There is a lot to unpack here for sure. Kenneth Biller’s teleplay throws in an abundance of plot and dramatic moments that you might be forgiven for thinking it was a cliffhanger finale episode rather than the one right before it. The episode even ends on a ‘to be continued’ and yet we still have one more episode to go after this and things are getting really exciting.
As penultimate episodes go, this one brings together many themes and plot threads that have been dangling over the series this season, but it also shows how far the series has come from its monster-of-the-week format that characterised so much of the first season. The series is still capable of throwing that type of episode in for sure, as evidenced by last week’s Lana-centered episode, but here you get the feeling the series has continued more that not to solidify itself into a grander and serialised one.
The teaser sequence depicting Dr Walden finally waking up from his coma, the moments between Lana and Clark where it appears their relationship might finally be moving forward (at least more forward than usual) and Lex’s upcoming wedding to Helen is giving the series a considerable sense of momentum that leaves you very excited as to where it might go for the final episode.
Where Clark and Lana’s scenes are filled with so much WB-flavoured romance (the gentle atmosphere and soft rock ballad playing over the soundtrack which makes it feel we’re one step away from Dawson’s Creek or One Tree Hill), Helen and Lex’s scenes are filled to the brim with a sense of paranoia and suspicion. Should these two be getting married? Probably not, but where would the fun be if they weren’t. Both these relationships sum up Smallville‘s two central characters in a nutshell; one is tentative with hope, the other with a sense of danger and unpredictability.
Last year’s finale upped the dramatic stakes and threw in a tornado for its big finish. If this episode is anything to go by, we’re about to meet, in some capacity, Jor-El and it’s here that Smallville pulls off another wonderful piece of casting.
The more that the superhero genre has gots its hooks into pop culture and mainstream success, the more there is to self-reference. As we’ve seen with the increasing number of series in the Arrowverse and with its shows featuring characters that have been adapted for the screen before, there is a certain level of fun to be had in seeing such productions allude to previous versions and even casting actors in roles that acknowledge that past.
Earlier this season in Smallville we had the wonderful ‘Rosetta‘ that featured Christopher Reeve, Superman himself from the 70s and 80s, and now the series has just gone and cast Terence Stamp as Jor-El, that booming voice echoing as the episode ends and which leaves you on the edge of your seat awaiting the next episode.
Such nods and winks could easily destabilise everything, an acknowledgement of the past that might take you out of the series, but Smallville makes it work wonderfully well, and the fact that the one-time Zod, and the actor who famously declared that Superman should ‘kneel before him’, makes the notion of his casting in this particular role and a devilishly entertaining one.
Of course, we have to wait until next week to see (or hear) more of that performance, but it comes at the end of an episode that throws in so much in the way of forwarding momentum and incident that, once again, reminds you of not only how far Smallville has come, but just how many entertaining elements it has to play with at this stage.