When it really comes down to it, Smallville is about Super Clark. Sure his life seems anything but super at times as he deals with every day non-super aspects like his girlfriend, his friends and his farm. Regardless, this show is about a young superhero. For this reason alone, ‘Justice’ must be included as it gave us not one, but five superheroes in forty something fast paced minutes. Oliver Queen decked out in green leather and high tech gear discovers Lex Luthor’s intentions of creating an army of super freaks. Super Friends unite! All former super guest stars returned in this high powered episode; Bart (Impulse), A.C. (Aquaman), and Victor (Cyborg) did what they do best; beating people up, and saying some witty lines in the process. Eventually, they got Clark to join in the fun. Then there was that dramatic slow motion exit scene with the explosion that either made us snicker at the cheesiness, or filled us with awe. In either case it entertained us. “Meanwhile at the Hall of Justice”, Chloe Sullivan got to play an Oracle of sorts to the heroes, assisting them as only Chloe could (throw in computer jargon here). Lest we forget, Lex Luthor was surprisingly evil in the episode as it should be when going against young Justice Leaguers. You have to admit that high tech prison cell built to hold Impulse was both extravagant and overly impractical, just like you would expect from a super villain. In the end, what appealed to us the most with this episode was the camaraderie between Clark and the others as well as numerous little hints and allusions reminding us of the heroes that were to come. Visions of Justice League spin offs started flying through the minds of fans, and we here at SVPH, hope that we’ll see more multi-powered *ss kicking in upcoming episodes.
Two words; Lana strips. Now that we’ve gotten your attention, let’s explain the other aspects of this episode which made it so memorable. ‘Nicodemus’ was one of the first episodes to really explore the sexual tension between Clark and Lana, which up to this point had been limited to the occasional glance and smile. For this reason, ‘Nicodemus’ is usually pretty high on the list for all the “Clana” fans. But it wasn’t an enjoyable episode just because of the two incredibly attractive people with all their excellent sexual chemistry. There was also Lana in her underwear. All right, so that might have been established already but it had to be mentioned again. That alone counts for major points with some of the fans. Also, it was an episode when Lana was loved by all. And we mean all. Before all the secrets, lies, fake babies, and all the drama that has kind of turned Lana into a slightly crazy woman, there was the beautiful, popular and demure girl. And this episode allowed that cute girl next door to cut loose, due to the intoxicating effects of the Nicodemus flower. But that wasn’t all that happened in the episode. Another event was quietly unfolding. Lex took his first steps to being his future self. At first, he was portrayed as being a misunderstood and tortured soul, but this episode was one of the first instances where he started keeping secrets from Clark. The episode finished with a great shot of Clark and Lana sitting on a windmill looking at Metropolis backed by U2’s ‘Beautiful Day’, again showing the great musical choices of Smallville. Oh who are we kidding? While all those things were great, in the end this episode was awesome just because of Lana in all her sexy glory.
With a title like ‘Crusade’, we were expecting something substantial. Substantial is what we got with the Season 4 premiere that will be remembered as a significant episode in the show’s line up. Now let’s start at the beginning and talk about the inclusion of one of the most interesting characters on Smallville: Lois Lane. Should we point out that the first time Clark and Lois meet is also the first time Lois gets to see Clark in his birthday suit? For many fans, seeing Clark semi-naked was enough to make this one of their favorite episodes. Clark (or Kal-El) comes back after having disappeared for a few months and soon after, starts flying. We’re not talking a hop, skip, and a jump. We’re talking about actual high powered, hair blown back, flying! It was a special effects feast that quickly threw us back into the story that the cliffhanger season finale ‘Covenant’ had left us with. Sure, it was a nice loophole that “The Powers That Be” found to get around the “No Tights, No Flights” rule. We don’t hold it against them; we actually applaud their efforts. It once again showed Tom Welling’s versatility as an actor while also throwing in various arcs that would continue for much of the season such as Lana’s witch of an ancestor who frequently took over her body. We were also introduced to Lana’s newest boy toy (Jason Teague) who proved to be a good thing for the rest of the season, at least until the secrets and lies (a Smallville specialty) led to his turning psychotic right before his death. As far as season premieres go, this one offered quite a bang for the buck and set up various arcs which led to one of the most interesting (and polarized by fans) seasons that Smallville has had to date.
Not including ‘Arrival’ in the Top Ten would be a sin when so much drama and action was jam packed into one episode. Cleverly alluding many times to the Superman mythology, this episode also gave us one of the most epic moments in Smallville history: The creation of the Fortress of Solitude. The effects, the music, and the set design were all perfect as the gleaming fortress rose from beneath the ice. Superman’s future home away from home quickly became center stage for various arcs to come in future episodes that would involve the disembodied voice of Jor-El. Then there was the second meteor shower that hit Smallville. Hitching along for a ride with the meteors was a space ship with two psychotic Kryptonians who tore through all of Smallville searching for Clark. This episode also contained the first echoes of Lexana, when Lana shared the secret of seeing the Kryptonian ship with Lex. Special effects were at a peak for the show with all the glorious scenes involving the meteor shower, the Fortress, and the super (short) fight at the end between Clark and the Kryptonians. The episode is also remembered for one of the most famous (infamous?) twists in Smallville history. Delayed by the Kryptonians and unable to return to the Fortress in time, Clark became a mortal. He had finally gotten something he had secretly desired, but at what cost? The Man of Steel was now bleeding when cut by a small glass shard. This episode also contained the first hints of Lexana, when Lana shared the valuable secret of seeing the Kryptonian ship with Lex. Last but definitely not the least, a shocking scene in the final moments of the episode, as Brainiac made his own Arrival, one that would leave quite a mark on the rest of the season.
We had wanted to see it for a while; Lex Luthor being a true villain. You know the kind of villain who would steal candy from a child and then laugh at the crying child? All right, so maybe a little scarier than that. And scary is what we got with one of the most intense Lex-centric episodes to date. ‘Onyx’ had an interesting premise and as always, it involved Kryptonite. In an experiment that involved heating up Kryptonite, Black Kryptonite was created. Then there was a big boom and everything went to hell in a hand basket. Lex was caught in an explosion that led to a separation of his good and evil personalities. First, there was “Alexander” who strived to be kind and a humanitarian. He wanted nothing more than to live a life of charity and close friendship with Clark. Then there was “Lex” in all his evil psychotic glory, who would not stop short of taking over the world. Michael Rosenbaum’s acting was beyond stellar as he pulled off the two contrasting personalities with ease. Furthermore, we got to see some serious Clark/Lex enmity that is part of the legendary relationship between Superman and Lex Luthor of comic fame. And as mentioned earlier, we actually got to see Lex being evil. Pure, glorified, antisocial evil. The kind of evil that makes you never want to be around bald men in expensive suits. Admit it; you were excited (even if it was negative excitement) when Lex went Rocky Balboa on Clark. Finally, the episode ended with us wondering if Lex ever had a chance to be anything other than the villain. Would Clark’s kindness have made a difference? Was his emotionally abusive and distant father to blame for who Lex would become? Or was there always that darkness in Lex? Regardless, we loved uber-evil Lex. We’re still waiting to see more of him.
Smallville is known to introduce the occasional change to Superman mythology. Sometimes, as in the case with Red Kryptonite, it works out unbelievably well. Originally, Red Kryptonite was the most unpredictable of the multi-colored radioactive rocks that kept hindering Superman. Its effects varied; everything from turning him into a dragon to an old man depending on the fragment. Smallville decided to try something different by making Clark lose all inhibitions when he touched the now infamous “Red-K.” His first experience with Red Kryptonite has proven to be his most memorable. Clark developed some confidence where he was previously lacking (cough, Lana) when he put on the Red Kryptonite class ring. Gone was the nervous boy who was never sure of what to say to pretty girls. Instead we got Casanova Clark pulling out all the stops as his mojo was let loose. However, it wasn’t just confidence with women that came with the Red-K. There was also an increased amoral personality, along with very risky behavior that almost revealed his secret to the world. His complete disregard for others’ wellbeing soon led to his friends and family trying to get Red-K Clark under control (without losing their own limbs in the process). Tom Welling did an excellent job as the nonchalant James Deanesque personality that hid deep within Clark Kent’s do-gooder facade. Fans were in absolute amazement with the new and bad*ss Clark. It’s no surprise that since then, Red-K has made a reappearance (usually once a season) because it seems that many of the fans like Clark with a hint of bad, and lots of leather.
It’s always an exciting week on Smallville when we get introduced to teenaged versions of DC superheroes. Who doesn’t like superheroes with angst? Bart Allen (also using aliases like the famous Wally West and Barry Allen) has proven to be one of the more popular of the heroes to appear on the show, and it’s not because he’s been the most quick-witted (pun intended) of the bunch either. The episode ‘Run’ started out with quite an introduction of the little speed demon as he managed to not only save Jonathan Kent’s life, but also take his wallet in the process. Clark then went hunting for the speedy pick pocket, which led to some very nice special effects for its time. Despite starting out as a morally ambiguous character who put himself before all others, Bart quickly (pun not intended) developed a friendship with Clark. However the friendship was put to the test when Clark and Bart butted heads, especially about their views on how their abilities should be used. As is to be expected from Smallville, this led to miscommunication, which led to hurt feelings, which somehow led to Clark ending up near Kryptonite. Eventually, Bart does see the light (and it wasn’t the light that gave him his abilities) and the two future Justice Leaguers were back in each other’s good graces. The episode had a memorable ending as Bart offered to stay in Smallville if Clark could catch him. It turns out that not even Clark with all his super speed track skills could keep up with the future hero who would be known as the “Fastest Man Alive.” The popularity of Bart’s appearance on the show has since led to other future heroes making their own Smallville appearances which have all been quite enjoyable. Yet for some reason Bart stands head and shoulders above the rest, even if he is the shortest of the group.
What is Superman without his powers? It’s a rhetorical question really, because a number of us watch the show to see Clark use his vast array of abilities to defeat the evil foes with their Kryptonite induced abilities. But Smallville decided to take a different route with his abilities, slowly developing each one over the many seasons of the show. The title of the episode might have given it away to all the smart individuals reading this, but ‘X-Ray’ was the first of Clark’s superpowers (excluding his strength and speed) to develop. And even in this ability, Smallville decided to be different by giving us just what the title says: X-Ray images. Who wasn’t impressed when they first saw Clark use this ability? It was delightfully freaky and strange it was to see inside Pete’s skin. We certainly were pleasantly surprised at the use of special effects as well as the freak of the week, Tina Greer. Tina would also prove to be one of the more interesting super freaks to appear on Smallville. She however had the fatal flaw as all super freaks in Smallville do. She was enamored with Lana Lang. What is in the water in Smallville that makes 90% of villains fall in love with Lana? Regardless, it made for excellent television as we got to see the first of many X-Ray special effects. Tina proved to be popular enough as a villain that she returned in a later season to cause more havoc for all parties involved. What else was great about the episode? There was the continuing dynamics of the Clark and Lex friendship. There was also the continuing hints of romance between Clark and Lana. And of course, there was the excitement we felt at realizing that Clark still had a plethora of abilities that were waiting to be learned, and we were hoping that they were all as well done as this episode proved to be.
Let’s get right down to it. This episode was a Clana fan’s dream come true. We can already imagine all the fans screaming or bursting into tears of delight at seeing Clark propose to Lana. But that alone does not explain the greatness of ‘Reckoning’ because it was more than just about the relationship that launched a thousand picnics under oak trees. It was also about one of the most significant losses that Clark had to deal with to date. At first it looked like Lana had taken her last breath following a horrific car crash. But miracle of miracles, Clark got a do-over, and he was able to save his sweetheart from impending doom. However, due to various issues that had built up over five years of the show, Jonathan Kent’s heart stopped beating in this episode, and we watched in horror as Clark in all his power was able to do nothing to help him. We actually felt empty when the credits rolled at the end as we realized that the daddy of all daddies was never to return. The final scene still runs through our mind as we saw Tom Welling at some of his most powerful and heartfelt acting. Of course, we won’t downplay the the superb acting on the part of Kristin Kreuk, Michael Rosenbaum, Annette O’Toole and of course John Schneider. Special effects also went a little above and beyond in ‘Reckoning’. Who didn’t get excited to see Clark jump with Lana in his arms? Finally, it featured a song that will forever be associated to a TV show scene for as long as we hear it; ‘I Grieve’ was probably more sought after this episode than any other Smallville song to date. It was at this point that some of us realized how much the show influenced us. We had started to care for the characters, seeing them as real individuals and we felt all the joys and sorrows that came with it.
If one episode could sum up what Smallville is about, it would have to be ‘Pilot’. Too bad they didn’t think of a more creative title, but we’ll let that slide considering it was this episode that has made us set aside one night a week specifically for the show. If someone asks “What was so great about ‘Pilot’?”, all we can respond with is “What wasn’t?!” It introduced us to Clark, the farm boy with a body of steel, but a heart as soft as chocolate left out in the sun. It brought us Lana, the girl that not only stole Clark’s heart, but also the hearts of many viewers with her sweet (and dare we say naive) innocence. It also brought the arrogant young Lex Luthor to town with an entrance that we wish we could pull off half as well. Not to mention the introduction of other great characters like Jonathan & Martha, Clark’s seemingly perfect parents. The show took it one step further by adding to the complexities of Superman canon by introducing new or previously little known characters like Chloe, Pete & the magnificent b*stard Lionel Luthor. However, what stands above all these great characters is the story that became the launching point, & even today is still the heart of Smallville. It showed the humanity of Clark as he struggled to deal with every day situations like wanting to play football, to pining for the girl next door (with somewhat stalker-like tendencies). In a sense this episode set precedence as it made Superman relatable. The God among men had problems like the rest of us, & we loved him for it. Of course it didn’t hurt that we got to see him super speed for the first time, or do that thing where he beats the snot out of someone in slow motion. Sure, ‘Pilot’ doesn’t have the drama and crazy twists involving clones and the Phantom Zone that one might expect from recent episodes, but it paved the way for everything that has kept the show going for almost a decade.
Special thanks to Philbert for finding the photos, and Az for helping me when I was stumped on what I should write. Also, thanks to Carlo and Terence, along with the previously mentioned individuals for helping me narrow the initial (long) list down to the ten episodes.