It's fitting that when a visitor arrives to the Burnaby, British Columbia, set of Smallville, he's quickly escorted to the Phantom Zone. The extra-dimensional prison created for planet Krypton's worst criminals is known for being nearly impossible to escape — a perfect metaphor for the show's desire to prevent leaks about the plot of the upcoming series finale. After 10 years on the air, there is, to put it mildly, intense anticipation for Clark Kent's final journey toward becoming Superman, set for May 13. (The last batch of new episodes begins Friday, April 15.) The big question, of course, is "Will he or won't he?" Will he put on the iconic costume of the comic-book legend? Will he finally learn how to fly? Will he be called Superman?
Tom Welling knows the answers, but after a decade playing pop culture's most famous secret identity, he's learned a thing or two about keeping his mouth shut. "This show, to me, has always been about Clark Kent — it hasn't been about Superman," he says, while taking a break from filming a Phantom Zone sequence for the April 29 episode. "And it was very important at the end that we make sure that we wrap up the Clark Kent story."
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That's not to say we might not get a red-, blue- and yellow-hued surprise. "I will just say to keep watching through the whole two hours," executive producer Kelly Souders says of the finale. "There is a very, very special moment that we love, and everyone who is looking for that moment won't be disappointed."
Though Smallville has been Clark's story before he becomes the Man of Steel, a superending was part of the original plan. "The last scene of the last episode was always going to be Clark putting on the suit and flying off into his destiny," says Al Gough, who created the show with Miles Millar way back in 2001. "And my guess is that, when we all see the finale, it will be some version of that." Since Gough and Millar departed the show at the end of Season 7 they have remained friendly with Souders and her fellow exec producer Brian Peterson. "The wonderful thing about the show is that the people who work on it are just as passionate about it today as they were 10 years ago," says Gough, now working with Millar on another franchise reboot, ABC's Charlie's Angels pilot. "Kelly and Brian found a gear for the show and made it work. I know it wasn't easy. I'm certainly grateful to them that they were able to do that."Click here for an exclusive sneak peek at TV Guide magazine's Smallville cover
Before we can contemplate the end of the show's notorious "no flights, no tights" edict (set by Gough and Millar before the show premiered), Clark has a very busy schedule to keep, including making an honest woman out of fiancée Lois Lane (Erica Durance). "The timing between the two of them has never been easy," Souders says. "And there are definitely some ups and downs to be had before the end."
If they do get married, it would be a satisfying culmination to their often rocky but always entertaining relationship, which was long hindered by the presence of Clark's first love, Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk), and Lois' own commitment issues. "When we were first introduced to her, she was alone and had a lot of insecurities and rough edges," says Durance. "Then as she found out what she was meant to do [by becoming a journalist] and who she was, she started to calm down and become more grounded. She meets up with this crazy, wonderful Clark Kent, and I think he helped make her who she is as well."
Another burning question for fans is how things will wrap up for Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack), Clark's longtime friend, superhero computer whiz and one of the few characters who didn't originally spring from the DC Comics mythology. A series regular for nine years, Mack signed on for just five episodes this season. Though she completed that obligation this winter, she decided to come back for the finale. "It was important for me to pay homage to the character, the people I've worked with and the fans," she says. "I had a realization, while I was doing the middle five episodes, that this has been such a huge part of my life, and I am so blessed and so lucky to have had this opportunity. I wanted to make sure that I was respectful of that."
Mack won't say much about Chloe's fate other than "she ends in a very healthy and levelheaded way. I think that the writers have respected my character for such a long time, and she goes out with the same affection she came in with." (Other former cast members who show up in the coming weeks include John Schneider and Annette O'Toole as Clark's adoptive parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent, and Laura Vandervoort as his Kryptonian cousin Kara.)
For more on the final Smallville episodes (including Darkseid, Zod and Lex Luthor), pick up this week's issue of TV Guide Magazine, on newsstands Thursday, April 7!