The setup scene for "Covenant" resembles the first "Terminator" film - an unclothed person performs an amazing feat of destruction (beautiful young woman wandering in the night whacks an approaching car and flips it into a pile of flaming wreckage). Can hardly wait to see if she'll enter a bar, demand someone's outfit, and head out on a Harley. Close - the bar is instead the Kent home, what a nice trick or treat outfit. Clark gets to answer the knock - "Hello Clark. My name is Kara. I'm from Krypton." Sounds like a fun new playmate - anyone who knows that planet should be welcomed.
The Kent family has a nice chat with the newcomer - she claims to have entered our planet through a passage in the cave wall. Jonathan is challenging; she rebuffs him and uses the name Kal-El, saying she's come to take him home. Proceedings interrupted by the entrance of Lex, and Kara is gone in a flash. Clark clues us in to Lionel being jailed after his arrest last week, but Lex explains he may be out on bail soon unless witnesses attest to him doing harm. Clark volunteers to testify about Lionel's electroshock treatment of Lex at Belle Reve, against medical advice.
Lex realizes angrily that Clark has known about Lionel's murder of his parents - but Clark never told him - to protect him. Lex relents. And Lionel is led into confinement - with his FBI friend nearby, who is defensive of his deal with Lionel, but then there was that new murder evidence dug up by Chloe, whom he referrs to as a "bleached-blonde Pulitzer wannabe." Lionel calmly asks agent Loder about details on Clark - expecting to be out on bail soon. Loder tells him their deal is over. At the Kents, Lex leaves in his M-B CL 550, and of course Kara reappears, clad this time, and telling Clark he was not meant for this world, but for hers. He refers to himself as Clark, expressing his independence of any alien's expectations. Not so easy to brush her off when she grasps his arm and they float slowly into the night sky. Since this is all too easy and convenient, one could expect Kara to be some sort of shape-shifter like Brainiac/Fine, so the writers have telegraphed something sinister simply by the absence of same. Clark is portrayed as too trusting yet again.
She takes him to the cave - a fissure has indeed appeared in the wall. And Clark begins to suspect Jor-El is behind this event, and the dilemma is whether to follow Kara into the portal, or stay put. He declines the offer.
Lionel remains in federal prison, when Lex arrives and jabs him with "Orange is a good color for you, Dad." Lionel admits failing Lex, but as underhanded as these two have always been, we can only suspect he's trying to control the situation again. He does reveal his fatal liver disease - and begs Lex to keep him from dying in prison. Lex sarcastically rejects the appeal.
The plot is beginning to break down a bit - are the Kents going to keep Kara as a house guest indefinitely? If she has superpowers, they may as well put her to work mucking the stalls or tossing hay bales. Kara reveals Jonathan's failure to keep the "Covenant" with Jor-El, which required him to return Clark to Jor-El if Jonathan was given the power to return Clark from Metropolis, all in the season 3 premiere, "Exile."
Kara detects someone listening in - it's agent Loder out on the highway - Kara intercepts him and fries the whole car and Loder into digital vapor. Clark is upset at this murder, Martha is angry at Jonathan for his secret deal, and Kara just has no emotions at all. Now the Kents may lose Clark, so the script builds up some tension by this point, and no one has to overact at all, directing is just right.
Jonathan makes an unusual visit to Chloe at the Torch - asking her to get fingerprints off Kara's teacup. Does he really think she's an earthling? A zombie inhabited by a Zoner? Meanwhile, Lana drives out to see Clark. She's still Paris-bound, hoping yet again that Clark will tell her what she missed at their aborted dinner engagement. Ms. Kreuk has an entirely new hairstyle, and manages to make even this slightly disheveled look appear attractive. Clark starts to speak...but no, they're interrupted by the sight of Kara in the distance, Clark identifying her as his cousin.
As Lana leaves, Kara begins to speak of the strong love that will come between her and Clark, as the only ones who can preserve the Kryptonian race. Now we begin to see the true motives of Kara, but really, Clark is not so easily seduced. Power, destiny, another's vision of how his life should be - these have all been rejected by Clark in many episodes - no different here. But he does have to fear her power and potential threats to family and friends - he puts their safety above all else. After this encounter, Clark receives a package from Lionel, containing only a door key.
Lex has learned that Lionel's disease is as claimed, and confers with Chloe about continuing the case against him with her evidence. Lex does not relent - Lionel will die in prison - but this puts Chloe in a dilemma - she's not as hard-hearted as Lex, and she's going into protective custody until the trial. But she won't back down either. When one can't see the plot developments coming, it's evidence of a well-thought out story line, and excellent script writing, and this scene is more testimony to the skill of the Smallville production staff.
Clark storms in on Lionel about the key - another surprise, as I expected Clark to use it somehow in Lionel's office - secret files, Swann stuff, kryptonian artifacts, something. Of course the plot ignores the potential conflict of a potential witness visiting the accused in prison. Lionel knows Clark will be a witness at his trial, buying into the version of events proposed by Lex. A sharp reply by Clark works well; "Buy into this - you're a murderer." He denies that, and says the key opens a door at the mansion. But Lionel offers answers Clark won't believe, behind the door.
Clark enters the room - it's a secret cache of information about him, collected by Lex in his relentless pursuit of the mystery that is Clark. Even a pile of meteor rock, and he's careless again, as Lex finds him there. Lex claims it's all about him, not Clark - "More lies," Clark responds, reiterating his years of defending Lex to everyone. He storms out, later agonizing over his life with Martha, until realizing - Lana is leaving that day.
With a tear-jerking background score, Lana is at the airport - but it's Lex who shows up for goodbyes. Their embrace is seen by Clark, too late again. She sees him there, but he's gone, leaving only the white rose he brought for her. This could be the sad ending of the episode, but there's more.
At the courthouse, Chloe and Lex are alarmed that Clark has not shown up, but he arrives in time to testify, so Lionel does not get bail. Clark announces to Lex, "This friendship is over." This brings to mind many losses of relationship at this season-ender - even those that are troublesome are hard to release. Is all this enough to get Clark to jump the portal? Kara entices Clark with the promise of meeting his mother - Lara. "I'm ready," he says. Jonathan receives from Chloe the fingerprint i.d. on Kara. Hand-in-hand, Clark and Kara prepare to enter the brilliant light of the cave portal - just as Jonathan arrives, shouting that Kara is a human, a meteor-rock victim, being used by Jor-El to capture Clark. Jor-El's voice calls out - and "Kara" disappears into the light, her purpose served, as Clark shouts his defiance of Jor-El. Jonathan is enveloped in a rope of light, telling Clark to stay and be free, but Clark cannot let this happen to his father, and he is drawn into Jor-El's light.
Packing even more into this episode, the finale is a stunning series of scenes set to a chorale without script - Lionel having his head shaved, Chloe arriving at a safe house in protective custody only to have the building explode in flames, Martha witnessing a burning kryptonian symbol in the pasture, Lex collapsing in agony after a drink, Jonathan prone on the cave floor, and...
Clark, being transported away in an El family shield, into the clouds, as Jor-El intones, "Kal-El, my son, now you shall be re-born."
What a finish. What a script. What a story-line. Smallville at it's finest, one of the essential episodes. Perfect season ender. Could not be better. Terrific. Let's hope that Season 4's premiere does not resolve these stirring events too quickly - they merit several episodes to play out, just to let us enjoy this tremendous dramatic build-up. Re-run rating A.