Smallville: The Best Episodes

It’s Smallville Week here at iFanboy! We are celebrating the end of one of the most important comic book-inspired shows in the history of television by counting down some of our favorite aspects of Smallville. So check back every day for a new list! And then come back on Friday night to join us in a special live chat during the east coast airing of the two hour series finale!

5. "Justice" (Season 6)

It began in season four of Smallville when Bart Allen AKA Impulse showed up. Then in season five came A.C. AKA Aquaman and Victor AKA Cyborg. By season six, when Oliver Queen AKA Green Arrow not only appeared, but became a recurring cast member, you know it was only a matter of time before they all got together. Depending on how Green Lantern does this summer, we may never get a proper, big budget, live action version of the Justice League of America. But even if we do one day get that film, this episode will stand as the first time we've seen a Justice League team (even if they're not called that in the show, that's what they are) on screen in a serious way. Sure, the limitations of a weekly TV series budget kept this historic team up from reaching summer movie levels, but nothing could match the thrill of seeing so many of my favorite heroes on screen together.

4. "Pilot" (Season 1)

The one that started it all and made it clear that we were in for something truly different. I remember going to San Diego Comic-Con the summer before Smallville began and seeing the world premiere of the extended trailer at the Trailer Park panel. It stunned the room–no one was quite expecting to see such high production values and such apparently thoughtful reimaginings of these very familiar characters. I remember that for the rest of the week every time they'd show the trailer at the DC booth a crowd would gather. It's funny to go back now and look at early episodes because, ten years later, it's pretty much a completely different show. But despite the fact that the characters are all grown up now and running around Metropolis instead of the titular town, the foundation for ten years of a growing and evolving show, and its characters, is right there in that first episode.

3. "Absolute Justice" (Season 9)

Epic. That pretty much describes the "two hour Smallville movie event" that was the Geoff Johns-penned tribute to the Justice Society of America. Take everything that as great about "Justice" and inject it with a considerable dose of steroids and you get "Absolute Justice." At a certain point in the series, it seems like the producers said, "screw it, we've got our core audience, we're not going to get canceled, let's start playing in the DCU." If the first half of the series can be marked by the Freak of the Week, then the second half was all about the "DCU Guest Star of the Week." And you didn't get more DCU guest stars than you did in this two hour episode. Besides Green Arrow (now a regular cast member), there was J'onn J'onzz (a semi-recurring character), Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Stargirl, and appearances by Green Lantern, The Flash, Sandman, Wildcat, The Atom, The Star-Spangled Kid, Ma Hunkle, Amanda Waller, and The Suicide Squad. And this is a relatively big time prime time television show playing these characters completely straight. Think about that for a second. Johns did for Smallville what he does best in his comic work: he brought a strong sense of history to the show along, with a more than healthy respect for those who have come before, while tying everything together very nicely in the present. After "Absolute Justice", the world of Smallville felt much broader and deeper than it had before. And much more exciting.

2. "Rosetta" (Season 2)

One of the things that Smallvlle did really well was to find ways to pay tribute to past incarnations of Superman. Just about every available actor who had a major role in a previous Superman film or television show managed to make a guest appearance at some point in the past 10 years. The most important and dramatic and emotional of all those tributes? This one. In season two, Clark started digging into his other worldly past and came into contact with Dr. Virgil Swann, played by real life Superman, Christopher Reeve. As a child of the 80s who adored Superman, I took Reeve's accident very hard, so when he first appeared on screen and, for the first time on the show, the John Williams score swelled, I just about lost it. I get emotional just thinking about it again.

1. "Reckoning" (Season 5)

The 100th episode of Smallville had a lot going for it. Not only was it quite the milestone for the series to reach, but there were the rampant rumors that the once fan-favorite, but now fan public enemy #1, Lana Lang was going to die. Could they really kill off someone so important to the story? At this point in the series, Smallville had already proved that it would not be bound by any previous continuity so it was certainly possible. An estimated 6.28 million people tuned in to find out–and then get their hearts broken when it turned out that it wasn't Lana who died, but the nigh universally beloved Jonathan Kent. The real stand-out in this episode was Tom Welling who didn't often get to stretch his acting legs while playing Clark Kent, but who really made us feel the pain of losing the most important person in his life.



  1. This is great! i’ve been meaning to ask this for a while, but where does one start with Smallville? Season 1, Ep1? Can you skip forward or is the whole thing an epic journey? (i know you hate those questions, but it would be helpful)

    I discounted it early on mostly because my little cousin and her teenie bopper friends were always swooning over the boys in it, so i totally pre-judged it as being a teen drama kinda thing so i never gave it a chance 

  2. @wallythegreenmonster  it’s not the greatest show ever, and there are plenty of episodes from each season that are not really good at all. That being said I love the show and never miss an episode, ususally you can get the old seasons on dvd for really cheap, if you like Superman, or DC comics then it’s worth watching them all.

  3. Excellent top 5 picks Conor! I myself would be hard pressed to name my top 5 episodes… So many good episodes in my opinion..

    @wallythegreenmonster- If you can start at season 1 and just follow the journey. Some things that happen early on in the series factors into later seasons and if you have that back knowledge it makes it all that sweeter. 

  4. All of these episodes are really awesome, but I think Smallville has always been best with their season finale. Always big questions not answered, making you excited for the next season.

  5. @wallythegreenmonster- Don’t listen to tomstewdevine when he says ” Smallville isn’t the greatest show ever”, it actually is the greatest show ever!!

  6. I think my top five (in no particular oder) are

    Season 3’s Finale “Covenant (Part 2)”
    Season 4’s “Crusade,” “Unsafe,” & “Pariah”
    Season 8’s “Infamous”

  7. Fantastic list! The first Impulse episode (Season 4’s ‘Run”) and the Legion ep. you have to be on my list as well, but purely for fanboy reasons.

  8. @tomstewdevine – Agreed! I love the Lex/Zod vs. Clark finale to season… 5, if memory serves? The big one for me, however, was the finale for season 6, when we get one of the coolest, creepiest and most surprising villain reveals in the show’s history.

    “I’m you… just a little more bizarre.”

  9. For my money the recent Booster episode was the best in a loooong time, by far. The scene with Clark and Booster talking in the alley, Geoff Johns GOLD!

    Sad to see this series go. Viva la DVD box sets.

  10. I always wanted more justice league episodes after that season 6 episode.

  11. No love for booster?

  12. Can’t argue with that list. Particularly the number 1. But how about some more Lex-centric episodes?

  13. Thanks for making this Smallville week Conor!  Gonna read this at lunch later!

  14. One of my favorite episodes is Season 5’s “Lexmas”. Lex was the best part of Smallville back in the day and this episode really highlighted how his life could have been very different if only he was given the benefit of the doubt that he was a good person and if his upbringing hadn’t been as cruel. This was the pinnacle episode where I truly felt bad for Lex. It was the Lex Christmas Carol.

  15. I can’t wait for the complete series dvd box set to come out in the fall. I watched Smallville when it first started, kind of lost interest (mainly due to my declining interest in comics in general at the time) and then came back for this season and have been watching and enjoying every episode of the last season so far. So when I get that mammoth 60+ disc box set, I’ll have a lot of stuff to discover that I missed first time ’round.

  16. Nice tribute idea to Smallville. I could never get down to picking only 5 episodes, so many tough choices.

    I was always a fan of season 3’s “Shattered” and season 4’s “Blank”. Of the later seasons it would probably have to be season 7’s “Descent” & season 8’s “Requiem”.

  17. Great Stuff Conor!  Trying to come up with my own top 5, but its so hard with over 200 episodes!  How does one begin????

  18. @SuperMoore  Ha, ok maybe the greatest show ever.

  19. I forget the name,but the episode with Zatana and Lois covering a comic con was fun. 2 words: Stormtrooper Lois!

  20. I forget the name,but the episode with Zatana and Lois covering a comic con was fun. 2 words: Stormtrooper Lois!

  21. @Jesse1125 – just watched that episode this weekend.  Season 9’s episode “Warrior”.

  22. My favorite episode is Season 4’s “Transference.”  I love watching Clark as Lionel, and the fun he has discovering Clark’s abilities and wreaking havoc with all his relationships make for some great moments.  Plus it sets up Lionel’s ultimate character arc, which was a beautiful new direction for the show.

    Least favorite episode?  Supergirl in a beauty pageant… 

  23. thanks for the suggestions guys. Will have to bite the bullet, put up some Tom Whelling Tiger Beat posters (is that still a thing?) and dive in to the series at some point. Wish it was on Netflix streaming…

  24. I agree with this list. The “Noir” episode will always have a special place to me because my brother Joe is in that episode. He’s the bartender.

  25. The episode Where an imprisoned Lionel has three assassinations carried out while his hair is cut over AB operatic score was a great one. Season four finale?

  26. I loved Smallville when I was in college, but I got really tired of Lana and gave it up around season 5. Knowing that it’s ending has me nostalgic, though, and I’ll probably go on a bender this summer and watch the entire series.

  27. Love rosetta like you mentioned and most of the others. Here are some more:

    Leech where the kid who played Iceman steals clark’s powers, clark finds out what us mere mortals put up with and that bonecracker song plays!
    Red with the first appearance of Red K and first time we see evil clark
    Heat where he first gets heat vision and Lex’s missus gets onto clark
    Duplicity where Pete finds out clark is an alien.
    Rush where everyone gets jacked up on adrenaline parasites and clark gets on the red K again!
    Truth where chloe gets the power of truth and tries to use the power to get the scoop on what’s going on in town including the secret of clark. Has my favourite lines from lionel and my favourite reaction scene by chloe.
    Perry where Perry white first shows up in smallville while clark’s powers are on the fritz.
    Covenant where smallville’s original answer to supergirl shows up to set clark along jor-el’s path.
    Crusade everyone’s messed up in the new year, lois shows up and kal-el flies.
    Run with the first appearance of Bart Allen and shows clark the flip-side of how he could use his powers.
    Blank where clark forgets who he is and it’s up to chloe to help guide him in his use of his powers.
    Lexmas, a journey in Lex’s psyche as he posits his future.
    Sneeze, where clark’s sick and he learns about super breathing or whatever.
    Crimson where a red k infected lois becomes infatuated with clark while he deals with lana’s wedding.
    Phantom and Bizarro, a pretty awesome two parter where all hell breaks loose as the strongest phantom decides clark would make a good meat suit.
    Apocalypse where clark finds out whether life would’ve been better for his friends if he’d never existed.
    Legion where a trio of superdudes from that 31st century stop by to help their hero.
    Kandor with a look back at krypton’s history and jor-el’s relationship with his bestfriend.
    Conspiracy makes a massive headway with the kandorians and their leader.
    Warrior is a pretty fun look at the captain marvel-esque warrior angel come to life.
    Hostage with appearances by perry white and ma kent, while intrigue is afoot as the red queen plots against checkmate.
    Salvation where the kandorian story reaches it’s climax.
    Homecoming where brainiac 5 takes clark to meet jacob marley’s ghost.
    Scion has some fun scheming by lionel luthor over alexander luthor.
    That’s my picks for most of the seasons. And while there is some crud there’s some definite gold to behold. Start at season 1, give the pilot a go. It’s fun watching the gang grow up into their roles. I definitely have a soft spot for rosenbaum. He’s so fun to watch with his onscreen dad and I’m glad they’re both back for the finale.

  28. Excellent choices for the top five episodes.  I thought about naming my own top five, but I decided it might be more fun to name some of the worst episodes.

    Ageless where Clark and Lana raise a baby that ages rapidly until it dies explosively in a few days.

    Hero where Pete Ross returns after 3+ seasons away from the show, only to have shown no character growth, in an episode designed to advertise Stride gum and the band One Republic.

  29. Vortex picks up the cliffhanger where Clark races into tornado to save Lana.  Pa Kent is trying to stop sleazy reporter from blowing whistle on Clark.  Lex wrestles with almost letting Lionel die.

    Red was great; Clark on Red K brawlling at bar and hitting on Lana.

    Insurgence was cool.  We visit Metropolis and LexCorp; Martha and blind Lionel are hostages.  Clark has to leap from adjacent tall building.

    Rosetta is truly an epic episode.  Christopher Reeve…

    Exile was Clark on Red K again, but having him as supercriminal in Metropolis and Pa willing to save him was wonderful.

    Perry is genius.  Drunk Michael McKean was a perfect fit for the character.

    Shattered is nice because we have Lex’s psyche in distress.  He learns Clark’s secret! (of course he quickly forgets it)

    Truth showed Chloe at her worst, threatening all her friends by making them reveal secrets.

    Memoria may be Lex’s and Lionel’s finest hour: the sordid family history and misunderstandings that doomed them as father and son are laid out.  They really are the antithesis of Clark and Pa and Ma Kent.

    Crusade was fun becaus we had Clark in full Kryptonian mode (he flies!).  Plus the introduction of Lois; I know people hated her in Smallville but I liked having her around. 

    Transference is so much fun.  Body swapping Clark and Lionel gave us a lot of neat moments, and had to be a lot of fun for the actors.

    Reckoning is definitelly memorable.  The “cheat” with Lana seemed dumb, but it made sense that it would be Pa Kent.

    Justice. Cool guys don’t look at explosions.  They just turn and walk away.

    Descent.  Ignore the Veritas bs, and enjoy the final showdown between Lex and Lionel.

    Legion. I don’t really care for the larger Doomsday/Brainac stuff in season 8, but this is still fun.

    I’m not going to summarize seasons 9 or 10.  Kandor, Absolute Jusice, Salvation, Homecoming, Luthor, Scion, Booster.

  30. Anyone hoping for a quick-scan marathon to get the vibe of the series would be well-served to follow @srh1son’s list. Excellent choices. 

  31. I gave up on the show by season 2.  I hadn’t seen another episode until the “Legion” episode by Johns.  I watched all of his episodes and it actually made me want to watch the final season.