While last week’s episode was entitled ‘Crisis‘ and carried with it all the connotations that word has for a DC Comics adaptation, it really functioned more as a less grandiose episode of Smallville, despite the massive amounts of continuity going on within it. On the other hand, ‘Legacy’ really does feel like a major stepping stone for larger concerns within Smallville‘s branch of the DC Television landscape.
Right from the very beginning of the series, there has always been the feeling that Clark and Lex’s destinies were always conjoined in a way. It goes without saying that these are two of the most famous hero and villain dynamics in all of comic book literature, but Smallville‘s writers have always leaned into a flavour of grandiosity; an acknowledgement that borders on being just a little outside the fourth wall, that their interactions are destined to become more hate-filled and spiteful because the lore of its origins demand it.
Even better, when the series went into season two and flashbacked to the immediate aftermath of the meteor shower that brought Clark to Earth, it parlayed their linked destinies to the parental figures in their lives. Jeph Loeb’s script for this episode really goes to town with its explorations of the impact that the decisions of their fathers will have on their famous sons going forward.
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Of course, as great as all of this is, it does play into masculine ideals that have always been at the heart of the Superman story, primarily because the character was a creation of the late 1930s. It always comes down to fathers and sons, even though there are mothers in the mix too. One might want to roll their eyes at the more superfluous roles that Martha Kent and Lara play in these stories (and Lara only played a larger role in Superman II due to Marlon Brando refusing to return for Richard Lester’s reshoots), but it’s also hard to ignore just how much of a top tier episode of Smallville this is.
A lot of the importance of the episode is boiled down to this seeing the return of Christopher Reeve as Dr Swann in his last on-screen performance before his death, but one that hints at a more important part in the series to come that will sadly not be the case. Where his previous appearance in season two’s ‘Rosetta‘ saw a passing of the torch in the most wonderful of ways, playing his scenes opposite Tom Welling – scenes that were amongst the finest scenes of the series up to that point – here Loeb’s script puts the character into the mix with Lionel Luthor, and with it all sorts of hints and references that were clearly designed to get the fan theories going and to pave the way for future developments.
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Reeve and John Glover are fantastic, delivering dialogue that is well written, even better delivered, and which comes with one massive revelation that starts to take the role of Lionel in new directions. Better yet, the episode has so much going on around it that it has even more to offer other than its moments with Swann. Jonathan Kent’s deal with Jor-El is the catalyst for so much here, and the entire forty-five minutes rises to the challenge of becoming an incredibly important episode for the series. It’s an instalment that proves perhaps somewhat unwelcoming to newcomers, but for anyone who has stuck with Smallville up to this point, this is a brilliant mythology fuelled tale.
This being the third season, one has to wonder if any of it will really pay off down the line (the answer to that is somewhat complicated), but as it stands here, this is a tremendously exciting chapter where you can feel a genuine sense of glee from everyone involved that they are getting to play with big themes, ideas, and character moments such as this.