Smallville, “Salvation”

Ask any Smallville fan about their biggest complaint with the series and surely they’ll tell you that it’s Clark Kent’s lack of active heroism. Over the years, CK has definitely become more of a hero, but still spends a lot of time feeling guilty for certain events of being chastised by various characters for his beliefs and actions.

So although it had a number of fantastic moments that pulled all the too-loose strings together, the highest point of “Salvation” was that for the first time ever, Clark Kent acted completely like Superman. He was strong, active, supportive, loyal and caring. Oh yeah, and a complete bad-ass. After the messy string of episodes in the season’s second half that skewed the plot in a number of different directions, somehow “Salvation” tied all the important ones together in a poignant, exciting and enjoyable way. Resolutions came for the Zod story, the Clark-Lois-Blur triangle and Clark’s inner battle with his humanity, which allows “Salvation” to be the best Smallville season finale since season four’s “Commencement.”

And for once, an episode was really all about Clark. We started with him, well, sort of. The episode jumped to 2013 where Lois is the star reporter at the Daily Planet where Perry White is the editor-in-chief. Jimmy Olsen also works somewhere in the bullpen and a bespectacled Clark is around, somewhere. Meanwhile, he and Lois are seemingly married, she’s obviously in on the joke that he’s a superhero saving the day AND Lex is alive, running for president. It seems Clark is somehow having dreams about his future, a future where he’s become even more of a superhero.

With that image planted in his mind, CK wakes up to a gift waiting for him in the barn from his mother, in case he decides to stay on earth. What’s in the box? THE SUPERMAN SUIT. Or at least a red and blue version of his shirt. WHOA!

Like I said pre-jump, Clark spends the majority of the episode being as strong and decisive as he has ever been in the history of the series. He initially decides that he cannot use the Book of Rao because it is job to stay on earth and protect humanity. There’s a lot of talk about destiny and purpose, all that good stuff. I wondered all season if the writers ever had a plan to pay off the drama from the tail end of S8 and the beginning of S9 about Clark’s lack of humanity and detached perspective. They tried to make us think that his connection to Lois was enough, but to finally have him come out and say that he’s ready to protect his real people was awesome. In retrospect, that story played out okay. In the beginning of the series, Clark was so connected to his humanity and unwilling to embrace his Kryptonian side, so it makes sense to have him to swing the other way at least one time. So in the end, maybe the S8 finale provided us with something substantial. But only that.

However, midway through the episode, Clark had to change his tune, because just as it was so awesome to see Clark be completely heroic, it was great to see Zod be completely villainous. Zod destroys the communication console in the Fortress, has his team brand a number of world landmarks and he also fried half of Tess’ face. It’s then that Clark realizes that he has no choice but to use the Book of Rao and sacrifice himself for the good of the humans he wants to protect so badly. And in one of the episode’s best scenes, he explains this to a bickering group of heroes — Hawkman, Stargirl, Cyborg and Black Canary — and lets them know that it is now their responsibility to protect everyone in his absence. Oh man, straight up power from Tom Welling in that scene.

But before he can go, there’s his relationship with Lois to deal with. She’s been convinced by Zod that Clark is about to reveal the Blur’s identity, so she doesn’t quite trust him. Clark is unaware of all this, but tells Lois that she’s exactly what he needs in life — without telling her anything about his identity. Lois pushes for the truth — even though it’s a different one — and gets nothing, so she steals the Book of Rao and wants to give it to the Blur aka Zod. But thanks to a nicely placed hand-touch, Lois realizes that Zod is not the Blur. After a nice save from Clark — he punched someone! — an apology and a kiss, Lois figures out that Clark Kent is the Blur. Hey!

Alas, it doesn’t matter, because Clark has bigger things to worry about, like getting rid of the Kandorians. Tess stored the console from the destroyed Rao towers up on Clark’s skyscraper perch and Clark attempts to use that to active the Book. Zod and his army interrupt, but Clark finally convinces them that Zod was the one who murdered Faora, making that “Sacrifice” episode relevant. So Clark activates the Book and it sends everyone up and away, except the blue Kryptonite-wielding Zod.

After the lack of fight in “Doomsday,” the writers smartly de-powered Clark and Zod, which made the budget must easier to handle. Plus, the fight between Clark and Zod was probably the best and intense fight in the series history, and the rain really helped matters. And in the end, Clark makes the biggest sacrifice of all, allowing Zod to stab him in the gut, which takes the blue K with Clark and sends Zod up and away. As Clark falls off the building to his unpowered doom, it fades to black.

Tremendous finale from the Smallville crew this year, especially Tom Welling, who plays the strong, traditionally heroic Clark pretty damn well. While it’s disappointing that it took so long to get to this point for Clark and the road was a bit bumpy getting to this resolution, it was satisfying nonetheless. I’ll have more in a season wrap up later, but I can’t say really anything bad about this episode.

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