Smallville really knows how to deliver a barnstorming finale. ‘Covenant’ continues the tradition established in season one of bringing all the themes and ideas running throughout the season to a stunning crescendo that is designed to leave you positively livid at the prospect of waiting several months to see what happens next.
There is an aura of tragic inevitability to a lot of Gough and Millar’s script. It packs in a plethora of incidents and plot twists, and while it maybe doesn’t go for the scale of season one’s tornado threat, or Clark’s blowing up the ship that brought him to Kansas as a baby in season two, ‘Covenant’ doesn’t need to go that hard on scale and destruction. Its emphasis on character and plot mechanics are brutally efficient enough.
Even better, it once again sees the series playfully subverting audience expectations when it comes to certain characters or plot elements that we expect from the Superman lore. The casting of Adrianne Palicki as mysterious blonde-haired new arrival Kara instantly has us believing that the future Supergirl has arrived. It even plays into the audience believing this is the case, given that this aired in 2004 and Palicki is a future star of things such as Friday Night Lights and Agents of SHIELD.
Of course, not everything is at it seems, and the entire character is a concoction, brutally dispatched with by the end of the hour, to bring into play the next stage of Jor-el’s plan and to get Jonathan to make good on the deal he made with Clark’s biological father in the season premiere.
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This being Smallville, so much of the finale comes down to fathers and sons and how the destinies of Clark and Lex are being driven by decisions made by paternal figures around them. It plays into the dynamics that one expects from a Superman adaptation, but the series once again shows an unflinching ability to subvert what we might expect from those very plot dynamics. That Jor-el disposes of Lara, who is really called Lindsay, says so much about how far away we are from the elegant Shakespearian air of Marlon Brando’s version of the character in the 1978 film that the series frequently enjoys referencing.
At times you’re left wondering if the choice of Terence Stamp as the omnipresent voice of the character is maybe a hint that there might be a General Zod-inspired twist on the horizon, but as it is, it shows a continued willingness of the series to cherish the past but not be beholden to it just for nostalgia’ss sake, which tells you how far this era of superhero-inspired media is from the current devotion to blind fan service designed to evoke nostalgic reactions as opposed to doing anything interesting.
Just to prove how far the series is willing to go, it then throws in an abundance of major cliffhangers that go and leaves everything up in the air in a manner the series has never really gone for before. It doesn’t need copious amounts of CGI to impress, although there is still some of that. However, this finds so much of its gasp-inducing moments from the interactions and developments of plot that feels more organic and memorable: Chloe’s interactions with Lionel finally catching up to her in an explosive way; Lana leaving for Paris; the apparent dissolution of Clark and Lex’s friendship; and Clark’s eventual fate in the final scene that may very well leave you with some nightmares as it goes into its hiatus (unless you’re binge-watching).
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The episode’s final moments, all set to classical music and intercut with Lionel Luthor having his head shaved in prison, makes it amongst the most stunning moments the series has ever produced; a grandiose sequence that shows how far the series has come in such a short space of time.
It brings Smallville’s best season yet to an end in fine style, and really the sky is the limit with where it can go next, leaving you genuinely excited at the prospect of where it will go next. Unfortunately for everyone, that means we are now into season four.