EPISODE REVIEW: Smallville: Luthor (Season 10, Episode 10)

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Tonight, the ol' parallel universe trope gets trotted out so that we can all see what Clark would be like if he were raised by Lionel Luthor.

Good question, because we don't get to see a lot of THAT Clark. But we do get to see an interesting alternate vision of what might've been: a place where Ultraman reigns.

When Hayata raises the beta capsule, he becomes Ultraman… but not this Ultraman.

Recap

Tess (finally) gets a chunk of Lionel Luthor's inheritance in a small aluminum case. She gets a call from Clark to meet him at Cadmus. He's discovered that one of the Luthor clones survived. Tess knows that this is the little Luthor, Alexander, that she tried to save. Clark discovers this pretty quickly, and finds the Kryptonian artifact that Lionel left her in his will. He activates it…
… and wakes up next to two gorgeous women. He goes and puts on a T-Shirt out of his drawer, and it bears a strange symbol. Lionel Luthor walks in, quotes Marcus Aurelius and calls Clark "Son".

We're not in Kansas anymore, again. Well, not our Kansas anyway.

Lionel quickly turns into exposition boy. Clark has taken the identity of Ultraman, and has been raised by Luthor. This is a parallel universe where Luthor raised Clark, not the Kents. At the farm, he finds Tess, who has been carrying on with this universe's Clark. She determines what has been happening fairly quickly. Clark used a 'mirror box' to travel to this dimension, and alternative Clark went to his.

Clark finds Lois and Ollie, engaged-- and they HATE him. In this universe, Clark is everything that Clark hates, and vice versa. Clark discovers that Ultraman is a murderer- "No one sees Ultraman and lives".

Ultra-Clark visits the Daily Planet, he's figured out what's going on pretty quick. The good news is that Tess is pretty quick on the uptake and determines what is going on as well.

She rounds up Lois and heads to Watchtower to try and protect her from Clark. This is fantastically unsuccessful. Clark breaks through the roof and knocks Tess and Lane around a bit. He wants to stay, and the only way to ensure this is to destroy the mirror box. Tess has it, he wants it- he's willing to kill for it, do the math.

Back in the Ultraverse, Lionel and Tess argue about her role in Clark's life. Her relationship with her father is a bit strained.

Clark goes to the fortress and finds Lionel. The Luthors have gone to extreme measures to destroy all Kryptonian artifacts. The last artifact, the mirrorbox, is in Ollie's possession. Clark kidnaps Lois and holds her for the ransom of the mirrorbox.

Ollie brings Clark to the watchtower, where he ambushes him with green-K. A LOT of green-K. After much speechifying, Ollie gets whacked upside the head by Lionel. And then more speechifying by Lionel, this time. Oliver comes to, and turns off the green-K weapon. Clark gives him instructions on taking out Ultraman Clark, and then uses the mirrorbox to return home. At home, he finds the evidence of a huge battle, with Tess, Oliver and Lois all aiming kryptonite weapons at his head. Lois sees that it's the correct Clark and calls them off.

Because of his adventure, he knows Tess's lineage. He talks to her about being a Luthor, and cuts her considerable slack because he wasn't raised by Lionel. She tells Clark about her reasons for sheltering Alexander, and he offers a hand of comfort.

Lionel Luthor gets a newspaper at a newstand. The headline indicates he's on 'our' Earth, and it's evident that he's planning on enjoying the series finale.

Observations

Yeah, it's Mirror, Mirror all over again. The parallel universe schtick has been done, done and done. It's such a trope that all one can do with it is see what kind of character development you can wrest out of it.

The good news is that they got quite a bit out of the cliche- and from a surprising quarter: Tess.

Yes, Tess. Cassidy Freeman did a really great job playing two characters who were actually one. The Blur/Ultraman dichotomy was more striking, but to be honest, playing polar opposites is easy compared to what Freeman did- she played the same character with a small 'But for the Grace of God' decision that informed both versions of Tess. She injected the right amount of creepy into the adopted brother/bastard sister relationship- and in both universes, there were similar feelings of abandonment, though the circumstances were different.

Erica Durance also deserves a bit of a nod. Lois Lane is a different person (though not as dramatically as Tess) for not being in love with Clark.

I did really like the fact that his trip to the alternate universe made Clark much more understanding of Tess' situation-- and much more compassionate.

Now for a bit of geek-trivia. In the comics, Earth-3 is the home of the Crime Syndicate. The Superman of that world is called 'Ultraman' and his symbol is the same as worn by Clark in the alternate universe. This version of Ultraman is unique, as none of the comics Ultramen were raised by a Luthor. In fact, those alternate universes usually had heroic Luthors.

That brings up some interesting ideas in this episode. This was not an 'evil' universe, this was more of a 'What if'- and a plausible one at that- What if Clark had been found by Lionel Luthor (who was in that cornfield in Smallville when the meteor shower, and baby Kal-El landed) instead of the Kents.

I realize that a good chunk of the plot devices on the show revolve around Kryptonian Tech. But honestly, what good could come from sending Kal-El to Earth with a device to transpose oneself with an alternate universe version? I can't think of a decent reason to send such a gizmo to Earth.
It doesn't even serve a practical purpose, at least none I can think of.

Will Conservatives Like This Episode?

Yes, I think so. It reinforces the idea that good parenting produces good children.

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