TV Series Review
It can be touchy business, reimagining the backstory of a cultural icon—especially an icon whose story everyone already knows. In this case, the icon is a certain superhero with a blue suit, a red cape and a giant S emblazoned on his chest, a hero with a penchant for battling on behalf of truth, justice and the American way.
However daunting that task might seem, however, Alfred Gough and Miles Millar insisted they were up for it. In 2001, the writing/producing duo convinced the fledgling WB network (which merged in 2006 with UPN to become the CW) that Superman's origin story—specifically, his life as an adolescent—was ripe for a 21st-century retelling.
But, they argued in their original pitch, it would be Superman as we've never seen him: the Man of Steel before he could fly, before he donned those oh-so-familiar red-and-blue superduds, before he and reporter Lois Lane's romantic relationship blossomed at the Metropolis newspaper known as The Daily Planet. In short, it would be Superman minus some of the super, and minus, come to think of it, a good bit of the man part, too. In essence, it would be the story of Clark Kent growing into both of those things.
The result is Smallville.
Over the course of 10 seasons and 200-plus episodes, Smallville has shown us far more than anyone ever dreamed we'd get to see of the boy sent to Earth from Krypton in a meteor shower—first as a high school student in his hometown of Smallville, Kan., then as a cub reporter at The Daily Planet. Season by season, episode by episode, the show's producers have introduced us to a vast array of characters—allies and enemies, some familiar (Lex Luthor), some obscure (Doomsday)—whose intricately interwoven stories and destinies have helped, hindered and intersected Clark Kent's own journey.
Just as it's daunting to reimagine such an iconic character onscreen, it's also intimidating to step up to the task of summarizing the elaborate narrative arc of a show that has not only gone in a hundred different directions, but also inspired a fiercely loyal fan base for a full decade. It's the kind of show, after all, that boasts fans who can quote chapter and verse about how blue kryptonite affects Clark differently than red kryptonite, or why a foe named Zod is a general in some episodes and a major in others.
Those hard-core fans will learn little new here. But for the rest of the world—represented by my wife, who, when I told her I was reviewing the series, said, "That show's still on TV?"—here's a thumbnail sketch of where things stand a few episodes into Smallville's 10th and final season. (And beyond that, our episode reviews below flesh out the praiseworthy and cringe-worthy content presented in two early fall airings.)
Clark Kent is inching ever closer to fully embracing the destiny for which his father, Jor-El, sent him to Earth: to defend humanity from the myriad threats arrayed against it. It's an embrace that's happening on every level—psychological, spiritual, physical and relational. Clark struggles to purge from his heart lingering doubts and fears regarding whether or not he's up to the job—as well as crippling regret for mistakes he's made in the past. Physically, Clark's still learning to master all his powers, especially that flying business. Relationally, there's the little issue of revealing to Lois his true identity. (Never mind that she's long ago figured it out and is merely biting her tongue.)
Around Clark, lots of folks are beginning to question whether the world really needs heroes, or whether these supposed do-gooders are actually more trouble than they're worth.
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Tom Welling as Clark Kent; Erica Durance as Lois Lane; Laura Vandervoort as Kara/Supergirl; Justin Hartley as Oliver Queen/Green Arrow; Kristin Kreuk as Lana Lang; Alison Mack as Chloe Sullivan; John Glover as Lionel Luther; Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor; John Schneider as Jonathan Kent; Annette O'Toole as Martha Kent; Terence Stamp as Jor-El; Callum Blue as Zod; Cassidy Freeman as Tess Mercer