Smallville: The Complete Series
Cast: Tom Welling, Allison Mack, Kristin Kreuk, Michael Rosenbaum, Erica Durance, Justin Hartley, John Glover, Sam Witwer, Cassidy Freeman, Callum Blue, Aaron Ashmore, Laura Vandervoort, Sam Jones III, Jensen Ackles, with Annette O'Toole & John Schneider
Creator: Alfred Gough and Miles Miller
New York University '00
"I don't think you're dumb... I just think at times you're under-exposed to information." -Murphy Brown
Smallville: The Complete Series
Review By: Dan Deevy
Some kids on Christmas morning are lucky enough to descend a staircase to find a gorgeously decorated tree with so many presents surrounding it that it would be impossible to touch it without moving tons of beautifully wrapped boxes. That’s exactly how I felt when I set eyes on Smallville: The Complete Series on DVD Box set. I mean…. Wow.
After un-wrapping the best Christmas gift ever I’m faced with all 218 episodes that span the shows ten year run, 23 hours of previously released extras, five brand new hours of special features, not to mention the amazing packaging that it all comes in! I mean, what’s a boy to do?
Unfortunately, the set arrived far too late for me to take my time with it so I have to write this review in a slightly different way than I normally would. When it comes to season long DVD’s I’ll watch (or re-watch as the case may be) the entire season and as I go will take notes and slowly put together a complete comprehensive analysis of the shows progression from premiere to finale. Now, of course with this many episodes it would be impossible and slightly crazy of me to do the same here. Fortunately, Smallville is one of my favorite shows of all time so remembering back to all those amazing seasons won’t be too much of a challenge for me.
But I still want to re-watch everything so instead I decided to watch some key episodes from the series run to kick start my brain and hopefully spark my creative thinking surrounding the Smallville phenomenon.
It’s true that the first season got off to a rocky start; the writers found themselves in something of a repeating storyline loop where every episode felt exactly the same and followed an identical ‘adventure’ pattern. The future of this soon-to-be iconic series was in serious creative jeopardy right out of the gate. Fortunately, about mid-way through this first season they realized what was happening and started developing complicated intricate storylines that weaved their way throughout the series. I’ll admit it sometimes got so complicated that now looking back there are some details that I can’t even remember. But from then on every season of Smallville was chock full of new characters and relationships, new revelations about Clark and his destiny, and of course as the series grew it became more and more deeply entrenched in DC Comic Book lore.
I’m tempted to jump ahead and talk about meeting Green Arrow, Aquaman, The Flash, Cyborg, The Wonder Twins, Hawkman, Bizarro, Brainiac, Doomsday, Darkseid, General Zod and armies of angry Kryptonians, but I won’t. We’re gonna take this nice and slow and star at the beginning; Which of course was 2001 when the world met a
As with any new show with an untested lead no one knew if the series would take off (so to speak) but it did and hundreds of hours of television later he’s become a household name and his adventures have become a part of modern day comic book lore.
I will say revisiting the pilot episode after so many years made me realize how many little nods to the future were right in front of me that went totally unnoticed and were completely forgotten. For example, the very first Daily Planet newspaper headline that we see is about Oliver Queen’s (the future Green Arrow not to be seen until the sixth season) parents death, the new population sign for Smallville citing 45,001 (one guess as to who that additional ‘1’ refers to) and of course the not so subtle reference to Luthor Corp beginning in Smallville as a fertilizer company.
No television show ever knows exactly how long they will be on the air so many will go all out gangbusters in their first season or two leaving nothing left to be explored in subsequent years. Smallville is a great example of a show that did the exact opposite. Yes, they had the advantage of over 60 years of stories to draw from of the characters’ lives as they were in the comic books and graphic novels, but the creative team here still deserves credit for having the wisdom to pace themselves when it came to getting to “the good stuff.”
It takes almost the entire first season of the show for Clark to realize which powers he has and then to learn how to control them. Super strength, super speed, heat vision, x-ray vision, arctic blast breath and of course eventually, flying are all slowly added to the story. We don’t even see the Fortress of Solitude until the premiere of the fifth season and while for Smallville that was just half way through their run, for most other network TV shows it would have been nearing the end; So kudos to them on their creative restraint and foresight.
Then of course we get to discover all the different kinds of Kryptonite that exist and how they affect Clark. Green was there from the first episode (a great explanation for why he was so bumbling around Lana Lang by the way) and from there we find Red which turns him into the leather jacket wearing motorcycle riding bad boy that was always fun to see, Blue Kryptonite which takes away his powers, Black Kryptonite which physically splits Clark into his ‘good’ and ‘evil’ sides, and finally Gold which permanently takes away his Kryptonian powers. All of these discoveries were scattered throughout the seasons and
I’m sure its equal parts good fortune and fine planning that made things turn out the way that they did and made it possible for this show to have such an extended life span and in each and every season give the die-hard fans something super exciting to look forward to.
Now it wasn’t until the third season when the power of the continuing story arc was truly harnessed by the writers. It became impossible to not tune in the following week to see what happened next. The finale episodes of the third, fourth and sixth seasons are some of the best I’ve ever seen. I can still remember watching the safe house explode at the end of the third year thinking that Chloe (Allison Mack) had been killed. Something, which incidentally all fans were waiting for because of her notable absence from the Superman mythos; we all knew she had to be eliminated or explained away somehow eventually and it looked like this was how it would happen. Chloe would be out and Lois would be in.
Fortunately, they were far cleverer than that. That same fear though hung in the air at the end of season six when Chloe appears to have died saving Lois’ life… again making us think she was on the way out.
Incidentally, one thing that this box set doesn’t have, which I find surprising, is that the first couple of episodes of the fourth season have an introduction without Allison Mack in it. When we finally saw that she was in fact alive in the third or so episode of the year she was added back into the opening credits but in this set it’s all the same standard intro. It’s a minor point, but a strange choice if you ask me. I had never seen a show go to such lengths to keep the audience guessing about the fate of a character.
Allegiances and “who knew what” is always tough to keep up with in a long running series that has such intricate continuing storylines, but somehow they made it work. Of course now, years later, it can be hard to recall all of the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of their adventures but that’s understandable and I remember several moments of surprise and joy at some of the turnabouts that took place.
The special effects on the show were never great, but to be honest, they never really needed to be; the power of this show was in the stories and the performances. It was always appreciated when they put more time into an episode like Commencement making the second meteor shower look as realistic as possible. That type of action always upped the ante for the show.
Speaking of performances I have to mention the appearance
Terence Stamp, possibly one of the greatest movie villains of all time in Superman II as General Zod returns here in the opposite role of the voice of Clarks father Jor-El. I’ll admit that took some getting used to but ultimately turned out to be a great choice that really enhanced the series.
Nods to past performances don’t begin and end with Superman stories, there’s also an episode called Exposed in the fourth season where former Dukes of Hazzard star Tom Wopat appears as Jonathan Kent (John Schneider)’s friend Senator Jack Jennings and the two once again find themselves in an American Muscle car jumping through windows and engaging in high speed car chases. Bo and Luke Duke back together again, yet not, was really something to see.
As with any long running show about a coming-of-age character the overall tone of the show did eventually change and some of the magic and originality was lost. One of the things that made Smallville great was the fact that it wasn’t Lois and Clark and when the stories started to pull in that direction it lost something. Lois and Clark playful enemies made for great television but when it came time for them to fall in love, initially in season nine, the overall feeling of show changed and became way less interesting. I think as time went by they realized that, so they skirted away from it for a while but of course ultimately it is where they story HAD to go. But as a result of that (and several other factors) the latter seasons of the show are not nearly as engaging or jaw dropping as those first five or six years.
Certain things had to happen, like the death of Jonathan Kent, the introduction of Lois Lane, Clark growing beyond his love for Lana Lang and letting her go, learning to fly, putting on the suit etc. but we never knew when or how those things would come to pass which is why it was still so much fun to watch and wait for.
The 100th episode, Reckoning, is perhaps one of Smallville’s finest hours. Emotionally one of the most taxing shows ever, Clark finds himself face to face with the most difficult choice he’s ever had to make – choosing between saving the life of
It’s the power of the emotions behind scenes like Jonathan Kent’s funeral that fuel the entire series. It’s that familial connection and bond that we all aspire to that kept people tuning in. Who wouldn’t want a family like the Kent’s? And who wouldn’t feel enormous empathy and sympathy for the wounded hero burying the man who raised him.
And on the larger family scale Smallville was never more exciting and thrilling for fans than during the episodes that brought the Justice League together. All those amazing heroes I mentioned earlier come together for the first time in an episode called Justice and it was one of the best ideas they ever had. I was convinced that a new television series was going to be born out of that show but alas it still hasn’t happened yet.
Clark teams up with Green Arrow (Justin Hartley), Aquaman (Alan Ritchson), Cyborg (Lee Thompson Young) and Impulse (aka The Flash) (Kyle Gallner) to take down a secret Luthor Corp facility that is supposedly performing experiments on people with abilities ultimately leading to the building of a new super army of evil. C’mon, how cool is that? While the final shot of exploding buildings behind our slowly walking heroes is the ultimate in hero cheese it makes me smile from ear to ear every time I see it!
There are countless lines throughout the series that literally gave me chills because of the references they make back to the lore. For example when the final released phantom from the zone takes a sample of Clarks DNA and becomes Bizarro he has a line, “I’m you… only a little more bizarre.” Yeah, I had to rewind and watch that moment a few times before I could stop being giddy about it.
Season seven, unfortunately, is where the show began to lose steam. They introduced the new recurring character of Clark’s cousin Kara (Laura Vandervoort) from Krypton but they were never able to use her effectively. They tried to make her fit in by making her both the fish out of water girl but also the character who knew more about all things Kryptonian than Clark did; it was all too jumbled and confusing because they didn’t really know what they wanted her to be. (Other than a super-hot blonde who could fly!)
Another factor adding to the shows decline was the departure of Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor and Kristin Kreuk as Lana Lang after season seven to allegedly pursue other projects. (For her that meant Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li and for him it meant a string of less than successful TV shows and some voice acting work in super hero cartoons like Justice League: Doom so I’m
The first season post Lex departure introduces Tess Mercer (Cassidy Freeman) and the man who would become Doomsday, Davis Bloom (Sam Witwer). Both of these were great additions and to be honest having Sam Witwer in there really filled the bad guy void. I just wished he could have been around for longer than a single season. Callum Blue as ‘Major’ Zod on the other hand in season nine just didn’t work at all and their attempts at Darkseid in the final year were just sad.
As disappointing as those last two seasons were, it’s been my opinion that shaky Smallville is better than no Smallville at all. So I’m glad it lasted as long as it did even though there are only a handful of episodes from those final two years that I would care to revisit.
Not surprisingly some of the best episodes in those waning years were the ones that saw the return of Kristin Kreuk as a now super-powered Lana Lang who is finally ready to fight crime alongside Clark as a physical equal. It made no sense to me that just as they were getting us used to the idea of Clark being with Lois that they would re-introduce Lana. And not only re-introduce her, but finally make her absolutely perfect for Clark… only to have her snatched away from us in season eight never to be seen again. That was disappointing. Although I have to say the explanation for why they could never be together was pretty genius. (Roswell did it first but yeah stealing from the greats is to be expected.)
The Davis / Chloe / Jimmy love triangle came to a surprising close at the end of season eight and it was a very satisfying conclusion to a wonderful storyline; I wish the same could be said for Doomsday. His demise was somewhat anti-climactic. Smallville always did amazing build-ups to show-downs, but the final battles themselves rarely ever lived up to the expectations we had for them. I think budget is mostly to blame for these less than stellar finale action sequences; but on the upside the story was always more than enough to keep you watching to see what came next.
Speaking of that particular love triangle, I think it really showed the evolution of the character of Chloe who began as the unrequited love sick best friend to Clark and who eventually becomes arguably the most powerful, self-assured and confident member of this crime fighting team. She always was and continues to be my absolute favorite part of this show. Tom does a decent job of portraying his journey and evolution over the years but the transformation Allison goes through as Chloe makes his pale
By the final episode you can see all of the things that have happened to her to make her the person she is in those final two hours and it happens without obvious effort on her part; the changes have just happened. She’s really a fantastic actress.
All of the comic book stories and established characters aside I have to mention one of my favorite episodes which was actually a standalone called Warrior. In this episode a young boy is transformed into a super-hot hero after reading a charmed rare comic book. The beginning of the show takes place at ‘Met-Con’ clearly the Metropolis version of Comic Con and there are so many nods to the audience that it’s insane! For instance having Tom Welling’s real life stand-in dressed in his ‘Clark from the farm’ outfit bumping into present day Clark in his shirt and tie and then having Lois dressed up like an Amazonian Princess a.k.a. Wonder Woman.
While all of those are super fun to watch and point out, the real power of the episode though comes in the form of its guest star the insanely hot / adorable Carlo Marks as Stephen Swift. He has the ripped gorgeous body of a man but plays the innocence of his 12 year old character wonderfully creating the perfect combination of powerful yet naive. And it’s yet another opportunity for Chloe to demonstrate her authority in the hero world as she takes him under her wing and ultimately thanks to what he teaches her helps to spark her final love interest – the insanely handsome and heroic, Oliver Queen.
While the final tenth season was mostly forgettable they did go out on a relative high note connecting the ten years fans have spent in Smallville with the years to come imagining our Clark as a fully formed Superman. I of course had complaints with the two hour finale, for example the exclusion of the rest of the Justice League characters, the relative ease with which Clark defeats the physical form of Darkseid and most importantly the lack of full clear shots of Tom Welling in the suit.
I mean, c’mon, for ten years that’s what people have been waiting to see and when it finally happens they make sure to only show him from either very far away wide shots or super close ups on just his face. He’s a handsome man and all but we wanted to see some full body shots of the Man of Steel! Sadly, we didn’t. But the overall feel and pace of the finale was good… not epic as it could have been… but solid.
The special features on this massive box set are incredibly extensive including all of the previously seen features from seasons one through nine on DVD and then also new features for season
The two featurettes from Season ten, The Son Becomes The Father and Back in the Jacket: A Smallville Homecoming are interesting but rely very heavily on interviews with the producers of the show and some experts on behavior from various universities. I’m all for ‘credit where credit is due’ with regard to the producers, but I’d much rather be hearing the actors talk about their experiences and perceptions than some random talking heads from ‘not-so-impressive U’ in the Midwest.
The first ‘extra special’ feature I jumped ahead to was the pilot episode of the ill-fated Aquaman series starring Justin Hartley in the lead role. At the time I was disappointed that it didn’t get picked up but now after seeing it, I’m kind of grateful it didn’t. Justin is far more suited to the green leather than the flippers.
There’s also the 1961 pilot for The Adventures of Superboy that is quite the time warp experience. Talk about ‘how far we’ve come.’
There is a documentary style featurette called, Secret Origin: The American Story of DC Comics that explores the entire history of DC comics and how this entire genre that we all take for granted now originally came to be and it’s fascinating! I would say this is a “must see feature” for any fan of the genre or anyone who agrees that The Dark Knight was one of the best movies ever made. Seeing where all of that came from is really something.
Smallville’s 100th Episode: Making of a Milestone is something that anyone interested in going into television production should see. It makes you realize the insane amount of work that must go into producing a single hour of television and often times how NOT glamorous it is. So before you run off to Hollywood to start making TV shows, check this out.
A Decade of Comic Con is a great feature that shows footage from several panels throughout the years at the annual convention. For me it was particularly interesting to watch because most of the footage they used with the actors was shot at last years’ Con which we were at! In fact the red carpet style interviews were the same we attended; we were just a little further down the carpet. We got amazing stuff though and encourage everyone to check out our video interviews with pretty much the entire cast!
All of these features are great and well worth watching, but for my money the best one is a series of ten shorter featurettes called, A Retrospective Look at the Series with Season Featurettes. Season by season these little glimpses behind the camera take you through the shows entire evolution with massive amounts of interviews not just with the producers and creative team but with the stars themselves and is
I really can’t tell you how happy I am to have this amazing set as part of my permanent Home Viewing Collection. (Of course, Blu-rays would have been better – but these DVD’s still look and sound amazing!) This is honestly the type of thing I intend to hold on to so that someday if I’m lucky enough to have a son of my own, I can introduce him to this amazing world and re-experience the wonder of it all over again through his eyes.
Way to go WB! Way. To. Go.