Somebody Save Me: Reassessing ‘Smallville’

I unabashedly love Smallville. Let’s get that out of the way right now. I’ve been an avid viewer and fan since it premiered in 2001. But for some reason this season my interest in the show started to drift.

Which is strange because this past season, its sixth, might have been the most exciting season of Smallville since its premiere year.

Anyone who missed out on the Smallville bandwagon has really done themselves a disservice. Not only is the show one of the best live action realizations of the Superman mythos, but I think it’s one of the best adaptations of the DC Universe in general, and nothing showed that better than season six with appearances by Jimmy Olsen, J’onn J’onzz, Green Arrow, Aquaman, Impulse, and Cyborg. These characters have all been fully realized on screen and have made perfect sense within the quasi-realistic world of Smallville. I can’t imagine any big screen adaptations doing them any better.

The regular actors have done a stellar job, too, with Michael Rosenbaum’s Lex Luthor the clear standout. This is among the best versions of Lex Luthor outside of the comic books that I’ve ever seen. Granted, he has had six years to craft a painstakingly believable character arc of a young man fighting against, and then finally giving in to, the evil that lives in his heart.

So what happened this year? I’m not sure. What I do know is that I eagerly watched each and every episode up until the appearance of the Justice League in episode 11. And then I didn’t watch the show for seven weeks. I had it on my DVR and the episode just started piling up and piling up and eventually they had to be deleted for space. I finally saw the final three episodes… um, this past week. And you know what? I loved them! They were exciting!

Episode 20 (“Noir”) featured Jimmy Olsen getting knocked unconscious and dreaming of the denizens of Smallville living in a film noir world better suited for Humphrey Bogart than Tom Welling. And it was great! They didn’t half ass it. The black and white was lush, the lighting was dramatic, and the actors chewed their scenery with a slight hint of glee that could only come from actors in year six of a show saying “hey — we get to do something different this week!” This episode also saw the departure of Jimmy Olsen from the show which was a downgrade in my opinion. He was a great addition to the cast and finally gave Chloe something to do besides fuss over Clark.

Episode 21 (“Prototype”) was just okay. I suspect that many of the episodes that I skipped over were of this ilk. This was a very Lex/Lana heavy show and I don’t care about their doomed marriage. The highlight was Helo from Battlestar Galactica playing one of Lex’s genetically engineered soldiers.

Episode 22 (“Phantom”) was the season finale and brought back some exciting oopmh to the show, not to mention the return of J’onn J’onzz, one of my favorite things about this season. I love his characterization and the actor they have playing him. One thing I learned in this episode was that in the black hole of shows that I missed, Chloe gained superpowers from long term exposure to all the Kryptonite (smart) and her powers are apparently like that of the mythical phoenix — her tears have healing properties. I guess I’ll go with that. Also in this episode Lana “died” and that’s in quotes because she’s so not really dead it’s ridiculous. The season cliff-hanger was the appearance of Bizarro, which if you listen to the show should mean I threw my remote control through the TV. Ah, but I didn’t, because they used the only version of Bizarro that I’ve ever liked or found interesting: the version from John Byrne’s Man of Steel, which was not a stupid backwards talking alien, rather a tragically failed clone of Superman.

So I’m back to being excited about Smallville again, mostly because next season promises the return of J’onn J’onzz, Green Arrow (and other members of the JLA, maybe even new ones we haven’t seen yet), and the addition of Supergirl.

A careful reading of the previous paragraphs might reveal to the discerning readers that a good deal of my enthusiasm for Smallville rests in the hands of DCU guest stars, and that is certainly true. After six seasons there’s only so much more Clark/Lana, Lex/Lana, Clark/Chloe one can take. The producers learned in season four with the addition of Erica Durance’s Lois Lane that the character dynamics needed some shaking up and adding new characters has been the way to do it. Just like Lois in season four, Oliver Queen brought the same spark in season six. Once he and the rest of the JLA left the show so did my interest.

What do I look forward to the most out of season seven? Mostly I look forward to it being over. I’d really like this season to be it for the show; it needs to wrap up soon. Michael Rosenbaum has already said that season seven is it for him and if he leaves so goes the central conceit of the show, which is Clark vs. Lex, the former best friends turned arch-enemies. Let the show go with him.

Another reason the show needs to end soon is high definition. This is the first year I’ve had Smallville in HD and boy are the years starting to show on these “early 20s” characters, especially in Erica Durance and Tom Welling. I randomly came across an episode from early in the series run a few days ago and I gasped when I saw how young Tom Welling looked. It’s getting ridiculous to try to convince us that these characters are five to eight years younger than they actually are, besides the fact that none of them even attend college anymore. It’s time to free them from the shackles and move them into adult hood.

It’s time for a super boy to become a super man.


  1. My favorite was the episode with Lynda Carter.. 🙂

  2. they have already announced that season 7 is the last one and that they will “officially” break the ‘no tights, no flights’ rule

  3. Honestly? Unabashedly? I got so tired of this show after 4 seasons of the “Lana-CLark” on again/off-again, even BEFORE she started fucking around with Lex. And honestly the whole “the writers/producers like John Glover, let’s find something for him to do” is VERY irritating.

    I feel like what started out as a good show, with potentially a spectacular father/son, nurture/nature storyline to tell, was eventually overcome by event programming (Lois with nothing to do or a character to speak of) and over-mythology (suffering in a same way as the X-Files). If you compare the first three seasons to the second three, the quality would make you laugh.

    The only ones I could really bear to watch at any length recently WERE the DCU guest ones, and then only barely. Everything after season 3 of this show is completely off the rails. What could’ve been a great dude-ish inheritor to the Whedon-verse, ended up being Charmed. Yeah, I said it. The only character movement that has happened has been purely-contrived where we could’ve had a nice build to villiany, you’re left with Clark being sort’ve a dick, and feeling sorry for Lex for being perpetually lied to for years. And Lana/Lois just seem dim. At least Chloe was finally let in so she wouldn’t seem completely retarded.

    If you can still watch this show on a weekly basis considering how you COULD spend your hours (like perhaps reading your comics a little bit more closely so you guys don’t make stupid errors on the podcast), you deserve a medal.

    I suppose my MAIN problem is, the promise of this show was Superman before SUPERMAN. The early seasons did this well. As soon as they brought in poor portrayed-as-evil Jor-El, this thing lost its path bigtime. The mythology should be in bits. Not waves.

  4. This is a show that would be served better by the 12-13 episode seasons you see on FX, Showtime, or HBO. For every good episode that moves the plot along, there’s a cliche one the next week with a plot you’ve seen for the 7 or 8th time already from the series. And some of the plotlines are too thin to hang over 22 episodes. I hope they decide early on that this is the last season (since I’ve read Welling is signed through 8, so nothing is final yet), so they can go balls to the wall, and leave nothing on the table by next May.

    And don’t worry Conor; Jimmy will be back in Season 7, though the same won’t be said for Martha Kent. It’s a good move, the show has mostly moved beyond Smallville at this point, and trading Martha for Jimmy serves that evolution.

  5. I purely accept Smallville as its own universe’s take on Clark/Kal-El. I couldn’t survive watching it otherwise. So in that context the show has never been disappointing.

    That said, did anyone follow the online adventure on the CW website? It was very marshmallow and distracting, but I like that kind of stuff too. Anything that exists in the Shade of the canceled EA Online game Majestic is still fun to me.

    As for Season 7, I don’t really want it to end, but I agree it probably should. Much like Daniel Radcliffe/Harry Potter, Tom Welling/Clark Kent is getting a little unbelievable. But lets see some spectacular tie-ins! Ollie’s Pre-JLA team and Clark vs. Lex’s Army & a return of Prof. Fine/Brainiac. Also, Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince appearances. Yes, groan away, but since the shark has been jumped you might as well try to do it in a way no one expects! Like Xena: Warrior Princess, the writers should plant their tongues firmly in their cheeks and type away.

  6. I hate to admit it, but I am finally sitting down and starting to watch Smallville. I always seem to come on board a show just as it is wrapping up. I was just looking forward to get the seasons from blcokbuste….I…uh….mean netflix(cough, cough). I went out of my way to watch the JLA episode and have seen a few reruns here and there and I have noticed the subtle differences between the characters and story lines. I do think that they have handled the aging of the characters well, from what I have seen, after all they are out of high school and are getting real jobs. I hope that after all I have read that the series does not disappoint me.

  7. When this series first started I couldn’t see the big deal. I felt like i’d already watched a series which had a teenager coming to terms with powers while the town they lived in created a number of obstacles to deal with.
    That series was Buffy and it was 100 times better written.
    Now that I live in Spain I’ll watch anything through streaming TV sites and so I watched the last season of smallville and I am interested to see what they will do with Bizaro superman.

  8. The only thing is i wish they could get Bruce in their but its ok. Me and my dad watch this show. My dad only knows that Superman is strong and still loves the show. That and he gets a kick out of Joe Davola being apart of the show.

    I love this show! Welling is the right person for Supes. If only he had a little more charisma and he would be great. Still very good.

  9. I’ve watched the show since the beginning and I have to agree with Conor that I hope it ends this season. The filler episodes in each season are getting a bit out there, but the mythos-related ones are by far my favorite and they are the sole reason I keep watching it.

    I really wanna see something spectacular for the final episode, though. Something on the order of a 2 hour series finale that finally has Clark, in Metropolis, being Superman.

    Or at least have a final shot of the show be him in the suit. Then it will all have been worthwhile.

  10. I consistently made this comment in the threads last season – in the last season there seemed to be two sets of writers/directors – the one group that made the good episodes, and the group that made the crappy episodes. Steven DeKnight’s name was consistently attached to the really good episodes (Justice, Ollie Queen, Season Finale). However, completely different names popped up in the writing credits that everyone here seems to agree were the crappier episodes — Lana oh moan and whimper oh Lana, will she or won’t she and do we really care, no couldn’t care less, that’s her, Lana. And the episode about the immigration issue. WTF was that?

    Someone mentioned Whedon. Whedon as executive producer always had a large team or writers and directors working on his shows, but he always ran a pretty tight ship. This is what was missing in the last season on Smalleville.

    I’ll tune it every episode, but the quality of the next season really depends on one thing – the executive producers deciding that certain wrtiers and their hangers on from the last season need to be tossed overboard, and those that produced gold last season need full license and a big push (maybe even a big bullwhip) to pull out the stops and deliver major fireworks.

    A last comment on budget — I have see that cuts in the budget last season have limited what they could do on Smallville compared to the early years. However, the second half of the third season of Doctor Who, which I had completely grown tired of, became tremendously exciting and wonderful, despite having obviously huge and growing budget limitations.

    Why? It was the scripts. Fabulously written scripts, some of the best TV I’ve seen. As long as the scripts are good, Smallville could have a wonderful final season, no matter what they plan to do.

  11. “Much like Daniel Radcliffe/Harry Potter, Tom Welling/Clark Kent is getting a little unbelievable.”

    Welling is 30 playing early 20s. Yeah, that’s pushing it a bit but Radcliffe was 16 or 17 when he shot Order of the Phoenix in which Harry is 15. Hardly a stretch. And hardly unbelievable.

  12. Moaning Myrtle was played by a 36 year old woman in the second HP movie.

    The age doesn’t really matter as long as it’s believable.

  13. I’m with you, Conor, I love this show too. Even my geek friends deride me for this, but I love the mythos of the character and for the most part they’ve done a good and interesting job of serving up a new standpoint. And I thought ‘Reckoning’ from season 5 was kinda heartbreaking.

    But I agree this should be its last season, especially if Rosenbaum is leaving. And I agree with Josh, does age really matter as long as you buy the character? Besides, at this point who would believe another actor playing either Clark, or Harry Potter (even though Dan’s only 2 years older)?

    I personally prefer continuity through characters, as long as they’re still doing a great job, and I think Tom/Dan are really bringing it to the table. The only exception I’d make recently is Maggie Gyllenhaal taking over from Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes in TDK (a steller move on the part of Chris Nolan).