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October 15, 2010 at 12:00 PM EDT

I’ll admit that when I saw that the 200th episode of Smallville was called “Homecoming” and would involve James Marsters as Brainiac 5 taking Clark Kent on trips into both the past and the future, I sighed, rolled my eyes, and prepared myself for some mushy tedium. After all, not many TV shows, let alone one as freighted with mythology as Smallville is, can pull off time-jumping without becoming absurd, or a mere clip-job-with-some-new-bits.

What a pleasant surprise, therefore, to see that “Homecoming” was a lot of fun and another example of how deftly the final season of Smallville is juggling so many story-lines and characters. The key one this week was James Marsters’ Brainiac, now Brainiac 5, a Legion member who traveled back from the future to help Clark out of what’s become the thing that’s preventing him from fulfilling his promise. That would that darned “darkness” the season has been invoking so frequently.

Brainiac 5 took Clark through glimpses of his past, particularly the death of his father, Jonathan. “The darkness is the past,” Brainiac 5 told Clark — that is, it’s Clark’s dwelling on the past, his feelings of unworthiness, that are sabotaging him. Later in the hour, Brainiac 5 added that “fearing the future” was the other part of the “darkness,” and that Clark didn’t need to be afraid of that.

Why? Because, Brainiac 5 showed Clark and us, Kent would grow up to become Superman and the “nerdy,” bespectacled adult Clark Kent, who, we also saw, shared a wonderful future with a radiant Lois Lane. And the exchanges between Clark and Future Clark were pretty delightful.

Speaking of delightful, Erica Durance continues to give one of the most charming performances on TV these days. She pulled off the extended joke about no one remembering Lois at the high-school reunion, a running gag that could have been a groaner but was saved by Durance’s various reactions to being snubbed. And her final dance with Clark conveyed the appropriate dreaminess necessary, complete with their mutual declarations of “I love you.” (Durance has begun to remind me of what I think of as the ideal Lois Lane — the one drawn in the comics by the great Kurt Schaffenberger.)

This week’s Smallville didn’t abandon last week’s Oliver Queen coming out as Green Arrow plot. Ollie gave his first media interview, a jarring one in which he lashed out at “arm-chair bloggers [who become] critics instead of leaders.” Well, I guess billionaires are sensitive to the press they receive.

The key point Smallville wanted you to come away with this week was that Clark has now made peace with his past (depicted this night in the scene at his father’s grave site) and can shake off his adolescent insecurities and grow into the man he’s destined to be. On that level, it was a success.

What did you think?

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s the action and heartbreak of Clark Kent — before he was all things Super
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Action Adventure
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Tom Welling,
Eric Johnson,
Allison Mack,
Annette O'Toole,
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