A recurring piece of characterisation in Smallville is Clark’s fear over what it might be like if his friends found out about his abilities. While the series has had Pete discover Clark’s abilities early in the season, pretty much as a means to give the character something to do whilst he increasingly becomes underused – which is a shame as Sam Jones III is actually really good on the show – Lana, Chloe and Lex are still none the wiser.
The series has increasingly played with Lex’s curiosity over Clark, which grants us the most interesting scenes of the episode, not least through his complex relationship with Helen. But ‘Visitor’ gives us a guest character that facilitates as a stand-in for Clark as Philip Leven’s teleplay evinces through guest star Cyrus (Jer Adrianne Lelliott) what it might be like if Lana and Chloe discovered the truth.
This set-up gives the episode a nice emotional undercurrent. It was always going to be hard to top ‘Rosetta,’ given that had a guest appearance from Christopher Reeve and pushed the mythology of the series forward, but you can already sense the series building upon the impact of that episode. After nearly two seasons of being referred to as the meteor rocks, the term “kryptonite” is finally in use, indicating that after nearly two seasons of doing what it has been doing, Smallville is slowly but surely turning itself into something more approaching the comic book world it’s ostensibly adapting.
It gives the entire world of Smallville a sensation of self-discovery. Not only of its characters, but also, slowly, beginning along a path towards the type of world that we know from a comic book panel. There’s a lovely irony then, to this week’s episode, which features a guest character who is more open about their potentially extra-terrestrial nature and whom gives Clark pause for thought about doing the same, even though we know in the future he won’t really be revealing his alter-ego to anyone outside of his family and future wife.
It also gives proceedings a nice level of suspense since the bulk of the episode plays over whether Cyrus is really an alien or not. While Clark ponders the question, Helen discovers Lex’s secret room where he has been collecting anything from over the last two seasons that has had him asking the same questions about Clark.
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When Lex asks Clark if Cyrus has a “Napoleon or a Messiah complex?” it paints another one of those deliciously ironic foreshadowing moments the series does all too well – if not as subtly as it likes to think it does – calling out exactly where the characters are going to end up in the future. Stands to reason since both hero and future villain are revealed to being consumed by the same interests this week, although in the case of Lex it’s obviously been fuelling him since the ‘Pilot‘ episode.
Look closely in Lex’s secret room and we see an animatic of the car accident that actually opened the series, a lovely call back and a nice sense of the amount of world-building that the series has been working with wonderfully, leaving the audience intrigued at to how it will answer the “Napolean or Messiah complex” question in relation to its two lead characters.