Like most people, I watched the first few seasons of Smallville and gave up on it. Recently, I felt the need to rewatch Superman II. Then I rewatched Man of Steel. Then I found myself watching clips of Smallville on YouTube. And like many of my television watching habits, once I’ve seen a few YouTube clips of a show, I get thirsty and need to rewatch the whole show.
More than that, though, I think I need some Superman in my life right now. Lately I’ve felt a little powerless, a little hopeless. And while a lot of superheros are meant to counter that, Superman is the purest. He feels personally responsible for the well-being of everyone. He tries to use his great power to shield everyone from harm (often quite literally) without any regard for himself. He’s a symbol for hope that makes us feel like we can be saved. And more importantly, that we can save each other.
So while I’m rewatching, I’d like to share with you some my thoughts on each Smallville season in case you need a little hope too.
1. Sometimes It Don’t Make No Sense
Every so often the show made me laugh out loud at how implausible it was. I can appreciate that the show creators needed the occasional dramatic conclusion (like an explosion) and I understand that it’s superhero show, but still. In one episode, Clark stops a bad guy by throwing a bowling ball through a wall at an ordinary, human bad guy. In another episode, he decides to blow up some propane tanks and use his body to shield the person he was trying to save. Everyone was fine.
2. The Villains are Simplistic
Not many of the villains in season one have complex motivations. Sometimes the villain is so singularly focused they do wrong almost by happenstance, rather than intent. I actually found this refreshing. My favourite is a guy named Sean. He “drowns” in some icy waters and survives, but can no longer retain warmth. He also gains the ability to absorb heat and must do so perpetually. He starts with small things like fire, but graduates to body heat. “I just want to get warm,” he says. Don’t we all Sean, don’t we all.
3. It’s Formulaic
I was extremely hesitant to watch season one. I remembered it being episode after episode of: Meteor Rock Freak shows up, causes trouble, Clark and friends investigate, Clark fights Meteor Rock Freak, Clark wins. And while it is that, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
4. Relationships / Characters are One Note and Rarely Deviate
Clark likes Lana, and Lana has feelings for Clark, but Lana is dating Whitney. Chloe likes Clark, but Clark likes Lana. Lex is buddies with Clark, but is intensely curious about Clark’s secrets. Jonathan wants to protect Clark. Pete tells jokes.
5. It Takes Place in High School
I once convinced a friend to watch Buffy the Vampire the Slayer. It’s seven seasons long so I promised to skip scenes or episodes I considered unnecessary. I skipped season one entirely, but probably should have skipped more. He had a really hard time with the teen angst in the early episodes. Growing up with Buffy and having seen it while I was a teenager, it was never a problem for me. Coming at the series fresh as an adult I can appreciate that teen drama would not only be of no interest to new viewers, but possibly be an annoyance.
And Smallville is full of teen drama.
6. The Actors are Purdy
We demand attractive actors in television and movies because people are inherently drawn to more attractive faces. And Smallville does a great job of having pretty people. There were moments, lost in another close up of Kristen Kreuk where I thought, “how much of the success of this show is hinged on Kristen Kreuk’s beauty?” Hard to say, but I think quite a bit.
7. It’s Naive
There’s a pleasant simplicity to Smallville‘s formula. While more “quality” television is about wrestling with moral and institutional gray areas, Smallville really captures the purest essence of what Superman is supposed to be all about — saving people. There’s a warmth to mindless television we all need sometimes. There are no drastic character complications, no deaths, no major changes.
I have a lot more seasons to go, but I feel like I can call it now: season one is the Superman story I was looking for. Every episode someone cries out for help, and every episode, Clark is right there to help them. For all its faults, I have a feeling that no other season will be as naive and pure as this one. There’s an unbridled feeling of hope practically beaming through the screen. There’s an assuredness that each episode someone is going to be in trouble, and Clark is going to save them.
And I loved every sappy second of it.