Is episode 22 of the third season of Smallville, “Covenant,” the craziest season finale ever (for me, at least)? That’s a rhetorical question because yes, yes it is. Yes, before you start groaning about other crazier season finales, I know they exist, but a.) I like this one better and b.) I still distinctly remember losing my mind when I saw this on television when it happened back in 2004. There’s nostalgia to it, but watching it now in 2020, it still holds up.
So, the whole episode centers around Kara, who has come to entice Clark Kent/Superman to return to Jor-El and become the king that Jor-El thinks he can become. Oh and she has all of Superman’s powers and then some. Clark Kent resists this, though, and we also find out that Kara is just some girl Jor-El is using as a vessel to communicate his will to Clark Kent/Superman.
Before I get to the craziness, let’s go over some things. First, we get a tease of Superman flying with Kara. If memory serves, Clark Kent won’t get to fly until season 10, but it’s a fun tease here.
Secondly, we get two vital ethos of Clark Kent/Superman that play out in this episode. Kara is detached and misanthropic about humans. She calls Clark Kent by his Kryptonian name of Kal-El, and he corrects her that his name is Clark Kent. He also says he cares about the humans here in Smallville.
Overall, that’s what makes Superman Superman is that he is an alien from a distant planet, but because he grew up human, he has a connection to humanity, and in fact, is probably the most “human” of the main superheroes there are. He believes in humanity. He believes in humans. He believes that we are basically good. Again, there is a bit of Jesus of Nazareth analogy at work with the Clark Kent/Superman character, and I think that helps make it all the more powerful and resonate.
But also, when an FBI agent listens in on Kara and Superman’s conversation, Kara kills him. Superman is aghast. He doesn’t kill. That’s another significant aspect of the Superman ethos, obviously. He wouldn’t be this force for good that we look to for hope if he was killing people left and right.
Unfortunately, the madness begins with the end of this episode. Kara keeps telling Clark that all of his friends will either leave him or betray him. Well, let’s go over it:
- Pete Ross leaves because the burden of carrying Clark Kent’s secret is too much to handle. He’s going to join his mother in Wichita, Kansas where she’s taken a new position as judge. Naturally, Clark Kent feels the sting of that, as if he’s driven Ross away.
- Which leads to another frustrating chapter in the Lana Lang-Clark Kent saga. In the prior episode, “Forsaken,” Clark Kent was prepared to tell Lana his secret, that he’s Superman. But Ross dropped the aforementioned bombshell on him, and that scared Clark Kent off of doing that. Lana is also going to Paris, so she’s leaving, too, but the idea is, had Clark told her his secret, she probably would have stayed. Alas, she’s left holding a flower and no secret.
- Chloe Sullivan, who is Clark Kent’s helpful journalist friend, seemingly gets blown up, along with her father, at an FBI “safe house.” We are led to believe that Lionel Luther is behind this since Chloe is trying to bring him down for the murder of his parents. Granted, Clark Kent doesn’t know about this yet, but it adds to the madness of the episode.
- Clark Kent ends up finding the room of obsession for Lex Luthor, who for three seasons has been Clark Kent’s best friend, even more so than Ross really. In that room, Lex Luthor has kept a bunch of Clark Kent-focused items, including trying to figure out how he survived the car crash from the first episode of the series. Clark Kent is furious, of course, and feels betrayed. He tells Lex Luthor that their friendship is over. But! There’s more. Aside from the friendship being over, at the end of the episode, we are led to believe that Lionel Luthor has poisoned Lex Luthor and killed him due to the latter trying to bring Lionel Luther down for the murder of his parents.
- Jonathan Kent, Clark Kent’s father, made a covenant, hence the namesake of this episode, with Jor-El, that if Jor-El helped him to bring Clark Kent back from Metropolis at the beginning of the season, then one day, Jonathan Kent would help bring Clark Kent to Jor-El. Aside from this being a wedge between him and Martha Kent and him and Clark Kent, it also seems to have killed Jonathan Kent at the end of the episode.
- Clark Kent/Superman, feeling like he has no choice anymore and that he has only caused misery in Smallville (he’s completely isolated at this point), goes with Jor-El, and the last image we see is of him in far out space, with Jor-El saying something like, “Now you will be reborn.”
So to recap the madness: Pete Ross is gone; Lana Lang is gone; Chloe Sullivan is presumed dead; Lex Luthor is presumed death; Jonathan Kent is presumed dead; and Clark Kent/Superman is off in space with his biological Kryptonian father.
Literally, the only two people left standing of note in Smallville are Lionel Luther (who now has shaved head) and Martha Kent.
As a 14-year-old watching this episode (and even now as a 29-year-old), you can see why I lost my mind. Everyone was either presumed dead or seemingly left the show! And it was like, wow, now I have to wait three months to figure out how they are going to (if they do) put the pieces back together? Gah.
The best part is that all of that craziness in the end (Lex and Chloe being killed, Clark Kent going off with Jor-El and Jonathan Kent seemingly be killed and uh, Lionel Luthor losing his hair) is back-dropped with Requiem in D Minor, K. 626: Sequentia: Lacrimosa by Mozart and shown in slow-motion. It’s beautiful, breath-taking, and just adds to the overall feeling of inevitable madness. So masterfully done.
That’s exactly the best way to describe the ending sequence: Inevitable. Everything feels like it’s moving into place in the final moments of the season and the maniacal Lionel Luthor is the maestro.
What a great episode and finale for a television show!