Adam R. Holz

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.

Episode Reviews

Smallville: 4222011


As Clark inches toward embracing his public superhero identity (and this series creeps toward its conclusion), fiancée Lois Lane coaches him on keeping his secret identity secret. Meanwhile, a narcissistic “hero” from the future dubbed Booster Gold campaigns aggressively to become Metropolis’ go-to good guy. Booster’s mixed motives are tested when a teen bonds with extraterrestrial technology that turns him into an armored, beetle-like juggernaut.

Clark and Booster discuss true heroism. Clark says, “A hero is made in the moment by the choices he makes and the reasons he makes them. A hero brings out the best in people.” And Booster finally redeems himself by helping the teen trapped in the beetle armor. Lois makes peace with a competitor. She also tries to help an awkward young man increase his self-confidence.

Booster’s publicity blitz involves dancing, cleavage- and midriff-baring cheerleaders in tiny skirts. Lois and Clark kiss, with her on top of him. Booster questions whether Clark has the “cajones” to be a hero. Lois calls Booster an “a‑‑.” “Mad as h‑‑‑” is repeated three times. Someone screams “Oh my God.” The beetle’s attack includes choking someone and explosive energy blasts that nearly kill a young woman. (Clark intervenes.) Booster stops an SUV from running over someone.

Smallville: 10152010


Clark is on the verge of calling the whole hero thing quits when Lois invites him to attend a homecoming reunion in Smallville. Clark acquiesces. An old foe, Brainiac, shows up and transports Clark through time—to the past and the future. Turns out Brainiac’s a good guy now, determined to help Clark release his guilt. “I’ve been so buried by the mistakes of the past and so worried about the responsibility of the future that I’ve lost sight of the present,” Clark says. Destiny, fate, responsibility, forgiving yourself and choice, then, are strong themes throughout this episode.

At his adoptive father’s grave, Clark says, “I promise to be the man you knew I could be.” Clark and the Green Arrow both re-embrace the responsibility of being heroes.

Green Arrow is called a playboy and is shown drinking. Lois implies that she wants spiked punch at homecoming. Lois and Clark kiss twice. In a flash-forward sequence, a married Clark and Lois make a slight sexual allusion. A guidance counselor stabs a knitting needle into a Clark-like doll. Characters say “h‑‑” and “d‑‑n.” Lois wears a cleavage-revealing dress.

Smallville: 1082010


Superhero-hating talk show host Gordon Godfrey is possessed by an entity called the Darkseid that manifests itself as a black cloud or a flock of crows. Kara/Supergirl returns to push Clark out of the way of the Darkseid, but then reconsiders, deciding instead to equip him for the battle. Lois talks about the importance of heroes. In a pseudo-prayer to his deceased parents, Oliver mentions wanting to make them proud.

Lois confronts Godfrey at a church and later entraps him by posing as a dominatrix at an S&M/fetish club, where she snaps pictures of him entangled with two scantily clad women. She pours hot wax on his chest and chains him up, but he snaps his bonds, grabs, hits and kidnaps her. Club scenes include a host of sexual images, including a woman on a stripper pole and a man on a leash. Lois pours on the sexual suggestiveness when she talks to Godfrey. Supergirl, meanwhile, wears a tight, midriff-revealing outfit. Oliver practices martial arts shirtless and kisses a woman.

Clark falls from the sky after a failed flight attempt. The Darkseid explodes from Godfrey’s chest.

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Adam R. Holz

After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.

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