Smallville continues to utilize somewhat stereotypical plot devices – which is expected at this point – but at least this week’s episode made good use of the classic time-travel element. An old acquaintance returns for a cameo in what comes off as a kind of “It’s a Wonderful Life” type of episode in which Clark must confront the ‘darkness’ that everyone’s been on his back about. As it turns out, this darkness is really all of the issues from Clark’s past he’s been embittering himself with. We also get to see a pleasant glimpse of Clark’s (obvious) future as a mild-mannered reporter who also happens to save Metropolis between articles. Spoiler discussion ahoy, though I imagine some of what we’re talking about is fairly obvious, given what we know Superman is up to in the future.
Clark and Lois are back at Smallville High to celebrate the 5 year reunion of their graduating class. After all, Clark “put the Smallville in Smallville,” and after some reminiscing about old times with Lana and Chloe, the quarterback of the football team is elected as Homecoming King, only to have the party interrupted as an old face returns to give the Blur some guidance. It was a nice treat to see Braniac proper show up – and as a good guy, no less. From the distant future, this version of Braniac has been purified of the corrupt matter that once possessed him and can now serve what his design originally intended: a tool of assistance. Through whatever magic technological whatsits he is capable of, Braniac is able to take Clark on a trip through some key events of time – including ones he was never physically present for – to make the future superhero understand that in order to become the being he is destined to be he must let go of the past. If anything the format of the episode allows for some tribute of old events earlier in the series history and then reminding of us important moments that have been shaping Clark into the grouchy man he’s become. It’s blatantly contrite and ridiculous but in the way that Smallville has already established for itself. This is to say that it doesn’t take itself overly seriously, especially when Clark inadvertently flings himself into the future, only to discover that Lois, still his partner at the Daily Planet, is aware of his secret and is protecting it for him, completely accepting of his role as supernatural savior of the city. It’s ultimately just an excuse for the show to give us a glimpse of Clark and Lois’ future as the dynamic duo we know they eventually become. It’s nice to see Lois playing out that classic role that comes to mind when you hear her name, and seeing a brief glance of Clark Kent as the intentionally nerdy man in the glasses and trench coat. Homage to Superman lore more than anything else, and there’s nothing wrong with that, really. This is honestly the time for such things at this point in the series as its reaching its conclusion.
Inspired by what he witnesses in the future, Clark’s return to his proper time leaves him with a new perspective and he heeds Braniac’s advice: he’s going to get over himself and appreciate that he has Lois looking out for him at the very least and that he has to say good-bye to many elements of his old life to rise up. A touching visit to his father’s grave helps to solidify that Clark’s past as just a Kent is over. Every consistent figure from his life back in Smallville is gone now. It’s time to be a man and get his act together. It was a bit odd to see another episode pass with no true plot development occurring other than perhaps Oliver Queen stepping up to the press and making a case for his actions as the Green Arrow. There’s still a clone of Lex Luthor somewhere, doing…something, presumably. And Chloe Sullivan’s role is still unknown – as is the overarching conflict of this final season, though its logical to assume there is no clearly cut villain but rather the antagonist is perhaps people at large coming down on vigilantes.
While the episode does depend on a somewhat overused plot device (that it’s used before) in some ways that don’t entirely make sense or even hold up the best from a narrative standpoint, it was admittedly enjoyable nonetheless. Seeing a brief glance of the future Clark Kent and an appreciative appearance of Lois Lane in full form really made this episode, not to mention a few subtle nods like a person by the name of ‘CS’ thanking the current high school students still running the paper for carrying her ‘Torch.’ The ending scene was a moment fans have been waiting for: Clark and Lois stop their tripping over each other’s feet and confess their love for each other. Clark levitating off the ground for the first time while dancing with Lois was a brilliant little touch – technically his first moment of flight, yet so subtle (just a foot or so off the ground) that it doesn’t really count as the defining moment of truth. It was romantic and a treat for those of us who have been watching their relationship develop over time. It’s really quite impressive to me how these two characters started off completely at odds with one another years ago and have grown, over time, into what is expected of their characters as a pair. While it ends up feeling like a bit of a filler episode on the one hand, it serves to push Clark’s character back on the path of progress in the other.
As the show’s 200th episode, Homecoming managed to elicit some warm fuzzies of nostalgia for some of its older characters, pay homage to the classic Superman icon we’re familiar with, and help its audience realize just how far we’ve come over the past decade with Clark Kent. It came off a bit too blatant and strong at points, but it still definitively pulled off these tasks in a way that most fans should find satisfactory.