It’s hard to believe that this will be the last standard episode review that I will ever write for Smallville. Even harder to believe is that this is the last normal-length episode any of us will ever see of this series. I don’t think that this is necessary a bad thing, as I enjoyed “Prophecy” far more than “Dominion”, and I didn’t exactly dislike that episode. On the other hand, I’m a little surprised that so much has been left up in the air to tie together in our last 90 minutes. There’s the now-in-jeopardy Lois and Clark relationship, Lex’s return, Lionel’s fate, Chloe’s send-off, Oliver’s journey back toward the good side, Martha’s appearance, Jonathan’s resurrection, Darkseid, Apokolips, all the evil minions that have been teased all year long, and oh yeah…that whole Clark becoming Superman thing. How in the world all of this is going to be explained satisfactorily in one show – even a two-hour show – is just beyond me. I guess all will be revealed in a few days. But for now, I’ll try my best to stay focused on the episode at hand and not let the sadness of this series actually being over in three days get me down in the process. As I said, I quite enjoyed “Prophecy” for what it was. I didn’t think it was a home run, but there were some things in it that I think had to be dealt with before we head into the finale, and I can see why this episode was placed where it was in the chronology.
Our episode opens with the stronger of the two main storylines at play in “Prophecy”: Lois and Clark. I was pleased to see Clark actually wearing the glasses at The Daily Planet for a change (although I still think he’s walking a bit too straight and assured to be convincing as a mild-mannered reporter), and the first scene here with him and Lois is really cute. I like how Clark knows enough about Lois now to just get out of her way when she’s on a tear about something – in this case a story about a company called Marionette Ventures that’s been buying up a suspicious number of properties in Metropolis. Clark tells Lois that he needs to tell Jor-El about the wedding plans, and swoops her off to The Fortress. I have to gush for a moment about Louis Febre’s score during this scene, which was really gorgeous. There was an almost beautiful sadness in the notes, like the music was almost as sad to leave these two characters as they’re starting their lives as we are watching the series. I don’t know what we fans would do without Louis’s music to pull us into every moment the way it does. Just seeing Clark take a few steps away from Lois and say “Jor-El”, I wanted to tear up knowing what he was going to say next. Tom has come so far on this series as an actor, and I’m thrilled to say that Clark has come right along with him as a character. When I was watching this sequence, all I could keep thinking was that Clark was finally a man and that I had seen him grow up every step of the way. Naturally, Jor-El being the kind of father that he’s always been, things aren’t quite that easy. Lois is given Clark’s abilities for the day, and Clark is mortal until sundown. Now, I know that this premise has been done almost to death on this show, but “Prophecy” succeeds where those other shows have failed at nearly every turn. I’ll go into why this is as this review progresses. But for now, I’ll just say that most of the reason has to do with the nature of Lois and Clark’s relationship and this episode’s take on how Lois would respond to the situation. This isn’t a scenario like Lana, where she used her powers for personal gain. Lois actually cares about the responsibility that comes with what she’s been given, a consideration that allows Clark to relate to her and guide her through the experience. That’s a new take on an old concept. We haven’t seen Clark do that before and, personally, I greatly enjoyed it.
I have to say, as much as I’ve enjoyed the Darkseid plot this year and how the writers have really seemed like they knew what they were doing through the episodes, I’m kind of surprised that not more has been resolved by this point in the series. I assumed that Oliver’s arc would pretty much sort itself out by the end of “Dominion”, and I’m a bit puzzled that it’s still up in the air going into “Finale”. I really didn’t see this being an issue in our last show. Not that that in and of itself is problematic, but with so much else to tackle on Friday, I hope this doesn’t push things over into “too much” territory. When we catch up with Oliver, he’s descending into a cave while tracking down the Bow of Orion, a thread picked up from the end of last week’s episode. There he runs into Kara, who’s evidently been imprisoned in the same spot for a while by a force field. This sets up a pattern of booby traps and riddles that Oliver and Kara have to work through together in order to locate the bow. I have to say, I didn’t really find this part of the episode to be all that effective. First, the riddles themselves are rather confusing. In the first one, Oliver has to balance the scales of good and evil, and does so by putting his hand on a large omega symbol on the wall. But if Ollie’s infected with The Darkness, shouldn’t his touching the omega simply add more corruption to that side rather than balancing things? I guess there’s a chance that Granny Goodness, who shows up later on, could have been manipulating all of this from the outset, but if that’s the case and she wields that much power, then why would she need Oliver to get to the bow in the first place? Now don’t get me wrong, I loved the shots of Ollie doubting whether this would actually work, considering he knows that he’s been compromised. And I appreciate that we’re to assume that there’s possibly still enough good left in Ollie to tip the scale, but I just feel like this could have been explained a bit better. In any case, a balance is struck between good and evil and Kara is released.
Back in Metropolis, Lois is having all sorts of fun with her newfound speed. It’s great to be able to compare and contrast how Lois deals with this development as opposed to how others have in the past. She’s thrilled to be able to do what she’s doing, sure, but it’s not about being power-hungry. She’s just excited and happy to be able to walk a day in Clark’s shoes. I’d imagine Lois looks at this as an opportunity that few of us ever get to truly know what it is to feel like the person we love feels, or at least to implicitly understand what they’re experiencing. And what I like most is that she has fun with it and it doesn’t change who she is fundamentally. She still has the same priorities as before, and she’s still all about Clark, planning for the wedding, and getting ahead at the paper. She doesn’t suddenly become some lunatic who’s drunk with the implications of these abilities to the point that she has to be stopped like some other people in the past (cough-Lana-cough). Lois is still Lois. She’s just Lois with powers. I don’t know about anyone else, but I found that refreshing and fun. I also liked how it’s still just her innate instincts which allow her to figure out what’s really going on with Marionette Ventures. She doesn’t automatically start depending on her new abilities to solve problems that she’d ordinarily solve for herself as a competent woman and tenacious reporter. As it turns out, the companies Marionette acquired are all located along Metropolis’s aquifer, with one hold-out all that stands in the way of the corporation controlling all of the city’s water supply. The two head off to investigate the remaining company, with Clark forcing Lois to learn patience with her abilities by offering to drive.
The main thing, though, that sets this “someone else gets Clark’s abilities” storyline head and shoulders above others we’ve seen is that even though the dynamics have changed in a big way, Lois and Clark are still a team and they still care about each other. And nowhere is that more evident than here, in my favorite scene in “Prophecy”. As Lois and Clark sit on their stakeout across the street from Theron Layne, Clark notices that they’re closing suspiciously early in the day and prompts Lois to try using super hearing to listen in on what might be happening inside. This scene reminded me in equal parts of “Whisper” and “Superman Returns”. I absolutely adored how Clark has to help Lois isolate what she needs to focus on, just the way Jonathan did for him back in Season 3. And for Lois, this experience is so much more personal than it has been for anyone else we’ve seen go through it, because she’s so empathetic. She actually fights hard against her instincts to get up and help every person she hears crying for help. And it’s only when Clark talks her through the process of what he has to go through when determining who needs help and how fast that she really understands what he copes with every moment of his life. All of this was just done wonderfully, and I think it’s a tremendous moment for Lois as Clark’s fiancée to genuinely know what he deals with. While everyone else is busy with their respective lives, Clark’s concerned about the lives of everyone on the planet. In fact, there’s something inherently melancholy about Superman in a way. He’s a hero who, through the gift of nearly God-like power, is also cursed with being in a position to feel responsible for everyone simultaneously. I love that Lois is given the opportunity to feel that and know that about Clark. She’s really the only person that Smallville has ever let in to that side of him – at least to this degree. And she’s probably the only person in a position now to fully understand him. After hearing a heated argument inside the building, Lois goes in to help (with a nice little nod to “Superman II” with her “I work out” line, I might add), and she and Clark discover that Stargirl is the one fighting with the owner.
I think I need to be the first to say what I know we’re all thinking: just how many retractable bows does Ollie travel with on a typical day? For their next riddle, Kara and Oliver realize that they have to each make a bank-shot off of a pillar and into a symbol in a stone wall to expose the inner sanctum where the Bow of Orion is held. Now, I’m not sure if my senses have just gotten a bit dulled with age, but these two have an absolutely marvelous knack for deductive reasoning on these things. I don’t think I’d have figured out that shooting two arrows simultaneously would open that vault even if I’d had a few days to ponder on it. But hey, we have to get on with the quest, I guess, so these two manage to figure it out in a matter of seconds. I had to chuckle to myself and wonder just how they’d have gotten access to this bow if, per chance, there had to be three arrows shot at the same time into that wall. I think this section of “Prophecy” just came off as a tad too convenient and contrived for me to fully embrace it as I felt I should. Also, I still don’t get how Ollie standing on the omega strikes a balance, and it bugs me. And then there’s his teaching Kara how to pull off a nearly impossible archery shot simply by saying “just point and shoot”. I know this was played for a small level of humor, too, so I’m not trying to take it all too seriously, but this is our penultimate episode, and this was a huge leap in logic for me. Another leap comes moments later after they’ve opened the wall and Kara is summoned by Jor-El. Now, she’s there standing in front of the room where the bow is (obviously) kept. And yes, I know Jor-El can be a bit pushy, but can’t she wait to head back to The Fortress all of thirty seconds so she can get the bow first and wrap up this whole Darkseid mess? Watching the episode over again, this just seems like a means to get Ollie alone at the last minute so that something can go terribly wrong. But surely not, right? I mean, what could possibly happen?
I’m not sure yet how I feel about how the writers have chosen to tie up Kara’s storyline. I suppose leaving things as open-ended as they have could just add Kara to the long list of potential spin-off ideas that we’ve been presented with this year, but really, I would have preferred some sort of definite closure – something more than “your destiny lies in a different place and time”. That much kind of went without saying. I almost liked the way Kara exited in Season 8 better. At least there we had some sort of mention of Argo City and some place to imagine Kara going. As it stands now, we have no idea where she’s off to or why. We only know that it’s Clark’s time to shine right now and that she can’t be a part of it. And it seemed a little odd to be to have Jor-El tell Kara that she was no longer beholden to him and thus was ready to embrace her own destiny. I’m not so sure I swallow that. She sure seemed to be at his beck and call a few moments ago in the cave when she dropped everything to come to The Fortress. I guess there’s a fine line between respecting what your parents want and being your own person, but this seemed a dubious point with Kara in this context, and I just didn’t think it worked all that well. I think one of the best things about this, though, was how loyal Kara proved to be to Clark. I really liked her line about how he was the only family she had left. I felt for her in that moment, and it’s great that they’ve finally sold me on Clark and Kara as cousins and not just fellow Kryptonians.
And now for the left turn that I was personally dreading in this episode. I have to confess, I’ve never been much of a fan of Toyman. Winslow Schott strikes me as such a kook that I can’t possibly see villains the likes of Metallo, Dark Archer and Roulette actually taking him seriously, let alone being led by him in a plan to take over Metropolis. But for whatever reason, we’ve been treated to yet another Toyman episode with “Prophecy” (though I do have to concede that this was probably the least annoying I’ve ever found his character). At Watchtower, Tess finds an inscription with Winslow’s initials on the diode that was controlling Stargirl, which leads us into our follow-up scene with Lois and Toyman in prison. There’s a moment here that I want to spend some time on because I think it’s probably a turning point that either makes this show work or not work for people. The moment comes when Toyman threatens to have Clark killed if Lois doesn’t give him back his cell phone to call off Darkseid’s minions and wear one of the diodes. If one were to apply any sort of logic to this scene, it would almost come across as insulting. Why in the world would Lois Lane – an intelligent, strong female character – allow herself to be hijacked and trust that this nefarious criminal will indeed live up to his end of the bargain when, chances are, he’ll wind up doing precisely what he does, in fact, do in this scene? Not to mention that, had she not agreed to this, she could have easily just super sped to where Clark was in about five seconds and stopped any potential threat to his life, then sped back holding all the cards. Even under duress, someone should be able to add up a simple equation like that one and know that giving Toyman control of this situation is, at best, dangerous and, at worst, going to accomplish precisely what you’re trying to avoid. Right? Well, mostly yes. But I’m going to go out on a limb and come somewhat to Lois’s defense on this.
While I concede entirely that Lois’s decision here is completely illogical, it makes dramatic sense for a whole variety of reasons. First – and this is not intended as a sexist comment at all, but – Lois is a woman. Her decisions are going to come, first and foremost, from her heart. She’s right in the middle of wedding preparations (an emotionally vulnerable time if ever there was one), and the thing is, she’s actually fully in love with Clark. Bringing up Lana as a means to tap into Lois’s insecurities was a truly evil move by Toyman, and I think it definitely played a big part in Lois’s mental process here (though personally, I’m very glad this issue is being dealt with in some way finally as, for Lois and Clark to truly be happy, it truthfully needed to be). But as she said to Clark last week, she’s half of a whole with him now. The prospect of losing that part of yourself once you’ve finally opened up enough to allow someone in that far would have to be incredibly frightening for anyone. But what I mean by Lois being a woman is that it’s the ultimate in human contrasts with the decision that Clark made last week in “Dominion”. Using his Kryptonian decisiveness, he chose to put the good of the world first solely because it was the logical thing to do. Lois does the opposite here, putting Clark above everyone else – even when her actions don’t adhere to logic – because to her, he is that world. She’s presented with an ultimatum and, without so much as a moment to weigh the implications of doing do, she chooses to make sure Clark is safe. As I’ve said, had Lois thought about this for a few more moments, she surely would have concluded that she was jeopardizing his life far more by doing what she decides to do here. But then, in love, things are rarely reasoned or well thought-out. I know that I, for one, can fully understand doing anything to protect the person you love, no matter the personal cost. And I think that is what’s being said with this scene more than anything else.
The climax of Oliver’s story has Granny Goodness making an appearance just as he tries to take the bow for himself. In a development I truly didn’t see coming, she destroys it right in front of him. Honestly, I figured that the Bow of Orion would have a role to play in “Finale”, but I guess that’s off the table now. Granny has a few deeply chilling lines about how Oliver has been unwittingly serving Darkseid ever since he was marked. I think this is a terrifically diabolical method for a villain to take on the series: recruiting accomplices who don’t even know they’re helping him. It reminds me of Lex’s character in a way. He always manipulated people into succumbing to the darker sides of themselves rather than coming right out and making his intentions clear. Humans have such an inherent capacity for corruption that a force that merely channels that into something we give in to is genuinely disturbing in ways that few Smallville baddies have ever been. The subsequent scene involving Toyman on a video chat with all of Darkseid’s followers was slightly strained, though. I still can’t quite see this guy as the leader of a group like this. Maybe Dark Archer would have been a better fit. Even Metallo showed some signs of rationality in the episodes he was in. But outside of him, I don’t know that I would buy any of these people as charismatic, clever and level-headed enough to consolidate all of these people toward one goal. I suppose there’s something to be said for Darkseid manipulating this whole thing and making these already susceptible personalities turn to someone they ordinarily wouldn’t, but it just seems like a stretch.
Speaking of stretches, a friend of mine pointed out yesterday that Watchtower has an arsenal of kryptonite weapons at its disposal (as demonstrated by the end of “Luthor” where Lois, Ollie and Tess very nearly had the drop on Earth 2 Clark). And yet, when Lois comes in with a mission to kill Clark, Tess does nothing to help him aside from telling him that he has no choice but to stall her until sundown. There’s even one shot in particular where, if you look closely, you’ll see Tess casually looking at paperwork while Lois is approaching Clark. I don’t know what’s become of the story arc that had been planned for Cassidy this year, but it seems to have fallen by the wayside at some point. It’s one of the great tragedies of not having the breathing room of a Season 11, but I think I may come away from this series always feeling like Tess was this terrific character that simply never got her true moment to shine the way everyone else did. Yes, there were attempts along the way, but I think once Alexander became Conner, the season quickly marginalized the part she had to play in the proceedings. On the other hand, this could very well be a subtle way to show us that Tess is indeed struggling with her loyalties once again. This is supposedly a big issue in the finale, so we’ll see how it plays out. As for the foreground action, I liked how things were executed for the most part. Sometimes I have to wonder how I’d fare after being thrown across a room through plate glass, because characters on TV shows seem to get up afterward with only a few dings to show for it. While I can’t be certain, I assume I’d probably be a little more hurt than that myself. In any case, I loved the last moment here where Clark literally chooses to have faith in blocking Lois’s fatal punch and, as it happens, makes contact with her just as the sun sets. That was a very nice touch. He looked death in the eye and decided to believe that things would happen as they were supposed to and that his end could never come by her hand – and he was right. I really like the recurring theme of faith this year, and I’m glad to see it back again in “Prophecy”.
I also enjoyed Clark’s confrontation with Toyman at the end of the episode. It might be the first Toyman scene that I’ve genuinely liked, in fact, since the character was first introduced. I think what I appreciated most was how Clark looks at Toyman as a part of his destiny, as if he’s just one of many evil-doers that he’s going to have to contend with, and he’s not taking the threat of what he represents personally so much as he’s having fun with being the light to Toyman’s dark. That was a fantastic way of showing that Clark knows his place in the world now. The little smile that he shoots Winslow at the very end says a lot to me about where his mind is with all of this. He knows that there’s always going to be people who scheme and try and bring about evil in the world, but he also knows that it’s his place to strike that balance between good and evil. I guess if I had to pick a theme for “Prophecy”, it would be balance. There’s balance at play in this scene, in Lois’s personal choice as opposed to Clark’s selfless (but emotionless) one, and in Oliver’s story as well. To flaunt a theme that profound in our second-to-last episode is, I think, a very good move by the creative team. It gives Clark that last push to know that he has to be a light that’s powerful and inspirational enough to drown out a darkness this all-encompassing. But then, that’s why Superman is the greatest of all heroes. He’s a metaphor for the light we can all choose to embrace in ourselves if we have the courage to do so.
Clark’s last-minute decision to turn away from Jor-El here is a curious one. I suppose I’d probably have the same reaction if Jor-El had just risked the life of the woman I loved to prove some point about my readiness to step up to some higher calling, but again, I really just didn’t expect there to be this many issues to resolve going into our final episode. We all know that this relationship can’t stay estranged if we’re to have any hope of aligning with canon, so I would assume that it would be addressed in “Finale”. But I feel like it might be a strange viewing experience when revisiting Season 10 to know that Clark cuts off ties with Jor-El only to mend them one episode later. While I fully welcome Clark’s decision to be his own man in this sequence, it almost seems a bit too much, as if he’s doing so out of annoyance with Jor-El’s for putting him through so much rather than any true sense of personal growth or maturity. That’s not to say that I don’t view Clark as having grown or being ready. I do. I just hope he sees himself that way and not just fed up (albeit with good reason) with being put through so many obstacles for no real substantive reason. And then there’s the thread of Oliver digging up a piece of Gold K. How this is going to play out in the last show I have no idea but, as any Star Wars fan would say, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”.
I’m not going to make the case that every illogical character decision is forgivable if it holds emotional resonance for the end of an episode, but wow does Lois’s lapse in judgment ever pay dividends at the end of “Prophecy”. Erica Durance has truly knocked it out of the park this year as Lois Lane. I’m really stunned at what a phenomenal job she has done in bringing this character to life over the last seven years. Her reasons here for not wanting to go forward with the wedding are so heartfelt and sincere. Now that she’s walked a mile in Clark’s shoes and seen what he has on his shoulders each and every day, she feels as though she’ll be his greatest weakness. But the one thing that Lois doesn’t understand here – primarily due to never having been in a relationship that truly went both ways – is that she could never be a source of weakness for Clark. As much as it would seem that way after only having lived a single day with his responsibilities, one of the greatest things about being in love with someone is that, while they might well be a soft spot in your heart, they’re also what gives it strength. Lois is a center for Clark in a way that makes his purpose and destiny that much clearer to him because he can see the face of every person he cares for in the woman he shares his life with. She represents both his human side and his love for humanity as a whole. I truly hope that Clark will make her see this in “Finale”; because these two deserve a taste of happiness after all they’ve endured. Lois is trying her best to be selfless here and give Clark to the world, but she has steadily become the reason why Clark is the world’s greatest hero to begin with. She empowers him to be the man that it’s within him to be. To those who don’t think that the Lois and Clark relationship is a vital and pivotal element in the Superman mythology, I respectfully direct you to the end of “Prophecy”, an episode that hasn’t missed the emotional core of what Superman is all about.