This episode continues the storyline of Clark Kent as he nears his ultimate destiny. The return of Kara is a catalyst, her eighteen month quest to find Kandor culminating in her return to Metropolis. Her reappearance forces Clark to deal with the reaffirmation that they are the last remaining members of the House of El. It impacts him greatly, as does the climatic moment where Kara manages to fend off the Dark Force to save Clark’s life.
With this episode, the seasonal (and series) arc comes into wider context. We discover that pride is not Clark’s weakness, rather a smaller part of the core weakness that is fear: fear of the future, of his destiny, of his failings. In the comic-books, Clark (in his Superman guise) is seen as the Man Of Tomorrow, a beacon of hope for humanity and aliens alike. Yet in this series, even with his many accomplishments, Clark is deathly afraid that he won’t be enough; that he can’t live up to the expectations of The Legion, of the vision he saw in Salvation and the words of Doctor Fate from Absolute Justice
Your fate is utterly binding… the hope for tomorrow that your alien friend spoke of. You are that hope. I have seen it… I see everyone’s fate… but my own. Sometimes that scares me. But when I see the future of someone such as yourself, I believe in tomorrow again… you will lead this generation, as Hawkman once led ours… and when you show yourself to the world, it will be a different age than ours. A silver age of heroism that will start when they look up into the sky at you with hope for tomorrow. You will help everyone embrace it.
Aside from being magnificent dialogue, it helps create a wonderful reason why full flight hasn’t been possible for Clark yet. He’s been told by everyone that he’s going to be beacon of light for Earth. That’s a lot to take in for a farm-boy from Smallville. And explains why he can’t fly: because flight means the silver age has begun. There’s no turning back then. Clark’s scared that he’ll fail, so his subconscious won’t let him enter the peaceful state that flight requires. It’s a fantastically logical way to bring the no tights, no flights rule into practice. While it was a creative mandate, when viewed in context his inability to fly makes a lot of sense. No-one else has the pressure on their shoulders to save everyone, they do it via choice. Clark has to make the choice to do it – even if destiny is calling, he has to have that desire to do it and Lois, as I mentioned in my previous review, is the key.
Kara reappearing, then, causes doubt for Clark. They both believe that Kara is the only one who can stop the Dark Force, but clearly the show suggests otherwise. Stopping it isn’t enough. Evil needs to be met with good: a pure symbol. And that screams Clark, his arc over the season to go from tormented and full of doubt to being reborn as something that cannot be destroyed by anyone.
Sadly, the focus here is slightly muddled.
It just seems apparent now that Smallville can be slightly divided. With Tom Welling as Executive Producer here, and involved in Hellcats as well, they share the load more and more. It’s not that I dislike how Justin plays Green Arrow, or his content… just that focus on him does take away from this being Clark’s story. Kara falls into the same territory: Laura V isn’t a bad actress, it’s just that she shows up Clark a lot and it can get grating. I understand that, thematically, she’s less constrained by her humanity, it still feels with her (as it does Ollie) that they’re lead characters forced into supporting character status. Every few eps, we get a Green Arrow focus for example and the show feels tonally different. Like I said, it isn’t bad… it’s just not entirely Smallville.
And there’s also the sense that this very good episode is merely to transition us into the 200th ep Homecoming, which is going to be a game-changer of an episode. Here, Kara’s big return (and her sexy new costume) just don’t seem to inspire Clark adequately. I don’t think her teaching him to fly would work (he has to do that himself), rather that Clark should see her as a prototype of what he wants to be. She’s saving people and using a secret identity, but Clark can amp up that and do so much more with it. He doesn’t seem to take that lesson on board, which is a tad annoying. I get why he doesn’t, it’s just that in Season Ten every episode should push Clark towards his end journey. 10.01 and 10.02 did, 10.03 sees him running sideways.
Another frustration is Oliver outing himself. While it has shades of Iron Man, I can justify the concept of him outing himself considering we’ve seen how his life has been turbulent for four years. He isn’t doing this for kicks, rather to show people he’s taking heroism seriously. No, the snag here is that everyone but Clark is moving forward. He seems a passive figure here, saved by Kara and behind Oliver when it comes to putting others first and swallowing your pride.
It’s a pretty good episode, then. Helps that Laura Vandervoort is a pretty good actress, and has an easy chemistry with Tom Welling. Still feels like two different shows tonally, and it isn’t as good as the first two episodes of the season. Hopefully Homecoming will pick up the slack.