Love it or hate it, the "Smallville" TV show has been one of the most popular mass media adaptations of a comic, reaching millions of viewers each week with stories of what Clark Kent's life was like before he became Superman. Now, we're marking its passing by having ComicsAlliance's Chris Sims and David Uzumeri, two guys who have never actually watched the show, watch and review every single episode of the tenth and final season.
David: I've caught a few episodes here and there, like during the Supergirl season or whatever, but it never really held my interest since it was shot, acted and paced like a low-rent CW drama. Which is what it was. This... is pretty clearly no longer the case.
Chris: Yeah, not a lot of network teen dramas show Dr. Fate and Hawkman at 8 PM on Friday.
David: At this point it's totally dropped the whole "teen drama with a kid who can do amazing things" angle, you know? The entire Smallville dynamic of Clark and Lex and Lana and all that fit in perfectly with the stuff that was also coming out at that time, mixing a little bit of action with a whole lot of melodrama, character work and pretty young actors. Now we've got a season on deck that plans to introduce a host of characters from Jack Kirby's Fourth World like Darkseid and the New Gods, and this episode was basically 44 minutes of fanboy pandering. And I mean, I'll give it this: I was entertained. I was hell of entertained. Not once did I think "Damn, why did I sign up to cover this? This is so boring."
This does not mean it was good.
Chris: It should be noted that this entire series of articles was your idea. My background's almost the same, except that I have only ever watched one episode, "Absolute Justice," which featured the JSA. Like, the actual Justice Society of America. Hawkman was in it.
Chris: If there's one thing that sums up the experience for me, it's this: That was a show where Stargirl, who has a staff that shoots cosmic energy, fought the Icicle, who shoots ice out of his hands. And when they fought, he just made a big staff out of ice and then they tried to hit each other with sticks for five minutes. That's "Smallville."
David: The title's symbolism is pretty obvious: Clark dies and comes back (thanks to Darkseid it seems?), and we get a crazy clone Lex to stand in for Michael Rosenbaum as well as an adorable lil' Lex, who goes by Alexander and is a pretty clear reference to the kid from "Crisis on Infinite Earths."
Chris: For a season opener, I gotta say: This is not what you'd call a great jumping-on point. I mean, admittedly, that's not their fault; I'm the one just now sitting down to watch the final season of a ten-year run without any context for it. But at the same time, I'm suddenly way more sympathetic to people who say that they can't get into comics because of all the backstory. I had a hard time figuring out what was going on here, and I've been reading Superman comics for 22 years.
The flipside to that, though, is that the stuff that regular viewers would've gotten over years ago is fresh and hilarious to me, like that theme song. When I was watching it, someone on Twitter asked me who had a more embarrassing theme song, "Smallville" or "Enterprise." And the answer, of course, is "Firefly."
David: It definitely didn't provide much in the way of backstory, but I'm so used to jumping into stories midstream with comics that I was never really lost. I'm pretty sure Joe Blow would have no idea what the hell was going on, but here's what I could figure out: Clark was stabbed with Zod's blue Kryptonite dagger before Zod went "away" (to the Phantom Zone?)...
David: ...and also Clark and Lois kissed and also Tess Mercer is unhealthily obsessed with Lex Luthor.
Chris: Also hilarious: The fact that they won't put Clark in a Superman costume, but they will let him run around in a black T-shirt with a silver Superman logo airbrushed on it. Also that everyone calls him "The Blur." Because at this point, it's his codename. He's "The Blur." When he finally puts on his costume, everyone's going to be wondering why the Blur has an S on his chest. And also why he's pretending to not be Clark Kent.
David: The callbacks to "Adventures of Superman" #500 with Clark dying and then talking to Pa Kent are pretty prevalent, which is weird since Doomsday was TWO seasons ago, but whatevs. But the dream sequences, the whiny Jor-El and the supportive Pa Kent, that hilarious Christmas Carol sequence where he goes "Hey, what's up with my dad's grave" and wipes away grass and OH NO IT'S HIS NAME...
David: ...It's all so '90s that they might as well have sold this episode in a white polybag with a lenticular cover and some pogs. Which brings me to my first point: Wow, Smallville's Jor-El is a gigantic jerk.
Chris: Oh yeah, he totally is. But to be fair, if you'd been trying to get Clark to be Superman for ten years, you'd be a little snippy at this point too. That's my whole problem with the show at this point: The Blur has already met the Legion of Super-Heroes, hung out with the Justice League and the Justice Society, met Zatanna and the Wonder Twins, fought Doomsday, and hell, Speedy has been on this show. Speedy! Green Arrow's sidekick! Now they're getting into Kirby stuff with Cadmus and... well, we'll get to that in a minute, but what the heck is left for Superman to do that "the Blur" hasn't already done? I get that what happens to the main character after "Smallville" ends isn't the show's problem, but it sort of breaks the whole Superman mythology of the show for me, y'know? If they wanted to make a Superman show that was based in the DC Universe, why didn't they put that costume on him five years ago?
David: It's kind of weird, since the original plan for this show was that it was going to be the Young Bruce Wayne Adventures. And if they'd done that, we'd have this Bruce Wayne by now who'd fought the Joker, gotten his back broken by Bane, solved his parents' murder and turned in Joe Chill, saved Dick Grayson at a circus, had Dick Grayson grow up and go away, found a kid lifting tires off of his car and started hanging out with him, had him killed by the Joker, and then taken a dip in a Lazarus Pit before finally at the beginning of season ten someone goes "Hey, what if you dressed up as a bat?"
Chris: And in the final season, he'd meet the Bruce Wayne of Zur-En-Arrh.
David: Here's the deal with this episode: It starts out with Clark hanging out in the realm of Nekron, the embodiment of death (I'm going to go ahead and guess we'll hear Nekron mentioned this season, Geoff Johns rolls like that), and Jor-El being a dick telling him he's not gonna be a hero, and that he's gonna die. Then Clark says to hell with death, and hits a grave psychically; this makes him come back and then he kisses Lois. Then he and Lois do this really annoying flirty thing where they both pretend not to know that the other person knows that Lois knows that Clark is "the Red-Blue Blur," which is Smallvilleian for Superman.
Chris: So yeah, within the first five minutes, we've got Zod, Blue Kryptonite, Green Arrow, and Dr. Fate's helmet. And then things start to get a little crazy.
David: There's also some stuff with Zod and blue Kryptonite I don't understand. Tess Mercer, a character chimaera of Miss Tessmacher and Mercy, walks into the Cadmus research facility and sees a whole bunch of really hilarious "KIIIILLLLL MEEEEEEEEEE" scientific-abortion Lex clones, along with a little Lex who is basically the kid from "Crisis on Infinite Earths." Then an evil Lex clone escapes, allowing this season premiere to call back to the first season premiere without having to pay for Michael Rosenbaum.
Chris: It should be noted here that Tess had half her face burned off and was then healed by magic science bukkake.
Chris: Also, the Evil Lex Luthor clone is basically Lord Voldemort. He shows up just after Lois reveals the actual Superman costume in a gift box, and then just cold pimp-slaps her right as she turns around. The whole thing is so amazingly "Walker: Texas Ranger"-esque that I laughed for a solid minute after it happened.
David: So basically Evil Lex crucifies Lois on this fake cross thing or something where they put an extra bar in at the bottom to make it really clear that they aren't explicitly saying Superman is Jesus, even though anyone with any critical thinking can figure out that they are.
David: Evil Lex puts Lois in a wife-beater and ties her to it and lights it on fire for the most sexually provocative Joan of Arc scene ever. NOTE: Erica Durance, bless her heart, looks more like a porn star than Andy San Dimas, the actual porn star playing her in "Superman XXX."
Chris: That's the scarecrow post Clark got strung up on in the first episode, but yeah, the crucifixion imagery is pretty obvious, especially since Clark falls to Earth with his arms out, Jesus style, at the top of the episode. And let's not forget how Luthormort takes the time to paint a big red S on her chest, just like Clark was rocking on the DVD cover to the first season.
David: Anyway, Luthor pulls this whole moral dilemma I HAVE ALSO BLOWN UP THE DAILY PLANET BUILDING DECORATION! YOU CAN ONLY SAVE THEM OR HER thing, and then Clark defeats this moral dilemma with the very clever solution of running really really fast. Then he passes out and Jor-El lectures him some more about how he's a lame hero and Clark is all "NAW, DAD THEY LOVE ME I'M REALLY COOL" and they foreshadow Darkseid some more. There's also this whole subplot with Oliver Queen getting kidnapped by a mercenary and tortured, and then they trade him for Chloe Sullivan, who put on the Doctor Fate helmet to find Clark. It's very difficult to keep track of the order that this all occurred in the episode.
Affter this Clark gets to talk to dead Pa Kent for some other unexplained reason, and then the smoke monster from Lost shows up and forms itself into a CGI Darkseid.
And Clark has entombed the Superman costume in crystal at the Fortress of Solitude. OH! And Lois goes to Africa, which, if I'm being extremely uncharitable (and that's what they pay me for, kids), could certainly be interpreted as putting her in danger of the DARK SIDE by sending her to... the DARK CONTINENT.
Chris: Am I missing something, or was there absolutely no reason for Chloe to not tell Clark "Oh hey, we have no idea where Green Arrow is. Can you help me find him?" The first thing he does when he comes back to life at the beginning of the episode is ask how everyone is, and she says "Oh they're fine, now tell me more plot exposition in case anyone missed the season finale?"
David: Maybe she hired the mercs to find him since he's in the doghouse, and that's how Chloe rolls. Insinuate she's getting fat at dinner and you'll end up at the business end of burning tongs.
David: I'm still unclear as to whether that dude is supposed to be Darkseid's henchman Desaad or not, since Desaad's always been a sleazy, perverted sadism, not just regular old power-dynamic sadism.
Chris: If that IS Desaad, and Smallville has recast the world of Apokolips as a weird paramilitary unit, then I am sincerely hoping they refer to the place they're keeping Chloe as "Armaguantanamo."
David: Even just Armaghetto Bay would work. Honestly, I'm surprised they went this supernatural from the start; I expected something more like the Dark Side Club. Which, to me, seemed tailor-made for a live-action interpretation of the characters.
Chris: Instead, we get Smoke Monster Darkseid.
David: He was accidentally released from the Mother Bong.
Chris: Chris Hastings, the creator of Dr. McNinja, pointed out on Twitter that both Darkseid and Galactus, Jack Kirby's two most intimidating villains, have now been rendered in "live-action" as smoke monsters.
David: I never saw "Fantastic Four 2," and I feel very grateful for that. I mean, I even thought "Iron Man 2" was kind of lame. I'd HATE FF. I wonder how much Fourth World they're bringing with Darkseid, though. Like, do you think we'll see the New Gods at all? A Mother Box? The Source and Anti-Life?
Chris: I think we're going to see it all. Seriously. After seeing Smallville's interpretation of the Martian Manhunter as a dude in green shirt wearing backwards red suspenders, I told my pal Chad (co-writer of Awesome Hospital) that I was fully expecting Smallville's version of Darkseid to be just a dude in a blue shirt and possibly black boots. And he was like "No, Chris. They did Doomsday as a big gray monster in green bike shorts. Darkseid is going to look exactly like he looks in the comics."
Which, again, is what's crazy about this show: Smoke monster or not, he actually DOES look like Darkseid. Glowing eyes, crazy helmet. I seriously think we're going to see Darkseid, Boom Tubes, all that. We might even get Kanto and his RenFaire clothes. The crazy thing is, we're going to see them fight The Blur. Why is it Clark gets this line drawn around him for not being able to be in his costume?
David: There are 22 episodes in Season 10, and I'm honestly expecting to be crazy entertained. This isn't any worse than "Fringe" or whatever, and I expect all of it to be completely surreal. Because, I mean -- this is a show that was all about character interaction and teen drama, and it still has that audience, and they're about to get bombarded with complete sci-fantasy insanity if they even get close to the spirit of the original stuff.
David: It's fun. The double-rescue scene, while kind of unimaginative, was well-executed.
Chris: Completely apart from Erica Durance getting tied up with her arms behind her in a tank top, I've got to admit that I really liked all the Lois stuff in this episode. I liked that she was completely incredulous at being the last person to find out Clark was Super--uh, The Blur, and I thought the scene where she pretends not to know was cute, although it made absolutely no sense. Especially since him moving at super-speed was twice as loud as any of the talking. It didn't make much sense for her to leave for Africa at the end, but I liked everything that led up to it.
David: She's also the best actress in the show, short of Allison Mack. Clark doesn't really come across as heroic or anything other than wooden and brooding, but Lois actually does come off as Intrepid Girl Reporter. There's an intelligent playfulness that Clark just doesn't have at all in his side of their interactions. I mean, to a degree that makes her a bit manic pixie dream girl, but I see that more as Tom Welling not holding up on his end.
Chris: Also, I have to admit I actually kinda liked Smoke Monster Darkseid. I don't want that to be what he looks like when he actually shows up, but I like that there's a huge amount of prophecy and foreshadowing for him. Darkseid's an EVIL GOD, and he should have a lot of buildup, so that when he eventually does show up, everyone has a reason to be scared.
David: Smoke monster Darkseid makes sense, since it's hard to film his disembodied consciousness as a series of vibrations that make a light show. That said, I'll kiss the TV if I get to see Tom Welling sing him to death.
David: Tom. Welling. The pointlessness of the Green Arrow bit. Tom Welling.
David: Oh, and the entire clone-Luthor storyline is pretty ridiculous.
Chris: Honestly, Luthormort was a pretty terrible villain of the week. One of my complaints was going to be that Clark didn't actually have a bad guy to deal with until I remembered that he actually did. I had completely forgotten him until you brought him up, and I watched this show yesterday.
Also, he's kind of a jerk to Clark, so Clark chokeslams him and then he dies? Not only is that not very heroic for the guy who's going to be Superman, but how sloppy are you as a screenwriter that you throw in "I'm dying but it's not your fault even though I was perfectly fine killing a laboratory of clones until you chokeslammed me oh hey I'm dead now."
David: But as Clark moves closer to being straight up Superman, there just NONE of that character in Tom Welling's acting. And yeah, and I'm kind of not looking forward to the Alexander Luthor/Tess Mercer storyline at all, unless Alexander Luthor actually starts being half anti-matter and having a starfield.
David: Do you think original Lex is actually dead for reals?
Chris: Definitely not.
David: Or, more likely, he's the one that took Tess to Cadmus and fixed her up and left her there to blow it up? And Rosenbaum will be an unannounced OH SNAP moment halfway through the season?
Chris: Yeah, I'll be really surprised if we don't see Michael Rosenbaum by the end of this season. At first I thought Luthormort was a way of working around not being able to get him back, but now I think he's a genuine red herring. Or as much of one as he can be with them saying "oh you're going to fight Lex more" like fifteen times during this episode.
David: From what I saw of "Smallville," honestly Rosenbaum's Lex was always the best part. Brooding Superman is tiring, but Brooding Lex makes total sense. Lex should always brood, for nobody understands his genius, and oh, he could accomplish so much if only Kal-El were not in his way. Being a drama whore is part of his character.
Chris: Also, the scene with Pa Kent actor John Schneider felt less like Clark dealing with internal conflict than Clark just totally having a hallucination where Bo Duke showed up to give him advice.
David: All of those scenes were mystifying. Where in the Superman mythos does he constantly talk to his dead dads in dreams? I mean, I guess they do do it -- "All Star Superman" #12, "Adventures of Superman" #500 -- But here it just seemed casual.
Chris: Yeah, and seriously, Jor-El is a massive tool. He's not happy when Clark's doing nothing, sure, but he's also not happy when Clark's saving Lois and stopping Lex Luthor from blowing up the Daily Planet globe? That's what Superman does! What are you whining about.
David: Well, Jor-El talks about wanting him to rule. I guess Smallville Jor-El is basically a cultural imperialist. And his kid's gone native.
Chris: I hate Jor-El.
David: Jor-El isn't even a character; he's like Batman's dad, Thomas Wayne. In the comics, I mean. What do we KNOW about Jor-El? Like, nothing.
Chris: Yeah. As soon as he puts that baby in the rocket, his part in the story is over. And yet, people insist on going back to him, especially in stuff like"Superman Returns" and "Smallville."
David: It wasn't great, but I could probably watch it without feeling horribly embarrassed. I realize that sounds like a backhanded compliment, but I'm not sure if it's because the show is taking itself more seriously or less. But this is also the first time I've ever watched it with the intent to actually really follow it. I think it'll be pretty silly, but I'm entertained enough to not dread the next episode.
Chris: I'm looking at episode summaries of the seasons I've missed, and seriously, they make it sound like the best show ever. Like, it could've totally been the crazy, fun heir to "Buffy." Like this one: "Rokk, Imra and Garth, also known as The Legion, step in from the future to help vanquish the Persuader and the group realizes Brainiac has taken over Chloe once again. " That sounds amazing, but with the episode I'm seeing in my head just from reading that, there's no way the actual show could be anything but a disappointment.
David: I love how they've basically stealth turned it from a teen drama into the live-action version of "Batman: The Brave and the Bold." It seems like every episode this season is going to have a crazy DCU guest-star.
Chris: That'll certainly hold true for next week's episode, "Shield," which according to the IMDB will involve, and I am not kidding, Cat Grant, Lois in Egypt, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, and DEADSHOT. We'll be here for it, and we hope you will too.
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