It’s over. The Big Blue Boy Scout has finally flown up, up and away to his destiny as the greatest superhero on Earth. Fighting for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.
[Yeah. In my universe, he still does. And yes, they’re all capitalized.]
So, now that “Smallville” has ended its 10-season run, it might be a good idea to look back and see what we, as fans, can learn from this particular incarnation of the Superman mythos.
So, buckle up.
1. Angst can endure long past the teenage years.
Not sure who takes first place with this one: Lana Lang or Clark Kent. Both have had their hang-ups over the years. And both have gone over the top with their “angst face” scenes.
This has been one of the most annoying aspects of the show for many: this idea that Clark just never quite has a handle on who he is, what he’s supposed to to, who he’s supposed to be. With two loving parents (who are still married!) who teach him respect and responsibility, it would be fairly easy to see how he’d turn out. Especially given that Pa Kent is always the one teaching Clark the value of hard work, concern for others… Clark figuring out his place in life should have been a no-brainer. At least as far as his own self-confidence.
And let’s not start on the whole “fear of heights” thing…
2. You can tell a story about a character who never shows up.
Whether it was because the rights to the actual Superman character were tied up in litigation or whether it was some other mandate from Warner Brothers and DC Comics, the show went so much longer than anyone expected without Clark Kent actually putting on the suit. And while that was a source of frustration for many a fan over the years, who’s to say the constraints didn’t make the producers and writers more creative? Certainly, it offered plenty of opportunity to explore the Clark Kent character – what defines him, what influences him, and what impact his upbringing has on how he acts as Superman.
Since the John Byrne re-boot in the DC titles, the character has been more “Clark Kent in disguise” rather than the other way around, so it makes sense that a show called “Smallville” would focus on the Clark personality rather than the Hero in the Suit, even without the constraints of not actually being able to use the character of Superman.
3. It matters who your father is.
From the very beginning origins of the character (Action #900 notwithstanding), Superman has always been a product of the American ideal. Two Jewish kids created him in the midst of economic hardship. Whether it was wish fulfillment, a Jesus allegory, or simple escapism, the entirety of Superman’s success lies in his roots. And those roots include two loving parents with strong Midwestern values. Family values. Patriotic America-is-great values.
The contrast between Jonathan Kent and Jor-El (the Fortress computer version anyway) is especially stark in “Smallville”. One is cold and calculating, just as a computer should be, while the other is nurturing with tough love. From the very beginnings of the Superman mythos, he’s always been heavily influenced by Jonathan Kent, and it was good to see it in this particular telling of the tale. John Schneider’s performance gave it the credibility it needed, in order to avoid any “aw shucks” corn-fed mush.
4. Our friends and enemies have more influence than we think.
“Smallville” spent most of each season trying to hammer Clark with “The Moral of the Story”. How many episodes did we watch where someone in Clark’s life said something that made him stare off into the fourth wall and ponder with a frozen soap opera style face?
Chloe Sullivan, Lionel Luthor, Lana Lang, J’Onn J’Onzz, Carter Hall, Oliver Queen, Jor-El, Lara-El, Jonathan Kent, Martha Kent, Pete Ross, Kara Zor-El, Professor Hamilton, Brainiac, Lex Luthor, and Lois Lane all have had those moments when they have the marquee line of dialogue for the week. Kudos to Tom Welling for making the “pensive face” look fresh.
The idea that Lois Lane is the one who came up with the glasses shtick is ludicrous, but given how the “Smallville” writers have played with everything else, it’s not even worth the slap on the forehead at this point.
5. Continuity matters only when convenient.
Think about this: Zod, Darkseid, Lex Luthor, Doomsday, the Legion of Super-Heroes, the Justice League, Brainiac, Metallo, and the Justice Society all show up before Clark puts on the suit. For that matter, they all show up before he even puts on the glasses and starts acting all mild-mannered.
And then there’s Chloe Sullivan, probably the heaviest hitter in Clark’s life in this continuity. Brand new to the show, she’s now been introduced into the comics continuity. But she never existed before the show.
And Lana’s blood full of kryptonite? Really?
“Smallville” has always played fast and loose with the continuity of the Superman mythology, taking more liberties in later seasons. At some point, it’s almost as if someone flipped a switch and said, “Let’s go for broke!” Would that be about the time Geoff Johns got a big fancy title over at DC? Hmmm…
6. Booster Gold!
7. Geography is fluid.
Let’s see… last time I checked, Smallville was in Kansas, which is somewhere around the middle of the United States. And Metropolis… hmmm… this city called New York has stood in for it several times. And that’s… uhm, not in the middle of the United States.
Seriously, this was the most laughable element out of the entire world-building the “Smallville” team did. To have Smallville and Metropolis so close to each other… just absolutely ridiculous.
8. Red and blue will never go out of style.
Again, going back to the possibility that Superman himself was tied up in a rights battle, it’s a good bet the creative team figured to do the next best thing and put Clark in the blue shirt and red jacket for almost the entire time he’s in Smallville. Like the fans wouldn’t notice the limited wardrobe… (although it probably helped the show’s budget).
We’ve seen this before, the main character’s wardrobe staying the same from week to week. But it’s mostly in animated shows where certain elements get used over and over because they can be re-used in new scenes – “Ben 10”, “Scooby-Doo”, and “Kim Possible” did it. Why not “Smallville”?
9. Booster Gold!
10. The fans make the show.
No matter what anyone else says about the show’s writing or quality, the bottom line is this: the network kept the show on the air for so long because people watched it. Enough people watched it to make the ratings significant enough for advertisers to keep buying time in the commercial blocks.
So don’t think for a moment that you don’t matter. Just look at the #NotANielsenFamily and #SaveChuck campaigns to get NBC to renew “Chuck”. Ask Bjo Trimble if fans matter. “Cagney & Lacey”, “Jericho”, “Reaper” and others have all felt the relief of renewal after fans campaigned to save them. Fans even brought Thomas Magnum back from the dead.
Think it will work for “Outsourced”?