Why I found the series finale of "Smallville" to be so disappointing
I'm a huge fan of "Smallville", but I thought they were supposed to save the best for last. Nope. Read on...
Did I like PARTS of the last two episodes? Yes, I honestly did. To be fair, I am going to list the top five favorite scenes I loved best about the finale before I go into the worst scenes of the episode... and I have great difficulty listing only five disappointing scenes.
My five favorites, from five to one:
5.) EPILOGUE - 2018.
In the final minutes, we got to see the future for our characters for the last time. Perry White is the editor in chief we all know and love, and we even hear him bark "Great Caesar's Ghost!" (though Michael McKean should've been on-screen one last time) Jimmy Olsen, the real one, makes his debut, played by Aaron Ashmore (who played his brother, Henry James "Jimmy" Olsen, that was killed in season eight's finale episode... yeah, on second thought, ignore that explanation), and he shows Lois Lane his photographs. The TV shows elected-President of the United States Lex Luthor on the screen. Lois and Clark get a brief talk about their imminent wedding before he has to rush off as the Man of Steel. And in the final seconds, John Williams music and all, Tom Welling's Clark Kent ditches the glasses, opens his shirt and shows the Superman chest "S" emblem. Sure, the future scenes were done much better in the season nine finale episode and the show's 200th episode, "Homecoming", earlier in season ten. Still, it's nice we get a good resemblance of their comic book counterparts for the final minutes of the series.
4.) LOIS IS FIRST SAVED BY, AND FIRST SEES, SUPERMAN.
It's been done before, many times. Superman saves an airplane in trouble. We've seen it happen in the movies and animated series, even if Lois herself wasn't on board. It's also not the first time Clark has saved the life of his lady love on this show. But this is the first time that SUPERMAN saves Lois, and it's quite a nice scene to watch. Sure, it was a few mere seconds on-screen that they actually saw each other and Lois was the only person to actually see Superman up close in this episode, but good lord, I got quite a kick out of seeing them finally have an encounter while Clark was in the suit. Would I have preferred seeing Lois see Clark in the FULL Superman suit? Of course, who wouldn't? It would've been even better if Clark, as Superman, had taken Lois in his arms for a flight over the city of Metropolis, since they'd done it earlier this season in "Collateral". But to see them make eye contact through the airplane window and smile lovingly at one another just made me grin from ear to ear. And it was pretty cool to see Superman in full view with Apokalips behind him, even if it was a CGI Supes.
3.) CLARK READS LOIS'S VOWS, A.K.A. THE WEDDING IS BACK ON.
If you saw the last episode, you know that the wedding was unlikely to happen since Lois said she can't marry him. Lois is worried Clark can't be married to her, because she feels she'd be holding him back from being a hero and she'd be in the way when lives need saving. Clark himself gets wedding day jitters and wonders if Lois is right, and that if she is another part of his past he'll have to put behind him in order to become the hero the world needs him to be. Of course, both of their worries quickly dissolve when they discover the vows that were written by the other. Lois reads from Clark's vows that he believes in her, he knows she's always believed in him, and that, as Clark wrote, "when you believe in someone, it's not for a minute, or just for now, it's forever." Of the two, Clark's has a more emotional impact when Lois is trying to tell him she wants to marry him, while he's trying to tell her she may have been right. That's when Clark reads her vows she slips him under the door. While Lois worries about Clark, on the other side, his doubts melt away when he reads him that while life can be messy, she wants to marry him because she can't imagine her life without him. Lois writes Clark is her best friend, his home, his true love, and she is his "and will be forever." Watching them with their hands on the same part of the door, but on opposite sides, and watching the performances that Erica Durance and Tom Welling give prove why they are this generation's Lois and Clark. It shows just how far these characters have come since Lois's arrival in season four, how much they've grown and matured, and just how much they've grown to truly love each other. You can't help but get a little misty-eyed during this scene because these actors have done an incredible job with developing the relationship between Lois and Clark, from originally being unable to stand one another, to being friends, to being a couple, and eventually ready to become husband and wife. As much as I look forward to seeing what Henry Cavill and Amy Adams bring to the characters for next year's "Superman: The Man of Steel" big-screen movie, to me, the Lois and Clark relationship on "Smallville" is one of the best ever done, and it's all because of the chemistry between Erica Durance and Tom Welling. If nothing else, at least "Smallville" haters can admit these two are a LOT better as Lois and Clark than Kate Bosworth and Brandon Routh, right?
2.) JONATHAN GIVES CLARK KENT THE SUIT AND SUPERMAN FLIES OUT OF THE FORTRESS.
While this is a major gripe I have with this episode, as to how in the heck Jonathan Kent's ghost keeps showing up to Clark and is able to physically HAND HIM the suit in the two "Finale" episodes, whatever. I don't give a crap with the "how", I'm just pleased to see Jonathan Kent back. It was so, SO stupid of John Schneider's Jonathan Kent to meet his demise in the 100th episode of "Smallville" that aired in season five, and I remain bitter to the otherwise-brilliant "Superman: The Movie" that it started the trend of having Jonathan Kent either dead or have to die in every other medium of "Superman" on screen, with the exceptions of the WB animated series and "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman". As a ghost, Jonathan tells Clark he doesn't have to let go of the past and he also has to let Jor-El guide him, which also sparks the biggest change in Clark's other dad. Jor-El must've taken a chill pill (no pun intended) at the Fortress once Clark de-activated him before the finale, because in "Finale, Part 2", he is acting all the happy dad, giving Clark his montage of past episodes saying his adventures in Smallville and Metropolis have been his trials. Once at the Fortress, Jor-El tells Clark he's ready after getting rid of Darkseid and that he's proud of his son. He then allows the suit to emerge from its crystal case or whatever and Jonathan appears, standing with the suit in his arms and handing it to the Kryptonian hero he raised as his own son. Sure, Jonathan's ghost exits stage left once Clark has the suit on, but then, what follows is one of the coolest scenes of "Smallville": Clark Kent flies up, the suit is put on, and we see flashes of the Superman suit on Clark as he flies up and out of the Fortress of Solitude. It's no full shot of Welling in the suit, but it sure as heck was awesome.
1.) CLARK AND LEX, TOGETHER AGAIN... AND IT'S SOOOOO GOOD.
Michael Rosenbaum said he filmed 19 hours worth of material on "Smallville"... which amounted to, what, nine minutes of screen time in all for his return, scene with Clark, scene with Tess and clip on TV? Whatever. It's worth it. Sure, I'm ticked Lex is technically just a clone (see #4 of the worst list), but I forgot all about that once Lex stepped into the rubble of the Luthor mansion and he finally got to see Clark again after the truly terrible season seven finale episode. The two were so perfect in their roles, so flawless, that you forgot that Michael Rosenbaum had left the show three seasons ago and was wearing a bald cap for his lone return appearance as Lex Luthor. What struck me as interesting was the dialogue Lex gave, from saying how the great men and women in history have always been defined by their enemies and how he hated that Clark hated and hid from his destiny, whereas Lex would've embraced it if it was his own fate. Every moment we saw Rosenbaum's Lex and Welling's Clark talk back and forth, it was just magic.
Case in point:
Lex: "You and I, we will both be great men, because of each other. We have a destiny together, Clark... only on different sides."
Clark: "And I'll always be there to stop you. Always."
Lex: "Oh, I'm counting on it."
Lex even helps his doubting enemy become confident in becoming the hero and get rid of Darkseid, saying "we both know who can" get rid of him when Clark says he's not sure Clark Kent can stop it. But surely Lex is just giving his last advice to help Clark just so Lex himself can be the one to get rid of his Kryptonian nemesis, of course. The best moment for Clark in all this, though, comes from Welling's last line given to his greatest enemy: "I'm sorry I couldn't save you, Lex."
Say what you will about Tom Welling's acting, but here, he owned that scene and made that line work perfectly. You could see the regret and sadness in Clark's eyes, and tone of voice, when he says that to his old friend from years ago who now is the man he'll be fighting with for the rest of their lives. I wish we'd seen Clark and Lex a lot more in this finale, but even though we got one scene of them together, it was incredible and easily my favorite of the entire episode. Rosenbaum himself not only is at the top of his game, he MAKES the finale special. If only he'd been on for a few episodes, better yet the entire last season, this would've been the last great of "Smallville". Instead, he gives his great last performance on the series, but I'll always be grateful to Rosenbaum that he came back at least one last time.
That said, there are many reasons why I feel "Finale" was one of the most disappointing, most frustrating "Smallville" stories ever told. This is the one episode where it was the hardest for me to come up with only five flaws. I actually had a harder time finding five GOOD moments as opposed to bad ones, when it's always been the reverse with all of the past episodes of this show. SO MANY ASPECTS about "Finale" disappointed me on a whole new level that "Smallville" thankfully never did before. Like how did DC Comics publish a copy of "Smallville" that Chloe got possession of? If the world at large doesn't know who Superman really is, why does DC Comics have it in a comic book that Chloe owns and reads as a bedtime story? Where was, or rather IS, Martian Manhunter? Why didn't we see the other heroes try to do anything while Clark was meeting everyone from the ghost of Pa Kent and Lex Luthor to Lionel-possessed Darkseid? Why didn't Michael McKean get to show up as Perry White and have the show reveal, even in a sentence or two, how he became the editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet? Why was future Superboy Conner Kent, the cloned mix of Lex and Clark, not present at Clark's wedding? Why didn't we get to see Lionel and Lex rather than have Lionel die? Better yet, why didn't we see Lex meet Conner? So many reasons, so little time. Of what we DID see in "Finale", these are the five worst things that were shown in that two-part story. Read on, if you dare...
5.) THERE IS NO ON-SCREEN WEDDING FOR LOIS AND CLARK, WHO STILL ISN'T QUITE "MILD-MANNERED" YET.
The writers and crew told us we may not even see a wedding, I just didn't believe it. I thought it was a bluff. Surely, after being teased and seeing Clark Kent propose so wonderfully to Lois Lane earlier this season, you'd think that we'd be seeing the two finally tie the knot, right? Nope. Not only do they not get married on-screen, their marriage is delayed until 2018 for reasons unknown. If you thought the engagement of Lois and Richard White was prolonged in "Superman Returns", this breaks that record real quick. Not only that, this show ignores what it was trying to set-up: showing Clark becoming more like the clumsy nerd at the Daily Planet, while becoming the more heroic Superman. The only time we really saw that this season was in one of the best episodes of the season, and in my opinion the series itself, "Booster". Clark was a bumbling reporter, he'd knock papers over, he'd be the last guy you'd suspect was the Man of Steel. Instead, Clark doesn't wear his glasses at the wedding in the present time, and the only time we see him be clumsy is in the last few minutes in the year 2018. After the set-up of trying to show us that Clark Kent is going to be the disguise, it failed in that aspect big time. Having more of Clark be a bumbling reporter for several episodes would've rightfully justified, but it's a sudden change since Clark went from heroic stud to clumsy, glasses-wearing geek basically overnight on this show. The change is too sudden, lazy, and stupid. So much was introduced and focused on this season that Clark's change from hero to nerd was lost in the shuffle. Just look at their almost-wedding! Lois is basically walking down the aisle with Superman in a tuxedo before his big reveal wearing the suit, but fortunately, a mind-controlled Oliver puts the nix on that really fast when he tries to have Lois slip a Gold Kryptonite wedding ring on Clark's finger and rid him of his powers forever. So, instead of the wedding, we get a tease, which leads to a fight between Oliver and Clark (see my #2 complaint for more). And that's just wrong.
4.) THE REASONS FOR LEX LUTHOR'S RETURN AND MINDWIPE.
So, Oliver Queen really DID kill the real Lex Luthor on "Smallville". With a toy bomb he stole from Toyman. I thought the big twist for Lex's return would've been in revealing the one he blew up was a clone (which would've made sense, why would the real one go around as a moving target in a van anyway?). Nope. Instead, they pull a Frankenstein and sow together pieces of other Lex clones to make a new body. When Lionel Luthor is shot by Tess after he tries to steal her heart and give it to Lex so he can live again, Darkseid shows up and takes Lionel's out of his dying body to give to Lex when Lionel wants his son to live. Uh-huh. So the real Lex Luthor isn't back. It's a Lex clone. Has Spider-Man taught us absolutely nothing in the field of storytelling in any medium that using clones is a BAD IDEA? Lex has a second chance at life, as a clone, and he goes over to LuthorCorp after meeting Clark where he meets Tess. And he kills her half a minute later. Let's excuse the fact that Tess Mercer got one of the show's most unnecessary, lame deaths, even if Michael Rosenbaum's Lex gives a great performance and tells Tess his own creepy reasons as to why he killed her himself. After Lex stabs Tess, she wipes a neurotoxin on his face that will all of erase his memories. Everything we saw happen to Lex this show he doesn't remember. She says when the toxin takes effect, Lex won't remember anything about his past life, it won't exist to him. Um... Why? What was the point of doing that? Was it just to see clips of Lex Luthor from past seasons in his own montage when we see his memories erased? We all know that Lex is going to end up being the villain, even Lex himself knew that. So now, he's got his memories erased by the very woman he fatally stabbed. Wouldn't this mind-wiped murderer be taken to jail for killing Tess? What's worse, he doesn't even remember who she is, why she's dead, or why he killed her, if he even knows he killed her. And the last we see of Lex in the present is staring out of the window of LuthorCorp after his memories are erased. Granted, we all know Lex ends up getting his life back, he runs LuthorCorp, becomes Superman's greatest enemy, and then he gets elected President of the United States in the future. No surprise there, as it's been hinted on the show. But again, this isn't the real Lex. It's a clone. The real one was blown up by a toy bomb. And that's very, VERY stupid to say.
3.) THE HANDLING OF THE DARKNESS.
Yes, sir, that Darkness we've heard all through this season is just so darn bad. There's no cure for it. Once you have that Omega symbol burned in your skull, you're a minion of Darkseid forever. Or until Clark Kent comes along to give you a brief pep talk and it's removed from your skull. Just ask Oliver Queen. After the big build-up all season long, all of the teases of the Darkness coming, even with the lone Granny Goodness episode earlier this season... the Darkness sure came and went pretty fast. And it was way, WAAAAAY too easy to beat. When Oliver got branded with the Omega symbol on his skull, I thought Granny Goodness and the other minions would've had those corrupted by the darkness suddenly go nuts under their control and go after those who hadn't been branded. Innocent people would've been suddenly attacked, maybe even killed, by the average citizens around them for no apparent reason, and the authorities would've been sent to do something. They would've not only been helpless, but maybe even attacked by their own co-workers who had been corrupted. Nope. That didn't happen. All the people who were possessed just stood around, and once Superman came to send the Apokalips planet back into space, that was it. The Omega symbols vanished from their skulls. Umm... I thought it was branded IN the skull, not ON the skull. You know, like how we saw it on a human (or human-like) skull in the Phantom Zone earlier in the "Dominion" episode with Zod. I got confused when I watched Clark give Oliver a pep talk to be a hero and fight the Darkness, and then the symbol went away. Maybe it was implying that it was only the control over him that was gone. Still, what the heck? Also, did anyone else want to cry foul with how easy it was for Green Arrow to just stroll back into the minions' hideout, and take out Desaad, Godfrey and Granny with his arrows by blowing them up into black smoke? You know, just once, I'd like to see a Smallville villain based on a Superman comic book villain survive so they can fight Clark later when he's Superman, not die before then while he's still the Blur. At least put up a fight with Green Arrow and go down trying to kill him, like Granny apparently tried to do! The deaths of Darkseid's minions were too easy, too quick, and too mind-numbing to accept. Good grief.
2.) THE FINAL BATTLE OF THE SERIES, CLARK VERSUS DARKSEID, IS NOT A FIGHT.
They did the unthinkable. The writers actually made the Clark vs. Doomsday fight from season eight's finale awesome by comparison. When Doomsday fought Clark on "Smallville", his punches were hard enough to draw blood from Clark. In this... well, this... WHAT WAS THIS FIGHT?!? Darkseid has been reduced to a smoke being of sorts on this show, a la Galactus in "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" and equally as lame, and it suffers for it. In the comic books, Darkseid is a tall, muscular tyrant with god-like abilities who rules the planet Apokalips and is someone you don't want to mess with. He has his Omega Beam he can shoot from his eyes, he can travel through time and space, and has the necessary super-human strength and speed to go toe-to-toe with Superman. Here... he floats as a spooky-looking rock-cloud-thing. His big moment getting into a physical form is possessing the newly-dead Lionel Luthor after giving Lionel's heart to the Lex clone, as mentioned. Because nothing is more intimidating than having a god-like being possess Daniel Clamp as the ideal human host body of choice. No offense, but John Glover is brilliant as Lionel Luthor. When possessed by Darkseid, not so much. Once Darkseid gets Lionel's body, he goes to Clark's barn and tries to strangle him in his grip. After throwing Clark away into the air, Clark suddenly freezes and we see a few minute montage of past episodes where Clark realizes his adventures over the years have been his trials preparing him. Once his minutes-long montage ends, which lasts mere seconds real-time for Clark, he stops himself mid-air and discovers he can fly. Upon finding that out, Clark is able to fly with NO PROBLEM after TEN SEASONS OF BEING GROUNDED, and he zooms into Lionel's body. BOOM! The impact of Clark's super-strong, super-fast charge makes Lionel explode and sends Darkseid away in a black cloud with birds flying out of it. End of fight. Except, well, it wasn't a fight. It wasn't much of anything. Darkseid is driven away with a quick tackle by Clark that destroys his human host body? SERIOUSLY?!? We got to see Oliver put up a better fight with Clark at his own wedding! He punched Clark, he threw Clark out of the chapel, he threw Lois away (though Clark naturally saved her and got her to safety), but we saw more of the Oliver vs. Clark sequence than the MAIN VILLAIN OF THE SEASON! The ultimate challenge for Clark is blown up into smoke after a flying punch. Why, God? Just... WHY?
1.) AFTER TEN YEARS OF WAITING, TOM WELLING JUST OPENED HIS SHIRT. SUPERMAN HIMSELF IS C.G.I.
Wow. Tom Welling really, REALLY didn't want to wear that Superman suit, huh? He sure didn't mind wearing the black emo Blur suit in season nine, or the red leather, "S" jacket as the Blur in season ten. Yeah, he may've been "the Blur" then and not Superman, but tell that to the "S" on his chest. Or to the livid comic book fans. To wait ten years to see a teeny, tiny computer-generated Superman fly on-screen and then have only mere close-ups of Welling with what I assume was a CGI cape flowing behind him bring three short, perfect descriptions of those scenes to mind: "cop-out", "disappointing", and "fail". Yes, "fail" is tossed out left and right these days when it comes to one describing something bad, but this is beyond bad here. The best we see of Tom Welling in the costume is the very last few seconds of the show when he opens his shirt and reveals the Superman suit underneath, showing us the iconic red-and-yellow "S" emblem. But come on! We waited ten years to see Tom Welling in full costume as Superman, and ... we didn't get it. We got a CGI Welling in mid-air/flying, close-ups, and a few second glimpse of him opening his shirt in the final seconds of the series. It also strikes me as odd that Chloe Sullivan is reading the story of Superman to her son from a DC Comics-published comic book of "Smallville", like Superman's origin and secret identity as Clark Kent are common knowledge to the world who doesn't know a bumbling reporter with glasses is actually the Last Son of Krypton. Ugh. To add insult to injury, nobody else even got to be the same scene with Superman when he was in costume. Not Lex Luthor, not Chloe Sullivan, not Martha Kent (who made the suit for him!), nada. The closest we got was Lois seeing Clark as Supes out of the airplane window with the cape flowing behind him (which as you saw, was in my favorite moments list), but she never fully saw her flying fiance in costume. Clark was supposed to reveal himself to the world as a beacon of hope, the people's ultimate hero. All they got to see was a teeny flying C.G.I. dude in a cape lift the planet Apokalips into space. Nobody SAW Superman, or HEARD his name. Do they even know it was the Blur? It could've been anyone! When do the people discover the Blur and Superman are one and the same vigilante? Now to the suit itself. What's worse about the suit on this show, is that it was the "Superman Returns" suit, with the muted colors and the too-small S shield emblem on the chest. My major complaint about that is that Tom Welling doesn't just not get to make a full appearance in the Superman suit, it's not HIS Superman suit. It was Brandon Routh's. We got a hand-me-down suit from another Superman actor. Different actor, different continuity. It's insulting, and if you saw my previous Smallville editorials here on CBM, you know I didn't like that this suit was used for "Smallville". Think about it. Christopher Reeve had a Superman suit all his own, Dean Cain did, Brandon Routh did. But Welling? He got someone ELSE'S suit, rather than have a suit made JUST FOR HIM to wear, and I think that could be a possibility as to why he didn't put it on. Maybe it didn't even fit Welling! There's nothing worse than waiting ten years to see Superman and the best we see of him is a CGI stand-in for the actor. As much as I adore "Smallville", this was just super stupid.
In closing, I do NOT hate "Smallville", nor do I hate the two "Finale" episodes. I love this show. I will greatly miss it. It was my last reason to watch the WB network (sorry, I refuse to acknowledge "The CW", because that's a REALLY crappy name for a network). But after investing ten years, ten seasons worth of stories (some of those seasons were admittedly better than others), I thought that we'd have the show end with Clark becoming Superman. That is, by actually CALLING him "Superman", actually have Tom Welling FULLY IN THE ICONIC SUPERMAN COSTUME and not have C.G.I. do it in far-away shots, and the people actually DISCOVERING Superman, the greatest hero that the world has ever known. Superman was supposed to be the light, the one hero who inspires people and other super heroes, and who "fights for truth, justice and the American way." Alas, we did not get what we waited to see for ten years, and the crew, the writers, and the actors simply HAVE to know that. We did NOT get Superman. We only got to see pieces of Tom Welling's Clark Kent in the classic costume. And that's not super. That's a huge, HUGE disappointment.
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