On the Smallville season finale - "Salvation" - the messiah metaphors were groan-worthy, the action was gee-whiz, one star's face was blown off, and there was a slew of spandex-clad set-up for next season. Spoilers on!
The episode opens in Metropolis 2013, and everything is Technicolor fantastic. Lois is an ace reporter at the Daily Planet (who looks exactly like Sarah Palin). Lex Luthor is running for president. A biplane is about to crash into The Daily Planet, but a bespectacled Clark Kent has just enough time to change into his romper suit and divert the crisis. By flying, no less! This looks like it could be a jazzy episode, filled with some milquetoast power-punk version of "Can You Read My Mind"–
Oh wait, it was all a dream! Clark was just taking a power nap. Does Superman actually need to sleep? Or does he just need a couple minutes under a Seasonal Affect Disorder lamp? But I digress. Ma Kent has left Clark a package – it's his very own Superman romper suit! We see the reflection of the suit glowing in his eyes, Kryptonians have incredibly reflective corneas. It's a little known superpower.
So the Watchtower gang is getting ready for the Kandorian war, and the Kandorians are having a merry time carving the Kryptonian symbol into Earth's monuments. Chloe's crew is oiling up their Kryptonite bazookas (presumably) and teleconferencing with the Justice Society. Star Girl looks particularly upset – she's wearing a giant glob of blue bubble gum on her face. Hawkman wants to tromp off and smash some Kandorians with his Nth Metal bedpost, but Clark offers to use the Book of Rao to exile the Kandorians to – to quote Chloe – "Kryptonian Nirvana." Chloe believes that Jor-El's training – bizarre sex lessons included – have led up to this point. Clark must join Zod and his brethren in the giant 2-D mirror rhombus in the sky.
Chloe gets woefully little to do in this episode, but what about her less scrupulous peer, Ms. Tess Mercer? Tess has been thrown through the wringer with all the Checkmate wheeling and dealing, so she understandably has some pent-up rage. Tess redeems all of her sliminess by throttling Zod with Kryptonite knuckledusters at Clark's fortress (Zod had been doing some remodeling a.k.a. smashing Jor-El). Beating someone with Kryptonite punching implements always brightens up a narrative – look what it did for The Dark Knight Returns!
In the midst of Tess' epic beatdown, Zod powers up under an errant sunbeam and torches half of Tess' face off. Tess dies, but not before informing Clark that there's another Kryptonian console to activate hidden in Clark's crow's nest. Upon Tess' death, an enigmatic babushka woman comes into her room. It doesn't look like Ms. Mercer is going anywhere – I'm guessing she'll be making a resurrection by supernatural means.
Speaking of mysterious foes, Ollie is ambushed by a gang of unseen assailants as he attempts to hook Chloe's satellites back online after the Kryptonian assault. Over a walkie-talkie , Ollie imparts two important things to Chloe - his attackers aren't Kandorian and that he loves Chloe. Chloe coughs up an incredulous "I love you" as Ollie's overwhelmed. Just when she finds a nice boy too!
As for the Lois and Clark drama that has metastasized over recent episodes, yeesh. Zod reveals himself to Lois blah-blah-blah she's dubious that he's the Blur yeah-yeah-yeah Clark vacillates about telling Lois his real identity if he goes off to the Kryptonian party dimension (but Lois yoinks the Book of Rao from him when he comes over to cop one last feel in the Kent's barn) boo-hoo-hoo Zod tries to steal the Book of Rao from Lois (but Clark saves her) siss-boom-bah Lois and Clark (as the Blur) share one last kiss bow-chicka-bow-wow Lois says "Clark" as their lips disembark.
Does Lois know Clark's identity? Got me. No offense to the lovely Erica Durance, but I kind of wish Lois was shanghaied to the Phantom (Discovery) Zone just so we can shuck off the onerous "Mrs. Doubtfire-but-a-superhero" shenanigans. Let's see Clark chase some intergalactic vixens. Bring in Maxima. Heck, he made a porno with Big Barda in the comics.
Back at the crow's nest, Clark confronts Zod and his band of Space Nazis - seriously, all the Kandorians are rocking red Sieg Heil armbands - and tells them that Zod is responsible for Faora's death. Zod whispers to Clark, "Faora was a traitor. Do you think I wanted to kill my own child?" All the Kandorians hear this, as they all have super-hearing. A hearty chunk of this episode showcased haughty bastards making rookie mistakes (see: Tess allowing Zod to crawl into a sunbeam). Clark doesn't have a personality, so he can't become ensnared in the tendrils of his own hubris.
The Kandorians agree to go to the Kryptonian paradise sight unseen - this is a questionable choice on their part, but it gets the smotheringly dull Kandorian subplot off the table, so advantage audience. As the Book of Rao beams the Kandorians up to Gumdrop Mountain, Zod pulls out a depowering blue Kryptonite dagger to throw off the Party Ray! Clark and Zod tussle with the screaming azure knife for a while - after all, Zod would rather wear Lois' head as a hat than be imprisoned in the Perpetual Birthday Party Universe - until Clark impales himself on the dagger and falls off the crow's nest with it. The Party Beam finds Zod, and Clark plummets off the building in a Jesus Christ pose in a metaphor so hilariously hamfisted it's awesome. Roll credits.
Smallville is not high art - it's a Superman soap opera with some canny special effects. But its more cheestastic moments are a boon and keep things zippy. Clark's savior pose? The last minute, left-field MacGuffin that is the Book of Rao? The prerequisite that - at least once per episode - a character must commute out to the Kent farm to justify the name Smallville? All of these idiosyncrasies are so wonderfully Smallville, and I think the show is best when it embraces its crazy. The show drags when it assumes the trappings of other genres (see: Checkmate, Clark and Lois' Three's Company domestic foibles). Next season appears to have more monsters and creepy crocheting crones. Bring in Mister Mxyzptlk (the real one, not the exchange student), and you'll have the next Twin Peaks.