Smallville recap: To Have And To Hold. Or Not.
With his wedding to Lois Lane looming, and with the end of Smallville just one week away, Clark Kent submitted to an ancient ritual that all grooms must undergo in advance of marriage: To formally make a break from his childhood home so he can make a new, adult one with his bride; to “leave” his parents and “cleave” to his wife, as Bible-believing folks like to say. A couple weeks ago, Clark gave up the farm. Last night, in “Prophecy,” the last son of Krypton brought his fiancé Lois Lane to his other abode, the Fortress of Solitude, so they could inform disembodied daddy Jor-El of their marital intentions. Kal-El wanted his father’s blessing. Instead, he gave them a test. Clark’s powers were stripped and transferred to Lois. For one day, the future Mrs. Clark Kent got to experience the power – and the responsibility – of being Superman, while the future Mr. Lois Lane got to experience the powerlessness – and the terror — of being Superman’s wife. This trial brought an array of complications and dangers, and by the end of the day, with his strength restored to him, Clark returned to his Kryptonian homestead and declared to Jor-El that his parenting was complete, that he would no longer submit to his father’s god-like guidance or play his destiny-shaping games – that he was leaving and cleaving to another. Clark seemed to think that the real lesson to be learned was that he needed to be his own man. And so, with a puffed up chest and a very full sense of himself, Clark silenced Jor-El’s voice by removing the crystal that imbued the Fortress with his father’s consciousness. Clark flew away, the bird leaving the nest, and the camera panned over to a dark form frozen in ice, and we saw the suit that awaits him next week. No, not his wedding tux – his Superman threads. Goosebumps. And it wasn’t from the Arctic cold.
And yet, if you watched “Prophecy,” you know the episode wasn’t so warm and fuzzy. In fact, I would argue that Clark and Lois drew the wrong conclusions from Jor-El’s experiential pre-marital counseling. Ladies first. Lois was initially super-jazzed by her super-powers. The quick-talking, fast-moving multi-tasker had all the time in the world to do everything she wanted to do and needed to do, because when you have super-speed, time is not even an issue. I loved the bit where she sped to Wisconsin to pick up some choice mozzarella cheese – and then stopped to bust up a bank robbery on the way back. In one of the episode’s best scenes, and maybe one of the best scenes Smallville has given us in quite awhile, Clark sat Lois down and taught her about super-hearing. She was supposed to eavesdrop on some suspected malfeasance across the street. Lois thought it would be a simple matter of doing the “squint/head-tilt” thing, but she realized that honing in on the conversation involved filtering out all the other sounds and voices in Metropolis – including everyone else crying out for help or crying out in pain. Lois was overwhelmed. She asked Clark: How could he possibly ignore all these people?
CLARK: I don’t ignore them, but I do have to prioritize who needs help and how soon.
LOIS: Like an E.R. doctor, right? I’m just not sure I can handle the emotional triage of it all.
CLARK: It’s a lot to take on.
NEXT: The Legion of Doom… and doomsday for the wedding?
By episode’s end, Lois decided it was too much to take on. Not being Superman – being married to Superman. Her education in empathy – which involved subverting a plot hatched by Toyman and his proverbial Legion of Doom (John Corben! Roulette! Dark Archer! Solomon Grundy! Captain Cold! Black freakin’ Manta!) to take over the city by using star-shaped mind-control devices (which is to say: STARRO!) — taught her two things: 1. As the person Superman loved most and more than anything, even being Superman, Lois was also Superman’s biggest weakness. Want to stop the Man of Steel? Threaten to kill his wife. 2. With so many people in the world crying out in pain – crying out for Superman’s help – Lois would be a proverbial super-villain herself if she demanded that her husband choose her over them. “You are my greatest weakness,” she told Clark, “and I am afraid I’ll be yours.” Clark told her she was wrong. “You are my greatest strength,” he said. Which was the truth. But Lois wasn’t hearing any of it. And with that, she executed another kind of leave-and-cleave and broke their engagement.
Which was perhaps a little predictable. Next week’s series finale needs to be more than just a nostalgia fest. It needs some legit drama – or drama that’s more emotional and relationally oriented than the light vs. dark/balancing-the-scales-of good-and-evil Darkseid/Orion stuff — and giving Lois some cold feet is one way to do it. Will Lois change her mind? Of course she will. Maybe you think this tension is a bit bogus. But “Prophecy” sold me on Lois’ angst. The episode was about empathy, and kudos to the writers and actors for making us feel Lois’ angst via action and incident instead of (or in addition to) merely verbalizing it. (That chilling scene between Toyman and Super-Lois in the prison – semi-Silence of the Lambsish – was particularly effective in making an impact with what was both said and unsaid.)
As Smallville’s penultimate episode, “Prophecy” set up the finale to deliver an emotional whollop by telling a story that I suspect will dramatize Clark’s counter-argument: That we derive our greatest strength from the people that love us – and that we get strength by loving them back. These lessons will no doubt bring Clark and Lois back together and bring them to the altar, with all of their Super Friends (and family) to support them. But I also think it will bring Clark back to his arctic homestead, to the Fortress of Solitude. Because “leaving and cleaving” is really about prioritizing. It doesn’t mean disconnecting completely from your past or your parents, because they remain sources of strength as you move into the future and as you build a family of your own. So look for Clark to make a return trip to the Fortress to ask his father back into his life, albeit in a limited, appropriate way. He’s got to go home, anyway. After all…
He’s got a suit to pick up.
Speaking of priorities, this is Mother’s Day weekend, and I have some women in my life to honor. So I don’t have time to dig into Oliver’s doomed, selfish quest to retrieve the Bow of Orion or Supergirl’s decision to leave Earth and pursue her own destiny. (This was a great week for comic book fanboys; I loved the way the episode assimilated a wide swath of DC Comics lore, including even more of Jack Kirby’s “Fourth World” mythology.) Maybe you can help me out by discussing that stuff in the message boards. See you next week for the wedding (maybe?) and the finale. Bring tissues.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s the action and heartbreak of Clark Kent — before he was all things Super