tariel22 (tariel22) wrote,

Weighing in on Smallville

I haven't had much to say about Smallville over the past few months. My desire to stay positive about the show in this final season, and savor what little time I have left with Tom Welling on my TV screen, went to war with my disappointment over some of the choices the showrunners and writers have made, and with each new episode I found myself at a loss when it came to putting my confused feelings into words. But that doesn't mean I don't have opinions. :) So, for the record, this is where I stand on all things Smallville right now.

1) I still love my show.

Some episodes make my heart soar, and others make my head want to explode, but no matter what, I still greet each new chapter in Clark's story with breathless anticipation and renewed hope. I watch shows with better writing, and ones with better acting, but none that I love more. That doesn't mean, however, that I won't, or shouldn't, complain when I'm not happy with what I see. It seems that as the end of Smallville draws near, fandom displays less and less tolerance for criticism about the show, or even for an opinion that differs from one's own. The sentiments I've seen expressed have varied from "please don't harsh my squee" to "DIAF," but in the end, if you don't want to read anything negative, you should probably skip the rest of this entry, as well any others I post in the future.

2) For me, Smallville is all about Clark Kent.

I was a Superman fan before Smallville ever started, so of course I came to the show with some baggage. I always want the show to focus on Clark, and I have certain expectations about what kind of man he should be, and what his journey should look like. But those are just my wishes and dreams, and the show obviously has no obligation to live up to them. I don't want or expect Smallville to strictly follow comics canon (how boring would that be?), and I embrace the unique universe the show has created, where Lex Luthor will always be so much more than the villain of the story, and where Clark Kent meets, falls in love with, and maybe even marries Lois Lane before he becomes Superman. But lately it seems to me that the story is more about the romance than the man, and I'm never going to be okay with that.

I'm not writing a review of Collateral (some of it I loved, and some of it I despised), but I will say this about the episode: I don't think I've ever seen Clark look less effective. It boggled my mind that everyone got to play the hero EXCEPT the actual hero of the story. Clark not only wasn't a superhero, he was a freaking damsel in distress, who couldn't even make a decision without Lois's help. Kudos to Tom Welling, though, for perfectly capturing the nobility and joy of Clark in flight. The context drove me crazy, but he totally sold the moment. LOVE him.

Anyway, part of my enjoyment of this show has always been wrapped up in anticipating the eventual end, in seeing Clark complete his journey and become Superman. When the writers focused on other characters and other stories, and regressed Clark over and over again, I tried to convince myself it was a necessary evil, a way to delay the payoff so I could hold on to the show (and Tom) a little longer. I lived in fear that Smallville would be cancelled without warning, and leave us all hanging. But even now, after we've been given the best possible gift, an entire season to finally let our hero shine, instead of a clear path to glory, Clark has been handed an incomprehensible muddle of a storyline, and it's kind of killing me. I need more than a bucket list stuffed with iconic moments, cool comic book characters, easter eggs, and returning guest stars. I need decent storytelling, and after all these years, Clark deserves better than what I've seen so far.

Still, I'm relatively easy to please. If the big Smallville news Greg Beeman teased on his blog is that he's coming back to direct the finale, that will make me forgive a multitude of sins. If S9 had been the last, I would have been pretty content to end the series with his Salvation (minus the cliffhanger, of course).

3) IMO, TPTB don't love, or understand, Clark Kent/Superman.

In a recent interview, Miles Millar had this to say about Superman:

I’d never been a fan of Superman. He was always this earnest, boring character. Our whole task with Smallville was to write the character, so that I was interested in his story. How did he become this earnest guy that is a boring do-gooder? That was the whole point of the show.

Doesn't that explain so much? I don't find Superman boring, I think he's amazing and inspirational, with an unshakable moral center that some people mistake for a lack of nuance or complexity. The life he leads and shares with Lois Lane is rich and captivating, and I will never get tired of their adventures, both separately and together. I not only admire Clark Kent, I love him. I think telling Superman's story was a job for AlMiles, not a passion, and that they never loved their hero. It showed then, and I think it shows now, with the successors they nurtured and trained. TPTB seem to struggle to find good stories for Clark. I suspect they relate much more easily to the supporting characters who surround him, and end up writing stories that build them up at Clark's expense as a result. The press release announcing the two-hour finale is just one example of how I think their view is skewed:

This final season, Clark attempts to find a balance between saving the world, which becomes even more difficult as the Vigilante Registration Act separates a nation, and spending time with his new fiancée Lois Lane.

In my mind, what this season should be about is Clark and Lois each struggling to find their own individual identities as they fight together to save the world. A subtle difference, maybe, but one that's important to me. Their description makes it sound like Clark is worried that his activities as the Blur will cut into his dating time, or that Lois will be annoyed if Clark isn't around to help her pick out wedding invitations. And while we're on the subject, with Darkseid, the VRA goons, the Suicide Squad, AU!Lionel, and Clone!Lex all running around, is this really the time to be planning a wedding?

I think Smallville has had some wonderful writers who completely understood what Clark Kent is all about, but most of them are long gone. Doris Egan, Jeph Loeb, and Mark Verheiden were some of my personal favorites. Of the current staff, I think Bryan Q. Miller totally gets it. But the showrunners do exactly that, they run the show. The way they see Clark colors every episode, and I just don't think they see him at all the same way I do. Of course I'm going to be disappointed.

At the heart of it, my ONLY problem with the show is TPTB's inability to shine the spotlight on Clark and just let him be the man he is meant to become, the man I know he already is inside: a brave, intelligent, unwavering hero, who stands ready to take the weight of the world on his impossibly broad shoulders, who doesn't need to be led or pushed or shown the way, but who leads and inspires others, and gives the planet hope, as much by who he is as what he does. There are only nine episodes left. Isn't it about time they allowed Clark to step up?

4) Lois Lane is awesome.

One of the main reasons Superman is my favorite superhero is his relationship with Lois Lane. I love how both of them are so strong, and yet so vulnerable, and the way they're always there for each other. I love that their relationship is fun, and sexy, and real. I love that Lois is so much more than Superman's girlfriend/wife, and is never overshadowed by her larger-than-life man. And I love the way he needs her.

Scan from Superman/Batman: Absolute Power TPB

I've had my problems with the way Smallville's Lois has been written over the years, but the changes made to the show at the beginning of S8 fixed all that, and since then I've become a huge fan. In S10 in particular, Erica Durance has blown me away with her performance, episode after episode, and made me fall for Lois even harder. The big romantic moments between Clark and Lois this season have been some of my favorite scenes of the whole series, and as a Clark fan, it means the world to me that he finally has someone who truly loves him and is there for him, without reservation, in every way. But I think the show has taken the whole concept of the woman behind the man a little too far, and as usual, with all the subtlety of a sledge hammer.

Every time I turn around, Lois is giving Clark another heartfelt pep talk, and it's beginning to look like he can't do anything without her standing on the sidelines cheering him on, if not telling him what to do in the first place (and if it's not Lois, it's Kara, or Oliver, or Chloe, or Brainiac). Can't he figure out some of this stuff on his own? I'm fine with the idea that love finally unlocks the secret of flight for Clark, but couldn't he discover that for himself, rather than being talked through every step by Lois? Did his first flight, imaginary or not, really have to be all about her? At this point I feel like Lois is actively inventing Superman, and making Clark look needy, or reluctant, or just plain dumb in the process. It diminishes him, and that is so wrong.

And what about Lois? Isn't there more to her story than being Clark's support system and making wedding plans? Where is the relentless reporter, the beacon for truth, the Pulitzer Prize waiting to happen? I want to hear more than lip service about some conference call with Perry White; I want to see Lois in action, and I want to see her have a life outside of Clark.

I get it. Clark loves Lois and Lois loves Clark. But Clark's final steps on the path to his destiny are about more than their epic romance. Or at least they should be.

5) I don't much like Chloe anymore.

I can't even tell you how much I used to adore Chloe, back when she was Clark's BFF. But starting in S8, the writers created a rift between our hero and his trusty sidekick. Clark embraced his destiny, applied for a job at the Daily Planet, and entered a world that he would share with Lois, where he no longer looked to Chloe for help on a daily basis. Chloe in turn discovered she had super brain powers, and decided to hide them from Clark. Their lives took divergent paths, and they drifted apart. Chloe began to question Clark's judgment, and ultimately she would betray him. That's how I saw what went down, anyway.

S9 was even worse, as Chloe kept more secrets from Clark, spied on him, plotted behind his back, and treated him with contempt to his face. If she had ever offered Clark one sincere apology (I think he gave her at least three), I would have forgiven her completely, but she didn't. Am I holding a grudge? Yes, I suppose I am. And now she's back, to out-hero Superman himself, lecture him about trust, and make my eyes roll right out of my head. I just hope it's not Power and Requiem all over again.

6) I couldn't care less about Chlollie.

This relationship bores me to tears. I think it could have been interesting, if they had kept it purely physical: two broken people, finding comfort in each other's arms, but never quite able to let down the walls they had built around their wounded hearts. It would have made a striking contrast to the kind of love that Clark and Lois share, and could have been a heartbreaking reminder of the traumatic histories Oliver and Chloe both have been through on the show. Oliver and Chloe living happily ever after serves their shipper fans, but not the story, and I don't think that's ever a good choice. But of course that's just my opinion.

I find Oliver vastly more entertaining when he's as devil-may-care about his love life as he is about putting himself in harm's way to save others, and Justin Hartley plays the snarky but good-hearted playboy to perfection. That's the Oliver I love to see interact with Clark, hero to hero, not the lovesick puppy he's been this season. And I still think Chloe deserves a boyfriend all her own, an original character, not one the fanboys will always insist belongs to someone else.


I think Tess Mercer has been fabulous this season, and Cassidy Freeman continues to play her brilliantly. My only complaint is that she hasn't been onscreen nearly enough.

8) There are too many villains, and I still don't get what the Darkness is.

I challenge anyone who works on the show to provide me with an explanation of what we've seen so far that ties all the different storylines together and makes sense of it all. I've read a whole bunch of Superman comic books over the past three months, and they did help me understand characters like Darkseid and Granny Goodness a little better, but the whole thing still makes my head hurt.

9) I dread where the Clone!Lex storyline is going.

Unless Michael Rosenbaum is coming back, and I don't think he is, I don't see how this can end well. I am looking forward to Lucas Grabeel's episodes, though. I think he's wonderful, and I can't wait to see him act with the rest of the cast.

10) I can't wait to see Booster.

Geoff Johns wrote it, Tom directed it, we have two hot guest stars on board, and I even read a couple of Booster Gold graphic novels to get some background on the characters. There's a definite potential for humor, but I think we'll also see the exploration of some significant concepts, like what it means to be a hero, and why someone would choose a life of personal sacrifice for the greater good, with or without the promise of recognition or reward. Plus the early buzz is that it's going to be a good one!

So there you have it, my top ten thoughts about Smallville. If you made it all the way here to the end, thanks so much for listening. Even if no one reads this, just posting it is a big deal to me. I have found myself retreating more and more in recent weeks, lurking but never commenting, and posting nothing but news and scans. It feels good to break my silence and talk about Smallville again, if only to get a few things off my chest. :)

Oh, and one more thing. This guy? Will ALWAYS be my Superman. ♥

Tags: smallville
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