somewhere along the way the show’s plot fell prey to a lack of cohesion, relying on crazier than necessary elements, some straight out of the pages of off-beat soap operas, that have stacked and stacked to the point where Smallville is no longer a superhero drama but a full-on sci-fi soap opera. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but it’d be like visiting a burger joint over and over and realizing that over time the place has turned into a chinese buffet. For some that may be OK, but I’d like to see some more down-to-earth integrity and execution in writing regained before Clark takes off the earth in flight.