After 10 long years, the boy becomes a man- or rather a superman. Baby Kal-El first landed in the humble farm town of Smallville on October 16, 2001 thanks to the WB Network (now CW). The origins series leaped tall nerd expectations with a single bound as fans buzzed about this new ‘Dawson Creek’ meets comic books show. Filled with a young, vibrant, and good looking cast, this modern day re-telling of a 70 year old legend had much potential. We all knew Superman would eventually fly- but I don’t think any of us knew it would take 10 years to get there. As a HUGE Superman fan for over 25 years, I have to confess that I haven’t tracked with Smallville over the years. After the first couple of seasons, the ‘freak of the week’ formula was getting too contrived for me. That was probably the biggest complaint among fans which is the reason why season 2 was the highest rated one during it’s prolific run. However, the core fans stayed faithful keeping it on the air and earning it the longest running comic book series in TV history. I did still drop back in for special episodes like the introduction of Flash, Hawkman, Aquaman, the Justice League, and epic appearance of the late Christopher Reeves. To me, the show got overly ambitious by ‘shoe-horning’ in every DC character and story arc from the Superman mythology and after a while, I just fell too far behind to care. But when the conclusion of the series was announced, I had to ‘fan up’ and join back into the journey at the start of this final season to see how this would all end (and how Superman would begin).
The episode was what you might expect from a finale 2-hour story. There is a lot of wrap up conversations with most of it focusing on whether Clark is ready to take on the mantel of responsibility as the man of steel. It’s evident that these conversations are carrying the burden of 10 years worth of expectations as all the ramifications are explored and weighted. If you were a fan of the show, you probably relished in all the angst about if Clark should suit up or not. Non-fans may have found it a bit tedious. Of course there is a wedding and of course it is rudely interrupted by a super villains attack. In this case, a Darksied possessed Oliver attempts to give Clark a red kyptonite ring that would steal his powers forever. Considering how long Oliver had been under the influence of Darksied, I thought the quick exorcism was rather unsatisfying and unrewarding. You accept it because it needed to happen but it wasn’t particularly creative nor compelling. The finale also focused on the return of beloved characters like Jon Schneider’s Jonathan Kent. Which I have to admit was pretty touching in scenes but then got a little creepy when he started showing up around every corner. I felt like Clark was starting to ‘see dead people’ a la Sixth Sense. I know they were plucking the sentimental heart strings but I think the ‘less is more’ approach would have made a longer lasting impression.
In another conjured storyline, Lex Luthor is ‘frankenstined’ together and brought back to life with the help of some spare clone parts and the spirit of Darksied. Conveniently, his memory is wiped which erases the past 10 years, along with his knowledge of Clark’s real identity. This whole subplot was pretty ridiculous but it was needed to get the future continuity that we know and love back on track. As contrived as it was, it was great to see Clark and Lex share a final moment together. Michael Rosenbaum is a fantastic actor and the tension he brought to Smallville was irreplaceable. After all, the strongest element of Smallville has never been the storytelling but the casting. Clark, Lois, Lana, Lex, and the Kents were all near perfect choices and no doubt was the reason for our 10 year love affair.
After 10 years of build up, we are only teased with Tom Welling as Superman. Even though he suits up in the final few minutes, we are only treated to a few distance shots of him moving the planet of Apokolips away from Earth. Those long shots are clearly CGI and while heroic, felt unsatisfying. The only close up we are rewarded with, is a final shirt ripping scene in the closing shots of the episode. I have to admit, while brief and underscored with John Williams Superman theme, this scene gave me goosebumps. It really is too bad that Brian Singer’s Superman Returns reboot failed since Clark’s suit is from the same version as that one. The continuity would have been strong- and if anyone appreciates strong continuity it’s us comic book fans. I would have preferred a solid shot of a super Clark in action but I am sure it was cost prohibitive to craft an appropriate suit for just a few minutes of screen time. I guess we are left with our imagination which is less painful than a disappointing Tom in a sub-par suit.
All is all, what Smallville was able to accomplish was more powerful than a locomotive. More importantly than helping us believe a man could fly, it helped us believe that the superhero genre could fly as well. The current superhero renaissance in TV and film that we are enjoying was largely contributed to by this small non-network show. It helped usher in a new era and firmly established it’s place in our pop culture lore. Where Superman was under threat of being forgotten in film, Smallville helped keep his legacy alive. Regardless of our gripes, there will never be a series quite like this one. So while there were some complaints with the finale, I turned off my TV with a smile and satisfied with the series overall. Someday, I will sit down and return to all 10 seasons on DVD, perhaps to introduce my son to how a boy became a man.
I give the finale a 2.5 out of 5 Babbles