Throwback Thursday- Revisiting “Smallville”

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On its 19th anniversary, it’s time to look back and see how “Smallville” has aged.

Matthew Swanenburg

On October 16th, 2001, superhero culture changed forever with the pilot episode of WB’s “Smallville”. “Smallville”, which ran from 2001 to 2011, portrayed a young Clark Kent as he learned how to use his powers and become the hero he was sent to Earth to be. In the ten seasons of the shows run fans got to see Tom Welling’s Clark grow into a man, and eventually (spoiler alert) don the legendary Superman costume and finally take to the skies. And while I would love to go through and review WB’s smash-hit show, that would take hours. So instead, I’ll just answer one simple question. How did “Smallville” age?  

                                            SMALLVILLE | SMALLVILLE Image: SM6 - 0555 Pictured: Tom Well… | Flickr

The most glaring thing that I noticed when watching “Smallville” was the poor special effects. And while I can’t be too harsh on that front because the technology in the early 2000’s was not nearly as advanced as it is now, I can say that it does take away a bit from the overall experience. Scenes where Clark uses his powers or where the background is not real do look a little silly, but it does not make or break the show for me. Another glaring thing I noticed when watching the show is Tom Welling, who played a fourteen-year-old Clark Kent in season one, looks much older than the true age of the character he plays. Tom Welling was twenty-four at the time of the first season, but again, it does not make the show unwatchable. Some things that do make the show unwatchable are the sometimes horrible writing and very unrealistic situations and events that happen.

For the most part, “Smallville” had great writers that did a phenomenal job bringing heroes to life. But unfortunately, they struggled with some of the non-hero aspects of the show. There were numerous times where I would find myself cringing at a scene just because it was either forced comedy or just downright strange. When the show tried to step outside of its comfort zone, specifically with comedic moments or episodes, I would find myself wanting to turn the episode off because the writers and actors clearly were not used to having to try and convey laughter. And, when the “Smallville” writers tried to step out of their comfort zone for more sci-fi episodes like most of season four was, it became very hard to watch. I also sometimes found myself wanting to turn the show off because of the sometimes idiotic scenarios. I can accept the superhero stuff, but when a high school character has connections to people in the Senate, morgues, and hospitals I start to draw the line. One of the worst things writers can do is assume they’re writing to an unintelligent or gullible demographic. “Smallville” has a tendency to do that occasionally, which leads to very head-scratching moments. However, “Smallville” does some things great as well.

One thing the Superman prequel did well was it hit a home run with the actors they cast for the show. The actors play their roles very well and are fairly convincing when doing emotional sequences. Another thing the show nailed is the romantic aspect. The romance in the show is not forced, and you find yourself becoming invested in these characters’ relationships. The thing “Smallville” does best though is the superhero stuff. Clark’s origin is done masterfully well, and the show does a great job tying up loose ends and explaining his origin without getting boring. And with Clark’s origin comes his great villains. Superman has some of the most legendary comic book villains, and “Smallville” does them all justice. From the casting choices to the writing, the villains in “Smallville” are always excellent.

The best way to summarize my opinions of the show is this: what it does well, it does really well, but what it does badly, can be somewhat unwatchable at times. The super-hero side of the show is extremely interesting to me, and I believe the average fan would agree that it does an origin story better than most. Also, the show does a great job of accurately depicting high school life. Although Clark has different problems than most teens, it is still relatable to see someone just want to fit in and be perceived as normal. Another thing “Smallville” does well is its representation of popular comic characters. To this day, the shows’ iterations of Lex Luther, Clark Kent, Clark’s parents, and Lois Lane remain unparalleled. And even though it was a struggle for earlier seasons, “Smallville” did a great job giving great comic book villains great representation. From season five to season ten, “Smallville” used all of the essential and well known Superman villains and nailed basically all of them. Like any show, it had its ups and downs and while its downs were sometimes extremely low, they also had some great highs. Seasons’ one through three, five and eight through ten make for great, entertaining television, and the other seasons aren’t too bad themselves. So, without any hesitation, I would say: “Smallville” has aged extremely well!