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.
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.