Smallville Episode 10.17 ‘Kent’ Review

Posted on April 16, 2011


Smallville, Ep. 10.17 'Kent'

Smallville Titles

Summary: A sharp, well-drawn episode heavy on character that debates the idea of home as a place or as the people that fill it.
Rating: 9/10

** Note: Review contains spoilers if you have not seen the episode.**

Review Trailer
The quick skinny on the episode.

Clark and Lois are given an early wedding present by Martha: the deed to the Kent farm. While they consider whether to keep the farm or sell it off to move into Metropolis, Clark Luthor emerges from the alt-universe and sends Clark Kent on a one-way trip back there. Clark Kent discovers Jonathan Kent is alive in this world but a broken shell of the man he knew as his father. As Clark sets forth to offer guidance to Jonathan, Clark Luthor plans to kill Lionel Luthor, take Tess as his consort, and stealthily assume control of the world in the regular universe.

Feature-Length Review
The in-depth review.

Let me begin by saying this is one of the most gorgeous episodes of ‘Smallville’ that has ever been produced. From the lighting to the shot selection to the visual gags to the cast itself, everything about this episode was stunning and pretty to look at. As Jeannot Szwarc’s directorial swan song, you got the feeling he was giving a Valentine’s card to the show, a thank you and respectful goodbye after years together.

The playful spinning Chinese food in the teaser. The reveal of the gift box over Tess in the reflection in the mirror. That fabulous wide framing of Tess with the windows of her office behind her. The lighting with Clark L in shadows at the Ace of Clubs. The soft and glowing way all scenes with Lois were shot.

Earlier in the season, we had what I’d consider to be the crowning achievement of Season 10 (so far), the episode ‘Luthor’ that introduced us to “Earth-2”, Clark Luthor and gave us back our beloved John Glover. It was a wonderfully atmospheric episode that featured a commanding performance from Tom Welling in the role of his unscrupulous, Luthor-bred counterpart. Hearing that we were going to revist that world and Dark Kent, I was thrilled with anticipation. In the same turn, however, I was worried that it was kind of late in the game to be taking this kind of detour, what with only 6 episodes left in the entire series run (four episodes and the two-part finale). It can be said now that ‘Kent’ was far from a detour and actually represented precisely what this final season should be about: closure, remembrance, moving on, and typifying exactly how much Clark Kent has grown and is ready to head into the next (and well known) phase of his life.

What I enjoyed most about ‘Kent’ was that it was thoroughly a character piece and not exceptionally driven by plot, as is often the case with the show. With three of the four main cast members and guest star John Schneider making up the bulk of the dramatis personae, the characters were allowed time to simply interact with one another. That gave ever interaction a greater weight and feel, particularly Clark Luthor and Tess’ dinner, Clark Kent and alt-Johnathan’s time together, and Clark and Lois’ closing moments at the farm.

I have to give big praise to Tom Welling. Not only did he get a little more screen time than he’s used to getting lately, but he convincingly played two separate roles. This is none more evident than in the scene with Lois at the new apartment in Metropolis. Clark Luthor is pretending to be Clark Kent and we know that going into the scene. But there is a subtle shift in Tom’s energy and presence throughout the beginning of the scene that really captures how different the two men are. It’s an impressive skill Tom has picked up and shows how much he’s grown as an actor since the beginning of the show, for sure, but also since the last time he played an evil twin in Season 7 with Bizarro.

Of course, his Clark Luthor is very different again from anytime he’s played Red-K Clark. That could be evidenced in the scene at the Ace of Clubs with Tess. Red-K Clark is a man without inhibitions who tends toward darker, more selfish choices. Clark Luthor is a confident, diabolical man with no compuncture about doing anything to get what he wants. One could very easily picture Tom in a gangster movie or some type of conspiracy drama filled with hardened, nefarious men. His command over Clark L’s darkness is effective, especially because they added more layers to him this time. There was a softer side exposed in the way he talked about being the most wanted man in his world, a wistful moment that helped to add a little color and shade some depth to him. It was a superb way to set up the conversation between the two Clarks where Clark K tries to convince Clark L that he has humanity and he can be redeemed. (Once again, a very Superman-ly thing to do.) It gave creedence to what Kent saw in Luthor in regards to Tess and made believable Luthor’s drop in guard that allowed the Fortress to send him back to the alt universe.

The understood main thrust of the episode going in was that Clark Kent was going to visit a very much alive Jonathan Kent in the alternate world. That this Jonathan was going to be a broken, desolate man and the episode was going to showcase just how good of a man Clark K has become and the guidance he can offer others. There’s a little apprehension on my part about Clark just willy-nilly offering up “the way things should be” to people on Earth-2 without thinking of the consequences. His telling alt-Lois how he felt in ‘Luthor’ was a bit rash to me, though it was good to see that she ended up marrying alt-Oliver anyway. That Clark was just going to lay it all out there for this “other” Johnathan seemed a bit self-serving, but it was evident that the man needed a kick to move forward with his life. While the transition to Jonathan believing Clark’s story was a little too brisk – a fault more of the time constraint of the episode than of the story – it was touching to see these two interact and lovely to see Clark being softer in the way he was revealing what he had learned from his own father than he’s been in the past. Though this was all to be expected, Tom and John Schneider sold the whole thing wonderfully and made you realize again just how special their connection has been to the show. And what a great moment to give John to end the episode: possibility. (Though I was a little drawn back by the name ‘Martha Kent’ being on the doorbell tag. I would’ve expected ‘Martha Clark’. I guess it opens up the hope that she hadn’t really moved on.)

Erica Durance was positively adorable throughout the episode. There has been so much criticism this year that Lois has turned into nothing more than a cheerleader for Clark. While I don’t agree with that wholesale, there have been a few treacly moments and times where her enthusiasm and support have come across a bit shrill. Things that cannot be said of Lois in ‘Kent’. There was a more relaxed and natural performance to Erica’s work in the episode and that lent itself to some fine exchanges. The scenes that bookend the episode with Clark and Lois at the Planet and then their closing moments at the farm were superb, without a false bit of dialogue and featuring a real connection between Tom and Erica. In the run-up to their likely wedding in the finale, it’s terrific to see just how well these two work together and give them some quiet – though life-changing – moments before the storm.

The one word that screamed out in these two scenes – as well as in the scene with Clark L before she realized the truth – was ‘partnership’. I think Erica, especially, knows how to approach the intimacy of their shared life from the point of individuality. This felt like the same headstrong, driven Lois we’ve always known who recognizes that she has a strong and caring partner in her life. She didn’t have any hang-ups about their relationship, which would’ve felt entirely out of place, but was vulnerable in regard to the sense and loss of “home”. Instead of running away, though, she looked for a solution and helped Clark feel comfortable in his own. Tom brought his ‘A’ game and Erica was right there with him.

Cassidy Freeman, as well. Building further upon the seeds of doubt that Lionel sowed in Tess in ‘Scion’, Cassidy brought wonderful nuance to the continued struggle for Tess over her light and dark sides. It wasn’t just that she was scared of Clark L for her life, it was that she recognizes how in her core she is seduced by these darker impulses. I think there is a danger that this can fall into really heavy-handed territory but Cassidy walked that fine line with amazing skill, engaging us to invest in Tess’ final arc of the series. I also enjoyed the subdued nod to the Tess-Emil dynamic from ‘Fortune’. Without explicitly getting into what occured between them, Emil danced around a bit of jealousy and a bit of concern to let Tess know that he thinks highly of her as a person. It was a solid way to give focus to the light, good side of Tess after her ordeal. And it has to be said that Cassidy wore the hell out of that dress. Yowza.

I’m not sure why showrunners Kelly Souders and Brian Peterson had to rewrite Genevieve Sparling’s script for the final shooting script but kudos must go out to all three for a fantastic story. The pacing was dead-on and, as I mentioned earlier, that the characters were allowed to breathe and spend so much quality time together was welcome and appreciated. What could have come off as a very preachy way to show what Clark has learned in his life turned into a touching duet between (almost) father and son. ‘Kent’ gave us a chance to say further goodbyes to long-standing parts of the Smallville tapestry. I liked the juxtaposition of Tess preparing the guts of the Luthor mansion for demolition with Clark and Lois deciding to sell the farm. Goodbye, Kent Farm. We love you and we thank you for all your years of service. I, honestly, didn’t believe that we’d actually see a move by Clark and Lois into Metropolis on the series, but it was a well-handled next step toward Clark taking on the mantle of Superman.

‘Kent’ is a fave of mine this season, just as all of the episodes that have strongly featured the Luthors have been. I’ve mentioned previously that the Luthors are easily the “big bad” of this season rather than the threat of Darkseid, and I think this episode holds that to be true. It’s fascinating that they managed to bring everything back full circle in the series to a story about the Kents and the Luthors, but that’s exactly where the show belongs. For that, I’m kind of grateful for the way they’ve handled the Darkseid arc.

And to prepare you for two-hour series finale on May 13th, the CW market department has created what is probably their finest Smallville promo ever…