When someone expresses concern about whether Clark’s plan will work to separate Davis Bloom from his Doomsday alter ego (over which Davis has no control and as whom he has killed many people) instead of kill or exile him as both to the Phantom Zone, Clark explains his reasons for taking such a risk:
Clark: Sometimes justice, it’s not about making the easy decision. Sometimes it’s about finding that last bit of good in someone and saving them from themselves.
In the most recent Smallville episode “Injustice,” the inevitable show down between Clark Kent and Doomsday—a Krypton creation that exists inside Davis Bloom and sent to destroy our favorite Kryptonian son—moves one step closer. It seems an impossible situation for Clark, who wants to save Davis and yet can't allow Doomsday to kill more people. When he comes up with a plan to separate the two personalities (saving Davis and exiling Doomsday to the Phantom zone) he gets opposition from all sides. And Clark’s reasoning above stands in stark contrast to the reasoning of others—both hero and villain—in this episode.
Oliver Queen (a.k.a. Green Arrow) is constantly telling Clark that his only option is to kill Davis Bloom in order to save the rest of the world. At one point in “Injustice,” Oliver tells Clark that heroes sometimes have to get their “hands dirty” to accomplish good. In other words, Oliver is advocating the old adage that the ends justify the means. But, as Smallville has a knack for revealing, utilizing wrong means even for a just cause has consequences—not the least of which is taking you down a path that begins to change who you are. And it’s growing increasingly obvious that Oliver motives are in part attempts to justify, rationalize and come to terms with his own actions. Earlier in the season, he set out to kill Lex Luthor and believes he succeeded (though we all know through Superman lore that Lex must live to fight another day). And that act set Oliver down a path that is beginning to change him—something Clark confronts him with at the end of this episode.
Interestingly, just how dark this path can be becomes evident when Clark gets the same advice (that he must kill Bloom) from Tess Mercer, who is so much further down that path than Oliver that she’s in full-blown villain territory. She goes even further than Oliver and tells Clark, “The mark of a true hero is someone who is willing to sacrifice his own personal morality to help keep the world safe.” While Oliver would still probably blanch at such a comment, he’s not too far from that himself. And it’s not only beginning to affect his sense of right and wrong but also the way he looks at and his compassion for others.
Also just as interesting, I think the contrast between Clark’s concept of justice at the beginning of this post and Tess' statement (and Oliver’s philosophy) helps us get at one of the differences between Clark Kent/Superman and other comic book heroes—from the morality-wrestling Bruce Wayne/Batman to the darker heroes of Watchmen. Awhile back, there was talk of making a darker Superman film more in line with The Dark Knight. Back then, I noted that Clark Kent/Superman has an optimistic view of human nature and the faith that good should, can and will overcome evil. In the Smallville exploration of Superman, Chloe notes in “Varitas” that Clark has an “inherent need to find good in people” and a willingness to forgive. And as Lana notes in “Legion,” Clark has a tendency to seek a way to save the individual as well as the world. Clark always wrestles with finding a way to do the right thing and what is best for the other—even someone who might be his enemy. Of course, that doesn’t mean Clark’s confrontations with injustice, corruption, despair, and the consequences of his actions and those of others won’t bring on dark and painful moments. But Clark is now walking his path with intention and purpose. More and more often, that path doesn’t make sense to those around him (friend or foe), but it is ultimately the path that brings deliverance, hope, and justice to the world.
And I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t an invitation in all this to examine our own beliefs and actions. Which path are we walking? How do we define justice? While many of us can immediately see the flaw in Tess Mercer’s comment, are we—like Oliver Queen—so close to embracing the idea that it is necessary to sacrifice what is right and good for a greater purpose that we are blinded to other options? And if so, why? Is it in the name of a cause or principle? Is it to justify or rationalize our own agendas or desires for power, control, security or purpose? Is Clark naive to believe that there is a greater good and right for which we must sacrifice and always walk toward? Or is he on to something? And how does how we view justice affect the way we see and respond to the people around us?
Perhaps how we wrestle with and the way we answer these questions has to do with what we believe about who God is and what he can do. Because if we believe he is who says and can and will do what he says, that will affect how we look at concepts like justice in the world and for the people around us—even our enemies.
The season finale of Smallville is next week, and this theme will most likely continue to play out and develop. And that, I’m thinking, will probably bring more God-talk into these open spaces.
(Images: CW) smallvillectgy