Smallville tells the story of Clark Kent‘s early years, and the origins of Superman. First hitting TV screens back in 2001, the show is about to start it’s tenth, and final year, when opening episode Lazarus airs this friday (September 24th) in America. As well as the many questions left unanswered from the ending of Season 9, many Smallville fans will be hoping that this year we will finally get to see Clark gain the ability to fly, and put on that famous outfit to pursue his destiny as Superman, the man of steel. It’s something the show’s writers have (wisely) steered clear of so far, but I’m sure there’ll be many a cheer going up if it finally happens. Time will of course tell, but I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t.
I’d seen the odd episode of Smallville over the years, and always enjoyed them, but had never gone out of my way to watch it. That all changed last year when I started recording a repeat showing of the first series, from the first episode. I quickly became quite hooked on it, and over the coming months consumed every episode of it, until I was up to date with everything that had gone before. I’ve now seen all of Season 9 (although most UK viewers have to make do with E4, who are currently reaching it’s conclusion), so am really looking forward to what lies in store in it’s final year.
The focus in the early seasons centres around the relationship between Clark (played by Tom Welling), childhood sweetheart Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk), and the young Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum), son of ruthless millionaire businessman Lionel Luthor. When Lex‘s car is involved in an accident and crashes in to Clark, plunging into a river, he quickly becomes close friends with the young farmboy who pulls him from the sinking wreckage. However, unable to explain all the facts about his amazing rescue, Lex embarks down a road of obsession to uncover the secrets he believes Clark is hiding from him…
And it’s this obsession, along with the close friendship that Clark and Lex build up, that really is the central foundation of the show. Most people will know, with even a tiny knowledge of Superman‘s long history in print and on screen, that Lex will eventually become Clark‘s arch enemy, but never before have I seen it portrayed with such depth with such believable characters. As a viewer you really start to understand what motivates Lex, and he’s so well played by Michael Rosenbaum that you even start to empathise with him. It’s so refreshing because in the Superman movies (with Christopher Reeve), for example, I’ve always thought he felt very two-dimensional, and hard to take seriously.
It’s not just these two that hold the show though, Smallville boasts a superb cast all round. John Glover is the guy you love to hate (or hate to love), playing Lex‘s ruthless father Lionel Luthor, and Clark‘s adoptive parents on Earth are played by John Schneider (better know as Bo Duke from The Dukes Of Hazard), and Annette O’Toole who plays Martha Kent. Fans of Superman will probably remember Annette from when she played the character of Lana Lang alongside Christopher Reeve in Superman III back in 1983. It’s a nice touch, paying homage to Superman‘s legacy, and it’s something that the show repeats over the following years as we see guest roles from Reeve himself, Margot Kidder (the movie Lois Lane), and even Dean Cain, who played Superman on tv in The New Adventures Of Superman in the nineties.
So, how does the quality of the show hold up over nine series? On the whole, pretty good, if you ask me. The special effects are always of the highest quality, and really have been since day one. It does change focus over time, slowly moving events to the city of Metropolis, where as we know, Clark will eventually work as a bespectacled reporter for the Daily Planet alongside Lois Lane. And I feel that Erica Durance (who plays Lois in this version) is deserving of special mention too. She’s a great actress, and is just perfect as Lois. First appearing in Season 4, she is slowly eased in to events, and stories, but her onscreen chemistry with Tom Welling is faultless, and lifts any mediocre episode in later seasons. And another clever stroke the makers come up with in later seasons is the addition of many other well known characters from the world of DC Comics, most notably that of the Green Arrow, who becomes a regular recurring character.
So what can we expect from the final season? Well, apart from the obvious (a certain red & blue outfit), I think most fans will be hoping to see the return of Michael Rosenbaum as Lex. The actor left at the end of Season 7, and although we had supposedly ‘seen’ an onscreen death of the character in Season 8, a couple of clues were dropped in later episodes that the character might in fact still be alive. This is fiction, after all. I hope he does come back, the last season won’t seem quite right without him there. I’ve so far avoided any cast lists, or spoilers, so will have to wait and see.
If you’ve never watched Smallville before, or have had a lukewarm reaction to it, I urge you to give it another go. I think it’s right up there with the best that modern television has to offer, and I’ll be a little sad when it’s all over.
Season 9 of Smallville can currently be seen on E4, Tuesday nights at 9.00pm
Read more about Season 10 at the show’s official website here