I did some mulling over how to, in text form, start this review. It’s the 200th episode, so I figure a review has to have a certain amount more thought put into it than the average review. I debated being wordy and filling the opening with flowery prose, or using a key quote from an earlier episode.
I’ll get the faults out of the way now. They didn’t detract from the episode as such, but nothing is perfect. For me to claim this was a perfect episode would be a lie, after all.
The first fault, for me, is setting parts of this episode in 2017. It’s not so much the flashforward I’m against, more that they go too far ahead. In Salvation, we see a flashforward to 2013. Leaping ahead four more years felt a tad false to me. It would have made sense to be maybe a year or so after 2014. Jumping too far ahead robs the story of any real urgency, and at this stage things should feel more urgent.
The second fault was some of the acting by the day players. I don’t mean Ali and Tom, the adorable new flag-bearers of The Torch. It was the teachers and other students who felt needlessly goofy. Especially the Guidance Counselor who wanted to take Clark down. Putting aside that it went nowhere and didn’t mean anything to the plot, it was hammy acting that we didn’t need in such a momentous episode.
It was the teachers and other students who felt needlessly goofy. Especially the guidance counselor who wanted to take Clark down. Putting aside that it went nowhere and didn’t mean anything to the plot, it was hammy acting that we didn’t need in such a momentous episode.
Now that the (major) flaws are out of the way, the gushing can commence.
The first thing that made the episode really shine for me was seeing James Masters return as Brainiac-Five. In showing Clark’s past, present, and future, they manage to showcase how he’s inspired people and been inspired in turn. At the same time, it also allows us to get more insight into Clark’s darkness. His inability to live in the moment makes Supergirl work better in context: a complaint many had was that Kara fending off The Dark Force felt false. Here we get a canon explanation – Kara lives for today, and so does Lois. Clark doesn’t. It’s not that they’re purer, it’s that they don’t have his baggage. This adds some depth to Clark’s journey, and finishes the first little mini-arc that began in Lazarus. While I wouldn’t rate Supergirl higher necessarily, I’m pleased it connects to the greater arc.
The second thing I liked was the show letting the fans know that there is a definitive build to an endpoint. In Salvation we saw a dream sequence confirming Clark would become Superman, in Lazarus we saw that costume, and in Homecoming we see that Future-Lois knows the secret and Future-Clark wears the glasses. It’s a gentle ‘enjoy the ride, we know where we’re going’ reminded to a fanbase that, diplomatic as I can, tends to work itself into a lather and get nervous that the bus they’re on is going to crash. Homecoming is as close as they can get to a ‘thank you’ to us, the audience, for sticking with it.
In this episode, we get the structure of A Christmas Carol. It’s a trick done earlier in the series, but meets with greater success here. Brainiac-Five is methodically brought to life by James Marsters, who shows a subtle warmth towards Clark within his robotic form. It’s low-key acting, and he shines within the contradictions. The inclusion of Brainiac-Five also allows us a comparison between himself and Clark. The corruption of the original Brainiac mirrors the fears that Jor-El has towards Clark, and in the process we can see that Clark’s refusal to condemn the Brainiac-infected Chloe in Legion was an act of love that enabled the Legion to save Chloe and create Brainiac-Five. This suggests that my theory of Lois’s love saving Clark from his dark side (and whether retroactive or not, Lana’s Pilot flashback where where mentions Clark’s dark side shows how full-circle the series has come) may be bang on the money. It harks back to what Rokk told Clark in Legion:
Kal-El, your… Your influence will reach far beyond Earth. It’s because of you that the world learns to welcome alien immigrants with open arms.
The love and support of Jonathan, Martha and Lois towards Clark inspires him to become Superman, which inspires him to put that same warmth and love into play for humanity. This, in turn, inspires humanity to accept aliens.
But in the end, it comes down to choice.
In this episode, during Clark’s trips through time, he sees Greg Arkin (a nice cameo by Chad E. Donell) striding towards Lois. Clark chooses to try and save Lois, putting other people before his own training. This throws him to 2017, and begins my favourite part of the episode. The awe-inspiring sequence that follows sees:
1. Clark meet Future-Lois, and find out that she’s a confidant, a lover and a friend.
2. Clark meet Future-Clark.
The flashbacks to 101 earlier in the episode show Clark’s humble beginnings, and the flashforward shows just how close he is to becoming Superman. (Lois’s comments suggest that he’ll be telling her his secret very, very soon.) Within the flashforward sequence, Erica Durance and Tom Welling shine. They manage to takes bits of every Clark and Lois (Reeves and Coates/Nell, Reeves and Kidder, Cain and Hatcher, Routh and Bosworth), and combine these tics with their own interpretations to form fantastic realisations of the iconic characters. Welling in particular deserves props, letting quiet confidence radiate from future-Clark in a way that adds to the hair and the glasses. It’s non-showy, a testament to how underrated he is as an actor. The scenes feel like an extended love-letter to the original Richard Donner film, as well as a thank you to the fans for watching.
There may be no such thing as a perfect episode, but this episode is a corny love letter from a show that’s lasted far longer than anyone expected. And with episode like these, I see why. Thank you Smallville.