Saturday, May 14, 2011

Embracing Your Past

I sat down Friday night and watched the two-hour series finale of Smallville.  This concluded the program’s ten year run and perhaps the longest superhero origins story ever mounted.  I liked the series early on, but I have dropped in infrequently in recent years.  I stayed with it through the Kryptonite “freak of the week” period and the “superhero of the week” era, but lost interest six or seven years in.  For one thing, I think I missed Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) who was as complex a figure as Clark Kent/Kal-El (Tom Welling), the series’ protagonist. I also was tired of the “soap opera” dimension that was obviously provided for a younger demographic.

When the program debuted, the producers promised “no flights, no tights.”  Although they did violate the first rule from time to time when Clark was not himself, the new producers did allow a memorable flight in the finale although we never really saw Welling in the complete red and blue costume. Even so, we were given a relatively smooth transition into the fully-developed Superman story.

The finale brought back most of the major characters including Lex and provided a couple of nice montage sequences for Clark and Lex.  It also returned to some themes that were central to the early stories.  At least two were voiced by Lex.  For example, Clark was the “chosen one” and did not want it, whereas Lex consciously sought that role and pursued every scheme to achieve it.  Clark was blessed and was not ready to accept it while Lex hungered for the blessing.  Again, Lex pointed out that a person is known more by his enemies that his friends.  Those who oppose us, according to Lex, take us to greater heights.  You can see why I have missed the Lex/Clark dynamic.  It was complex and engaging.

The idea that the series’ creative team seemed to push in the finale was the need to embrace one’s past.  Only when Clark was ready to embrace both his growing up years as a human in Smallville and his alien identity was he ready to fulfill his destiny.  This was nicely depicted as Jor-El, his Kryptonite father, provided the costume, but it was actually given to him by his foster father, Jonathan (John Schneider).  In his acceptance of the costume, Clark embraced the blessing of both fathers.  He acknowledged all that he was.   And, yes, there are certain messianic connotations there.

Certainly the struggle to understand and embrace our past and the things that have made us who we are is one that everyone must consider.  For good or bad, we are the product of what has gone before. As we consider what we hold on to and what we bury, we establish an identity.  When done properly, we become the persons God intends us to be.

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