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Smallville (series finale)

Josh Bids Farewell to Smallville!

It’s pretty hard to believe that Smallville has been on the air for ten years, and I am even a little bit more astonished that I’ve been watching the show for pretty much all of those ten years!  From the very beginning, I have found watching Smallville to be a somewhat frustrating endeavor.  I’d be hard pressed to name a show that’s been so wildly inconsistent in quality.  A spectacular, exciting, complex episode will be followed by an agonizingly painful, awkward, juvenile installment.  But the good episodes have been good enough to somehow keep me watching even through the bad ones (and there have been plenty of bad ones).

Smallville is probably the best argument for the strength of the British TV model (and the increasingly common HBO/cable model) of shorter (8-12 episode) seasons rather than the standard American network TV seasons of 20-24 episodes.  Over the years I’ve read fans writing off this season or that season of Smallville as garbage, while praising other years.  Personally, I think pretty much every season of the show has had merit, and has had some great episodes.  But boy oh boy have I felt (right from season one) that the story-lines were padded and stretched FAAAAR beyond what made any logical narrative sense.  The years and years of yes-they’re-a-couple, no-they’re-not-a-couple Clark Kent/Lana Lang soap opera antics is the most annoying example of this, but even in the later, more focused seasons this has been a problem.  The show actually found interesting ways to incorporate Doomsday and General Zod as villains (in seasons 8 and 9, respectively), but by making us wait through the WHOLE long season for Clark and his Big Bad villains to finally come to loggerheads stretched my patience well past the breaking point.  Out of the ten seasons of Smallville, I’d say there’s probably a terrific four year-run of a great super-hero show.

That is not a very good record!  But Smallville did have a number of moments of real greatness, and those moments kept me from ever giving up entirely on the series.  There have been some episodes that have been among the very best live-action depictions of super-heroics that I’ve ever seen, in movies or on TV.  (The season two episode, “Rosetta,” guest-starring Christopher Reeve comes to mind, and the show consistently did season-finales like nobody’s business.)  The visual effects are not great, but they’ve been good enough to be decently entertaining week in and week out.  But when the show was great, it wasn’t because of visual effects, it was because they found a sweet spot between incorporating aspects of the Superman mythology while keeping the over-all narrative fun, engaging, and accessible.

When Smallville was … [continued]