TV Discussion

Smallville 5×12 – ‘Reckoning’ – TV Rewind

The current climate of television being the way that it is with streamers and shorter runs for seasons that opt for six-to-eight episodes, the determination of American network television shows to reach the magical number of a hundred episodes – and as such being granted entrance to the world of reruns through syndication – is no longer viewed as all-important as it once was. However, it was a big reason why some of the biggest and most iconic shows of all time strived to hit that triple digit number.

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So it is with ‘Reckoning’ that Smallville enters the hall of syndication fame and hits what was once seen as an all important milestone for many an American television series. More often than not the hundredth episode was a chance for a television series to do something major, especially if it had ongoing themes and story arcs. Two of the best examples from prior to the time Smallville was airing are The X-Files and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Once again I apologise for evoking the memory of those two in these reviews, but alas, they are great examples of ongoing series that Smallville appeared to be emulating in its storytelling approach.

© 2006 Warner Bros. Television.

The X-Files’ hundredth episode, ‘Redux II’, was grandiose mythology that ended up being one of the most emotionally satisfying episodes in regards to the ongoing arc that Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz were crafting. Meanwhile, Buffy went all out with ‘The Gift’, both a season finale and the final episode of the series to air on The WB network before moving to UPN, but which featured a grandiose emotional statement on the series and its core themes, as well as one of its most audacious television cliff-hangers, that may very well have functioned as a great ending to the series overall if it had dared to go there.

Pleasingly, ‘Reckoning’ comes to the screen courtesy of writers Kelly Souders and Brian Peterson, and sees the series go for broke with playing out scenes and storytelling twists that it otherwise had been dodging for the past four and a half seasons. Admittedly, it still gets to dodge them with the use of a time travel device, but there is a love letter component to the story in that it gives audiences a chance to see what it might be like if Clark told Lana his secret and if Lex finally got to discover what it is that Clark has been hiding from him all these years.

© 2006 Warner Bros. Television.

What is quite daring here is that while it opts to use the time travel component to take away one loss for our hero, fate is still going to deal a dark hand. It’s the hundredth episode, a lot of story elements are building up here, and Souders and Peterson are still willing to deal a deadly blow. It might have been more daring it they had opted to have Lana be the one person that Clark would lose forever, but the mythology of Superman and a key emotional core of his story has always been driven by the loss of Jonathan to natural causes, and so it is that Jonathan Kent finally dies so Clark learns that he really, truly can’t save everyone.

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That core theme is moulded into Clark’s emotional journey this hour, and given the ‘Sophie’s Choice’ dilemma he faces in that it almost comes down to him who lives or dies, it once again plays into a key strength of Smallville in quietly subverting scenes and scenarios that have played out in a million comics books and live action adaptations. Unlike the sudden devastation of Glenn Ford collapsing on to the ground of the Kent farm in 1978’s Superman: The Movie, Jonathan’s death is a result of a crescendo of rage and embitterment at his never ending feud with Lionel, and the resulting final moments with Clark alone by his father’s graveside contemplating this key part of his journey brings to an end in many ways Clark’s development from boy to man. It’s a stunning end to another characteristically brilliant episode.

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