10 Reasons Smallville Both Sucked and Ruled

Ten Years.  Over two hundred episodes.  Those are impressive stats for any TV series, much less a sci-fi show about superheroes.  Smallville owes its longevity to the fact that it allowed itself to change as it aged.  Starting off as a Teen Drama, evolving in a straight Science Fiction series, and finally coming into its own as a pure Superhero Epic, Smallville has had a polarizing effect on its own fanbase specifically and comic book fans in general.  At times it’s been a show people love, and at other times, loved to hate.  So in preparation for the upcoming Series Finale, let’s take a look back at the areas Smallville really sucked, and the other times when it really got it right.

 

10. SUCKED-MADE CLARK A LOSER

Self-Doubt is a common factor in many Heroic Tales.  The young hero, when first confronted with his over-powering destiny, initially rejects the call, feeling that he could never accomplish everything he’s been tasked with doing.  Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins, Harry Potter and many others have all uttered the phrase “I can’t do this,” at some point in time, before finally getting their act together and saving the day.  But Smallville took this to such an extreme with Clark, it almost became a running joke.  In an effort to keep Clark from fulfilling his destiny too soon, writers gave Clark the all-time greatest case of the shakes, ever!  He spent whole seasons doubting himself, hiding in his room, shying away from his destiny and his duty.  And worse, he whined about it the whole time, blaming himself for everything that went wrong, but doing nothing proactive to ensure he didn’t make the same mistakes.  Far from being Earth’s Greatest Hero, Clark Kent of Smallville became almost a cautionary tale about how NOT to act when you get superpowers.

9. RULED-MADE CLARK RELATABLE

Superman is impossible to relate to.  This is a phrase uttered by both fans and writers for years now.  Not just because of his infinite power and ability to do anything, but also because of his inherent maturity and goodness, which means he always knows what to do, and always makes the right decision.  Essentially, he’s perfect.  And to many people, perfect is boring.  However, the story of a boy trying to be perfect, trying to live up to everything he’s capable of, and stumbling as he learns right from wrong?  Now that is an interesting story, and one we can all relate to.  That first hour of television introduced us to a very different Clark Kent than any we had seen before.  Instead of a confident hero or over-the-top klutz, we saw a Clark Kent who was just like any one of us at the age of 16.  He was isolated, struggling to fit in, and unsure about his future.  Smallville managed to use superpowers as a metaphor for growing up, and made a godlike alien from another planet feel as relatable as the boy next door.

8. SUCKED-STRAYED TOO FAR FROM THE MYTHOLOGY

Any television show or movie that is an adaption of something else is going to have some differences from the source material.  Characters are left out or added, settings change, it happens.  But sometimes Smallville went so far off the map, we were left wondering what show we were watching.  It started with simple things, like having Lex’s father be a rich jerk.  It didn’t fit with any previous version, but Lex’s origins are always changing anyway, plus Lionel Luthor was awesome, so no harm, no foul.  Other things, like Clark’s ship landing during a meteor storm that killed Lana Lang’s parents, and Kryptonite giving humans superpowers, were necessary evils that upped the drama and gave Clark a steady supply of super-foes in the early days.  But some stuff was just too WTF for belief, and it usually revolved around Lana Lang.  Her marriage to Lex Luthor in Season Six for example.  But probably the biggest change to her character was the way they ‘finished’ off her storyline, by giving her superpowers of her own, which included the ability to absorb Kryptonite.  Since it has been confirmed that Lana won’t be returning for the show’s finale, this appears to be her final fate, a walking Kryptonite Woman who fights crime.  And that is so far off from Mythology that it practically makes her a different character.

7. RULED-LEADS DIRECTLY INTO THE MODERN SUPERMAN MYTHOLOGY

One of the smartest twists to come out of Season 10 was the revelation that the show would not be ending with the “classic” Superman status quo, but that it would be ending with TODAY’s.  Instead of Clark being the Last Son of Krypton, hiding his secret from Lois, etc, we now get a Clark who has Superboy and Supergirl as teammates and family members.  Lois knows his secret and is about to become his wife.  He’s fought and beaten his entire Rogues Gallery.  For a show that has gone on for ten years and covered every aspect of the Superman story, this was the only way it COULD end, without some huge mind-wipe or time crisis to set everything straight.  The best part of this is the “synergy” it creates with the comics.  If anyone watches all of Smallville, and then picks up a Superman comic, they would instantly know who and what everything is.  Doomsday, Zod, Superboy, The JSA, The Fortress.  Smallville has become the most comprehensive telling of Superman’s story in history, outside of the comics.  It is now the perfect Superman primer for new fans.

6. SUCKED- FOCUS WAS OFF CLARK FOR TOO LONG

Smallville had a definitive ending in mind:  Clark Kent becomes Superman.  This was a clear goal that both the writers and the fans knew was coming and would eventually have to be reached by the end of the series.  The problem came when the show lasted WAY longer than anyone thought it would, meaning that Clark’s journey had to be slowed to a snail’s pace to keep him from reaching the finishing line too soon.  As a result, Clark moved along in fits and starts, taking one step forward for every two steps back.  In the meantime, focus shifted onto just about every other character on the show.  Initial mainstays like Lana, Lex and Lionel ate up the most time, as they were writer-favorites, and it seemed like whole chunks of seasons (and most of Season Six) were devoted to the trio dancing around, trying to outwit the others, while Clark just stood there.  Even in later years, when new characters Lois and Green Arrow came on, their romance pretty much stole the show, ironically and annoyingly playing on many of the same story beats that make Lois and Clark such an interesting pair.  Even in the latest years, after much of the original cast had left, Chloe’s relationship with Doomsday, and Tess’s with Zod kept Clark off the board for much of the time, reducing him to a deus ex machina who would just run in and save people, but who had no story of his own.

5. RULED-INTRODUCED TONS OF DCU HEROES

This might be considered a flaw for some fans, who felt that other heroes on the show detracted from Clark’s story.  But the fact remains that Smallville is where we saw the first serious live-action versions of many of the DCU’s characters, including mainstream heroes like Aquaman, Green Arrow, and Hawkman.  But what really rocked was that the show also gave face-time to many lesser-known fan-favorites, like the Legion of Superheroes, Cyborg, and Dr. Fate, upping their profile.  Even with only a few episodes remaining, there are still plans for Booster Gold and Blue Beetle to appear.  From Clark inspiring the Legion’s “No Killing” rule to Hawkman assuring Lois that she could be a help to Clark and not a hindrance, the best superhero cameos came when the new heroes added to or reflected something in Clark’s journey.

4. SUCKED-CLARK AND LANA’S RELATIONSHIP

First loves are always rough.  But Clark and Lana’s relationship was the definition of dysfunction.  It was the worst case of Drama For Drama’s Sake.  He was sort of responsible for her parents death, she wore a piece of Kryptonite around her neck.  And that’s how it started!  It only got worse from there.  Secrets upon secrets, lies upon lies, betrayals perpetrated in the name of love.  It was almost like the two of them got off on the drama.  Very rarely was there ever a happy moment between the two.  They looked at each other with pain in their eyes more than they smiled.  Arguably the worst of it came when Clark unwittingly sacrificed his father’s life for Lana’s, only for her to turn around and marry Lex Luthor a year later.  But what compounds the offense is that it just never ended.  For seven years we watched as the two of them tortured one another, and then finally Lana leaves, only to come back the next year and start everything up again, rocking the boat on Clark’s only healthy relationship, with Lois.

3. RULED-CLARK AND LOIS’S RELATIONSHIP

Now this was a mature, adult relationship.  I knew at Chloe’s wedding shower, when drunk Lois makes a terrible toast, and Clark manages to pull her off the table and salvage the speech, that they had a good thing going.  Unlike two horny teenagers, Clark and Lois were professionals who took their relationship slowly, making sure they laid the foundation before trying to build anything on it.  The only problems came about when Lois started to fall for Clark’s superheroic double-identity.  But that’s to be expected.  The fact that Lois and Clark were already an item when she fell for The Blur, and that Clark was in real danger of losing the woman he loved to… himself added an extra edge to the classic two-sided love triangle.  But the best Lois and Clark moments have been in Season 10, were you really see the pair becoming a supportive couple.  The flash-forward episode Homecoming set a new standard for the pair’s marriage, with Lois trying like crazy to protect Clark’s secret ID, and made me wish they behaved that way in the comics.

2. SUCKED-NO BATMAN OR WONDER WOMAN

Now, this one may not be the fault of the show itself, but it still sucks.  Because of the various legal dealings going on during the shows run, Batman restarting his movie franchise with great success and Wonder Woman attempting to do so as well, Superman’s two closest non-Kryptonian allies never appeared on Smallville.  For a show that depicted Clark meeting EVERYONE he will know, work with and fight against as Superman, it just feels odd that he never got to meet these two.  Instead of Batman, we got Green Arrow, who took Bruce’s place as Clark’s wealthy human companion who not only funds the JLA, but who also plays Devil’s Advocate, questioning Clark’s decisions and forcing him to really think about the choices he makes.  There was never really a Wonder Woman substitute on the show, unless you count Super-Lana.  However, recently Chloe did make a reference to both characters existing in the Smallville Universe, and that they are Clark’s equal in stature and importance.   It’s somewhat comforting to know that both Batman and Wonder Woman do exist, and are just “over there” doing their own things.  Still, it sucks that we never got to see them and Clark meet up.

1. RULED-KEPT SUPERMAN IN THE PUBLIC EYE FOR TEN YEARS

For a solid decade, comic and sci-fi fans have had a constant program they could turn to and count on.  Huge chunks of Superman’s mythology are common knowledge to people who have never and will never pick up a comic book.  Casual fans now know who the JSA was, and who the Legion of Superheroes will be.  Doomsday is feared, Supergirl is loved, and Lex Luthor is “loved to be hated” by a whole generation of fans.  There is no real way of knowing just how much Smallville has impacted the little world we all love.  Would shows like Heroes and Supernatural have existed without Smallville?  Every year movie studios put out “superhero without a costume” films like Push and I Am Number Four.  For the last ten years, Superman has been alive and well on our television screens.  Movies like Superman Returns have come and gone, with a new movie in the works, and still, Smallville is here.  Warts and all, Smallville has endured.  I think it goes without saying, like it or not, Smallville is this generation’s version of the Superman story.

But what do YOU think?  Did Smallville Suck more than it Ruled?  Was it too much angst and pointless drama, or did it redefine the superhero TV show for years to come?  Tell us what you think.


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10 Comments

  1. Grizzleybruin says:

    Great article Phil….. However, I have to add one little addendum: Remember that first rule about fight club? Don’t talk about Fight club?…well, the first rule of TV shows is similar: You don’t make it clear that you’re watching a TV show. That happened the day Smallville realized they couldn’t come up with any interesting, original pre-cape stories so they started exploring post-cape stories (like daily planet, JLU, Lois/perry/jimmy etc) …..with a plain clothes superman that couldn’t fly…..The funniest gripe I hear from Smallville fans is “Why not get Tom welling to play Superman on the big screen?”, and the reason is lost on them: Smallville IS Superman (minus the cape & flying)…..and any attempts to connect it to either comics or movies would make his entire premise look silly……the primary reason for which is that before putting on the cape & tights, Clark kent’s exploits were supposed to be unknown to his enemies……. this is why no one ever suspects Bruce Wayne of being Batman, because he didn’t come into contact with any of Gotham’s criminals while he was honing his skills pre-mask .…. But by combining pre-cape friends & enemies with post-cape friends & enemies, Smallville made certain that when Clark kent (who many friends/enemies already suspected as being a metahuman) finally shows himself to the world, it would be less of a reveal of the world’s greatest hero and more a mea culpa to every person he has ever met throughout his life: “You were right all along! I, clark kent, really do have powers!”.
    This wouldn’t have happened if the creators had just avoided anything that might conflict with Clark’s future as superman, the same way they went out of their way to avoid letting him fly…..but some things were too difficult to use effectively on the show, while others simply required a minor re-imagining…..One of the reasons Superhero franchises are all the rage right now is because you don’t have to come up with brand new stories, just re-imagine the ones that have already been told until they fill 2hrs of screen time….thus was the case when it came to Smallville: 70 years of great superman characters turned into 10 years of cheap VFX & soapy 45 min episodes……minus the cape & flying.
    Personally, I would’ve given anything to have a clark kent that had ALL the elements of superman (esp flight), which he then utilized to fight crime in every city on earth EXCEPT metropolis, making his big reveal in costume as the first time the people of his city saw his face…and let the people of the world know who was helping them all those years.

  2. jamie says:

    I tend to agree with Grizzleybruin – well, as much as I can, that is. I was about twenty years old when Smallville first came on the air and over the years, I’ve made several attempts to follow it, but I just can’t. – and it’s not because of all of the reasons Grizzleybruin points out (which are all totally valid), but because of just one reason he points out: “cheap VFX & soapy 45 min episodes” – the show was just not made for me. Where as I felt that Lois and Clark was marketed toward everyone, Smallville felt like it was marketed toward heterosexual teenage girls, but instead of having them watch Charmed and maybe getting some girl power out of it, they would watch Smallville and swoon over Clark. I gave the show many chances over its ten year run, but the show just wasn’t written for 20 something men – it was written for teenage girls, tiger beat style.

  3. Ryan says:

    I’m a 22 year old straight male, and I’m a bigger fan of Smallville than anything else.

    The early seasons definitely had some melodrama or soap-opera moments. But the Lex/Lionel dynamic added a lot of maturity to the show and made even the most cheesy episodes likable.

  4. Nathan says:

    I absolutely adore Smallville. I’ve been watching since I was in 5th grade, and I’ve watched everything happen with the growth and maturation of the show. I think we can all say that there has been a lot of suckage over the years but in my honest opinion Smallville has RULED way more than sucked. There’s been way too much good to come out of the show (Clois, Justice League, Lex, Lionel, Chloe, The Blur/Clark/Lois Triangle, and so much more) that outweighs the bad (Yes, clark is  a pussy sometimes. I think that’s changed a lot in the past 3 seasons though. Yes, there are some horrible effects, but you look back on this show and it’s hard to pinpoint exact times when those effects were bad because there were too many times the effects looked great.)

    Any show on TV has soapy elements. I can’t think of one that doesn’t. At their heart all shows have drama as their basis, no matter how tough the outside may be, they’re all sort of soaps at heart. 

  5. This show says:

    Smallville is easily one of the best television shows of all time. They have made such an amazing story from Superman that nothing will ever be able to live up to it. 

    • justin says:

      you totaly got that rite. that show rox. im upset that its going off air. us fans should protest to keep it on!!!

    • SuperLetdown says:

      I just finished waatching the finale. Wow I can’t believe how much it sucked. I love smallville been watching it right from the start but the final episode was so disappointing I don’t think I could ever watch smallville again. the great thing about smallville for me was the build up to him becoming superman, how the hinted and made jokes about what he was one day become. but now that build up factor is gone and I know the ending and how bad it was it just never gonna be the same again knowing that.

  6. Jason says:

    Easily one of the worst shows I’ve ever seen.

    The first seasons were great. Because of the connections and the chemistry of the characters. Clark-Lana, Clark-Pete, Clark-Parents, Clark-Lex, Lex-Lionel, Lex- everyone who hates him. They all felt genuine and in character. But after season 3, everything just went out of whack.

    Clark became dumber and dumber (Superman in the comics is actually one of the smartest guys in DC), makes totally ridiculous decisions. All the characters except for Lex, Lionel, and Green Arrow were just garbage. The episodes were garbage. Too formulaic. They took FOREVER for Lex to find out who Clark is. Just ridiculous.

    The show’s garbage.

    If I was the writer, things would be a lot different.

  7. PVC says:

    I was on board for the first 9 1/2 seasons. then they included politics!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I gave it more chances to stop ramming their politics down my throat than I would any other show but the moment Lois ripped the tea party I dropped the show. I dont even want politics I agree with on the show. just entertainment!!!!!! so I missed the last half of the show and I dont miss it. funny thing is friends who agree with the liberal politics and watched the show also hated politics in the show and thought the quality was horrid…………….

  8. Sarah says:

    I hated Lois on Smallville, so was so annoying. For me their relationship was a detraction from the series not a plus. I know, it had to happen, but i wish Lois was more like Chloe; by far the best female character on the show and one of the best overall.

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