A Deeper Look at Clark Kent’s Return to Smallville in “Crisis”

“Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”

A deeper look into Clark Kent’s return to Smallville in “Crisis on Infinite Earths”.

By Michael J. Petty

As I’m sure all of you know, seeing as how you’re reading this at the moment, this week began the five-part crossover between the DC/CW shows “Arrow,” “The Flash,” “Supergirl,” Batwoman,” and “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” (along with appearances from characters from various other DC series) entitled “Crisis on Infinite Earths”. There are a lot of cool aspects to this crossover that every fan, even one like me who hasn’t watched the Arrowverse shows for a few years, will be able to sit back and enjoy, such as Brandon Routh’s return as a Kingdom Come-inspired version of Superman from “Superman Returns,” Kevin Conroy’s (who has been the voice of Batman in most animated projects since “Batman: The Animated Series” in 1992) first live-action appearance as Bruce Wayne, as well as the long-anticipated return of Tom Welling’s Clark Kent and Erica Durance’s Lois Lane from “Smallville”.

“Smallville” was, and still is, my all-time favorite television show. Watching Clark Kent grow from unsure teenager to heroic “savior” over the course of ten years was not only what helped me relate to the Man of Steel as a character and a person, but also helped me grow up at a time in my life when I needed a “Superman” to look up to. I’ve watched the series through multiple times, read all the “Season 11” continuation comics, and have not only listened to podcasts on “Smallville” but also hosted my own. “Smallville” is a huge part of my life, and always will be.

So when I heard that Tom Welling and Erica Durance were reprising the roles that touched my life so deeply, I decided that regardless of how much of the Arrowverse I am caught up on, I had to watch “Crisis” to see my Clark and Lois once more. My buddy Dan would’ve loved this…

And that’s why I’m writing this! Because I have some thoughts that I need to process and I would love to help others process along with me.

First of all, SPOILER ALERT for both “Smallville” as-a-whole and the “Crisis” crossover. I don’t want anyone reading this who doesn’t want to be spoiled on (to quote “Smallville”‘s Earth-2 Lionel Luthor) “how it all turns out”…

Right off the bat, I loved the whole conversation between Clark and Earth-38’s Lex Luthor. That was wonderful and felt like it was right out of an episode of “Smallville,” which makes sense given that “Batwoman” writers Don Whitehead & Holly Henderson wrote for Smallville” back-in-the-day. Clark and Lex’s conversation was very reminiscent of Clark’s conversation with the aging clone Lex from Season 10’s premiere “Lazarus,” which I really appreciated. Not only was Clark completely unphased by Lex, which makes sense given that he’s been through this with “his” Lex many times before, but he also stood his ground. Clark had been Superman for the past (give-or-take) seven years at this point since he became the Man of Steel in “Finale” (2011) and now it’s 2019, proving that he’s not only confident in who he is/was as a hero, but also as Clark Kent.

If you’ve seen this episode, you of course know that Clark reveals to Lex that he’s given up his powers in order to settle down with Lois on the Kent Farm to raise their (two?) daughters. More on this later…

One of the interesting things about Earth-38’s Lex Luthor’s reaction to Clark giving up his abilities is that, like “Smallville”‘s Lex (and most iterations of the character), if Clark Kent isn’t Superman, if there isn’t some mystery to solve or power to envy, he couldn’t care less about him, let alone killing him. Lex leaves soon after and Clark returns to Lois and his girls.

When Earth-38’s Clark Kent and Lois Lane, along with Iris West-Allen, first appear to recruit Clark to face the Crisis and warn him of Earth-38 Lex’s plans, he refers to his own Lex Luthor as being the President of the United States. It seems as if Lex’s destiny (foreshadowed in “Hourglass,” “Apocalypse,” and “Salvation” before coming to pass in “Finale”) was ultimately fulfilled. We can only hope that, with Tess’ memory wipe and Lex’s “clean slate” that he became the better man that Clark knew he would be.

Tom Welling and Erica Durance stepped back into their roles seamlessly, not even skipping a beat. The “Clois” dynamic is healthy-as-ever and felt like we ripped the two right out of Season 10 where we left off. Lois pokes fun at “Smallville” and Clark utters a spin on the classic, “this looks like a job for” line, reminding us that without Lois, Clark wouldn’t have ever become the hero he was destined to be. Ironically, he would have never left the hero life without Lois either…

Also, the fact that Lois and Clark have daughters and not a son like Jon Kent from the comics (and “Supergirl”) or Jason from “Superman Returns” is an interesting, and refreshing, take on Superman’s kids. And for “Smallville” it makes sense! Chloe Sullivan, Kara Zor-El, Lana Lang, Lois Lane, Martha Kent, and Tess Mercer are all major players in the series. Clark’s biggest support system, besides his father, has always been the women around him. So bringing daughters into Clark and Lois’ lives, little women that they can pour into, is both adorable and fitting. I wonder about their names… Martha? Elle? Lara? Kara? Tess? Chloe? Endless possibilities.

This brings me to the main topic at hand: how I feel about Clark turning his back on his destiny to settle down in Smallville with Lois and the girls…

To be honest, I’m not completely sure!

On one hand, Clark never wanted the hero life. Though he often ran towards danger due to his “good values” upbringing by Jonathan and Martha Kent, he hid from Jor-El and his heritage from the moment he learned of it. The powers were cool until he recognized the responsibility that came with them; but it wasn’t just the responsibility that Clark didn’t want, he was always responsible and generally managed his abilities well, it was the fact that he couldn’t live the “normal life” that he desperately wanted. It was because his powers made him feel like a freak.

In the “Pilot,” he tells his father that he would “give anything” to be normal before putting his hand in a woodchipper to make his point. He couldn’t play sports because of his powers (until, of course, he did in Season 4, but even then he didn’t pursue it long), he couldn’t get close to anyone (especially Lana), and he had to constantly be on-guard to protect his secret from the likes of Sam Phelan, Roger Nixon, Lionel Luthor, Tess Mercer, General Sam Lane, Checkmate, and even his closest friends. This secret is what ultimately drove a wedge between Clark and Lex, ending their friendship. “You didn’t trust me” Lex utters to Clark in the seventh season finale “Arctic,” and he was right.

Every time Clark gave up his abilities, he embraced it whole-heartedly. In “Leech,” he’s happy Eric Summers stole his powers and only regains them to stop Eric from hurting people. In “Arrival,” he is punished by Jor-El and his powers are stripped from him, but Clark isn’t upset, he embraces normalcy and for the next two episodes (“Mortal” & “Hidden”) thrives with Lana by his side. That is until he’s shot and Jor-El has to restore his powers in order to save him. In fact, the only time Clark seems at-all distraught at the loss of his powers is following “Arctic” when Lex destroys the Fortress, though this may be because he was stuck in Russia for months without them and had no way of returning home (“Odyssey”). Getting them back by the end of the episode didn’t hurt either…

More-than-not, it seemed that Clark Kent always wanted to live up to his father’s example (Jonathan, not Jor-El) and be a man rather than a Superman.

On the other hand, however, as “Smallville” progressed, Clark eventually embraced all of his abilities, understanding that when dealing with threats like Brainiac, General Zod, Bizarro, Doomsday, and Darkseid, he was truly the only person capable of defeating them. We see this again-and-again throughout the series and by the time Season 8 rolls around, Clark is well-on his way to becoming the hero he was destined to be since he landed on Earth in the “Pilot”.

Cassandra Carver saw Clark’s destiny in “Hourglass,” as did Jordan Cross in “Hereafter,” the Legion (“Legion”), Booster Gold (“Booster”), and Doctor Fate (“Society/Legends”). Brainiac 5 even showed Clark his future where he met his future-self as Superman in “Homecoming”. By the time Clark saw it for himself in “Salvation,” he was ready to fully embrace the hero he was meant to become. After all his trials in Smallville, Clark finally became Superman. Not because Jor-El forced him to, not because Jonathan Kent asked him to, and not because Lois was counting on him to, but because he recognized the call on his life and the responsibility he was entrusted with to protect Earth, and he embraced it as his own. Because ultimately, deep-down, Clark cares about everybody, and all he wants to do is save people.

So this is where my problem lies… Clark had fully embraced his destiny. He had become Superman and when we see him rip open his shirt to reveal the House of El shield on his chest in “Finale,” he had been living out that destiny for seven years. So how is it that, seemingly one year later, he’s given it all up?

How could Clark become the greatest hero the Earth has ever known in only seven years? I suppose it’s not that far of a stretch. After-all, Jesus Christ’s ministry only lasted three years before the crucifiction and there are still plenty of people (myself being one of them) who continue to follow Him and talk about Him daily. So I guess Clark being Superman for only seven years, when put into that perspective, isn’t really that bad. Especially when you consider his time as the [Red-Blue] Blur (three years) and the seven years we spent with him prior to that.

But I suppose that, after processing this through, Clark is leaving Earth-167 (though to me it’s still Earth-1…) in good hands. Green Arrow, Watchtower, Black Canary, Aquaman, Mera, Cyborg, Stargirl, Martian Manhunter, Zatanna, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and so many others are all out there to keep the planet safe… And after-all, maybe Clark’s powers aren’t gone for good?

Maybe he is using Blue Kryptonite to keep his powers locked down. Maybe it’s a “Superman II” situation and he’s given them up for Lois but, if he were to return to the Fortress, could he restore them if necessary? The Superman in “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” gave up his powers (for the same reasons) through Gold Kryptonite, and we already know from Ultraman in “Luthor” that Gold K scars are permanent… Maybe in “Smallville it can take away Clark’s abilities too…

But whatever the situation, I’m happy for Clark. I’m happy he has the farm. I’m happy he works an honest living. I’m happy he has Lois and their girls. I’m happy that he’s still the same-old Clark Kent that we fell in love with on “Smallville”. But ultimately I’m happy because Clark is happy. He did what he was called to do. He saved the world. Again and again. What more can we ask of him?

Who knows? Maybe he’ll recognize how big a threat this Crisis truly is and, to protect his family, may return by “Part 5” to help his fellow Supermen save the universe.

We can only hope. And that’s what the “S” means, isn’t it? Hope.

Michael John Petty

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30 Comments
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afriend
December 12, 2019 7:39 pm

Didn’t care for it. It’s always been a false dichotomy of powers or Lois, and by Rebirth the comics had finally put it to bed (or so I thought at the time). Ten years and 218 episodes should have taught Clark that he didn’t have to make that choice; Lana and Lois both accepted him, with or without his powers (even if the later Lana drama was kinda dumb). So it doesn’t make sense that he couldn’t have both now. Now I see three courses of action: 1. The Multiverse is restored and there’s no real change to the status… Read more »

jagross0325
December 12, 2019 10:02 pm

I was a bit disappointed with how they “brought” Smallville to a close. I liked the fact He had the family and life with Lois but seems like a cop out to de-power him.

MattComics
December 12, 2019 11:05 pm

I think most people had little to no issue with him living happily on the farm with Lois and their daughters and I think most people enjoyed his chemistry with Jon Cryers Lex. It’s the depowering and his blasé attitude towards the impending danger that is the problem. I was never the shows biggest booster when it was on but the Season 11 comics helped improve my view of it even though it’ll never be my favorite version of Superman’s origin. Like afriend said it’s a false dichotomy and when the series ended I think Clark realizes this. I think… Read more »

afriend
December 12, 2019 11:12 pm
Reply to  MattComics

I miss the thumbs up right now…

sundevil82
December 14, 2019 12:31 pm
Reply to  afriend

Me too.

sundevil82
December 14, 2019 12:33 pm
Reply to  MattComics

I had this same thought. His world could potentially end and while I’m happy he’a got a family and everything, he just doesn’t seem bothered by it. Very un Superman-like. At first I was like ‘oh, subtle nod to superman2’, but then I remembered when zod showed up he did everything he could to get his powers back because it Was the right thing to do.

NeoRanger
December 13, 2019 3:34 am

Man, I hate Smallville and even I was insulted by this moment. They wanted to give these characters a “nice” sendoff, show them content with their life, but they did it wrong. This type of conclusion would’ve worked, if they had put Welling and Durance in age make-up and they were supposed to be in their 50s-60s, Clark having given up his powers and their girls were out there doing the super-hero thing. They botched it. You put ten years investing in these characters, ten years for that one shirt rip in the finale and in less than a decade,… Read more »

lcmcbain
December 13, 2019 11:01 am
Reply to  NeoRanger

I’d like to upvote everything you said

sundevil82
December 14, 2019 12:38 pm
Reply to  NeoRanger

I also had this same issue with Nolan’s 3rd Batman film. Yes I get that his body was broken down, but he was Batman for literally 6 months. And on top of that he would never give up being Batman.

I was happy to see the characters again, but his total disregard for the situation, A situation that could potentially directly effect his happy life, was disconcerting.

redcape
December 15, 2019 1:10 pm
Reply to  sundevil82

Your 100% correct about Noland’s third Batman. The amount of things that got picked apart in our Superman movies paled in comparison to the total amounts of ridiculous plot sequences in that movie. I find it somewhat difficult to watch it anymore. (and I’m NOT a Bale hater)

sundevil82
December 15, 2019 2:54 pm
Reply to  redcape

I still consider Rises to be a pretty good movie, but it’s definitely the least Batman movie of the 3 and aside from a few scenes, I don’t really consider it to be one. Dark knight is the best of the 3, but Batman begins is the most Batman film of them all. In my opinion.

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LJ-90
December 13, 2019 8:48 am

I think the scene is set long after the flashforward. I mean, as I understand it, the flashforward was to synch Clark’s age with Welling’s, so Clark was 33 in the last shot of the show. A decade after that Clark would be in his 40s, which is Welling’s age, which means this Clark could have been Superman for around 15 years before deciding to retire. If not, well, Clark and Lois aged a ton in only one year. I’m torn, really. I loved the scene and I want him to be happy, and I can even be okay with… Read more »

December 13, 2019 10:01 am

Loved the article, and helped me to process his return as well. God bless you! Enjoyed you sharing your faith

Superman2878
December 13, 2019 11:05 am

I was thinking that Clark losing his powers probably happened after Lex was re-elected for a second term. Now hear me out. Season 11 happens years before Smallville’s final scene at the Dailey Planet. In the season 11 comic, Clark was Superman, Chloe was pregnant and Lex wasn’t president in the comics yet. This had taken place roughly around a year after Clark became Superman. 7 years after Clark embraced his destiny as Superman, Chloe’s and Oliver’s son looks to be about 6 or 7. Clark still had his powers and Lex was elected president. Clark and Lois were supposed… Read more »

Superman2878
December 13, 2019 11:22 am
Reply to  Superman2878

This also leads me to believe that Clark gave up his powers not long after that final scene on the rooftop.

sman1938
December 13, 2019 12:11 pm

I can understand the frustration of the character giving up his powers, but in the Smallville universe back then a Kryptonian could not be with a human sexually, as was explained when Lana got powers and they could finally fool around. That would have meant this version of Superman could never have a family, unlike the comics and current Supergirl run. For that reason alone I am willing to give this Superman a break, because this was the only way he could have a family.

Superman2878
December 13, 2019 1:07 pm
Reply to  sman1938

I remember that episode. season 8 right?

December 14, 2019 2:00 am

Of course, his and Lois’s activities with their daughters DIDN’T last too long. Because a few hours later, their universe was destroyed by the anti-matter wave. He WON’T be coming back in the next part, because, unlike the comics, there’s nowhere to come back to. Only the 7 Paragons and the Spectre are left. Oh. And probably Lucifer and Maze. He wouldn’t be affected, and she would exist under his protection. But, they would WATCH the conflict, but not get involved, as he hasn’t fallen in love yet. The only way Smallville Clark could come back is once the Anti-Monitor… Read more »

sman1938
December 14, 2019 11:19 am
Reply to  Malaggar

Yeah, but I don’t think it will totally follow the comics only because I don’t see Netflix allowing there lucifer to be on the exact same earth as all the other hero’s. Not to mention that Titans which got renewed for a third season has there own Justice League, so I figure less earths but probably not one.Sooo could be one of those earths could have the Smallville Clark and Lois.

Seph1r0th
December 14, 2019 3:20 am

I apologize in advance for my Smallville fanboy rant here, but I gotta say that the first part of your justification here is leaving out the moral takeaway of all those episodes you mentioned. Sure, Clark enjoys his brief bouts of normalcy in most of his powerless episodes but by the end of those episodes and arcs he’s always shown in some way or another that his powers are his birthright, heritage and ultimately his responsibility. His longing in “Pilot” sets up the entire premise of the show when he sees the force for good his powers can be. “Leech”… Read more »

sman1938
December 14, 2019 11:14 am
Reply to  Seph1r0th

Actually the people who wrote the cameo are from the original team of writers for Smallville, and I see your point because I do remember all those episodes. I think the biggest problem the cameo has is it really doesn’t show what brought him to this point. When smallville was on we had 22 episodes a season to see all that you talked about. We saw his journey, here we see just the finally of another journey and some assume the writers made a mistake. Me, once again I am for a happy ending, and hopefully the book of destiny… Read more »

sundevil82
December 14, 2019 12:43 pm
Reply to  sman1938

I think you guys are over thinking it. I think it honestly came down to the whole not wanting to wear the suit thing again, and that’s fine with me, but I wish they had found a better way to write around it.

redcape
December 15, 2019 1:03 pm
Reply to  sundevil82

Well…I’m sure early on that they didn’t count on Smallville running for ten years. So to stretch the show out they went into soap opera mode and they incorporated everything from past Superman movies and even comic stories. Through out the 10 years of Smallville we basicialy saw all of it and by the time the show ended there was nothing recognizable left to do with his character. The entire Smallville series eventually traded all things Superman in for Clark Kent!!

sundevil82
December 15, 2019 3:03 pm
Reply to  redcape

The show should have only ran for 5-7 seasons, honestly. Ten 22 episode seasons was way too much to tell this story and with that rule of no flights, no tights, it became incredibly difficult to tell the story properly. I enjoyed it while it was on, but I can’t imagine running through it all again aside from a few scenes here and there.

Still hands down the best Jonathan Kent And One of the best Lois lanes we’ve had though.

MattComics
December 15, 2019 4:08 pm
Reply to  sundevil82

During the later seasons often I had thought of “why does a Lois this good have to be stuck in the damn no tights, no flights show?”

redcape
December 16, 2019 12:50 pm
Reply to  MattComics

And they’re going to start that whole process over again with Superman/Lois series. It’s exactly why I don’t want his character reduced to a TV weekly series. It’s one thing to have a cameo or two like we’re seeing now but a weekly series is not going to create any big time following for major movie happenings.

LJ-90
December 15, 2019 11:35 pm
Reply to  sman1938

Actually, not only did the writers of the cameo were writers of the Smallville, apparently they also send the scene to one of the creators of the show and had their blessing to go ahead with it. Like you say, the problem with this scene is that we don’t know what brought him to this point. Maybe he retired after he saw the earth was in peace and he had already inspired a new generation of heroes, maybe he retired because he lost faith in humanity, who knows. Apparently there IS a creative decision behind this and it’ll be explained… Read more »

MattComics
December 16, 2019 6:53 am

No Earth is in peace with Lex Luthor as President. That alone should probably be enough reason for Clark to keep his powers. I doubt Lex’s heart has suddenly grown 3 sizes since the Season 11 stuff.

sundevil82
December 16, 2019 1:48 pm
Reply to  MattComics

Agreed. They needed to come up with a better way to write around the fact that he didn’t want to put the suit on. Hard to believe that with all those heads together, that’s the best they could come up with.