The other night I watched the series finale of Smallville, a show I stubbornly kept watching deep into its 9th and penultimate season despite steeply declining quality. But eventually it got so bad that I was falling asleep and realising that I was wasting my time. So I stopped watching it altogether, even though I knew I had to come back to watch the final episode — the episode where Clark Kent finally takes off to the air and becomes Superman.
Amazingly, despite having missed around 25-30 episodes, it wasn’t all that hard to pick up again. Clark and Lois were engaged and about to get married. Oliver Queen, aka the Green Arrow, was still around (I seriously thought Justin Hartley, the actor who played him, would have gone off to bigger and better things ages ago), as was Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack), Clark’s friend right from the first episode. The final bad guy, I gathered, was this smokey fella called Darkseid (pronounced ‘Dark Side’) with red eyes that can control/possess people, and the ultimate crisis was a massive armageddon-inducing planet (Apokolips) on a collison course with Earth.
Those returning for the final bang included Annette O’Toole and John Schneider as Clark’s parents, even though the latter has been dead for like 5 seasons. And of course two of my favourite characters from the show over the years, the villains, Lex and Lionel Luther (played by Michael Rosenbaum and John Glover). The quality of the series really nosedived when these two went MIA, and it was great to finally get them back.
Curiously missing, however, were Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk — boy has she disappeared since the series…well, she was in that Chun Li Streetfighter movie…) and Clark’s old best friend Pete Ross (Sam Jones III, who has since gone on to become a porn star and is currently facing up to 20 years prison for dealing drugs).
I can still remember the first time I watched Smallville on TV, which began in October 2001. Even though I wasn’t a Superman fanatic I still had to watch it. After all, how could anyone not like Superman? Tom Welling was still a fresh-faced 24 year-old playing a teenager and the show was set in high school, with your typical Superman mythology arc spliced with your ‘monster of the week’ (or Chloe Sullivan’s ‘Wall of Weird’) episodes.
The series was fresh and it was exciting. For some reason this Clark Kent was more of a bumbling fool and tool rather than the highly intelligent Man of Steel we have come to know, and Tom Welling did an excellent job of an often thankless role. Michael Rosenbaum was the real star of the show for me as the confused, destined to be evil Lex Luthor, and with the outstanding John Glover as his father Lionel it was easy to picture his eventual transformation.
The soundtrack was also always very good, featuring a collection of popular hits and trendy up-and-comers.
But as with all long-running series (apparently Smallville is the longest-running sci-fi show in US history), there comes a time when the writers run out of ideas. For me the show still retained a certain level of quality when Kristin Kreuk departed because Erica Durance made a wonderful substitute as Lois Lane, but unfortunately they could not make up for the losses of Rosenbaum and Glover. Even with clever ideas such as introducing the Green Arrow and having arcs involving members of the Justice League, things quickly started to get stale.
Personally, the show hit rock bottom when they started the film rip-offs (from about the 8th season onward), taking ideas from feature films such as Saw (even with a masks and puppets, I think) and getting really lazy and predictable with the progression of each episode (always ending with Clark coming to save the day).
And when the show started to dig really really deep into the Superman mythology vault for the complicated, convoluted stories in its final two seasons, that’s when I really switched off.
That said, on the whole, Smallville is still a fantastic series with a finale that didn’t disappoint like I thought it would. It was more of a ‘personal discovery’ episode that tied up all the emotional loose ends as opposed to an action-packed one, but that was perfectly fine with me. I was amazed to see how much everyone had aged throughout the years from the various flashback sequences. Clark Kent really did grow up into Superman.
From day one, the show was all about its finale, and I don’t think anyone expected that to be 10 years away from the pilot episode. When Clark donned THE suit (I believe borrowed from Brandon Routh) and rocketed up in the sky at last, as we knew he would, he finally fulfilled a 10-year prophecy. Watching it sent tingles up and down my arms.
PS: Now we await the new Zack Snyder directed Man of Steel movie (and Christopher Nolan produced) with Henry Cavill (the guy from The Tudors and who Stephenie Meyer originally wanted as Edward Cullen) as Superman, due for release in December 2012.