For the past ten years, beginning on the defunct WB, and continuing on it’s successor The CW Network, Warner Brothers Television’s SMALLVILLE brought a new angle on Clark Kent’s formative years.
Created by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, the show introduced us to Clark Kent (Tom Welling) as a socially awkward high school student who didn’t know his alien heritage, and showed us his struggles to fit in, keep his secret even from his friends, and to learn how to use his developing powers for good.
There were plenty of missteps along the way, both by the characters and the writers. There were some episodes so aggravatingly mishandled and seeemingly wrong-headed that you wanted to scream at the television. However, this was mitigated by others that were so beautifully written, filmed, and performed that they stayed with you for hours afterwards. There was often a paplable sense of lurking tragedy, the feeling that becoming Superman might cost Clark Kent everything he held dear: friendship, family, love.
There were characters that symbolized this underlying tension. Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum), in this series originally Clark’s friend, and a conflicted soul he wished to save from a dark destiny, yet could not. Another was Jonathan Kent (John Schneider), who would meet an early death, caused in large paty by his unyeilding determination to protect his adopted son.
They both returned in this two-part finale, and though one might take issue with the details of how this was handled, it was emotionally correct.
For a series finale that was presumably planned from the beginning of the season, far too much was crammed into the two hours (approximately 90 minutes of screen time). Some of it was very poorly thought out, in terms of the season’s arcs.
For example, a trio of super-powered villains are destroyed by someone (not Clark Kent) using ordinary weapons, due to the fact that the “magical” weapon he had sought and obtained was destroyed in a previous episode. So why did the mundane substitutes work in such a dramatic fashion? No explanation is given, they just do, and I guess you’re simply not supposed to think about it, despite it being a jarring head-shaker.
The season’s ‘big bad’, Darkseid is also dispatched far too easily, in a scene in which the god-like entity’s avatar and the nascent man of steel each exchange a single blow. That’s it? After a year’s build-up, Clarks gets a knocker across the barn, and a stopped-time pep talk from Kryptonian father Jor-El (voice of Terrance Stamp), helps him accept that he will always be a man of two worlds. This development at long last removes Clark’s self-imposed fear of flying, a last vestige of his longing to be an normal human being. This act of allowing himself to truly fly seems to be enough to suddenly cause his foe to simply fall into dust by soaring into him, coming appart like a sawdust mankin.
A lot of time is spent on Lois (Erica Durance) and Clark’s wedding vows, and we have to hear them twice, first in full as they both in succession go through pre-marital whim-whams, and again in part at the wedding. It would have been much more affecting to hear them only once.
On the other hand, although his screentime is relatively brief, Michael Rosenbaum’s Lex Luthor gets some really memorable scenes with both his half-sister Tess Mercer (Cassidy Freeman) and Clark Kent. This really helped in giving a needed sense of closure to the decade-long ride.
And what about the payoff? Ten seasons of the “No Flights, No Tights” dictum, finally gets put aside—more or less.
We do get to see Clark Kent fly, but Tom Welling never actually puts on those blue tights. He’s shown from chest-up, wearing a blue top with a SUPERMAN RETURNS-style three-dimensional S-shield, and a cloth cape. All the full-figure shots are of a “good enough for TV’-level CGI model Superman figure in long shot, or obscured by lens flares.
Maybe not what die-hard comic book fans would have preferred, but, aided by musical quotes from John Williams’ SUPERMAN score, viewers are treated to pretty darn satisfying coda to a long-lasting look at this larger-than-life hero’s journey.
And in my opinion, it was worth the trip.
Starring Tom Welling,Erica Durance, Allison Mack, Justin Hartley, Cassidy Freeman, Micael Rosenbaum, John Glover, Annette O’Toole and John Schneider.
Part One directed by Kevin Fair, written by Al Septien & Turi Meyer.
Part Two directed by Greg Beeman,written by show producers Brian Peterson & Kelly Souders.
A Warner Brothers Television Production, aired on The CW Network May 13th, 2011.