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The Entire Smallville Timeline Explained

Before the rise of multiple shared universes and even the MCU, there was "Smallville." A story about a young Clark Kent as he discovers his alien origins, his super-abilities, and steps into his destiny as Superman, "Smallville" was the trailblazer that even predated The CW's Arrowverse in successful modern superhero television. Though the show went through various phases, cast members, and even creative teams, the heart of the story was always Tom Welling's earnest portrayal of a teenage-turned-adult Clark Kent, a boy who wrestled with his destiny only to eventually embrace it.

Set in the fictional Kansas town of the same name, "Smallville" is a coming-of-age tale about what it means to be a beacon of hope, and the trials you must endure to get there. Known best for its "meteor freak-of-the-week" episodes, the initial high school setting, and Michael Rosenbaum's iconic interpretation of a tortured Lex Luthor, "Smallville" ran for 217 episodes and 10 seasons, first on the WB and later The CW before it concluded in 2011.

Possibly no superhero or comic book series has been more inspirational to modern stories than "Smallville," which is part of what makes the series stand out in a long line of comic book-related media. Regardless of how you felt about the show during its run — or about how "Crisis on Infinite Earths" treated Clark Kent — "Smallville" is a powerful series that knows how to tell a compelling Superman story for a modern audience.

A strange visitor from the planet Krypton

The story of "Smallville" begins long before the events of the series on the alien planet of Krypton. There, a young child named Kal-El is born to the scientist Jor-El (Julian Sands) and his wife Lara (Helen Slater). Unfortunately for the Els, their newfound happiness is short-lived as their planet proves unstable. Recognizing their world's doomed fate, Jor-El builds a small spacecraft to be piloted by artificial intelligence — an A.I. based on his own brain patterns played by "Superman II" actor Terence Stamp — and, before the planet explodes, Jor-El sends Kal-El to a planet he once visited in his youth, Earth.

Unbeknownst to the child Kal-El, his arrival on Earth brings loads of debris from his homeworld — radioactive meteor rocks known as kryptonite — that can kill a Kryptonian and mutate human beings into metahumans called "meteor freaks." When Kal-El's ship crash-lands in Smallville, Kansas, he's found by two kindly farmers Jonathan (John Schneider) and Martha Kent ("Superman III" star Annette O'Toole). The Kents raise Kal-El, renamed Clark Kent, as their own, despite the fact that he developed superhuman abilities under Earth's yellow sun.

For over a decade, Clark grows up believing himself to be human, until Jonathan and Martha finally reveal his extra-terrestrial origins, showing him the rocket he arrived in. The Kents swear that Clark is still their son and continue to treat him as such no matter how many new abilities he develops.

From boy to man

Over the years, Clark develops more and more unique powers under the yellow sun as he enters Smallville High in a post-9/11 world. Though Clark hoped he'd be able to live like an ordinary high schooler, the next four years would be anything but. Alongside his friends — Pete Ross (Sam Jones III), Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack), Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk), and later, Chloe's cousin Lois Lane (Erica Durance) — Clark struggles to navigate these years while balancing classes, his job at the school's newspaper, football, dating, and his responsibility as the town's local superhero. 

Meanwhile, more and more meteor freaks pop up over Smallville due to over a decade's worth of exposure to the radioactive alien mineral — and that's not to mention those created by the second meteor shower at the end of their senior year. Each with their own specialized super-ability tied to their psychological traumas, a meteor freak's exposure to kryptonite can also result in a psychotic break, hence Clark's earnest desire to help and or stop them from hurting others.

During their time in high school, Clark stops plenty of meteor freaks, many of which end up in Belle Reve — a mental institution and metahuman prison located outside of Smallville. Tragic as many of their stories are, Clark's time battling meteor freaks help to prepare him for his destiny as Superman, giving him much-needed perspective and compassion while reminding him of the responsibility he has because of his own superpowers.

The truth about Clark Kent

Although Clark's parents knew his secret — and his best friends Pete and Chloe would be welcomed into the fold during their time at Smallville High — the farm boy didn't know everything about his own origins. To guide him, the A.I. Jor-El within his ship is activated when Clark is in need. This digital Jor-El saves Clark's life, but usually leaves him with more questions than answers. Though, it wouldn't be long before Clark learns a bit more about his homeworld. 

After receiving a mysterious note from a reclusive scientist named Dr. Virgil Swann — played by "Superman: The Movie" legend Christopher Reeve – Clark learns that he comes from Krypton, which had been destroyed years prior. Swann also relays a message from Jor-El that implies that Clark is to rule the Earth "with strength." This worries Clark about his destiny and as a result, he becomes distrustful of Jor-El and often ignores his guidance.

Simultaneously, Clark discovers a cave system beneath Smallville attributed to the Kawatche people who first inhabited the area. Because of his discovery, he learns the story of Naman — a being from the stars who fell to Earth in a meteor shower and uses his superpowers to fight evil. Needless to say, Clark identifies with the legend. What's more, is that Naman has a "brother" named Sageeth — who was first Naman's friend only to betray him and become his sworn enemy. If that sounds awfully familiar, keep reading...

A doomed friendship

During his high school years, Clark is involved in a car accident after he's hit by Lex Luthor, the 20-something son of the billionaire industrialist Lionel Luthor (John Glover) and heir to the LuthorCorp empire. In the crash, Lex's car falls off a bridge into the river and Clark dives in to save him. The two become fast friends, with Lex seeing Clark as the younger brother he never had and the Kents as the family he always wanted. But, because Lex is a Luthor, Jonathan Kent doesn't exactly trust Clark's new best friend. And for good reason.

Clark and Lex's friendship grows into "the stuff of legend" over the next few years until Clark discovers one of Lex's many dark secrets: he has been investigating his family. Believing that Clark is more than human, Lex becomes obsessed with discovering the secrets of Clark Kent. Naturally, this drives a wedge between them — like the legend of Naman and Sageeth — and fractures their friendship. Although they try to put the pieces back together again once or twice, secrets and lies always come between them.

Because of this, Clark and Lex become enemies. They fight over friendships, ethics, and even love. Though each of them tries for years — and in their own strange ways — to mend their friendship, there isn't much hope left. Be it fate or destiny, the friendship between Clark and Lex fails and only grows into bitter resentment with time.

An ill-fated romance

Just as Clark's friendship was Lex was doomed from the start, so was his love affair with the girl next door, Lana Lang. While we all know that Superman ends up with Lois Lane, Clark didn't know that yet. Instead, Clark pined after Lana for years, and though different boyfriends like Whitney Fordman (Eric Johnson) or Jason Teague (Jensen Ackles) get in the way, after high school, things become more heated.

In the 100th episode – considered one of the best "Smallville" episodes – Clark proposes to Lana after revealing his secret. She accepts, of course, excited for their future together — but the bliss doesn't last. Tragically, Lana dies in a car crash that night while fleeing from a drunken Lex. At least, that's how it happened originally. As a test, the A.I. Jor-El sends Clark back through time to fix his mistake, but instead of opening himself up to Lana, Clark refuses to share his secret with her. Naturally, their relationship soon dies.

Although Lana briefly marries Lex, she sees the Luthor heir as the manipulator he is while also discovering Clark's secret on her own. Divorcing Lex, Lana and Clark reconnect for a time. That is until she steals a super-suit meant for Lex. This suit gives her superpowers, but also the unfortunate ability to absorb kryptonite as it is meant to kill Clark. Unable to be near one another, Clark and Lana are forced to call it quits for good.

Trials and tribulations

After the second meteor shower, Clark gives up college to help his father out on the farm after Johnathan begins his campaign for State Senator opposite Lex Luthor. Clark also uses a Kryptonian artifact to build his Fortress of Solitude in the arctic. From there, the A.I. Jor-El guides Clark into adulthood and warns of another T-1000-inspired A.I. named Brainiac (James Marsters). Brainiac nearly manipulates Clark into becoming the vessel for a Kryptonian warlord named General Zod (played later by Callum Blue), but Clark's character triumphs.

The next few years are pretty tough on Clark. After saving Lana from death via-time travel, his father Jonathan dies instead, effectively "balancing the scales." The following year, Martha takes over Jonathan's Senate seat and moves to Washington D.C., leaving Clark alone in Smallville. Losing his earthly father is a defining moment for Clark, one that allows darkness to silently creep into his heart unnoticed. This becomes important again later when Clark is forced to confront this darkness before becoming Superman.

Despite his personal tragedy, Clark spends years battling villains like General Zod and other prisoners — called "Zoners" — from the otherworldly Phantom Zone, which he accidentally freed, including a Clark-lookalike dubbed Bizarro. But not everything is bad! Miraculously, Clark discovers that his cousin, Kara Zor-El (Laura Vandervoort), also survived Krypton's destruction, though she'd been frozen for two decades. As Clark helps Kara adjust to life on Earth, he faces increasingly powerful threats. Though the worst is yet to come...

The Luthor dynasty

As Clark battles tragedy, Lex Luthor hardens himself to the world around him, namely after a near-death experience on Christmas Eve. It's at this moment that he turned into a villain, though he deceives himself into believing he is the hero of his own story. After forcefully taking LuthorCorp from his father, Lex begins projects to reverse-engineer alien tech, create mind-controlled super-soldiers, and continue the company's illegal cloning programs.

But while Lex descends further into darkness, Lionel Luthor sees the light. After being possessed by the A.I. Jor-El, Lionel gains Kryptonian knowledge that allows him to aid Clark in his fight against Brainiac, Zod, and eventually Lex. As Lionel reforms into a new man, Lex grows more resentful of his father, especially after discovering that Lionel knows the truth about who — or rather what — Clark really is. Enraged, Lex commits patricide without remorse.

After Lionel's death, Lex discovers Clark's secret himself and confronts his former friend in his northern arctic Fortress — which Lex then causes to self-destruct. After this, Lex goes missing, only to be found and killed months later by his former rival Oliver Queen aka the Green Arrow (Justin Hartley). In Lex's place, Tess Mercer (Cassidy Freeman) arrives to take over LuthorCorp and over time learns that she is Lex's half-sister. Hoping to escape the "Luthor curse," Tess works to become a friend and ally to Clark, going so far as to help him protect his secret from the world.

Becoming Metropolis' defender

For years, Clark had befriended and teamed up with different superpowered heroes to stop the evils of LuthorCorp. From Bart Allen aka Impulse (Kyle Gallner) and Arthur "A.C." Curry, aka Aquaman (Alan Ritchson), to Victor Stone, aka Cyborg (Lee Thompson Young), and Oliver Queen, aka the Green Arrow himself, Clark inspires an entire generation of heroes to stop Lex's devious schemes. Oliver and Chloe, who go by the codename Watchtower, unite these heroes — which the show was afraid to call the Justice League — and offer Clark a spot on the team, though he initially declines.

Years later, Clark moves to Metropolis, joins Lois at the Daily Planet, and begins saving folks as "the Red-Blue Blur" on account of his outfit. Though Jimmy Olsen (Aaron Ashmore) can't quite capture Clark's face, his photograph of "the Blur" saving Lois forces Clark to better hide his identity. While in Metropolis, Clark tackles the return of Brainiac — who possesses Chloe on her and Jimmy's wedding day — and the arrival of the Kryptonian monster called Doomsday.

After Davis Bloome (Sam Witwer) — the human side of Doomsday — kills Jimmy, and Lois goes missing, Clark walks away from his human life. Committing himself completely to defending Metropolis as "the Blur," Clark trades in his hopeful and patriotic red and blue color scheme for a "Matrix"-inspired black trenchcoat. Yet, after Lois returns, Clark follows suit with his life at the Planet — though a darkness still remains within him.

Lois & Clark

Things didn't work out between Clark and Lana, but the same can't be said for Clark and Lois. Though they first meet when Clark was in high school, it isn't until adulthood that these two see each other in a romantic light. Lois Lane had been around Smallville for a while and even stayed with the Kents for a time, becoming part of the family long before she and Clark were an item. They can't stand each other at first, but Lois and Clark become close friends through the years.

Though Clark had been focused on Lana for most of his life, her absence allowed him to see Lois for the bright and lovable woman she is. Likewise, though Lois had dated other heroes before — including Oliver Queen — Lois can't ignore the spark between them. While working together at the Daily Planet, they start to share more than just a byline. No doubt, Lois Lane and Clark Kent just make sense together, making us wonder why it took so long after Lois' introduction for "Smallville" to figure that out.

After years of dancing around it, Lois and Clark make things official in Season 10 when Clark reveals his secret to Lois — who already knows, of course — and proposes months later. Though the series finale features a failed wedding, the ending — and the 200th episode's flash-forward — reminds us that Clark and Lois are meant to be. Superman needs his Lois Lane after all!

The darkness rises

As Clark doubles his efforts in protecting Metropolis, new kinds of super criminals come out of the woodwork. Between metahumans, mad inventors, and the secret government agency Checkmate, Clark, Oliver, Chloe, and their friends tackle plenty of supervillains before Clark puts on the red cape. They even encounter past heroes like the Justice Society of America and members of the futuristic Legion of Superheroes, who have been inspired by Clark's future heroics as Superman. But as Clark defends his new city, a younger clone of General Zod arrives with an army of cloned Kryptonians called Kandorians, hoping to rule Earth as a New Krypton.

Though Clark hoped that this younger, less experienced Zod would be less like the war-torn Kryptonian general he battled years earlier, his hope is quickly shattered. As it turns out, Zod couldn't care less about human beings as Clark does. He even kills members of his own army when they fail or betray him, including the mother of his unborn child and a clone of Clark's biological father Jor-El. Using a Kryptonian artifact called the Book of Rao, Clark is able to send the Kandorians to a "New Krypton," only to nearly die in combat with Zod.

But Clark's story doesn't end here, as Lois — who has discovered Clark's secret — saves him from near death. But, unbeknownst to Clark, an evil tyrant called Darkseid creeps in through the interstellar portal he sent the Kandorians through, and a darkness infects the world.

Stepping back into the light

As Darkseid gathers his forces, Clark unveils a new red and blue uniform, another step closer to the Superman uniform that his mother made him, though the A.I. Jor-El in his rebuilt Fortress claims he isn't ready for it. Admittedly, Clark's personal darkness keeps him from his destiny. In fact, this darkness allows Darkseid to nearly consume Clark, and it takes his cousin Kara's interference to save his life. But, after revisiting his past with a reprogrammed Brainiac 5 — namely his father's death from years ago — Clark overcomes his anger and pain.

Meanwhile, Darkseid launches a campaign against superheroes, turning the public against them. This results in attacks in broad daylight, namely against Green Arrow — who had revealed his identity as Oliver Queen to the world. But, with the help of Lois, Chloe, and those who still believe in heroes, Clark becomes a beacon of light for Metropolis that helps turn the city around and restores public faith in "the Blur." But things are never that easy... 

In a freak accident involving Kryptonian tech, Clark accidentally discovers another world — dubbed Earth-2 — inhabited by a villain named Ultraman, a version of himself who had been raised by an even more villainous Lionel Luthor. Though Clark eventually gets through to Ultraman, helping him towards a noble path, the Earth-2 Lionel escapes to our world with some schemes of his own — including a pact with Darkseid to resurrect Lex Luthor.

From man to Superman

As Lois and Clark are about to get married, Darkseid disrupts their nuptials. Well, a possessed Oliver actually, one infected by the darkness. Now confident in his ability to bring hope and change, Clark restores Oliver just in time to recognize Darkseid's final plan. As it turns out, Darkseid brought his homeworld of Apokolips to Earth, preparing to invade. Encouraged by his friends, his true love, his parents — including the ghost of his father — and even a newly resurrected Lex Luthor, Clark recognizes that it's time to publicly reveal himself and step into a role that "the Blur" could never fulfill.

After battling a Darkseid-possessed Earth-2 Lionel, Clark arrives at the Fortress, ready to take up the red cape and blue tights as Superman. Here, the A.I. Jor-El confirms that Clark's time and trials in Smallville were meant to prepare him for his destiny, which he can now fully embrace. As the ghost of Jonathan Kent hands him his super-suit, Clark becomes Superman, and after years of "no tights, no flights," he takes to the skies to save the day.

It's worth noting that while Clark reflects on his past, Lex forgets his own after Tess poisons the newly reborn Luthor in order to wipe his memories of Clark's secret. As Lex kills Tess, his memories of Smallville are completely erased. Now, the very first thing Lex sees is Superman flying by his window and saving the world from Apokolips. And so, destiny begins...

Into the future

Though the final season takes place in 2011, the final few minutes of the series flash forward to 2018 where we see an established Clark and Lois at the Daily Planet working under Perry White (Michael McKean) and alongside Jimmy Olsen's younger brother – who conveniently looks exactly like Jimmy. We also see that Chloe, now married to Oliver, has a young son with the Emerald Archer, to whom she reads the story of Superman. Beyond that, Lex Luthor becomes the President-Elect of the United States, fulfilling his own dark destiny that's been hinted at and prophesied since the very beginning of "Smallville."

In the show's final moments, Clark responds to a situation uptown by heading to the Daily Planet roof, performing the iconic Superman shirt-rip, and flying off to save the day. Though we don't get to see much of Clark in his Superman uniform in the series — outside of some outdated CGI — "Smallville" was never about Clark being Superman, only his journey towards becoming the Man of Steel. As Lex Luthor said early on in the series, "it's not about the ending, it's about the journey," and that rings true with "Smallville."

While the series concluded there, the "Smallville" story continued. Be it the "Smallville Season 11" comic book series or the brief Lois & Clark cameos in the Arrowverse's "Crisis on Infinite Earths," it's clear that, as Jonathan Kent said to Clark in the series finale, we must "always hold onto Smallville."