Superman on Television
Smallville: Episode Reviews
Retrospective Series ReviewReviewed by: Neal Bailey
Take it away, Monkeybella:
Q: What do you get when you play a game of basketball in Clark's back yard with Smallville rules in play?
A: Red, Yellow, and Blue balls.
If I have to explain that to you, you might as well stop reading this review now, because it's not for you.
The overwhelming and unmitigated disappointment I imagine many of you are feeling in the wake of that finale is understandable. You have my sympathy. As a purveyor of words and a crafter of fiction, I find nothing more reprehensible than the fact that we as creators are given tools that allows us to craft such wonderful stories, and yet so often those powers are corrupted in the name of making a dollar or exploiting a fanatical fan base. A fan base that, don't get me wrong, I love. A fan base so dedicated that they follow the character past rationality.
It's why I'm no longer a fan, in the traditional sense, of Superman these days. Star Wars and Superman slowly broke me of an irrational dedication to something, because irrational dedication leads to exploitation. It's something I should have realized already as an outspoken critic of organized groupthink, but when it's fiction, I turned a blind eye.
It's why I can't write for the Superman Homepage any more. Not because I don't love the character, or Steve, not because I don't love you guys, but because I watch a show like I just did and my rational mind kicks in. Maybe that's part of growing older, but then again, I know many people in their forties and fifties who are older than me that still don't get that you don't have to support a thing or believe it perfect just because you committed to it when you were five.
This, if anything, is the legacy of Smallville for me.
Yes, I watched the show after I swore off the reviews. I continued to hope, in naivety, that the show would somehow turn it around and pull it off, even after I pledged to stop my public support of the program. I wouldn't have, honestly, but the thing I wanted to see through, oddly enough, was the KO Count. I didn't start it until three years in, the last time the show actually had any real meaning for me, I realize in hindsight.
Steve asked me to, and I did. It was as simple as that.
When Clark Kent stood on top of a building and, to jangling rock guitar music, destroyed twin towers with heat vision in black wearing Superman's S while reporters screamed and fled falling debris, I knew my time with Smallville as a commentator was over.
Just last week I stopped receiving floppy comics in my pull box. I've been withdrawing from Superman for the last two years. It feels like a piece of my life has been excised, and a lot of that is due to the fact that Smallville taught me that it's not about storytelling, or about heroes. Sometimes it is, don't get me wrong. But most of the time, it's a multi-media conglomerate trying to think of the best way to take the most money they can from your pocketbook. For some it's their pleasure to have the cash taken. If it suits you, more power to you. My response was, and remains, if you're having a good time, good for you. If you're enjoying the show, good for you.
Since that low-water moment, I've pulled myself away from comics and superhero media in general and focused on telling my own stories. Things I care for. Things I would be fanatical for. Stories where the characters can die. Stories where death means something. Stories where the plot devices are thought out and intrinsically relate to the inner conflicts the heroes are experiencing. Stories where the main character progresses and learns, as Clark did not. Or when he did, it would later be contradicted.
It's been quite enlightening, and good for me.
When I was reviewing Smallville I still created, don't get me wrong, and in the time Smallville was on I wrote eight novels, but now I've upped the scale. I'm not doing a novel a year, or a novel every two. I'm cranking out one every six months. In this Smallville taught me many things, things that will give it a legacy I'll take with me in a positive way.
It taught me what not to do, and it taught me to focus less on other people's storytelling, and instead create my own.
That's not to say there weren't great moments on the program. The show was full of them. Hell, the first three years were practically gold. But this show defines, it ABSOLUTELY defines the reason we have a term like "jump the shark."
For people who are still so close to the show they can't see it, they won't realize why Smallville was very much looked at askance by folks. But to anyone who isn't so steadfast in their dedication to Superman that they forgive almost anything, or so earnestly full of shadenfreude that they want to see a train wreck through, the initial response is "Oh, that's still on? Wow. Jeeze. Wouldn't he be like, thirty now?"
I know saying that isn't going to make me any friends, but it's true, and hopefully being honest is what gained me my initial reviewing audience, so I'd like to keep up that trend.
Most people, most RATIONAL people, when they are asked about Smallville, and what it is, and what it should mean, would indicate a show that should last for four years and then end. It's the story of Clark Kent in high school, not the story of a twenty-four year old man who can't fly, a Superman that appears after Supergirl, a man who doesn't feel called to be Superman but who instead accepts an inevitable destiny out of a feeling of moral obligation.
A Superman story where he's still killing people in the last episode.
There will be two responses to me saying that. Response one is "Oh, dude, you're totally out of your mind. He just turned Darkseid to dust! There's every likelihood that Darkseid survived that!" IE, someone who will make excuses for the show. IE, the people still watching. Then there's the person who sees Clark fly through a sentient being and obliterate them and says "Wow. Superman would never do that, and this is supposed to be the culmination of his moral journey."
I bring up my old standard response to the critique, "Well, he had no choice!" Stories do not happen in a vacuum. The writers PLACED him in a position where he had no other choice, and they didn't have to.
Ignoring that, both of those responses ignore the fact that twenty-one episodes of show built up to a one-hit kill for the main baddie whose origins, motivations, and personal rationale are never even remotely explored outside of "Hey! Comic nerds! This thing you know, Darkseid, is gonna be here, so watch, information fetishists!"
Which is kind of sad, exploitive, and unfair. Cruel, some might say.
There are things about fanatics that, by the very nature of the term, make them almost religious in their zealotry. I learned that when you are forgiven, you are very forgiven, and when you are hated, the persecution is as sharp as a dry diamond saw, and the hate and joy is tempered together into a blade that would cut through anything, no matter how thick your skin is, steel or paper. It's not about whether something makes sense, or whether something is of quality, or if something is worthwhile, it's honestly much more about whether a thing is KNOWN and if the decision upon that knowing was LIKE or FAIL. Most people choose LIKE for Superman before their cognitive faculties develop, so their blind spot to any inadequacy can be large.
This sounds like a condemnation, an "I am better than you." Don't take it as such. What I'm condemning is not you, the viewer, but myself, for not realizing that this was my mental failing, at least until I watched this finale and got bilked for the final time.
So many times I walked the line of nitpicking the flaws of all of these episodes, and in this finale they are legion. Plot holes. Lack of character. Overemphasis of character where it isn't necessary. Arbitrary conflict. Fanservice.
I mean, hell. The presidential election is set in 2018.
Again, the duality of thought on that: Person one will say "Well, it must be an alternate universe!" Person two will say "Wow, the writers didn't even care to add four twice."
I stand with Occam's Razor.
I'll be crapped on if I don't list these flaws, I imagine, because to toss out accusations without evidence is foolish. I would simply point to my previous reviews and say "ibid," but that's never enough with the first kind of person.
I'll posit a few of the more simple critiques, and then expand upon them in assessing the finale's competence in the work it had, which was the full resolution of the remaining character arcs.
First there's the deaths of Desaad, Granny, and Godfrey. Aside from having Green Arrow essentially kill three villains as a way to stop them, they've been shown in previous episodes as nearly omniscient and with strange, unknowing, corrupting powers. Here they stand and are killed with nary a whimper by arrows.
Lois makes it past the secret service and gives the Bill Pullman speech from Independence Day in the middle of a national emergency despite having absolutely no reason at all to be listened to. Aside from the fact that all of the reporters on Air Force One are known by name and face, this astounding leap of both logic and coherency was enough to make me plant my face in a blender and frappe.
Lionel Luthor is NOT Lionel Luthor. He is an alternate version of himself who, by any logic, should be good. He does not KNOW Lex Luthor, and as I recall (though I can't be bothered to check, truly I couldn't care less), killed his own son in Earth-2, or wherever Ultraman was from. Therefore his drastic actions to save Lex and his declaration that his son is all he cares about makes absolutely no sense, and is an arbitrary way to bring back Baum.
Lex Luthor's mind wipe is the single most ridiculous Deus Ex Machina in the ENTIRE series. Period. There are so many holes in it, I think of the Battle of the Bulge, comparably, as flatter than a Kansas plain. Not the Smallville Kansas ones, of course, which teem with mountains and have a waterfront.
If Lex remembers nothing until that moment when he is infected with magic impossible nanos, he will not only be monumentally stupid and continually crapping his pants from a lack of knowledge of how to hold his bowels, but also his motivation for making any kind of effort toward anything beyond breathing and looking at bright lights will be absent.
Then again, that does sound like a certain president I recall from the Smallville years. I'll leave you to infer which one.
I lied. It's Bush. What the hell, it's my last review.
Despite having no logical reason to do so, Jonathan now trusts Jor-El. The suit manages to move without anyone touching it, and Jor-El's omniscience and power extends through the series and culminates in this episode to the point of which he becomes an utter dink just for not doing what he's forcing his son himself.
Think of it. The man can grant the power of flight from beyond death at a non-preordained time after specific trials he had no way of knowing would happen, in ways that directly affect events he had no power or ability to conceive of, during periods of time when his extra-conscious AI self has been effectively dead by being shut down. Jor-El is, in point of fact, more powerful than God, because when God is not in existence, he lacks power, at least in existential theory.
"If u think about it 2 much, you r not getting the point."
No. If you think about it too much, you're getting MY point.
A PLANET comes almost to the point of touching Earth, and there is no change to gravity, no death, no destruction. Beyond that, as a plot device, I don't understand it, at all. You're Darkseid. You have Omega Beams and you're as strong as Superman. Excuse me. I'm sorry. You're Darkseid, a crow/dust phantom that possesses people and craves Judeo-Christian souls for no apparent reason other than NYAH, you're evil. It logically follows that your craving for souls can only reach its apex by destroying them all utterly with a rock.
Uh-huh. And if you believe that, I'd use the "beachfront property in Kansas to sell you" gag if there weren't, in this show, beachfront property in Kansas.
Here's a brief little question for you. How does Clark know Air Force One is in danger, and how does he know Lois is on it? The answer is either A) I don't care, because I love Superman so much that all I wanted to see was the familiar scene I know and love, IE, I would rather see a logo than sense, or B) He can't possibly.
With all of the things left to resolve, or left unresolved or examined (outside of the exploitation of license, I mean, important things like theme and character), we spend much time on montages. Two overlong montages.
It's not to say that looking back is wrong, though it is cheesy and hammy and moustardy and what you will here. With Clark they didn't choose the character beats, they chose the special effect beats. With Lex the montage highlights the essential things he needs to be a villain that are being erased from his mind. Lex's entire character arc is essentially negated and rendered moot. Why even have his character on Smallville if you're just going to do that?
If Lex were concerned with Tess becoming like him, then why did he leave her in charge of the company before he died? Did dying suddenly make him realize he didn't want her to be like him? If so (and that's a real implausible stretch, given that Lex has embraced villainy at this point), why knife her in the back? Why not just shoot her in the face?
Oh yeah. Because we needed an arbitrary way for the neurotoxin to be delivered.
I know it was supposed to be Lexcorp, that explosion. But it was just a giant X that appeared from nowhere. That makes it either A) The beginnings of the word, because later Lex will TOTALLY fill in the rest of the sign, and it'll be awesome. We have to assume it'll become Lexcorp! Or: B) An incoherent way to try and appease people without spending story time on how Luthorcorp changes so we can have a TON more time for insipid wedding vows and shippy ship shipping.
Speaking of which, Chloe is Green Arrow's wife? And they have a child? I know, I know. Alternate continuity. But why? What's the point? Why service something that was awkward and thrown in at the last minute, at the cost of Black Canary and continuity?
Oh yeah, because it's Smallville! You know how I know it's Smalville? Because there's a comic book about how Clark Kent became Superman in a world where no one is supposed to know his secret identity.
Swear to God, I saw, on the message boards, people forgiving that comic because "Obviously, Chloe must have had it printed up just for her son!"
BUT WHO F---ING DREW IT?
Not that I'm sensitive to the difficulties of creating a comic, being a comic book creator myself, but I know you don't just fall off the turnip truck knowing how to do it.
Far be it for me to assume that Chloe doesn't have special abilities, given that every character in Smallville has any talent or skill they need at any time as is necessary to forward the plot (for instance, "HOLD THAT! ENHANCE IT!" for any picture on any computer, ever, to go with hacker skills that outdo the government and extra-terrestrial entities). Obviously, thereby, she has the full capability of drawing, coloring, lettering, and producing a comic book so that she can tell Clark's story without exposing his secret for her son by default. How stupid of me.
OR THE WRITERS DIDN'T THINK A DAMNED THING THROUGH AND JUST ROLLED WITH IT BECAUSE IT SOUNDED COOL IN THE ROOM.
You decide. A certain kind of viewer goes one way, and the other kind another.
All of this goes to serve a broader indictment of what Smallville was as an entity. The putrefaction of an American myth to serve the higher gods of money.
In other words, Darkseid won our souls.
The first three years of this show in earnest, with some flawed concepts and a great deal of fluff, endeavored to tell the tale of a kid learning to be an adult in such a way that he would become a future hero. The high water mark was when Chloe blew up, Lionel went to jail, and Clark gave himself to his training.
Every. Single. Second. After. That. Was. Stretching.
They hit the reset button and went back. Chloe returned to life. Lionel got out of jail. And from then on, the show became not about this basic thread of story that (rightly) enthralled us. It became a story of how much longer they could stretch that story by exploiting the fan's need to enjoy fanservice and the things they KNOW.
Mikhail Mxyzptlk. Lois Lane in Smallville. Brainiac before Metropolis. This is where things began to go off the rails, and in retrospect, it's where the show stopped being about Clark's journey and started being a very dull drama that survived because people like you, and ME, yes, me, I am guilty as well, watched it in order to see if Mikhail was, indeed, like the Mxy we know and love.
He was not.
Nor was Flash. Or Bridgette Crosby. Or Dr. Foster. Or Dr. Teng. Or Perry White. Or the FIRST Dr. Hamilton. Or Lucy Lane. Or Aquaman. Or Milton Fine. Cyborg. Major and General Zod. Green Arrow. Jimmy "Henry James" Olsen. Martian Manhunter. Bizarro. Kara Zor-El. Zor-El. Black Canary. Doomsday. Tess Mercer (as Tessmacher). Plastique. Maxima. Faora. Emil Hamilton. Toyman. Zatanna. Bruno Mannheim. Livewire (who is DEAD). Neutron (who is DEAD). Parasite. Roulette. Katherine Grant (note the K). Jor-El. Zan and Jayna. Hawkman (who is DEAD). Silver Banshee. Maxwell Lord. Deadshot. Gordon Godfrey. Darkseid. Brainiac 5. Isis. Rick Flag. Granny Goodness. Mad Harriet. Slade. Ultraman. Desaad. Amos Fortune. Conner Kent.
All of these names are characters that we KNOW, that we LOVE, that we CARE FOR, that Smallville used in a way inconsistent with their general character aside from passing similarities in order to exploit our viewership.
Outside of them, there are a number of characters they got right, or at least close enough to be passable and in good faith. Most were written by Geoff Johns:
Metallo. Amanda Waller. Stargirl. Dr. Fate. Ted Kord. Blue Beetle. Ron Troupe.
Black Manta, Captain Cold, and Solomon Grundy all appeared, and looked to be like their comic counterparts. The problem is, they didn't say a damned thing and appeared for less than thirty seconds.
The idea of Smallville telling a character story of Superman and his supporting cast and villains as they are commonly understood was seemingly NOT the intention after a while.
They were distorted rather arbitrarily.
Instead it seemed a play at stretching this audience to the point that they could make as much money as they could, then they ripped a shirt and saying "B-dee b-dee b-dee, suckers!" all the way to the bank.
Even if Tom had pranced around in the suit, the most perfect version of the suit, and looked more like the proto-Superman than the first image put down by the creators, the next-to-last episode was still about Lois getting Superman's powers and then turning herself into the Toyman's puppet for no apparent reason. Point being, there was no victory for this show from a storytelling standpoint by the end of the fifth season.
The die was cast, and I regret and apologize that I was not prescient enough to see that until season nine. But that's because, in good faith, I wanted to believe and hope. I had thought that someone possessing a story of such weight and potential power as Superman wouldn't dare use it in such a way.
It breaks my heart.
All of this sounds like I'm trying to indict them for doing this, but hear me, and hear me clear: THIS IS THEIR RIGHT. IT IS THEIR CHARACTER.
What they did is not a moral wrong. This is not a religion. It is simply a piece of media, and one that we are free to take or leave. My overall point, I stress, is that I have made an error in putting faith in a thing simply because I knew and loved it, because I grew up with it. It led me to allow myself to be exploited, and it led me to waste time, life, and effort on a thing that ultimately made a bunch of likely good people a lot of money but left me cold. I should have known better.
I am not shaming you, either. If you loved it, if you hated it, hey. This is my examination of what the story and its ramifications meant to me. No doubt many will miss that, but I can't help that.
I have learned, in crafting my own stories, that the audience for original concepts and ideas, while not as strong in terms of finance as those for a known character like Superman, is much more kind.
I would write a review here in earlier seasons, and people who treat Superman as a religion would question my sexual orientation, my masculinity. My life was threatened. There is passion, to put it mildly.
My own work, which features characters that can die at any second, a clear and plotted beginning, middle, and end, a conflict that is reflective of the character's flaws and wishes, and an original concept, has brought with it a differing response than my reviews did. People who enjoy it write in and thank me, people who don't bug off.
In experiencing that, I realized that a corporate superhero attracts a different kind of person than the person I have become. That's not to say I don't enjoy corporate superheroes, or that I wouldn't enjoy writing them. That's saying that I realize that there is great joy in creating the unfamiliar, but that familiarity doesn't have to breed contempt. If things don't turn out the way that they potentially should, we need to pack our bags, move on, and forgive. Find our own Smallvilles.
That's what I'll be taking from Smallville. Listed above are the things I do not agree with, my opinionated rantings on the failings of the show, but I advise you all not to let the bitterness fester. Let it go. Move on. Find better. And if you're that first kind of person I mention, well, heck, you already had your good time, didn't you? So good on you.
I have now moved on to watching only things I enjoy that carry on a thread of newness. This brings me to creator-owned work more. It brings me to less media and more creation. I'm at peace with it.
If any of you are interested in what I've been creating since I stopped reviewing Smallville, you can find it at CharlieEverett.com. It's a story called Cura Te Ipsum. It's about a guy who wants to commit suicide and is stopped by another version of himself. He explores his conflict, why he would want to live, by literally examining versions of himself that are worthy or unworthy. It's a character-driven story fed by an apocalyptic plot-wheel. I've been having a blast.
I'm 85 pages in and going strong without missing an update since I stopped reviewing Smallville. It's been a unique experience. That's a self-serving plug, but honestly, I've learned I have to do that in order to survive and get noticed in the world next to characters like Superman. One Smallville will get a million viewers on the strength of name recognition alone. The number of people willing to delve into new media to explore a foreign concept is just as high, but awareness and the ability to reach people without friends in high places is difficult.
Tell a friend, if you can.
The story will go for five to seven years at present, and there will not be a single page that doesn't in some way contribute to the larger whole, even if I start making money hand over fist, and even if every year of continued work would bring me a dump truck full of cash.
That is, to my mind, as it should be. Maybe instead of pointing out the flaws in a show, I can create my own improvement on story in general.
Mentioning it here is meant not to be a shameless plug (though it is), but more of a culmination. I'm putting my money where my mouth is. For all the people who complain (rightly) that reviewers are just whining failed creators (oft times they are), I wish to show that my critiques do not come from a place of rage, but from a place of wanting passionately to see good stories, and being unable to craft my own on a large scale for lack of sanction, I will nonetheless do them on my own, DIY, and bring them to people as best as I can, hopefully without the flaws I saw so frequently in Smallville.
So far it's been a smashing success, thankfully. That's the end of the Smallville story for me, and the beginning of the next. Check it out, and tell me if I'm turning into a hero or a villain.
I'll broadly examine the major character arcs, now that the story is finished. I've already established clearly my thinking that the story itself was poorly managed from the third season on (and it wasn't exactly Shakespeare for the first three, just a reasonable yarn), and I saw no subtexts of any kind to comment on clearly developed for more than one episode at a time, so that leaves character, which can stand alone outside of story (though in good storytelling, it really SHOULDN'T).
Before I start, I will state that there aren't any characters in the show whose ACTORS did a poor job, in my opinion. Most of the hindrance was in the story sense. Doomsday's actor was a little wooden, and Kara was a bit ditsy, but honestly, the actors did a fine job in general. Their characters, however, had arcs, and they were, to be kind, all over the place.
So here goes:
I'll start here, because it's the easiest target, and will go fast. Lana Lang was the prototypical everything to everyone character. She could hit someone for disagreeing with her, but if someone hit her, they were a villain. She knew karate, but was ever the victim. Hypocritical in almost every respect, she would set standards for others that she could not keep herself, and in the end was forgiven all for being beautiful. "Face it, you're amazing."
Also a victim of Smallville's patented "If you come back, you become a villain!" premise. I've said all I have to say about Lana.
Didn't really need to die to forward the story, and he was missed for the duration of what was left. Not that there was any story left to tell, but as a moral compass, he meant a lot to the show. After he died, the moral core of the show left, and never really returned. When Clark did something that was morally dubious/flat out wrong, no one questioned him, really, where Jonathan often would. Though to be fair, in Smallville's inconsistency, Jonathan would often make recommendations that didn't make much sense. Seeing him at the end of the show in the finale was one of the few high points, and though it was kind of arbitrary and didn't serve any real arc, it was warming. Schneider did a hell of a job. He even managed to become a hero when, upon his return, he was turned into a villain. On this show, that says something.
My God, but Annette is the hottest thing. Gotta say that one last time. But her character, however, leaves much to be desired. Until Jonathan died, she had the same moral compass and purpose as Jonathan, with a number of points deducted for flirting with Lionel solely for the regret of losing her career. Bogus.
After Jonathan died, she became a rather wishy-washy figure of convenience. The idea of her having a relationship with Lionel, something ultimately refuted but constantly hinted at, was abominable. It pretty much destroyed her character. She came back dating Perry White, an oddly self-serving notion to get McKean back, no doubt, and at very least odd out of context. After that, she is randomly a senator, doesn't appear much, and seems to work against Clark, serving the "if they come back, they're a villain" premise Smallville used so dismally.
A fitting counterpoint to Clark as a teenager, she should really have died at the end of season three, I still attest. After that, she and Lois were essentially the same character. Lois became her "hotter" replacement, which I am still hacked off about.
Unsure of what to do about that, the show tried numerous roles for her. Computer nerd. Girlfriend of every tertiary cast member (Jimmy, Davis, eventually Green Arrow). In the end, she was just there as another piece on the board to no real end.
She went evil, flat out EVIL, in the Doomsday season, aiding and abetting murder. This was never addressed, and it ended her character as a moral entity for me. The verdict for her character is a hard one to make, because I so love Allison's work as an actress, and how well she powered through despite all of these ridiculous machinations. By the end, however, Chloe should have been at very least dead, and instead she became, oddly, a new piece of future potential fanservice. Note how she is being used in the comics as a gimmick.
She uh, does computers. And helped kill people. And dated Green Arrow because he was the last guy in the room. Then left.
That's not an arc.
A great friend, a good supporting character. Ultimately he left abruptly as the show took a turn for the worse, and returned as a villain arbitrarily. Kind of sad, really, but one of the more pure characters of the show.
Ollie passively resembles his comic counterpart, but really, his character's purpose seemed to be to outshine Clark at first and lead to the impression that Clark doesn't inspire the generation of heroes. After that, in a very special episode, he actually becomes Speedy (after Jimmy, of course) and gets a drug addiction he's instantly cured of.
Like Chloe, he flat-out murdered someone and this was never really addressed. He killed the Lex we originally knew and loved from this show. Clone Lex survives, but Ollie KILLED the original Lex, and was never brought to trial, punished, or sanctioned. He's still standing by Superman's side at the end of the series.
If that doesn't end a character's value in every respect, I don't know what will, and unlike Chloe, he doesn't have the three years of alliance and decent character work to look back on fondly. He was always just a weird hunk backdrop to distract us from the main character's lack of forward progress.
DAVIS BLOOM, JASON TEAGUE, GENERAL ZOD, KARA, HENRY JAMES OLSEN
All of these characters were brought in randomly and their arcs are mostly forgotten by me, they were so inconsequential. Davis' at least had SOME tie to continuity, as did Zod's, but not enough to give them any gravitas or coherence. Their similarity to their comic predecessors is corrupted through convenient plot devices (Zod wanted to build a tower, Davis was, uh, a destroyer, for no real reason).
These characters all served as more fanservice to draw attention and offered nothing, really, to the overall journey.
Similar to the above, only she lasted longer. I still don't understand what her point was to the plot, other than to serve as a proxy Lionel/Lex after their place in the wheel of plot disappeared.
At first a malevolent, manipulative SOB we loved to hate. After being captured for his crimes, his character became wholly inconsistent. Released from prison, he did not seek revenge, he simply became a character in the background who knew random things no one could possibly know with the justification of money, and then he went from bad guy to good guy as was convenient to the plot. Ultimately killed for a plot device of no real relevance or import. Tragic, given the quality of actor portraying the character.
The best part of the first three years of the show, easily, and the most complex and well defined character on the show, for that period. After that, he slowly began to be picked at and forced toward evil, until finally he started randomly and without apparent reason shifting his allegiance over perceived slights. Even then, however, he was still largely a good guy, and made many good decisions where Clark made evil decisions, seemingly at random by plot.
When he descended into villainy, reasons aside, he was often done well, at least half the time. The other half, however, made his inconsistency shine. In the end, his character left the show in a very strange and arbitrary way that was never resolved, and the finale made no attempt to fix this (I mean the motivations of "controlling Clark," not the memory stuff).
In the end he has no memory of his arc, and what better way to render the whole character moot?
I would say, minus that memory wipe, his character would be a solid B-. As it stands, given the wipe, it's a C-. Maybe a D.
And that sucks, because Lex and Clark were the tent poles that held this show up.
When Lois first came on the show, she was absolutely redundant and exploitative of the fan base, something drawn in to make us watch. As the show changed, she evolved. Her journey through this show is the sole redeeming consistent quality, which startles me.
There were many times where she would do something ridiculously stupid because of bad writing, like become a stripper, go to a fetish club in leather, etc. I saw that for what it was, bad TV trying to get ratings from the fact that Erica Durance is one of the hottest gals on the planet. Through it all, however, her writing, her character, they GOT it. I'm not sure how. Though her snarky quips were often peppered with bad Smallville dialogue, her evolution came to be the most believable thing on it, and I can see her trip from a petulant teen to a grown woman reporter clearly now, after six years.
At first, her journey from high school dropout to premiere journalist was (and is) utter crap in how they established it. However, that's a PLOT concern. Character-wise, she learns, she makes mistakes, she grows, and at the end of the show is a reasonably responsible person and a wonderful counterpoint for the dumb-as-Clark Clark.
I am sad I will not see this character again in this medium.
Clark Kent's character in this show is consistent. It is so consistent, it never changes. From the beginning to the end he is a basically good guy who doesn't have a clue how to solve most situations without anyone's help, constantly making mistakes and not learning from them outside of dialogue lip service when it's convenient.
He isn't a leader. He is a doer. The last conflict he has in the show is having someone else tell him how to be Superman.
This is not the character of Clark Kent. It just isn't.
As an entity of this show, it is nonetheless a compelling animal. He is cool, he is a great lead, and he is someone we instinctively care about because he is the only person on this show (when he's not KILLING someone, as he often tried to do or actually did in the worst writing moments) who is consistently good other than Martha, Jonathan, and Lois.
Clark has ambitions, hopes, dreams, and he achieves many of them in a responsible way. It is not the Clark I know, but it is a Clark.
His conclusion was exactly what it was meant to be. He becomes Superman. That he isn't shown in costume outside of long shot CG is heartbreaking, but that has nothing to do with his character arc. That's whoever decided not to show Tom Welling in costume.
Given that he makes no progress at all as a character that he isn't forced into or that is predestined, however, I have to be harsh. In the last season he's still making the same mistakes he always did. Putting on jammies doesn't fix that. Consistency is NOT character development. Being good and enjoying good characters only goes so far. His arc is fulfilled, but everything he learns in the show is either forgotten at some point, nullified, or he falls back and makes the same mistake in the end. This even though I love the character with all of my heart.
I'll leave on a light note.
Lois Lane officially wins the KO Count, with 52 bouts of unconsciousness. Lex Luthor came in close at the wire, with 51.
You want a good way to give him a faulty memory, Smallville? Pay attention to your own show.
I suppose if I had to give the show an overall rating, it'd be colored by its latter years, which is unfair. The first three are a solid seven or eight of ten, both for their context in time, their accomplishments in changing the medium, and the establishment of these characters.
The latter seven milked a dead horse, and dead horses don't even have nipples, I don't think. (Ha! Managed to get in one more nipple joke. TAKE ME SERIOUSLY, DAMMIT!)
The last seven years don't really deserve a rating, because until the last ten minutes, they didn't mean much in terms of Clark's journey. To that end, I think I'll give you no rating for the show as a whole. Why? Because if you're the kind of person who loved the ending, that'll be enough for you.
If you're like me, if you're that other kind of person, you already know.
Now I'm gonna go rip my shirt open and write more novels. I hope I see you there, friends.
SUPER SHORT FINALE:
Despite it all, despite all this, I'm still sad the show is gone.
Isn't that weird?
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