Today is the day of the very last Smallville episode—after a remarkable ten-year run. Although I have been dissatisfied with the last four seasons, I still want to pay homage to the series, for it has been a comfort to me for the past three years, as I have watched all of the seasons. I promised to discuss my fifteen favorite episodes, and here they are. It was a tough choice! And I’ll confess that I cheated a few times by talking about a few episodes that are not among my top fifteen!
“The Pilot” (Episode 1): This set the stage for the series, as pilots usually do. I liked how it portrayed Clark Kent as a nice teenager who wasn’t overly popular, and who championed the marginalized. Clark tripped and fell whenever he came within a certain distance from Lana Lane, his crush, who was dating a popular high school quarterback. You’d think that Clark didn’t have a chance with Lana! But the two of them developed a friendship. At the end of the episode, we think that Clark and Lana are dancing in Clark’s barn, but it turns out that Clark is day-dreaming. That made me hope that Clark’s dream would become a reality—and that Clark and Lana would have a romantic relationship. On this episode, Clark also learns that it was the meteor shower that brought him to earth that killed Lana’s parents—a story that was featured on the cover of Time Magazine. Clark feels horrible about that, but, throughout the series, he learns to cope with the implications of who he is, and the impact that has on those he loves.
“X-Ray” (Episode 4): The plot-line that I appreciated here was the developing friendship between Chloe and Lana. Chloe at first saw Lana as a superficial cheerleader, whereas Chloe was a school newspaper nerd who liked to chronicle the weird happenings in Smallville (i.e., people developing superpowers as a result of the meteor shower that brought Clark). But Lana learned that her mother when she was younger was a discontent cheerleader who gave a graduation speech in 1977 that was controversial and thus was not printed. Lana asked Chloe to find the speech, and Chloe realized that what the mother said must have been controversial for it not to have been published that year! Chloe digs up a recording of the speech, in which Lana’s mom expresses the hope that her children will make a difference, whereas she has not.
“Leech” (Episode 12): When Clark tries to rescue fellow student Eric Summers and is struck by lightning, Eric receives Clark’s powers, whereas Clark gets to become a regular teenager. Eric was abused by his father and bullied by his classmates, and he was hopelessly in love with a girl who had a jock boyfriend. When Eric gets Clark’s powers, he terrorizes his dad and his classmates. Clark tries to convince Eric that he needs help—and this will be a recurring theme in Smallville: Clark attempts to convince villains that they can turn around and live a better life. In the end, after Clark gets his powers back, Clark is appreciative that he was raised by good parents, Jonathan and Martha; otherwise, he could have turned out like Eric. (Note: This theme shows up later in the series. We learn in “Relic”, which is Episode 6 of Season 3, that Clark’s biological Kryptonian father, Jor-El, actually visited Earth in the 1960’s and planned for the Kents to become Clark’s adoptive parents—a concept that, unfortunately, was not developed as the series progressed, though I suppose that it does reveal that Jor-El specifically intended to send his son to Smallville. And, in Season 10, we see a parallel universe in which Clark was discovered and raised by the diabolical mogul Lionel Luthor, thereby becoming one who terrorized that universe with his powers. In that universe, Lionel sarcastically asks Clark, “Can you imagine how you would have turned out had you been found by an ignorant corn farmer?” But that is what happened in the primary Smallville universe—only Jonathan wasn’t ignorant—and that’s how Clark became the decent person that he was.)
Notes on Season 1: Before I move on to Season 2, I want to mention one more episode that I liked from Season 1, but which is not among my top fifteen: “Hothead”, which is the third episode of Season 1. It has Dan Lauria, who played Jack Arnold on the Wonder Years. On this episode, he plays a psychotic yet legendary football coach named Walt Arnold! Also, I should note that Amy Adams played a role in Episode 7, “Craving”. This was before she became a major movie star. And what’s ironic is that she will play Lois Lane in the coming Superman movie!
“Rosetta” (Episode 17): On this episode, Christopher Reeve (the Superman with whom my generation grew up) plays reclusive physicist Virgil Swann, who enlightens Clark about who Clark is (Kal-El) and where he came from (Krypton). At the end of the episode, Clark reads a message by his biological Kryptonian father, Jor-El, exhorting him to rule the flawed human race with strength. Clark wonders if he was sent to conquer, and he fears that this might be his destiny. But his adoptive father, Jonathan, reminds Clark that only he (Clark) can decide his own destiny.
“Precipice” (Episode 19): On this episode, Lana is assaulted by a bunch of fraternity thugs at her coffee shop, right before she is rescued by Clark. Lex Luthor trains Lana so that she can defend herself, and, to goad her on, he asks her how she felt about Clark Kent stepping in to rescue her. That comment certainly lights a spark within her, and she proceeds to lay into the punching bag! This was a good episode because I was definitely rooting for Lana when she walloped the fraternity thugs at the end of the episode. And it also revealed the complexity of Lex Luthor: He was smart enough about human nature to know what buttons to push. But it wasn’t always easy to determine what his agenda was. Lex was a good friend of Clark because Clark saved his life in the “Pilot”, and he encouraged Clark to pursue Lana. And yet, Lex himself had feelings for Lana, and he helped her out by training her in self-defense, and also by helping her start her own coffee shop (the Talon).
“Perry” (Episode 5): I wrote a post about this episode over two years ago. In the Superman movies, Perry White is a demanding boss who appears to have his act together, and who expects his reporters to have their acts together. (BTW, rest in peace, Jackie Cooper.) In this episode of Smallville, however, Perry White is far from having his act together! He’s a drunk who writes sensationalist stories—after he fell from his high status as a Pulitzer-winning journalist on account of his attempt to expose Lionel Luthor’s shenanigans. Perry is obnoxious (yet likable) in this episode, and he comes close to learning about and exposing Clark’s secret! But Perry learns his lesson. At the end of the episode, “Walking in Memphis” is playing (which is an awesome song), and we know that Perry is getting on his feet again. He is on the way to becoming the editor of the Daily Planet (which must occur after the very last Smallville episode, for it’s Season 10 right now, and he’s still not the editor!).
“Hereafter” (Episode 12): This episode is about a teen named Jordan who sees the future of whomever he touches. He is considered to be a freak by other students, for he does not like to be touched, plus his attempts to warn people of their future make him look weird. But Clark reaches out to Jordan, as does Lana, which is why I like their characters: on this episode and others, they accept outcasts, rather than rejecting them. This episode is also good because we get to see glimpses of Superman. When Jordan touches people, he sees how they will die. But he does not see a death for Clark. Rather, he sees the back of Superman’s red cape.
“Truth” (Episode 18): In this episode, Chloe inhales a truth gas and gains a remarkable ability: whenever she stands near somebody, that person tells her the truth! But it doesn’t work with Clark. Chloe uses her newfound ability for her journalistic advantage, as she gets a popular teacher to confess that she’s been on the run from the law because she (the teacher) was part of a radical leftist group that blew up a building in the 1970’s. Chloe writes an expose about that for the Torch, and she also tries to learn Clark’s secret (which his friend Pete almost blurted out to Chloe, in a humorous scene). When the teacher’s son tries to kill Chloe for getting his mother into legal trouble, Chloe learns the value of discretion. I like this episode because it’s part of Chloe’s growth as a character. We wonder from this episode if Chloe would be a trustworthy person in keeping Clark’s secret. When she learns Clark’s secret later in the series and keeps it faithfully, we see that she has grown from the time of the “Truth” episode.
“Memoria” (Episode 19): In this episode, we see the memories of Lex Luthor and Clark Kent. Lex remembers back to when he was a child and invited his school-mates to his birthday party, but nobody came because Lex was unpopular. Lex’s father, Lionel, then encouraged Lex to be strong—and we get a glimpse at how good of a father Lionel once was, and could have continued to be had certain events not happened. I appreciated that scene because I liked Lex when I saw that he knew what it was like to be marginalized, and that explains why there are episodes in which he reaches out to people who are unusual or on the social margins (i.e., Clark, Ryan). In another scene, we get to see Clark’s memory of his biological Kryptonian mother, Lara, in which Lara and Jor-El are sending baby Clark (or rather, Kal-El) to Earth in a space-ship. At the end of the episode, Clark is talking with his adoptive mother, Martha, about his memory of Lara. Clark is surprised to learn that she was a kind and compassionate person, since the Kents’ experience with Jor-El was far from positive—as Jor-El was one who liked to play games with people and teach his son some hard lessons. And Martha admires Lara, a woman who sent her child into the unknown, wondering if he would be raised by caring people.
“Blank” (Episode 19): In this episode, Clark loses his memory, and so Chloe has to “Clark-sit.” At this stage of the series, Chloe knows about Clark’s superpowers, but Clark does not know that she knows. Chloe is hurt when even Clark with a clean-slate becomes attracted to Lana, since Chloe has feelings for Clark. But my favorite scene is when Clark is talking with Chloe about his powers—which he is discovering (since, having lost his memory, he forgot that he had them). Chloe tells him that there’s a reason that he’s been keeping his powers a secret, even from her. When Clark asks Chloe if she would ever tell anyone, she replies, “Never.” At the end of the episode, after Clark regains his memory, he talks with Chloe to see if he did anything unusual—something that gave away his powers. Chloe replies that he basically made the same decisions that he made before he lost his memory (i.e., falling for Lana), except for one: he trusted her.
Notes on Season 4: Margot Kidder—who played Lois Lane in the Superman movies—played a small role in this season. This was also the very first season that had the character of Lois Lane, who is played by Erica Durance. I don’t think that Margot Kidder’s appearance was a coincidence! Also, Jane Seymour played a role in this season as the sinister Guinevieve Teague. I also enjoyed Episode 6, “Transference”, in which Clark and Lionel Luthor trade places, as Lionel’s mind is in Clark’s body (with its superpowers), and vice versa! You can tell the talent of an actor by if he or she is able to step out of character to play somebody else—and Tom Welling and John Glover did that quite well!
“Reckoning” (Episode 12): This was a sad episode because it’s the one in which Jonathan Kent died of a heart attack (and after he had won a state Senate seat, at that!). I loved John Schneider as Jonathan Kent, and I was dreading the episode in which he would die—and Clark would no longer be able to benefit from Jonathan’s fatherly guidance, his wisdom, his encouragement, and (when necessary) his rebuke. Clark blamed himself for his adoptive father’s death because Jor-El in a previous episode weakened Jonathan’s heart when he gave Jonathan powers to stop Clark—who was wreaking havoc under the influence of red kryptonite (which brings out Clark’s bad side). Moreover, in “Reckoning”, Clark tells Lana that he has superpowers, and Lana dies, so Clark asks Jor-El if he could repeat that day. Jor-El allows Clark to do so, but he tells Clark that he can repeat the day never again after that. In Clark’s second try, Jonathan dies of a heart attack while confronting Lionel Luthor. When Lionel blackmails Jonathan, Jonathan replies that the Kents will survive because they stick together as a family, something that the Luthors never do. And that is what happens, even after Jonathan’s death. Although Clark blames himself for his adoptive father’s death, his adoptive mother, Martha, comforts him. Clark also encounters Jonathan later in the series. Jonathan tells Clark later in Season 5 that Clark has a special destiny, and he says in Season 10 that Clark did not cause his death; rather, his heart condition was caused by his resentment of Lionel Luthor for hurting so many people in Smallville, and Jonathan states that he was proud to die defending his family.
Notes on Season 5: In the episode “Thirst”, Carrie Fisher makes an appearance as an editor at the Daily Planet.
“Zod” (Episode 1): In this episode, General Zod takes control of Lex Luthor, and I believe that it was an image of Terrance Stamp (Zod in Superman 2) that was leaving Lex’s body when Clark exorcised him. (Incidentally, Terrance Stamp does the voice of Jor-El in Smallville.) What I most appreciated about this episode was Jor-El’s affirmation of Martha Kent at Clark’s Fortress of Solitude. Martha expresses anger that her husband died on account of Jor-El’s games, but Jor-El tells her that many of his people died. He also thanks Martha for being a good mother to his son. That was probably the nicest Jor-El ever was to anyone in the entire series!
“Homecoming” (Episode 4): In this episode, a new version of Braniac (which is actually a good version, in contrast to the previous evil ones) helps Clark to deal with his inner demons and to move on with his life. Clark was weighed down by his guilt over his adoptive father’s death, and he was neglecting his friends in his present. Brainiac takes Clark on a tour of his past and his present, and I found Clark’s therapy session to be quite moving. But what was really interesting about this episode was that we got a glimpse into Clark’s future—how the Superman universe that was created on Smallville will play out. Many of us are used to the Superman universe in which Lois Lane does not know that Clark Kent is really Superman. And that created questions for me as I watched Smallville all those years. Lois had known Clark for so many years, even living in his house (and this was before they were even a couple). She had seen him numerous times without his glasses. So how would she not know that he was Superman? In the scenario that Smallville presents, however, she will know—and she will be Clark’s greatest supporter. That’s what convinces Clark to continue his romantic relationship with Lois and to share his secret with her (even though, by this point, she already knows that he is the Blur—which was Clark’s superhero identity before he became Superman).
“Booster” (Episode 18): The question of this episode (in my paraphrase) is “What is a true hero?” A new superhero, Booster Gold, is upstaging the Blur—arriving at scenes and saving the day before the Blur gets there. Clark learns that Booster is from the twenty-fifth century. Booster was once a prominent athlete, but Booster fell from his athletic status and desired to be a hero again. Consequently, he went back in time and targeted certain situations in which he could be a hero. Clark tells Booster, however, that whether one is a hero depends on who he or she is on the inside. In the course of the episode, Booster learns his lesson, and he becomes a superhero mentor to Jaime Reyes, a bullied teenager who discovers a super-suit that gives him powers. In a sense, the question of “What is a true hero?” has been somewhere throughout the duration of Smallville, for Smallville is about people who gain superpowers as a result of a meteor-shower—and many of them misuse their powers. But the question was more pronounced in “Booster”, and I appreciated seeing Booster’s growth. This episode is also notable because, for the first time, it became believable to me that Clark could have a secret-identity as Clark Kent while performing the role of Superman. For a long time, I wondered how that could be possible. If so many people have seen Clark without his glasses, wouldn’t they recognize Superman as Clark Kent? At least when Clark is the Blur, people can’t see his face and recognize him! But, in “Booster”, I saw that Clark could cultivate an image of being a mild-mannered geek, and, eventually, that would be how people would define Clark. In their eyes, he’d be far from being a superhero!
“Prophecy” (Episode 20): This episode wasn’t all that good, and, to be honest, I really couldn’t care less about the Toymaker (or whatever his name is) or Granny Goodness. My mind was someplace else when they were on this episode! What’s profound about this particular episode, however, is the question that it raises: What are the implications of being married to Superman? In this episode, Jor-El gives Lois Lane Clark’s superpowers, whereas Clark is reduced to a mere human being. Lois learns that she has to prioritize whom she helps—for there are always people who need help, and she can only be in so many places (even with her new super-speed powers). At the end of this episode, she breaks off her engagement with Clark, for she fears that—were they married—she might take him away from someone who needs help. She does not want to be that selfish.
I hope you enjoyed my top fifteen. Feel free to share with me your favorite Smallville moments! And enjoy the final episode tonight!