Tuesday, April 17, 2007

True Confessions of a "Smallville" Fan

Yes, I admit it, I still watch "Smallville". I caught the Pilot in the fall of 2001, and I've been watching it ever since.

"Smallville" started with such promise. I'm usually wary of prequels, but I just couldn't resist the concept of watching a young Clark Kent and Lex Luthor forge a seemingly deep friendship, blissfully unaware that they were destined to become mortal enemies.

Tom Welling played his part well. I liked the notion that Clark Kent, far from simply accepting his powers and his alien heritage, would be torn between a sense of resonsibility to use his abilities for the greater good and the desire to lead a normal life.

Michael Rosenbaum was brilliant as Lex Luthor in "Smallville's" first three seasons. In Lex Luthor, we were able to see a young man's struggle against himself and his own darker inclinations.

I loved Annette O'Toole and John Schneider as Martha and Jonathan Kent. Despite some initial misgivings, I even enjoyed the new characters added to this take on the Superman mythos like Lionel Luthor and Chloe Sullivan. The former, portrayed delightfully by John Glover, provided remarkable insight into the development of young Lex, and his ambivalent feelings toward his destiny. Allison Mack's Chloe Sullivan was a breath of fresh air. Her character was, at least in the early seasons of the show, a believable mixture of precocious intelligence and youthful vulnerability. Heck, I didn't even dislike Lana Lang in those days.

This all changed after the first few episodes of Season 4. That's when it seemed like this show just started treading water. In my opinion, it's been treading water ever since.

Lex has gotten closer to his destiny . . . provided said destiny is to become the only billionaire arch-criminal who is beaten up, shot, or kidnapped on a regular basis. Lionel Luthor is seen far too infrequently. Chloe is always on hand to provide plot exposition, but her character has lost its freshness. (And while I admit it would be an interesting "twist", I don't think that "Chlois" is going to happen, either).

Everything you ever wanted to know about "Chlois" but were afraid to ask

Much as I love the actress portraying her, Erica Durance, "Smallville's" Lois Lane can best be analogized to an unwanted party guest: she showed up too early, and has stuck around too long. The writers have proven themselves incapable of writing about two smart women with a talent for journalism, so Lois' role has been relegated to providing comic relief and occasional eye candy. She works for a cheesy tabloid and has been called upon to go "undercover" wearing skimpy outfits.

Lana Lang remains annoying (no offense, Kristin Kreuk, I know it's not your fault), but to me, her presence is like a toothache I've learned to live with.

My real beef is with Clark Kent. In five plus years, this Clark Kent has out-Peter Parkered Peter Parker. The future super hero to whom other superheroes (except Batman, of course) look for inspiration, now has to be reminded of the responsibilities which come with his great powers by the Green Arrow. He has spent most of this season keeping the world from dangerous super-criminals released from the Phantom Zone. He's also the one responsible for their having been released in the first place. He still can't fly. In fact, without having the situation explained to him by Chloe, he can barely tie his own shoelaces. Up, up, and away, indeed.

Superman has always required me to suspend my disbelief when it comes to the whole "secret identity" thing. In other words, no one recognizes that Clark Kent is really Superman wearing a pair of non-prescription frames. Fine. Well, in the World According to Smallville, I'm now supposed to believe that no one with whom he's interacted over the past 5 1/2 years (including Aquaman, the aforementioned Green Arrow, the Flash, Cyborg, Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, Perry White, and the staff of the Daily Planet) will recognize this despite the fact that they've seen Clark Kent walking around sans glasses! He gave Lois Lane a "kiss of forgetfulness" in Superman II. Mr. Kent had better have a case of chapstick handy.

Did I mention he's still obsessed with his high school sweetheart?

Finally, this future Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter is, like Lois Lane, a college-dropout. Unlike Lois, he has given no indication that journalism is anywhere in his future.

Ultimately, "Smallville" has failed by dragging the show on too long. As with any other prequel, the audience has a good idea of where things are going to end up. Clark Kent is going to put on the red and blue tights and start fighting for truth, justice, and the American way. Lex Luthor is going to become his deadliest enemy. The interesting part of it was supposed to be the way in which their respective journeys played out before our eyes. By spending the better part of the last three seasons not developing these characters, this journey has been rendered completely uninteresting.

So yes, I still watch "Smallville", but I no longer tune in expecting to be entertained. I watch this show now out of a sense of morbid curiosity. How will they find a "new" way to keep these characters in a state of arrested development?


Anonymous said...

hey oba, so now that season 6 is over, do you still not believe in the Chlois Theory ? i hadn't heard of it before you introduced me to it via your blog entry, but the season finale seems to present it as an inevitability...

and i'll give lana some snaps for telling lex that he can't stop her from leaving and to pound sand. i only hope that's true, because her character adds nothing to the show anymore...


oba said...

Chadwin, chadwin, chadwin. I'll be posting my commentary on the Season 6 finale tomorrow. Let me just say that there seem to be a lot of people who agree with you about the inevitability of "Chlois". Let me warn you, I am not one of them.

I agree with you about Lana, although I think that reports of her demise are greatly exaggerated.

Up, up, and away. . .