The premier for the sixth season of Smallville is airing tonight. Six seasons, if you can believe it. I hear a lot of feedback when I casually mention that I enjoy Smallville. Usually things like "That show is terrible" or "I've never seen it, but isn't it supposed to suck?".
There didn't used to be shame in liking Smallville. Season one, two, and three it was a giant hit with a lot of fans. Some of them comic fans, some never having any previous interest in comics. After season 3, and specifically after the crapfest that was season 4, the show lost a lot of fans. Smallville fandom used to be massive. At its peak, it was damn near Buffy-sized. Now it's looking a little more, er, Enterprise-sized.
I'm here to make a case for the little show that I still enjoy despite all the reasons it has given me not to. I'm going to start by examining four major points of the Smallville mythology, and rate how well they work.
1. The Meteor Shower - Superman came to Earth as a toddler in a space ship. Smallville adds a massive and destructive meteor shower to this event. The shower took out a lot of buildings in Smallville and killed some people, including 3-year-old Lana Lang's parents. Because of the meteor shower, there are fragments of Kryptonite all over town (called meteor rocks on the show because no one knows any better).
Rating: This actually makes a lot of sense. In comic canon Kryptonite just randomly appears on Earth. This gives a decent explanation as to why it's there. It also gives an excuse for the zillions of mutant villains that Clark has to fight. Kryptonite messes people up in many, many different ways. The downside is that, compared to some of the mutants and their crazy powers on the show, Clark's powers seem almost boring. You would think it would be easy for him to 'come out' in a town of super-powered mutants. The meteor shower also causes Clark a huge amount of guilt, because he knows he is responsible for all the death and destruction, including the death of the parents of the girl he loves. Angst!
2. Lex Luthor (and his dad) - Lex is exiled to Smallville at the age of 21 by his father to run the local LuthorCorp plant. Lex carelessly drives off a bridge and into a brooding Clark. The car, Lex and Clark go over the bridge and into the river. Clark pulls Lex out of the car, gives him mouth to mouth, and saves his life. Lex becomes instant friends with Clark, but also instantly obsessed with him.
Lex has an evil father named Lionel, who is a character made up for the show. Lionel is amazing. I would gladly watch a spin-off called "Lionel" for all eternity. So Lex is actually a nice guy, who just wants to be loved. He also is what the internet kids call "teh sex." He's got hot cars and hot clothes and he is always looking at Clark with sex eyes. He is bald from the meteor shower, which occurred when he was visiting Smallville with his Dad at the age of 9. Since then he has an enhanced immune system, but they don't really mention it much on the show. His entire body is hairless, save his eyebrows (lots of internet theories about the eyebrows, believe me). The Clark-causing-Lex's-baldness is rooted in canon Superboy comics, but this is in a more subtle way. Lex doesn't know about Clark being an alien, and thus he can't blame Clark. As the seasons went on, Lex starts to get less and less patient with Clark simply because Clark won't stop blatantly lying to him. No one who watches the show can blame Lex; Clark is a real ass most of the time. What we are learning, whether we are supposed to think this or not, is that the reason for Lex turning evil is Clark being a shitty friend.
Rating: Lex is the best part of this show and everything they have done with him has been great. Kudos to Michael Rosenbaum for making the character funny, tragic and sexy. And kudos to John Glover for making Lionel so damn awesome.
3. The Caves - Sadly a lot of the Superman mythology on Smallville revolves around some stupid cave drawings. In mid-season 2, Clark discovers some underground caves. They have a crazy language and drawings all over them. It turns out to be Kryptonian, but he doesn't learn that until the end of the season when he learns that he is from a planet called Krypton, thanks to info given to him by Christopher Reeve. Basically the caves are a major plot device that the writers have been using for the last 3 seasons to move shit along. Season 4 (aka - the horrorshow that was season 4) mostly revolves around Clark, Lex and Lionel all trying to collect 3 ancient relics which they know will do something when joined together in the caves. It's like a video game, but not fun or satisfying. When they are finally joined together, they transport Clark to the North Pole and form the Fortress of Solitude. Sometimes it takes something like that to remind you that the show is about Superman.
Rating: Booooooo. The caves are ridiculous! If I never see another cave scene again, it will be too soon.
4. Chloe Sullivan v Lana Lang v Lois Lane - Chloe Sullivan is Clark's long-time pal, editor of the school newspaper, and the original Veronica Mars. She also harbours undying love for Clark. Viewers tend to like Chloe and hate Lana because Lana is boring, self-centred and whiny. She lacks all the pluck of the important comic character, or of Annette O'Toole's Superman III portrayal. Lana and Clark have a drawn out, chemistry-free, on-again-off-again relationship for much of the series. Meanwhile super-awesome Chloe gets the shaft.
Lois Lane is Chloe's cousin. She debuts at the beginning of season 4. She has a strong start, but quickly wears out her welcome. Mostly she has giant breasts and she and Clark don't get along. It's supposed to be amusing that they fight all the time, but it's really forced and viewers constantly ask what the hell she's doing hanging out in Smallville anyway. It's going to ruin everything that happens in the future. First of all, she's seen Clark Kent as a rugged young man without glasses and a geeky suit. So she knows what he's going to look like when he's Superman. That's a problem. Also, she calls Clark 'Smallville' even though she is also living in Smallville, and everyone else in town also lives there. It makes no damn sense.
Rating: Chloe is an awesome original character that makes Lois obsolete. Lana is awful and should be killed off, canon be damned. Lois should just go away for another ten years or so. And have her memory wiped.
Let's look at 5 specific reasons why Smallville is enjoyable:
1. Lex Luthor. He's fantastic, and his obsession with Clark makes for fun and sexy scenes. He clearly has a giant crush on Clark. Beyond that, all scenes with Lex and his father are amazing. We also get to watch the evolution of Lex as a somewhat bratty, but mostly tragic young man who lost his mother at a young age. His father is evil, and Lex tries to distance himself and do good. In season 3 (the best season by far) he goes insane. We'll chalk it up to mental strain of having an evil father, a dead mother, and a lying best friend that won't just admit that he has super powers.
2. The Occassional Appearances by Canon Superman / DC Characters: So far on Smallville, we have seen these Superman/DC canon chracters:
Clark Kent, Lex Luthor, Lana Lang, Lois Lane, Pete Ross, Jonathan and Martha Kent, Morgan Edge, Jor-El, Lucy Lane, The Flash (Bart Allan), Aquaman, Cyborg, Mxyzptlk (I'm not kidding...he was a hot Eastern European guy and the episode made no sense), Brainiac, Zod, and Perry White. Some of these have been pretty good (Perry White, Flash, Morgan Edge, Brainiac, Jor-El) and some have been totally pointless and confusing (Lucy Lane, Mxy, Aquaman). Jonathan and Martha Kent are younger on this show than in the usual canon, which was a great idea that makes a lot of sense. We've seen a lot of good (and fun) actors pass through this show too, including: Michael McKean, Rutger Hauer, Michael Ironside, Margot Kidder, Christopher Reeve, Carrie Fisher, Jane Seymore, Adam Brody, John Schneider, Tom Wopat, Annette O'Toole, Jensen Ackles, Terence Stamp, Ian Somerholder, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, James Marsters, and Shawn Ashmore). Next for season 6....Green Arrow and Jimmy Olson!
3. Red Kryptonite: What a beautiful plot device. On Smallville, Red K makes Clark go bad. Which, as a side-effect, makes him sexy. Red Kryptonite has only made its way into a few episodes, but man they were good ones!
On this same note, there are many episodes that involve personality-alteration for one reason or another. It's always a good time. Body-switching, weird Kryptonite-infused drugs, parasites, mind-control, magic, body-posession, shape-shifters...all good.
4. Jor-El: Jor-El is on Smallville only as a voice (specifically, the voice of Terence Stamp). But he is able to torture his son by burning Krytonian symbols into his chest (sexy) and by forcing him to choose which loved ones will live and which will die.
Jor-El is a prick. Asshole dads are something that Clark and Lex have in common (not that Clark could ever tell Lex that). Jor-El would like Clark to embrace his destiny and rule over Earth like a god. Clark isn't so much into that idea. Jor-El isn't so much into Clark's attitude. They have many an argument and at one point Jor-El erases Clark Kent and replaces him with Kal-El. Kal-El is more like the son that Jor-El always wanted. He's keen to rule over Earth, and he can fly (which is the only time we see Clark fly on the show). He's also naked, so...thumbs up!
5. Clark develops powers: Clark doesn't have all his powers yet. In the pilot he learns the extent of his invincibity, which continues to develop as the series goes on. Also in season one he gets his x-ray vision. In season 2 he gets his heat vision in the most hilarious way imaginable (he shoots fire out of his eyes when he's aroused. How embarassing). He later develops super hearing, and gains the ability to leap buildings in a single bound. Still no super-breath or flight as of yet on the show.
So overall an entertaining show which is better than Lois & Clark, but not as good as Justice League Unlimited. It's the only show about Superman on television right now, so I'm obviously going to watch it. The promise of Green Arrow, Jimmy Olson, superbreath for season 6 has reeled me in for another year. Plus there is going to be an episode that is Justice League-esque that will have Clark team up with young Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg and Green Arrow. Good enough for me!
Oh, and this show has slight homosexual overtones.