After last week's episode, it was a great relief to find Clark's characterisation back intact in Apocalypse--and to find him seriously weighing up the pros and cons of returning to Krypton. I am not surprised that Clark considered the idea that the world might be better off without him, especially in light of what has just happened to Lana. He has always had a natural selflessness that has led him, in the past, to consider sacrificing himself to save others--particularly those closest to him, but also humanity on a grander scale (for instance when he discovered his blood might have healing properties). We've also seen into his deepest fears and seen him confront the consequences of his presence on Earth time and time again. Following on from Lionel's death, which prompted him to think again about the link between his own existence and Jonathan's death, this felt like a very organic line of thinking for Clark.
I know that Chloe's speech was meant to put forward the legitimate other side of the argument--that Clark has done a lot of good in this world--but it was very hard for me, given the emotionalism in the performance, for me to see beyond the selfishness, the 'I need you'-ness of her appeals. Thankfully Jor-El stepped in with a cogent argument. ;)
The alternafuture presented a lot of interesting questions--I'm not sure whether it was just my foggy cold-infected brain, but some of them seemed be easier to answer than others.
- Do we think that the alternative Clark Kent is another adopted son or their natural son? If this is in the future, he looks like he's still at high school so either way he's a later child than our Clark. We know how badly Martha wanted kids, so I didn't find his presence that surprising. I found his handling of the crazy man who walked into his house yelling 'Dad!' kind of adorably generous and literal.
- Was it deliberate to make Smallville look kind of grimier sans Clark? That fog machine was never there before. And it has a music store! That's WAY too cool for the Smallville we know.
- I presume that the meteor freaks they talk of are a result of the second meteor shower, which brought Fine to Earth. That would also explain how Lex was able to 'save the day' (he was a tad too young to do that with the first one!)
Regardless, it was very intriguing and overall I'm really happy with the way they presented the world sans Clark.
Throughout the entire experience I found Clark's selflessness very moving. No matter how much he's intellectually explored the idea that a world without him in it would be better, it's still got to sting to see another boy in the picture with Jonathan and Martha, or to hear that Lana's married. Yet it was clear that his primary concern was their wellbeing. Clark made me totally woobie about him over that.
There were some touches about the alternafuture that I loved--particularly the Chloe and Lana parts. Without Clark, Chloe and Lana would never have been friends, and that's made clear her: Lana is defined in Chloe's mind only as 'the cheerleader'.
Chloe's own alternafuture made me really sad for her. Without Clark she seemed so happy, so nice and so at peace with herself. And she scored a completely hot fiance! He actually looked good-looking beside Welling, which so few people can do. Of course, she never made it out of Smallville. It made me wonder about her journalistic ambition in our reality. One of the things that fed that was the 'Wall of Weird', which presumably didn't exist in this reality if the first meteor shower didn't happen. If Chloe never got a job at the Daily Planet in this reality, is that because she didn't have any driving desire to uncover the truth about them? If so, that's an interesting reflection on Chloe since she has two aspects to her fascination with the supernatural: the desire to expose it and the capacity to be awestruck by it (as with Clark). In our reality those impulses have defined her, but without them, would she be happier? This reality seems to imply 'yes'.
Clark did a lovely suck-up job on Jimmy, but my god, can't the boy Google? Ok, ok, I'll fanwank that the DP archives somehow keep tabs on every Smallville High graduate... But wow, how moving that without Clark, Lana managed to leave Smallville. She not only climbed that windmill and saw outside, she got outside. And in Paris she didn't just run into Jason and get pulled back to Smallville, she followed her own ambitions studying art and is happily married. A French philanthropist? That's an interesting reflection on Lana since this was an aspect of Lex that she was always drawn to. If we take this future at face value, it seems she found someone with the good aspects of Lex, without the bad. She's had children too--which is interesting in light of the fact that in this reality she's had one fake pregnancy and also because of the suggestions in several episodes that motherhood is Lana's destiny (e.g. Ageless).
And now we get to the bit I naturally ADORE: Lois. I am so glad that this episode showed that Lois's destiny is independent of Clark's. She's got her own natural trajectory, whether he's there or not. But in both realities they're destined to run slap-bang into each other. :D Lois not only works at the Daily Planet, she's got a Pulitzer! Whee! And she's totally slick with putting the moves on the hot guy she runs into in the basement... I loved Clark's little double-take when he ran into Lois. He wasn't expecting her to be at the Daily Planet in this reality--a nice little touch to show he underestimates her. And I love that Lois is so straightforwardly flirtatious. She reacts to him as an adult male, with none of the baggage of thinking of him as a dumb country kid from our reality.
The character I found most intriguing (and didn't necessarily know what to make of) was Jimmy. He's very different in this reality. Not only is he still in the basement and acting as Lois's lackey, he acts in quite a selfish, self-protective way. Since he's the one given the exposition about the political climate under Lex's presidency, is this supposed to show the attitude of the general populace under Luthor? He talks about watching his back and trying to avoid being put in an orange jumpsuit. (He's got a pretty damn nice loft though: guess Lois pays him well?)
I have TOTAL LOVE for the Smallville writers bringing the sheriff back in this reality. Another person who would have lived without Clark's presence on Earth--cool! And she's risen through the ranks in this reality--and how totally cool is it that she was Lois's informant?! *squee*
The weak point in this episode, for me, was Kara. I didn't feel Laura had the acting clout to carry off her role as a government agent. And while I totally see what the writers were going for (once again she's Lex's Clark substitute), it felt a little odd coming in at the moment when Kara first 'turned' on Lex. We have to take at face value the fact that she says she's Lex has been like 'a brother' to her, but I think I just struggled to see it in Laura's performance.
Also, Kara came out of this episode looking very much like 'Clark!lite'. She has his instinct to trust people, to trust Lex, to be loyal, and his desire to believe the best in people. But she's totally failed to pick up on the danger signs about what Lex is doing and about Fine. That's pretty hard for me to swallow. I know Clark's own deductive reasoning wasn't that well developed until recently, but even so! Simple observation alone should have uncovered some concerns, surely? I guess we could put it down to Kara having had less time on Earth than Clark, Kara not having a support network of 'good' friends and family, and perhaps to Kara's own family background being more than a little shady, but she seems to have been far too easily swayed.
One of the things they wrote in to explain her loyalty was the fact that Lionel had found her and protected her, died protecting her. The parallel there to Clark is very obvious. But it also raises questions. Was Lionel's 'protection' of Kara just as ambiguous as his protection of Clark? It's hard to believe that it could be otherwise. It's a pity that I found Kara's performance so weak, because she allowed us an insight into the future for Lex. Lex's line 'what do you know about protecting this country? You're an alien!' could have been directed at Superman--it might still be in the future.
Lex himself was totally chilling in this version of the future. I think this strips away all doubt that the Smallville writers intend us to think that Clark is in some way culpable of making Lex the man he is. In fact, the opposite seems to be true--Clark slowed down Lex's development into supervillainy in our reality. And possibly (depending on how optimistic your reading is) he might have been the only person who could have stopped it. But Lex, raised as he was by Lionel, was bred to become a tyrant, and he is one in both his private and public life in this reality. He doesn't treat Kara as a friend who has betrayed him: he treats her as a servant ('look at me!'). More than ever this alterna!reality showed that Lex needs Clark to temper his actions, to watch him and never let him get away with attrocities. And the fact that they have a history together in the Smallville universe makes that connection much more powerful. Clark and Lex collided so early--there was still a window where they could influence the other's development, whereas it seems as if by the time Lex encountered Kara, he was more than willing to enslave her to his own purpose and was impervious to any 'good' effect she might have on him. This is not a Lex who was seeking redemption.
And I haven't even touched on the aesthetics yet! Lex is wearing the white suit and black glove that we've seen in his future!visions. The shot of the bombs exploding are the exact ones from the second vision he had. Like Lois his destiny exists independent of Clark, but he's destined to crash into him regardless as well.
It's very touching that Clark thinks he can reason with Lex, even in this reality, but I do think that was a little optimistic on his part. The exchange did provide some great dialogue though. I thought it was fantastic to have Lex voice the idea that 'sometimes things go so horribly wrong, the only way is to start over'. That's an echo of the sentiment that led Clark to consider that a world without him in it would be better--an idea that is just as misguided as Lex's that the world would be better if repopulated by the 'best and brightest' led by him.
Those bullets were so horrible! And they reveal the truth about Lex: he's anticipated Kara proving a danger to him from the start. His line 'you were supposed to be by my side forever' rang a little hollow given that he'd simultaneously protected himself from her. But that reflects interestingly on the Clark-Lex relationship, which also featured a dual aspect: Lex both demanding loyalty from Clark and seeking to protect himself (and the world) from alien influence/attack.
And Fine! How totally Machiavellian is Brainiac? I am so glad they took the path they did with this alternafuture because it's completely true that without Clark, there would have been noone to stop Zod, to stop Brainiac providing a pathway for Zod. He's their only hope. Only he... can DISTRACT BRAINIAC WHILE KARA STAKES HIM. *lol* Sorry! Maybe it was the cold and flu meds, but that was the place where this episode broke me with funny. Because seriously?! Clark wasn't that useful in that final exchange. He was too busy having his glowy 'awww, look at me as a baby, how cute was I?! I'm *GREAT*! Coochi coochi coo' moment.
Don't get me wrong, I loved it. It was Smallville at tis cracktastic best: Clark having a self-reverential moment, putting his own wee self in his escape ship, while Kara beats Brainiac to a pulp singlehandedly despite lacking powers on Krypton (and yes, that did redeem Kara's character somewhat for me!)
And now the horrible aspect of the episode: it didn't save Lana. I was king of shocked by that. I know a lot of people were upset by her condition and worried that this would be her endpoint as a character, but I was always pretty comfy in the assumption that a) Briainac had been exaggerating to fuck with Clark and b) she'd be 'righted' again when he defeated Brainiac. With b) proved false, I'm now doubting my other assumption as well. In which case? Oh MY GOD, WRITERS! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!
I'm now pinning my hopes, somewhat desperately, on Lex. That barn scene (BARN SCENE!) between him and Clark seems to foreshadow that Lex is going to blame Lana's condition on Clark: I just hope he does that in the process of curing her.
It did, however, provide Clark with the opportunity to show his character growth in this episode, in contrast to Kara. Kara still wishes she could go back and save Krypton, but Clark has learnt that going back is not a good move--look instead to the future and save what can still be saved. The key question is 'how do we know we won't make it worse?' It's what Clark did not consider in 'Reckoning' and what he's now learnt to consider. I love him. :)
Clark reacts with surprise at Lois's flirting--I think because it's a mixture of familiar and unfamiliar for him. Lois's line was very typical of her sense of humour, but he's never read her jokes as flirtatious (nor has she really pushed them to be) in our reality. So to find that undercurrent there so strongly takes him aback.
The line 'I don't give up: tell me where I can find Lois Lane' made me totally squee. :D Ok, it could have been Lana, or Chloe or even Lex at the end of that sentence, but it still made the Clois shipper in me happy.
The Clois 'save' was so MADE OF WIN I can hardly write about it coherently. With nothing at stake in this reality, Clark feels totally free to act without hiding his true abilities, and seeing him sweep in like that and save Lois so calmly was just BRILLIANT. And yay Superman pose! She takes it so well too: she doesn't freak out about his abilities (and it was neat that they wrote that as her assuming he was a meteorfreak). And I think that's a big part of the reason why he responds to her unashamedly admiring gaze so openly. I think Lois made Clark feel really good about himself, and it's obvious that he feels very generously towards her too. There's no sign that her feelings for him in this reality make him uncomfortable--it's more that he's seeing her in a new light.
I love that this episode contained the 'Lois and Clark save the world together' plot. I think seeing them work together to work out what was behind Lex's 'nuke the world' plan was my favourite part of the episode, particularly since it included Clark's realisation moment: the moment when he saw that he was needed after all. When he said 'I'm the one person that can defeat Fine', I loved Lois's reaction expression: it was a mixture of 'that is so cool/hot' and 'I really want to know why'. But when he appealed to her to trust him, she did--which is remarkably (rare) good judgement on Lois's part. ;)
Yay Lois for getting him in the hot suit too! :) And Clark's bashfulness about changing in front of her was adorable. I like that it's in character for Lois to have no time for such niceties. But in this case, it wasn't just about her having poor social boundaries, but also about her wanting to perv on him. Which she TOTally got caught doing! I thought that was a nice riff on the accidental instances in our reality, where those two have stumbled on each other naked: in the alternareality, it seems like it would be more deliberate.
Clark in glasses made me actually die of hot. I cannot speak of it!
In both realities, Lois's way of being sympathetic to Clark (about his grief about Lana) is to offer to take him drinking. I LOVE IT! :D Someone write the fanfic PUH-LEASE! I also like that she doesn't think her inability to say the right thing is 'ok'. Because she's right: Clark did totally know what to do when she was upset (though talking didn't play a big part in that!) and she feels she should be able to reciprocate. I think Clark's very forgiving of Lois these days--he doesn't expect her to be anything other than Lois, he likes her just how she is--but at the same time she's still capable of surprising him. As she does here!
I thought it was lovely that Lois expressed that she 'wished she could make everything right' for Clark. He can see that's she's sincere in this and is moved by it: it also echoes Clark's own desire to 'make it all right', so he connects with that aspect in Lois.
I was intrigued by his reaction to her punching him. This is something that she's done a lot of in the past, but I think this is the first time that he's noticed that she uses it to break the emotional intensity of a situation. And I guess given that he's just been flirting madly with her in the future, it makes him think about why she might need to. So his little surprised look at her asking to take him for a drink was fitting. Hee! This Lois doesn't realise he thinks she's asking him out (sorta).
Finally, I love that she can (almost) get her arm around his shoulders. As supacat pointed out: no-one EVER does that! Awwww.