Smallville, “Kent”

When I wrote this piece yesterday, I mentioned that the Smallville writers should do their best to focus on Clark and try not to detour into too many gimmicky episodes or characters not in the main cast. “Kent” is sort of a cheat, because it does both. Bring back Clark Luthor and shooting CK over to the alternate universe brings is clearly a gimmick, but I was actually impressed with how the episode made Clark’s journey actually mean something in the large scope of the series’ endgame. Of course, it also provided some really good material to Cassidy Freeman’s Tess and gave us one final look at John Schneider’s Jonathan Kent, which are both additional bonuses to an already substantial episode.

I was pleasantly surprised with how well the alternate universe was conceived and executed earlier in the season in “Luthor,” but it’s always tricky to try to go back to those kind of wells again and hope that the results will be the same. Fortunately, “Kent” does a very good job of emphasizing one of the series’ best themes in the whole “nature versus nurture” debate. In “Luthor,” we saw one side of that argument by getting a look at a Clark who wasn’t raised by Jonathan and Martha and how Lionel’s shadow really choked that Clark into becoming the deadliest and most awful person on the planet. In this episode, our Clark gets shot back over there and seeks out the man who made him who he is today: Jonathan Kent. I know that Smallville isn’t always that good and sometimes it is actually kind of bad, but one of the things it has always, always done perfectly is the father-son relationship between Jonathan and Clark. Some of that is the acting and the chemistry between Schneider and Tom Welling, but the writing has always been right there as well, dating all the way back to the pilot episode. So not only was it nice to just see the two of them interact one last time, but those interactions closed the book on their relationship with a very good circling back to so many of their great conversations.

In the alternate world, Jonathan has lost Martha and basically everything else. This is a man who has been beaten down by the world unfortunately because of Clark Luthor, but Clark Kent arrives just in time to turn it all around. After convincing Jonathan that he’s not Clark Luthor, Clark provides Jonathan the sort of uplifting and motivational pep-talks that his father used to provide for him. Obviously, this is just a cool moment, but it’s also one that is very important to Clark’s final steps towards his destiny. Jonathan is the one who told him that he would be the world’s greatest hero and that he never had to shy away from being just that. Without him, Clark wouldn’t be a month away from turning into Superman and now Clark gets to return the favor by convincing his quasi-father that there is still time to be the man Clark knows that he can and subsequently get back his lost wife.

And for Clark, seeing Jonathan one final time means he can finally come to terms with the loss of the most important person in his life, the man whose shadow Clark has still been living in even after mostly getting rid of the anger and guilt for so long. At the beginning of this season, Clark finally realized that he couldn’t blame himself for his father’s death, but that’s only part of the process. When he gets sucked back home thanks to Lois and Emil fixing the box, he finally recognizes that his father is never coming back — and that’s okay. Along with that comes getting rid of the farm and moving to Metropolis. I LOVED Clark’s monologue about stepping out from under the things that have been protecting him, that was fantastic. Like I’ve said a few times this season, it probably should not have taken as long for Clark to get to this point, but we can’t worry about this now. The execution here is really good.

Otherwise, Clark Luthor’s trip to “our” universe means lots of good stuff for Tess. I’ve been very obvious with my love for the character and Cassidy Freeman, and let me just say that she was amazing in this episode. Also: she was amazing in that purple dress. Ever since the character was introduced, there’s been some interesting sexual tension between Tess and Clark, but the developments between Clark and Lois and the short time-frame really didn’t leave enough time to explore both sides of the relationship, but I like how this episode finally outed Tess’ strong attraction to Clark. She’s a messed up woman who has been scarred for life by Lex, Lionel and all her dealings with Checkmate and Zod so she doesn’t even know which way is up anymore. Getting closer to Clark means getting closer to the “good side,” so even though Clark Luthor is an awful creature, Tess can’t help herself but be charmed by him because of the human meat suit he has on. I don’t think there will be anymore real exploration of Tess’ feelings for Clark because it’s clearly not going to go anywhere with only five hours left., but it was one of those sort-of dangling threads that the series is smart for at least discussing.

And finally, I enjoyed the showdowns between the two Clarks. Putting them in separate universes is cool, but it’s really great to watch them face off, both physically — hey, budget! — and in discourse. This series often has Clark clones start to recognize the error of their ways (see: Bizarro), but I liked how Clark Luthor’s transition was a bit more subtle. He was looking to start over, mostly because of the terrible circumstances in his world, but was still clearly evil. Of course, our Clark giving him the speech about Jor-El and the fortress was a nice touch, not only for the interactions between the two characters but also for Clark Kent’s overall development. Jonathan Kent is most certainly his father, but he still respects Jor-El and his place in the world and it’s great that he showed that to Clark Luthor.

“Kent” might not make any progress on the Clark-Lois wedding or the Darkseid plot, but it’s still a damn good start to the final run of Smallville. 

Other thoughts:

  • Seriously, Cassidy Freeman in that dress. GOOD LORD.
  • I’m not sure if I mentioned this in the “Luthor” review, but I enjoyed how the art direction in the alternate universe was distinctive and different from the “normal” universe. Nice touch.
  • Tom Welling is always great, but anytime he gets to play two roles, he’s especially awesome.
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