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*SPOILERS* Clark Kent's showdown with Zod Almighty on Smallville

What does the rest of Season 9 hold for Smallville going into a tenth year? Where are the writers taking us?
It's half way through the second (mini) hiatus of the Smallville season and it's probably an appropriate time to consider the direction of the final episodes in terms of what is definite, what is probable and what is possible. Before we do, though, let's recap the major story arcs in the first two acts of the season.

The first act was made up of the initial nine episodes, from "Saviour" to "Pandora." The first major story arc in this grouping was Clark's personal journey. As the season began, he was focusing on his training with Jor-El and embracing his Kryptonian heritage to the exclusion of his human upbringing. He didn't really see the need to balance the two, but with the return of Lois, started unintentionally cheating on what he had resolved to do. The alternate future showed the detriment to both his relationships and his destiny of purely following a Kryptonian path. His eventual meeting with the Kandorians left him with an opportunity to literally immerse himself in all things Kryptonian.

Lois' story arc in this act took her in two directions, yet they were also the same. In her interactions with 'The Blur', we saw a foreshadow of Lois as we know her in her relationship with Superman. The arc which unfortunately got the most attention on the internet was the blossoming relationship with Clark. A minor character arc also involved her visions of the alternate future she had witnessed, which may have led into her arc in season 2 with Checkmate.

Oliver's arc was a more full-fledged version of his descent of season 8, but was more believable this time. Here he was running from the demons of guilt over murdering Lex and over not being a team player. He was pulled out of his slump by Chloe and his new-found humility appeared to give him greater respect for Clark's heroism, jealous only of his relationship with Lois now, not his powers.

Chloe's arc mirrored Clark's in some senses. She also pulled away from humanity and shut herself up in the Watchtower. Chloe embraced increasingly devious tactics to achieve her goal of uniting the scattered heroes, occasionally crossing the line.

Tess, having released Zod and the Kandorians, engages in a battle of manipulation with Zod. Her agenda was decidedly ambiguous throughout this arc, leaving room for the Checkmate revelation of the second act. Zod's arc was initially to keep the respect of his people through regaining their powers, and then to find 'The Blur.' The alternate future gave a glimpse of the Kandorian threat through direct attack and the final scene of "Pandora" set the stage for a new direction in the second act.

The second act could be considered the incubation period for the season. Seemingly ambiguous actions by Tess and random threads from the first began to make sense. Although in some ways this act might seem to have raised more questions than it answered, it brought together the story arcs in a way the previous season didn't achieve until perhaps too late. For instance, the only episode to feature all the cast in season eight was the finale.

Oliver's rehabilitation was tested and proven in the opening episode. The Metropolis members of the future 'League' began to address and move on from their teamwork deficiencies. Perhaps the most telling part of this development can be seen in the way that Oliver shuns the idea of keeping Clark perpetually in the dark about Chloe's anti-Kryptonian stash. When she asks they should tell Clark, he answers, "Absolutely. When the time is right." This is incredible maturity compared to previous seasons. Clark's attitude has begun to be more balanced by this stage, though there are still questions about his wisdom in integrating the Kryptonians into humanity.

Chloe is beginning to open herself up to humanity, and love, again, softening somewhat. Remaining, though, is her distrust for Clark, in spite of the fact she has taken it upon herself to bring a team together of which he will eventually be leader. Lois found herself entangled in an organisation we are yet to learn more of - Checkmate - which we also learned Tess was a member of.

In terms of the main storyline, Clark discovered that his actions had already altered the future. Clark and Zod now danced around each other face-to-face, while secretly vying for the hearts and minds of the Kandorians. Having stopped the future of the first act, the second act closed with Zod having received his powers through a saving act by Clark.

Perhaps the pivotal episode in this act was "Absolute Justice" - a fact few would deny. Not for the numerous ties to the DC universe do I say this, but for the way in which it gathered the threads together and sent the season on its way to the climax. This is incredible, considering Zod's absence from the episode. There can be no doubt that Checkmate, which was so mysterious in this act, will feature prominently in the last episodes. This episode also raises the most questions. What is the deal with Tess as a member of Checkmate? How does Chloe share Dr. Fate's path? What of the Suicide Squad? Apokolips or Apocalypse? These will all be discussed and speculated on below.

We shall now consider all of the spoilers/hints/teasers regarding the remainder of the season, asking the appropriate questions where they deserve to be asked and speculating on the likely timing of general spoilers. I believe that the options I will put forth are much more consistent than a lot of the conjecture out on the internet. Most people look at a single question, such as, "Will Chloe die like Dr. Fate?" without its connection to the bigger picture. They fail to realise that Nelson couldn't see his own fate and didn't know he would die at that point!

The first episode back on April 2 is "Escape". The official description is up for all to see on sites like What we know is that this will be largely a light episode for Clark, Lois, Chloe and Oliver. They will be facing off against Silver Banshee, who looks like she walked straight out of an old Power Rangers episode. Banshee probably doesn't have ties to the Suicide Squad, from the descriptions we have. These cast members will probably have more comedic interaction, which is desperately needed given Clark's seriousness of late.

We are told that Tess faces off against Zod with surprising results. Prediction - They sleep together, as per the trailer. We will probably see a bit more of a tease of Tess' ties to Checkmate here, leading into the next episode...

"Checkmate." This is the one we should be waiting for. This will undoubtedly answer many of the questions raised in act 2 and will possibly be the second most important episode of this final act. We will see both Amanda Waller and Martian Manhunter, who Matt Mitovich says is "more enmeshed in the Checkmate mystery than any of us may have suspected." There are two options here, though they might both play a part. Either J'onzz has encountered Checkmate because he is a Martian, or through his detective work. Things are likely to heat up for him in this episode as we are also told that he comes off second best in an encounter with Waller. It is likely that there'll be more mention if not a glimpse of the Suicide Squad.

After this comes "Upgrade." I don't know about you, but I really hated red kryptonite after the first few occurrences. It seemed like a plot device to mess up Clark and Lana's relationship anytime it was getting stable. I sincerely hope it isn't used in a similar way here (substitute Lois for Lana). The thing I like about Lois and Clark on Smallville is that it is more mature and without the drama of the Lana years. I hope that the red kryptonite is just a part of Toyman's upgrade to Metallo which allows him more sanity (and the ability to be controlled). It's intriguing that Metallo appears in the Fortress at one point. I wonder if we'll be seeing Toyman?

A few more points here. At some point in these three episodes (probably the first or second), Zod will try to give the other Kandorian's their powers. Whether or not this works, remains to be seen. They appear in either the Fortress, or another similarly Kryptonian setting.

"Charade" features the introduction of Maxwell Lord, who is known for both his ties with Checkmate and the beginning of the Justice League International. There are two strong contenders for being the episode where the Justice Society returns, this episode, and the one where Clark and Zod have their showdown ("Checkmate" might have references, but doubtful that it will actually feature them). There may also be an appearance by some of the scattered Leaguers in this episode.

Lord is said to be in two episodes this season. The title for the next episode is "Sacrifice." I haven't heard anyone else pick this up. Lord was heavily involved in a story arc called "Sacrifice" in the comics a while back. Whether they are actually planning on using him in the same way in Smallville is doubtful, but it is a possibility raised by this title. To do that, though, they'd have to replace Batman and Wonder Woman, who were also key figures in that plot (Wonder Woman ended up killing Max).

If this isn't the direction they're going with this episode, then I'd figure that it involves a sacrifice from either Clark or Zod (to state the obvious). This episode might be quite important depending on how you read an ambiguous statement by Michael Ausiello. He speaks of Zod and Clark having a "spectacular" confrontation "before the end of the season." Now does he mean before the season finishes, or before the final episode? One possibility would have Zod being defeated in this or the penultimate episode, with the final episodes cleaning up the mess (other Kandorians) and setting up season 10. It's too soon to tell with the evidence we have, but we want to make sure we consider all the possibilities.

There must at least be Kryptonians around for the second last episode, "Hostage." Perry White and Lois team up here to investigate them. We also know that Martha reappears with some surprises. The hostage could be anyone at this point. My best guess at the moment would be Martha, or even possibly Chloe.

The last episode has a suprising title: "Salvation." It is surprising that after 9 years they still have excellent one word titles to choose from that haven't already been used. I believe that this episode will wrap up Clark's character arc of the last two years (His "Odyssey" Season 8 premiere). The season's premiere was called "Saviour" (I use proper English). Tess particularly has been obsessed with an idea of a Saviour - she's called Clark this a number of times, Zod a couple and even been called it herself! This might be a bad tiding for her also, if it wraps up her arc as well. I personally hope her to be around when Lex comes back. Anyway, Clark in season eight began being heroic in human terms. This season he's realised that he's also different from humans and explored his 'alien' side. This will probably crystalise in this final episode. I know a lot of people have speculated when he would fly (for instance "Turbulance" in season 8) as have I. I personally believe that the best time so far (story-wise) for Clark to unlock this ability would be this episode. It would fit perfectly with how the season began in his training with Jor-El.

Now, for a few questions that need to be asked, and some which can probably be answered. Will Chloe survive? I personally don't think so. They probably won't release contract details for anyone other than Clark, Oliver and Lois for now to add suspense to the final episode. Major contenders (pun intended) for deaths include Zod, Chloe and to a lesser extent, Tess. Zod probably won't make it, though he may just get banished to the Phantom Zone. Chloe... I'm sorry to say it to all those Chloe fans, but she's lucky she made it this far (actually, it's a credit to her fan-base). Last season saw a death (Jimmy's) scatter the pre-Justice League group. I can't think of a better way for Chloe to go than for her death to bring that group together. I mean, even this fling she's having with Oliver can't last, because we know that he and Dinah (Black Canary) end up together. I personally liked Chloe in the early years, and didn't grow to hate her like Lana (she continued WAY too long), but I have grown apathetic to her continuing appearance lately. One way to make it all mean something would be as I've described. One point though, I don't believe that we should take Dr. Fate's statement as evidence that Chloe will die. OR that she will become the next Fate. I think there is a third meaning.

Based on an interview by Geoff Johns and the subtitled version, I believe that it is Apokolips, homeworld of Darkseid, being referred to by Waller in "Absolute Justice." I believe we'll hear more about this, setting up for a villain in season 10. Darkseid would be difficult to do, but if they want to outdo Doomsday and Zod, they need someone of that calibre. I'm glad that they've taken the time to set this up this early. I wasn't satisfied with the portents of Zod so late in season eight, though I suppose they weren't sure of season nine until much later. The orb speaking to Tess seemed to come out of the blue and then all of a sudden there's naked Zod on the ground outside the mansion in a fiery symbol?!?

One final possibility which may have been set up in the second arc of the season is that the Kandorian army will be split. We could actually see the showdown involving a group led by Clark and another by Zod. There are some who are questioning of Zod. Whether he kills them without giving them their powers or not it'd be interesting if they all got their powers and then battled it out in the skies above the earth?

A few things to think about/hope for:

Will Luthercorp get rid of the Daily Planet to open up for Perry White's taking over as editor?
Will we see a return of any of the other Justice Leaguers? I hope so
Will we see a return of any of the Legion? Doubtful, but I feel that Rokk's last appearance is unresolved.
Will we see the Wonder Twins again?
Will we see Mia (Speedy) again? Probably...
What about the Injustice Gang?
Who will be set up for main characters for season ten? (We already have the shortest cast, and at least one won't be back.) Think Perry, Martha, Lex, Darkseid, Waller, Martian Manhunter, etc...

Well, that is all for this point. I may update this with additional evidence, and I'm very indebted to "The Big Tease" by Matt Mitovich, "Watch with Kristin," and "Ask Ausiello" for all spoilers. I will be following up in the near future with a look at what season 10 might hold.
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