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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Smallville 10x10 - "Luthor"

Special Guest Stars:

Earth-2! Earth-effin'-2! Smallville finally tackles the parallel Mirror Universe idea in its tenth and final season with another series-best episode. "Luthor" was as tremendous an episode of Smallville as there ever was, not just for it's dizzying comic book concepts, but for the depth of emotional drama from our beloved heroes, with Tom Welling, Erica Durance, Cassidy Freeman, and John Glover (he's back!) raising their performances to the next level.

Yet another evil version of Clark appears on Smallville (it's happened so often, Lois automatically guesses it's "a red-K" attack) but this one might be the best evil Clark of all. This is Clark Luthor, who, on the color-drained world of Earth-2, was rocketed to Earth from the doomed world of Krypton and found not by a couple of loving farmers, but by Lionel Luthor, who expected "the traveler's" arrival as part of Veritas.

Lionel raised Clark (and still named him Clark? A name Martha Kent picked? Hmm.) as his own son, alongside his real son Lex and his daughter from another mother Lu(Tess)a. And raise Clark Lionel did, into a homicidal (but sharply dressed) manic who sleeps with random floozies and torments the denizens of Metropolis as Ultraman. (Hey, Clark Luthor is pretty cool! But Earth-2 Oliver Queen is right on: the name "Ultraman" sucks.) No one knows Clark Luthor is Ultraman; he terrorizes Metropolis as a murderous blur and kills anyone who sees his face. Ultraman killed Earth-2's Lex (and the Swans) and carries on a sexual affair with Lionel's red-headed stepchild Tess. (We get a taste of the sexual chemistry between Tom Welling and Cassidy Freeman, and it's pretty super.) Maybe the most awesome concept is that there's an Earth-2 Fortress of Solitude that Lionel controls, after years of work it took he and Clark to silence Clark's "progenitor" Jor-El.

On Earth-1, Tess inherits a Kryptonian artifact willed to the "heir of Lionel Luthor", which is now Tess. (It's still better than being the heir of Slytherin.) The artifact is a shiny crystal called a Mirrorbox, capable of transporting Kryptonians (and possibly anyone though only the Clarks switched places) to the parallel Earth. Clark summons Tess to Cadmus about a break in that he and Oliver tracked, and once there, Tess' jig - the jig being "I've known about the clones of Lex Luthor and I've been hiding the surviving one, Alexander, and playing mommy to him - because I'm also a Lionel Luthor's daughter" - is up! Clark was especially unnerved by Alexander's bedroom and his wall of scratched in S symbols. That little bastard and his copyright infringements! (Actually, we don't know how old Alexander is now with his rapid-aging problem.) Clark totally loses it, and Tess is about to have an emotional breakdown because she's wanted Clark to trust her for so long and now she thinks she's blown it, until Clark opens the Mirrorbox and Things Get Worse.

Clark ends up in on Earth-2, where every thing is in black and white and everyone but Lionel and Tess are terrified of him. Clark explores his Earth-2 options, trying to find out who has the Mirrorbox so he can go back home, where there's color and no one automatically soils their pants in his presence. Lois is engaged to Oliver and they both hate him/Clark Luthor. Lionel leads Clark on to suspect Oliver has the Mirrorbox, so Clark does the only thing he can do: he kidnaps Lois and holds her ransom in exchange for the Mirrorbox. But Clark's real ulterior motive is to talk to Lois, to tell her about who he really is and of this wonderful, colorful other world where he and Lois are in love and they fight for Truth, Justice and the American Way together. Lois isn't buying Clark's story until he says the following in the most impassioned speech Tom Welling has ever delivered on Smallville:

"Where I'm from, Lois Lane, you and I, we're allies. You always have my back. How else would I know you're brave and loyal? And a force of nature. Look, you misspell words, simple words, at an alarmingly frequent basis! And you never admit when I'm right, even when I call you on it. And you can always tell when I'm lying. You can see right through me, straight to my soul, to my heart. My name is Clark Kent and I promise, Lois, I will never let this world happen to us. I can't live in a world where you don't love me."

Wow. A couple of Superman: The Movie references in that speech, especially the one major character point of Lois invented by Dick Donner and Tom Mankiewicz that will be part of the character forever: Lois Lane can't spell. Clark also has snappy banter to Lois when it's all over:

"Nothing says 'Sorry my doppelganger from a parallel Earth tried to kill you' like flowers." There's also a great winking joke by Lois about how many times in the series she's had to sign medical release forms.

Meanwhile, Clark Luthor ends up on Earth-1 and goes right looking for his sister-lover. (Buster Bluth has never been so jealous. And is it me or is Earth-2 Tess looking hotter?) Tess manages to swallow down Ultraman's tongue in surprise when he kisses her, and then swallow down her abject terror at Ultraman's potential to kill her and everyone in Metropolis long enough to bluff him. Tess calls Lois, who ignores her, so Tess uses Watchtower to cut off Lois' credit, track her via security cameras and call the cell phone of the hapless dude standing behind her in the coffee line to summon Lois to Watchtower. (Maybe everyone on The Team just needs signal watches.) Once at Watchtower, there's hardly time to explain what's going on before Ultraman explodes into Watchtower and starts beating up Smallville chicks.

On Earth-2, Clark goes to Watchtower to get the Mirrorbox from Oliver but falls right into Oliver's mousetrap, a Kryptonite beam. Oliver has one in every major city, and his business is buying up farmland in Smallville, evicting the farmers, and mining for meteor rocks. Lionel saves Clark from a Queen bullet, but only because he wants to kill Clark himself. Lionel, who in a bizarre lapse of his perceptive genius, still doesn't realize this Clark isn't the one he raised, took off his belt and gave his "son" a whoopin' because he's long feared Clark betraying him. ("What were you planning, to take the Mirrorbox and go to another world with your whore sister?") Oliver de-activates the K-beam so Clark can punch Lionel across the room, rather brutally too. I guess he was mad about the whippings. Assuring Oliver that in his world they save the world together, Clark opens the Mirrorbox and finds himself back in color, staring at the barrel of Tess' gun, and Oliver and Lois' K-arrows on Earth-1. Everything, and everyone, is back to where they were.

Or are they? Clark visits Tess at the mansion, apologizes to her for his "Luthor blood is poison line", and holds her hand in a touching scene of trust and reconciliation. Tess confesses the worst part of being Lionel's daughter is that she's actually hurt that "he threw me away". (Good thing she never heard Earth-2 Lionel tell her doppelganger that she isn't "special enough"). Clark and Tess both know Alexander Luthor is out there. But what they don't know is that so is Lionel Luthor! Now, in color! Lionel Luthor buying coffee and walking the streets of Earth-1 Metropolis! Is this the Earth-2 Lionel? Did he use the Mirrorbox? Is Clark Luthor dead?

All I know is the return of John Glover at maximum diabolical evil as Lionel Luthor was a shot in the arm for Smallville. Even without the presence of Michael Rosenbaum, having an evil Luthor as the Enemy just feels right, and Earth-2 Lionel was even more dangerous and ruthless than the Lionel we knew, and he was plenty dangerous and ruthless. Plus Darkseid is still out there. And next week: The return of Slade Wilson, Deathstroke the Terminator, and a Justice League/Justice Society team up! If all that doesn't spell a Crisis on Smallville, I don't know what does.