Smallville


The Husband:

As I mentioned in my previous update on this long-running WB/CW show, Smallville became the exception to the rule by becoming a better, more focused and more exciting show only after the resignation of its two creators, Millar & Gough, as well as two of its biggest cast members, Kristin Kreuk (Lana Lang) and Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor). By shifting its focus now almost 100% toward Metropolis, the show has grown into something grander while at the same time more intimate. How is this possible?

While I loved the Freak of the Week episodes of the first three seasons, all set in Smallville, they began to pale in comparison to the season-long story arcs (season four’s finale, especially, proved how good that show could be over an extended period of time). But when the FOWs went away, the season arcs suffered too, a result of their stories being far too stretched out and altogether too formulaic. I thought season 7’s major story, about the creation of Isis and its relation to Kara/Supergirl, was piss-poor.

Still strong, after all these years.

Still strong, after all these years.

But with season 8, the great big story arc, a.k.a. the Rise of Doomsday, was mixed in far better with a resurgence in FOWs, but instead of the first three seasons, where the formula was a villain becoming exposed to meteor rocks (i.e. kryptonite) and then discovering their dastardly power, these Metropolis-based villains are true super-villains, those both in control of their powers and aware of their major fuck-with-Clark-Kent plans. All in all, it just worked.

And oh man, did Kristin Kreuk’s exit ever help the show. After what seemed like decades of the Clark-Lana-Lex love triangle, Clark was finally allowed to focus on other tasks, not the least of which saving the world (and, you know, finally doing some heavy flirting with Lois). But Lana did come back periodically throughout the season, and while I would normally cry out “How can we miss you if you won’t go away,” I confess that I found her spring season two-episode arc to be some of the best work this show has seen. The best moment of the season, by far, was her sacrificing her newfound superpower, allowing kryptonite to enter her now-with-alien DNA body from a superbomb atop a Metropolis skyscraper, to save the city, to save the world, and to save Clark. Finally, I felt like she was actually a part of the story and not just the unwitting victim she was for so many years.

As far as VOWs in the second half of the season go (to me, they should now be Villains of the Week, because the show has finally earned that), the best was probably “Infamous,” where Linda Lake (Tori Spelling, not great but serviceable as a silly villain), the nasty gossip reporter who can turn into water, threatens to expose Clark’s true identity as the “Red-Blue Blur” (we’re not up to him being called Superman just yet), and has the story stolen from her as Clark comes clean to the world about his alien origins and superpowers, only to have his life fall apart and him conveniently going back in time thanks to that Legion Ring and setting everything straight again.

As for the best silly episode, that’s a tie between “Hex” – where Chloe wishes she had Lois’ life and ends up actually inhabiting her body – and “Stiletto” where Lois creates her own crime-fighting persona and realizes that it’s really hard to kick ass in stiletto heels. I need an episode like this every once in a while, just for levity’s sake.

(I did not, however, like any episode related to the Legion, sent from Krypton to aid Clark. It was just too on-the-nose and somewhat antithetical to Clark’s true mission to find himself and not just use others for their strengths.)

But all the best drama came from Davis Bloome a.k.a. Doomsday, the EMT with a confused past and a really bad case of turning into an indestructible monster whenever he blacked out or got angry. After he ransacked Chloe’s wedding to Jimmy Olsen, he finally starts up a relationship with her, as he notices that, thanks to her meteor rock-received power of healing, that he doesn’t turn into a destructive force when around her. But this leads to the best episode of the season, “Eternal,” where Davis’ past finally comes into focus. It turns out that he came down with Clark in that meteor shower back in 1989, but was picked up by Lionel Luther, who thought that he was the fabled Traveler who would save the world. (The true Traveler is, of course, Clark.) Once Lionel discovered his mistake, he treated Davis like shit and finally gave him up for adoption, not knowing that Davis would play a major part in the Kryptonian conflict on Earth, because Davis is literally destined to battle Clark.

It’s all rather silly, I know, but Sam Witwer really put a great deal of effort into making Davis a fully sympathetic yet loathsome creature, a troubled man with uncontrollable urges. And even when black kryptonite was finally used to separate his two personalities, Davis and Doomsday, he was still murderous and jealous enough to murder Jimmy Olsen in cold blood. (That final decision, to kill Jimmy, is a bold declaration from this show that we shouldn’t really expect anything anymore, and that the show technically is its own beast and doesn’t have to follow Superman’s comic lore if it doesn’t want to, a welcome respite from all those in-jokes to the lore that got real old real fast.)

Next season, the show will finally move away from its Thursday at 8 p.m. spot, where I’m amazed it lasted so long all those years up against such shows as Friends and Survivor and be placed on Friday nights where it might die a slow death. Then again, the show has always had trouble cracking the Top 100, and if you don’t factor in its youthful audience and its DVD sales it’s simply amazing that the show has lasted this long. But Tom Welling is 32 now and the show needs to end at some point, and I’m hoping that the Zod-centric next season will be its last. Most would say that the show has lost all of its energy, and while I won’t agree with that, I do think it needs an endgame and stick to it.

The Husband:

I came into Smallville relatively late, and much like The Shield and Scrubs (which both started during the 2001-2002 television season), it was less due to lack of interest than it was that I didn’t actually have a TV that year. (I know, how horrible. But it was my freshman year, and the decision was made in order to help lessen my entertainment distractions so I could focus on my studies.) But also like those shows, I took the time during my first post-university year to Netflix the bejesus out of every one of their available seasons on DVD, and it was Smallville that I watched the quickest. I think I sped through the first four seasons in about a month, which my calculator tells me is 2.83 episodes a day. (I remember the month being March, so that was over 31 days.) While it took me well into the first season, maybe even the second, to really love the show, I figured out fairly quickly that it had a great deal of potential and ambition to rise above my initial reaction, which was to describe it as “basically just The O.C. with superpowers.”

By the time the fourth season rolled around (I had hated much of the beginning of the third season, what with Jonathan temporarily gaining superpowers to save Clark from wasting his life in Metropolis), I was absolutely hooked. I’m aware that this is not an opinion everyone shares, but s4 of Smallville is without question my favorite season of the show, where we not only are introduced to The Flash and Krypto the dog, but Lana gets possessed by her witch ancestor, Lois finally shows up in town (bye Pete), and Clark searches for those crazy-ass knowledge stones that finally allow him access to the Fortress of Solitude. As a matter of fact, the s4 finale, “Commencement,” is still one of my favorite television episodes of all time, what with its epic scope and probably Smallville’s best ever attempt at juggling multiple plots.

Where did this shows quality go?

Where did this show's quality go?

But let’s be honest – season seven sucked. It sucked hard. Everything that was bright and fresh and nostalgic about the show was lost to navel-gazing both figurative (Lex’s final fall into evil as he murdered his innocent child self in a vision) and literal (Laura Vandervoort as Kara/Supergirl, who I will agree is hot but also useless). It went far too deep into its soapy aspects and tried to sustain the Clark-Lana-Lex love triangle, one that had fizzed out seasons earlier, as well as made very awkward Chloe’s transition into a “meteor freak” and Lionel’s final stand before being murdered by Lex. Even James Marsters was wasted as Brainiac, one of the show’s best villains on previous seasons.

But what may have seemed catastrophic to some fans – Lex and Lana both leaving the show right after s7, as well as show creators Miles Millar and Alfred Gough – turned out to be what has saved the show from complete boredom and its fall from grace. Now primarily set in Metropolis, the show’s title has unintentionally taken on a new meaning as Clark’s nickname, and somehow losing the show’s creators has revitalized the characters and their personalities. (Besides, Millar and Gough seemed to be barely paying attention, what with their screenwriting career finally taking off.) The show decided to bring back Oliver Queen a.k.a. The Green Arrow, one of the best supporting characters, as well as introduces us to a very strange version of the villain Doomsday, now a paramedic with a blackout problem, a mysterious past and parents of the Zod variety. (While knowing a great deal about comic lore, I am not an avid reader, but I do own The Death Of Superman, which is where Doomsday figures in most heavily in the Superman arc, and I know he is not Zod’s son.)

And god, Lana’s ouster helped the most. I was actually done with Lana right around the middle of s5, and felt that Kristen Kruek’s continued existence on the show was only dragging out every single lame plot bit that didn’t involve her being a French witch. And with Lex gone, we can stop freaking out about the Luthors, as they are all but dead and the crux of the first several seasons – how Clark and Lex went from friends to mortal enemies – had resolved. Now Michael Rosenbaum is free to make Sorority Boys 2: Search For Barry Watson.

This season has finally answered many viewers’ prayers that the show would finally ease its way back into Superman lore, as now Clark and Lois are both working at the Daily Planet and are finally getting us up to speed to the real Supes stories. (Oh, and Chloe’s there too, but she’s too busy getting married to Jimmy Olsen to realize the intense sexual chemistry between Lois and Clark, which is far more potent than it was for several seasons between Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher.) Their cases are more or less interesting, and watching Clark having to struggle more and more with his two personalities is getting to be a real hoot.

Yes, the series has lost much of its seriousness that got me hooked in the first place, its real interest in its own storylines, but I appreciate the goofy quality of this season as opposed to the murky despair of the last 1.5 seasons. My third favorite episode (“Instinct”) of the season so far has also been its silliest, where an outer space queen named Maxima follows the crystal’s beacon to Earth in order to mate with Clark and his superpenis, but ends up kissing many a wrong man and either putting them into comas or killing them outright.

Likewise, my second favorite episode was “Identity,” where Clark and Oliver flip the script from a previous episode where Lois seems to be sure of Green Arrow’s identity only to be tricked when Clark pretends to be the Robin Hood-inspired hero, this time having Oliver pose as Superman so Jimmy, who got a flash of a picture of Superman (or he calls him, the Good Samaritan), doesn’t discover that Clark and Supes are the same person. That episode also had the first instance I can remember of Chloe using her Rogue-like powers (taking/giving health) for somewhat nefarious purposes, as she puts a meddling reporter into a coma.

On the flipside, I really did not like the final fall episode, “Bride,” a Cloverfield-inspired episode where we jump into the past to see how the strengthened Doomsday wreaks major havoc at the Chloe/Jimmy wedding and kidnaps dear Chloe.

But the best episode of the season has without question been “Abyss,” one of the show’s best ones in a very long time, where it gets all Eternal Sunshine as we jump inside Chloe’s brain and watch her memories quickly fade away (Brainiac has taken control of her mind, but not if Jor-El has anything to say about it). That episode is re-airing this Thursday, and it’s the first episode of this season that I will actually consider rewatching.

I hope that the show can continue down this more varied path, as it has recaptured my faith in its continued presence. (This is season 8, don’t forget. One further than Buffy.) The program has definitely had its ups and downs, but we’re on a pretty formidable upswing and I’m excited for the first time in a couple years for the next new episode midway through next month.