Smallville Season 8 Blu-ray Review
By Josh Green
I never loved Smallville before Season 8. But the show always grabbed my attention enough to keep me tuning in every week.
Tom Welling perfectly portrayed the gradual transformation of a naïve but heroic teenager as he would grow into his eventual role as Superman. Alison Mack’s performance of Chloe had given Clark a side-kick that he could confide in, which added a dynamic that was never a part of Superman comic books.
But apart from these two fantastic performances, the show always suffered from repetitive subplots that would drag endlessly - see Clark and Lana. Lex and Lionel Luthor were fantastic characters, but were repeatedly shoe-horned into storylines in which they didn’t belong.
I also felt that Smallville was not being respectful to its source material. For instance, in the comics, Jor-El was a caring humanitarian that wanted to save his planet, and was willing to sacrifice everything for his son’s safety. In Smallville, however, Jor-El was constantly condemning Clark’s actions and sometimes could be construed as a villain.
In between Seasons 7 and 8, Smallville fans were braced with concern as four cast-members announced their departures as series-regulars: Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor, John Glover as Lionel Luthor, Kristin Kruek as Lana Lang, and Laura Vandervoort as Kara Zor-El (Supergirl).
Other than Laura Vandervoort leaving, I applauded the departures of these characters. I already explained my dislike for the integration of the Luthors, but I also despised Kristin Kruek’s horrendous portrayal of Lana Lang.
Lana and Clark’s endless "will they or won’t they" romantic scenarios were the only instances when Tom Welling’s performance suffered, which was no fault of his own. Unfortunately, Kristen agreed to do five episodes in Season 8 so she could complete Lana’s story-arc.
As for Laura Vandervoort’s departure, the writers wanted to focus on a romantic relationship between Lois and Clark in Season 8. This meant there was less time for Clark to acclimate his cousin Kara to Earth. Laura reprised the role of Kara for one episode in Season 8 so she could also close her character’s story.
But the biggest departure to impact Smallville wasn’t from any of its cast-members, but of the show’s creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar. They stayed the course for Smallville’s first seven seasons, but with so many exits, fans were left to wonder whether Smallville could still fly.
As of season eight, Smallville was in the capable hands of four show runners: Darren Swimmer, Todd Slavkin, Kelly Souders, and Brian Peterson. Since so many members of the cast had left, the show had several vacancies to fill.
The biggest loss to the show was Lex Luthor. Even though I had a problem with some of Lex’s storylines, Michael Rosenbaum’s portrayal of the character was spot-on iconic. Consequently, there couldn’t possibly be one villain to fill his void. In his place came Doomsday, a monstrous creature who killed Superman in the comic books. The character of Doomsday was given a human an alter-ego named Davis Bloome, a paramedic who suffered from strange blackouts.
The other villainous role was Tess Mercer, an amalgamation of Lex Luthor henchwomen Miss. Teschmacher and Mercy. Davis Bloome/Doomsday and Tess Mercer were played by Sam Witwer and Cassidy Freeman respectively. Returning characters were Clark Kent, Chloe Sullivan, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen. Green Arrow/Oliver Queen fans were elated when it was announced that cast member Justin Hartley would become a regular in Season 8.
Despite being titled Smallville, the majority of events in Season 8 took place in Metropolis. The most exciting part of Season 8 was Clark’s newfound initiative as he became more proactive with his role as a superhero in Metropolis - in the past, Clark had been more reactive. Since Clark hadn’t yet adopted the "nerdy-glasses Clark Kent persona", he constantly moved at super-speed to protect his secret identity. But the citizens of Metropolis did notice his exploits, and they dubbed him the "Red-Blue Blur".
Clark moved into a new status quo by working as a reporter for the Daily Planet, sitting directly across from Lois Lane. With the departure of Lana, Lois and Clark finally delved into the possibility of having a romantic future together. Lois was the first to realize that she had feelings for Clark, but she tried to suppress them since she had always viewed Clark as a playful nuisance.
Meanwhile, Clark was as oblivious as always when it came to romance. Their scenes together were very reminiscent of the romantic comedy tone of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. The best episodes of Season 8 had Lois in them, but unfortunately she was only in around half of the season’s episodes.
Chloe Sullivan spent most of Season 8 in an unfortunate love triangle with Davis Bloome and her fiancé, Jimmy Olsen. Chloe's relationship with Jimmy had become tiresome only because of Aaron Ashmore’s stale performance as Jimmy.
Chloe also had to deal with the ramifications of Brainiac’s attack from the end of Season 7. Because of the attck, Chloe left her duties as Daily Planet reporter and took Lana’s place at the helm of the Isis Foundation, which helped youths with meteor-rock poisoning. This was an exciting new position for Chloe, since she had been on the newspaper beat for the previous seven seasons.
My heart sank when it was announced that Doomsday would have an alter ego named Davis Bloome. I wondered why Smallville never could stay close to comic book canon! But other than his Davis Bloome identity, which became fascinating in its own right, the Doomsday creature was impressively close to its comic book origin. Doomsday was still a creature from Krypton, and visually he looked exactly like his comic book counterpart. If Doomsday is ever created for an upcoming Superman movie, he’d obviously be a CGI rendered character. But since Smallville doesn’t have that kind of budget, they fashioned Doomsday out of a man in a costume. Doomsday would often appear in poor lighting, and the lighting coupled with quick editing in post-production, the creature managed to look legitimately menacing.
The other two characters in the Season 8 Smallville cast were Tess Mercer and Oliver Queen. These two had previous romantic history together, but most of their storylines involved their failing relationships with Clark. Tess Mercer replaced Lex Luthor as the acting CEO of LuthorCorp. Tess was a protégé of Lex, and immediately knew to be suspicious of Clark’s secrets. Tess didn’t seem to be entirely immoral, as the pendulum of her actions were frequently swaying between good and evil. Meanwhile, Green Arrow/Oliver’s friendship with Clark continued to fray since he was willing to take a life if necessary, a position that was obviously in direct opposition to Clark’s methods.
DC Guest Stars
Continuing the trend from previous seasons, Smallville adapted several more characters from DC Comics. The most notable were the appearances of Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, and Saturn Girl, who were part of the Legion of Super-Heroes from the 31st century. The Legion's premiere episode was an added treat for comic book fans since it was written by acclaimed comic book writer Geoff Johns.
But the most brilliant comic book-to-screen translation was of the magical hero Zatanna, played by actress Serinda Swan. There were several other new DC villains adapted for Smallville such as Toyman, Maxima, Parasite, and Plastique. Other DC heroes that returned to the fold included Black Canary, Aquaman, Impulse, and Martian Manhunter.
Blu-ray Special Features
There were two featurettes and several deleted scenes and commentaries on the Blu-ray edition of Smallville. One of the featurettes focused on Allison Mack directing her first episode of Smallville. That commentary was unfortunately very repetitive, and could have easily been explained in five minutes rather than nineteen. The more entertaining featurette was about the conception of Doomsday. The show runners commentated on my initial trepidation of Doomsday having a human. But the runners did say that they wanted to stay faithful to the comic book incarnation, and showed how they created the prosthetic costume for Doomsday.
Witnessing Clark’s growth from his Smallville roots towards his Metropolis destiny was very exciting. When Clark thought that wearing a plaid shirt was proper attire for a Daily Planet newspaper reporter, it was a stand-out moment for a series that finally found its sense of humor. And for the faithful of Superman’s mythology, there were no shortages of telephone booths in Season 8.
Unfortunately there were several faults in Smallville Season 8, but they weren’t enough to ruin this fun ride. Lana’s five episode finale - Hopefully! - temporarily halted the Lois/Clark romance subplot, which was one of the most entertaining stories of the season. Although two of the five Lana episodes were among the season’s best, she still managed to interrupt storylines to a show that she no longer belonged.
In closing, Season 8 of Smallville was its best to date. This pared-down cast benefited from new blood, which created different dynamics between its principal players. It is rare that a TV show would have its most creative season towards the end of its run, but Smallville Season 8 managed to leap my expectations in a single bound!
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