Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The End of Smallville: A Review

I know. I'm terrible. I didn't watch the series finale of Smallville until last night. I almost didn't watch it at all, even though I had the time and opportunity. Let me explain.

My wife isn't a Smallville fan in any way shape or form. She's not a Superman fan. She's not into science fiction and fantasy (well, she does like Star Trek and the Indiana Jones films). We don't watch a lot of TV.

Here's another confession. I didn't start watching Smallville in 2001 when it first came on the air. I can't remember when Smallville first registered on my radar. I think I saw a friend's collection of DVDs of the early seasons a few years ago and started watching them just to see what they were like.

I was hooked. I blew through his DVD collection and then started renting the rest of the DVDs (up to the 6th or 7th season I think) from the local video store. Even then, I couldn't really make the time to try and watch the actual TV broadcasts. In fact, I stopped watching Smallville again until the summer before season 10 came out.

I had to go back to the video store and rent the rest of the videos, supplementing them with whatever I could find on the CW Smallville site. Eventually, I made my way to almost the "present" last fall. I was watching new season 10 episodes on the CW site and watching season 9 episodes on disc. I never got to see the last two episodes of season 9 because that set of discs was always rented out. Oh well, I might get to them some day.

I managed to watch most of the season 10 episodes via the CW but my schedule didn't allow me to watch the last two episodes, "Prophecy" and "Finale". Last night, opportunity arrived.

I figured I'd just sacrifice "Prophecy" and pursue "Finale" since that's where the whole answer to "How does Clark become Superman?" lived.

How did I like it?

The episode was sort of a rollercoast ride of "I like this" highs and "this sucks" lows. The experience reminded me of the patchwork Lex clone that Lionel (OK, he probably had some evil doctors do the work) put together (funny how he managed to find a "working" brain with all of Lex's memories, but he couldn't manage a heart). It was a bit of this and a bit of that and a bit of the other thing.

I can't blame the Smallville writers too much for this. Michael Rosenbaum took forever to sign up to play Lex for the final episode, so I'm sure the writers had to scramble to move things around and figure out where and how to use him. It's pretty likely that they had a similar task to perform relative to Allison Mack, since she was originally scheduled to play Chloe in only five episodes in season 10, not including the finale.

I thought it was pretty lame that the show opened with Lois "suddenly" having doubts about her marrying Clark and then on the heels of her concerns, Clark resurrecting his own doubts (remember, I haven't seen "Prophecy", so maybe that's all explained in that show). I thought they'd gotten past all these worries. The "conflict" felt like so much filler material, written just to take up time until the actual wedding was supposed to happen (and Clark and Lois never got married on the much for "Clois" fans).

A big pet peeve for me was how a planet-sized body could enter our solar system completely unnoticed. Depending on how fast Apokolips was traveling, the gravitational effects should have been observable on the various objects in our system for months. It couldn't possibly "sneak up" on the Earth. In fact, Apokolips didn't seem to cause any demonstratable tidal effects on Earth until it was inside the Moon's orbit! Amazing (though as someone on twitter pointed out, how can I bitch about all this if I'm willing to believe an alien from another galaxy with a perfectly human looking body can fly?)!

One of my other frustrations with the finale is that it seemed like Clark was going to talk everyone to death. Long conversations with Lois, his Mom, Lex, Darkseid (inhabiting Lionel's literally heartless body), Jonathan's ghost, and finally Jor-El. Oy. Just shut up, put on the f*cking suit, and stop Apokolips, you moron!

OK, Ok. What did I like?

I really liked the framing sequence with Chloe and her little boy, reading the "Smallville" comic book and with "Mom" explaining how Clark became Superman (if DC in her world really published this story, Clark's identity must have been completely sanitized from the magazine). Mack even successfully pulled off looking like a woman in her early 30s rather than her actual age of 28 (29 this coming July). OK, not much of a stretch here. She probably just cut back on the makeup.

I did like how the suspense managed to build until after about 80 minutes (including opening credits and commercials) I was about ready to beat up Clark around the head and shoulders with a kryptonite baseball bat while screaming "Just become Superman, already!" (the flip side is that if the writing had been tighter, the entire finale could have been compressed into a single, regular-length episode).

It could have been better. I felt like a lot of loose ends had to be quickly tied up in the last hour and a half (even with commercials, the running time of the finale was less than 90 minutes, at least as broadcast on the CW site) and how it was done was really uneven. In many ways, I'm just glad it's over. Smallville is a story about Clark's journey to become Superman but sooner or later he actually has to be the Man of Steel. Either that, or Smallville goes on forever and Clark becomes the only 75 year old "almost-but-not-quite-superhero" in history.

I did think that Smallville did nearly nail my biggest expectation for the finale in the last few minutes. An emergency is announced at the Daily Planet. Clark manages to get to an isolated area (in this case, the roof). He takes off his glasses and tie, the camera moves in on his chest, he opens his shirt, the Superman shield is flashed. Fade to black.

Good-bye Smallville. Hello Superman.

The end.