What I love about this series (one of my top 10 last year) is its constant exploration of what it means to be human--and that theme was one of this episode's main thrusts. The young Clark Kent faces one of his worst nemeses, Phantom, who takes on a form exactly like Clark (aka "Bizarro-Clark") and has all Clark's powers (and then some), but is his opposite in almost every way: Phantom/Bizarro is evil with skin on (if you can call it that). Yet as Clark faces Phantom, he realizes he's looking into the very eyes of what he could become if he made choices to follow a road of hate and vengence versus love and sacrifice. Later, as he reflects on the fury he felt towards and almost let loose on Lex (whom he thinks is responsible for the death of Lana, the love of his young life), he tells his friend Chole, "Loving someone is hard, it's difficult. But hate, hate is so . . . clean."
Clark makes the mistake of thinking this struggle between choosing love over hate (and the damage he can cause if he goes that route) is what sets him apart from humanity as an alien from another world. But Chole sets him right. Indeed, he's just as human as the rest of us, she tells him; the fact that he's from another planet justs adds "character."
This episode reminds us of one of our primary struggles as humans: these constant decisions we make on which road to travel, on whether to love or hate. Hate is easier; it's a giving into what is bent inside us, the one that demands our own desires and satisfaction here-and-now--even if those desires have roots in justice or love. Real Love, however, is the more difficult road, one of right and sacrifice. But it is also one that brings restoration, redemption and beauty in the longer run.
As followers of Jesus, it all boils down to love: loving God and loving others. That's not easy. Many times it's hard. It means choosing to trust God above our own inclinations. It means choosing to pay attention to and consider others when we'd rather pay attention to and consider ourselves. It means that sometimes we are losing and in pain, suffering and longing. Because love really is all those things Paul says it is:
Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, doesn't have a swelled head, doesn't force itself on others, isn't always "me first," doesn't fly off the handle, doesn't keep score of the sins of others, doesn't revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end. (I Cor. 13:7).
Of course, we can't simply to choose to love this way one day and suddenly be all these things. It's lots of little steps--a learning to live out of the life God burns into our deepest core rather than the bent of death and destruction that hangs on us. And God uses what he can to help us along this way of walking with him. As another character reminds Clark at the end of the episode, those times that are difficult--and the people we walk with--help make us who we are. God weaves and works everything to good, to redemption and restoration and bringing life in and through this broken world. We won't always see that; often, we won't. But we know the Story, and we know how it ends. And, as we walk with Jesus, we get to know God. And he is good. He is Love.
There's lots more God-talk in this episode: Lex gets another chance at redemption (oh, how I wish it would stick this time), lots of play on light and darkness (literal and figurative), and more than one character experiences resurrection (again, literal and figurative). Here's hoping the rest of the season plays like this episode!
If you want to read more about this blog's take on Smallville, see Mid-season 'Smallville' ruminations, More on the 'Smallville' roads we travel, and Smallville and the roads we travel.
(Image: CW) smallvillectgy