A truly inspiring journey of a hero
Smallville took one of my most hated superheroes and turned him into one of my favorites. It's just so unique and so personally satisfying. Too many shows focus on how cool the powers are or the progression of the plot, and the character itself becomes secondary to the latest plot twist or power upgrade. Here, the powers and plot become secondary to the character development. There are whole episodes without a super fight, but because of that I finally got to know Clark Kent as a person and root for him not just because he's the good guy, but because I know and like this guy and want him to succeed. I was there when this guy was struggling to study for his history test, when he was awkwardly trying to ask his crush out, when he first got heat vision and accidentally set his classroom on fire, when he lost his first love, when he had a crazy magic-fueled bachelor party and even when he was just goofing off with friends. And he's allowed to screw up and show off just how human he is. Tom Welling nails both the hero and the human. Michael Rosenbaum as Lex is both menacing and heartbreaking, and it's his story almost as much as Clark's. Chloe Sullivan is entirely original but fits like a glove, and is molded by the story just as much as Clark. Jonathan and Martha are godsends and the show takes care to portray the three as a real family, with their own ups and downs, to the point where you really miss them when Clark goes on his own. The love is palpable here, and you can finally see why Superman grows up to love humanity. Props also for introducing the only Lois Lane I didn't immediately want to throw into a meat grinder, and actually convincing me these two were in love. My first and only shipping experience. Also it's really refreshing in today's age of "just about everything from DC must be grim and edgy" to see a property not afraid to have fun with itself and show how having powers can lead to some humorous situations. Were there some awful episodes? Oh boy, yes. Lana romance took too long? Absolutely. But it eclipses those problems. Smallville isn't just watching another superhero. It's watching a life, with all the craziness and heart that comes with. I got to watch this character grow up for 10 years, so when he finally put on that iconic suit and flew off to save the day in public for the first time, I was cheering.
This show runs on stupidity (both in-universe and out of it) and angst from the Trauma Conga Line that character after unlikeable character goes through. (There's plenty of Deus Angst Machina and Wangst too, mind you.) The tropes run the gamut from Idiot Ball to Genre Blindness to Distress Ball to Forgot About His Powers to— well, you get the idea. We're talking about a show where:
- a guy with super-hearing and X-ray vision is brought up short by an invisible villain
- an evil genius uses a relative's name as a password
- every other plot in the first half of the series is resolved by Laser Guided Amnesia; and
- people walking toward someone or sitting at a table facing him in broad daylight don't notice him 'superspeed' off
Nerdy as I am, I have never been much into comic books. Comic book movies were more my thing - and later, a certain comic book TV show. But I always used to ignore Superman entirely. For one thing, I typically associated it with the sort of camp that dominated the Batman franchise until Tim Burton came along, resurged after he left the project, and vanished again when Christopher Nolan took over. For another, I considered Superman a little too vanilla. And there was the little problem of Superman being an alien, making him extremely difficult to relate to. Then, when I heard Nolan was working with Zack Snyder on a new Superman project, and I started finding a number of interesting Smallville references on this very wiki, I gave in and decided to check out the show for the first time. This morning, I watched the pilot, and enjoyed it much more than I had thought I would five or more years ago. It's riddled with possibly the most extreme case of Dawson Casting I've ever seen, but the young actors were more than capable of otherwise being convincing as 14-to-15-year-old high schoolers. The story - a young man, his body frozen in time for twelve years and given a deadly electrokinetic ability - wouldn't have been out of place on an early Buffy. Clark's wish to be on the football team (and being denied by his father) made me think of what The Incredibles would have been like if Dash had been a teenager. The effects, while a bit dated, were nevertheless pretty damn good even compared to certain more recent shows. The writing is also really good, too - after all, the creators later wrote the movie I Am Number Four, one of my all-time faves. But what I really liked was the scene in which Clark was stripped to his boxers and trussed up as the scarecrow. So many metaphors there. The Christ reference, obviously. The "S" on his chest, referencing not only Smallville High, but also the iconic Superman logo. And, of course, the whole idea of the scene being a symbol of the creators' intention to take the Superman mythos to its basics. And thus beginneth my journey into the world of Smallville. Now cue the Archive Panic!
My Impressions So Far- Smallville Seasons 1-3: Haha very funny Smallville, now where's the real show?
Season 1-3 are slow moving. This much is certain. They are intent on keeping Status Quo Is God oh so much as well as having the usual Monster Of The Week. The actual real story, however, is interesting. The story takes place in small doses behind the idiotic Monster Of The Week plots. One thing I have noticed is that, for the most part, every decision Clark makes makes things worse. He makes a huge mistake in not telling Lana, Chloe, and Lex his "secret." He's had many chances to tell every one of them, but in these three seasons he's so intent on keeping his super powers a secret from them that he loses sight of his relationships with them, making his friendships slip. Chloe searches for truth, but is lied to by Clark every day. Lana wants to love him, but is blocked by Clark's secrecy. Clark's friendship with Lex is perhaps the only thing keeping him from going down that inevitable descent into evil, yet Clark insists on keeping his secret. Keeping it from Lex is especially damning because Lex is, or was, constantly investigating Clark. Lex also wants to get at the truth, and if Clark had just come forward in season 1, the inevitable dark side damage would not be done. One has to feel sympathetic with Lex for everything he goes through in season 3: marooned on an island, going through a messy divorce, being thrown into an insane asylum, and having shock therapy forced onto him. And than, to top it all off, Clark finds out that Lex has a room devoted to him and, again with his stupid decisions, ends their friendship by jumping to conclusions and not letting Lex explain. He also, jumps to the conclusion that Lex is his enemy, saying Lex had been lying to him from day one, but neglecting to mention he had been lying from day one too. I'm waiting for this show to stop with Clark being stupid. Clark is fucking Superman, he shouldn't make such stupid decisions. I'm waiting for this show to move on from it's Monster Of The Week plots and actually become the awesome and interesting show I know it can be. This show needs to get off the farm and into the city before it can really achieve its potential. Also, I find the Dedication to Status Quo Is God incredibly annoying. How, quite conveniently, whenever someone could come close to figuring out Clark's "secret," they pass out or kryptonite is around making him look normal.
A different twist to the Mythos
Although I always liked the Superman Mythos, I was never really familiar with it. Sure, I know the obvious stuff, and the not-so-obvious a little, but I considered myself a Superman Neophyte when I started watching Smallville. And I think that played a major part in me liking the series. It gives a different spin to all the mythology behind "World's Greatest Superhero" - Clark didn't decided someday that he would wear tights and save old ladies, but he had a long time to realize that this was his destiny, and that this was the destiny he wanted to follow. It may piss off hardcore fans that he fought all of his rogues' gallery before becoming Superman, but in my mileage, that makes the whole DC universe more diverse, and fun. All the other versions of the story are still there, waiting to be read and seen, and I like them, but I like Smallville more. I kinda grew up with Clark, and identified with him, and seeing him becoming the Man of Tomorrow makes my life feel much more epic. I admit that Smallville has the dumbest moments in Superman history (Lana Lang the Purity God Mode Sue being the biggest offender of all - I almost gave up on the series because of her), but, as a whole, I think is a great addition to the the whole mythology of Superman - like a different version of your old favorite bed time story.
A few more "whines"
I dropped out of Smallville around the time they introduced Tess Mercer. The show became all Fanwank, all the time — basically a runway shoot for obscure comic characters who don't merit a live-action production on their own. The problem lies in the shift from "Clark Kent before he was Superman" to "Young Superman" — contrary to what fans tell you, those are not the same. I didn't sign on to watch the JLA as tweens. That's not to say its all bad. The acting stayed consistently good, as did the budget. Michael Rosenbaum is the best portrayal of Lex to date, Clark faces some genuine challenges to his moral compass. The vision of sleek modern day Metropolis was also exciting and gave hope the Superman franchise could modernize itself for a young audience, with its kitschy 70s aspects toned down. Emil is the most likable addition to the cast, though technically he's yet another walking shout-out — he's the preview of nerdy Clark Kent, which only serves to illustrate how our designated Clark Kent is a black hole of banality. Also, Emil is the one character whose dialogue isn't entirely composed of puns ("A WONDERful WOMAN who's going to throw you for a LOOP."). Too bad he doesn't show up until Season Eight. Get comfortable. In the fourth year, the popular Lex segments were getting really dark, and ratings slumped a bit. CW ordered a writer overall, and eventually they realized that the more shout outs they made to the DCU, the less people care about the plot. Clark has now battled — and killed (consistency is nice!) — every villain in his rogues gallery. Even Silver Banshee. Note also how the entire supporting cast is romantically tied to two or more characters at all times. It's a shipper's paradise over here. Practically none of these relationships last beyond a season, making it impossible to feel invested, especially since the Cartwright Curse is always in effect. There really isn't much to this show. It's rote and lifeless, and seemingly keeps afloat on the goodwill of poor, oft-abused DC fans who are already used to having crap like Countdown force-fed to them. Don't support the abuse.