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All of my Smallville episode commentary has been moved to my journal.


Even though I watched Smallville up until Jonathan Kent died, I was often frustrated at the tension between it's flaws and it's potential. Even back in season 1 I wanted it to be more, wanted it to be better. Unfortunatley, Smallville isnít compelling.

Smallville is a world where we know the rules. We know where Clark came from, how he got here and why. There is very little mystery in this show, which was one of Roswellís strengths. The appeal then has to be the characters. Who is Clark Kent and how does life draw him into being Superman? And so far this season, I havenít seen enough of that for it to be as interesting as it should be. What Shiri lacked in the indefinable, Clark lacks in character development. Itís as if the constrains of the Superman mythology are turning Clark into the flat character The Comics Code Authority defined in 1954. He isnít allowed to be much more than a cookie cutter good guy, which doesnít lend itself toward depth. Clark just does the right thing. His arrival on Earth killed probably hundreds of people. Every time he looks at Lana and Lex he has to know that his existence altered their lives forever. Every abnormality he fights, he also caused. He has to guard the secret of his origins so closely in the face of a best friend whoís determined to expose him. And as much as Buffyís lifestyle keeps her from being normal, Clarkís very physiology separates him from everyone heís surrounded by. They acknowledge these things, but just brush by them, without allowing the weight of these realities to penetrate the characters and give them something more. Tom Welling really isnít given much to work with. Of course, neither is Allison Mack or John Schneider. The only person who gets to be interesting, who gets to really do anything at all, is Michael Rosenbaum.

Lex is the most interesting character on the show, partly for the same reason that Clark ought to be. We want to know as much about how Lex becomes Lex as we want to know how Clark becomes Superman. Only, Lex is allowed to explore this. Lex has a domineering and manipulative father. Lex lost his mother and a younger brother and feels mostly alone in life. Lex is secretive, and cunning and sometimes subversive, but heís always as in control as he can be. Life is a giant chess board to Lex. Thatís interesting. Thatís the kind of development that the other characters deserve.

The Smallville foundation has been pre-written through the Superman comics. Obviously, theyíve deviated in a few ways, but the general foundation of Krypton and kryptonite and its effect on Clark still exist. Unfortunately, the foundation here is as much of a weakness as it is a strength. I believe the foundation of the Superman mythology is what limits the Smallville episodes in scope. Who hasnít noticed the formula of mysterious danger, bad guy, big fight, Clark wins? I wonder if the writers just havenít figured out how to let these characters live life in a world that has been determined since 1938. Itís easy to give the audience a story where Clark saves the day. Isnít there anything else to do? Isnít there anything more to say about these characters? Donít you think that becoming Superman is a road that has more along it than just rescuing Clarkís trouble prone friends?

One thing that would help dramatically is for things to actually matter. Clark is indestructible. There isnít a bad guy who can stop him, or hurt him without enough meteor rocks. So, really, how much of a threat do the bad guys offer? Lanaís already dating another guy, so that doesnít matter. Chloe likes Clark, and while his devotion to Lana could make that interesting, Chloeís acceptance of that devotion makes her interest not matter. The choices these characters make should change what happens next. In Smallville, there are no choices. Lana is with Whitney. Chloe researches the mysterious. Even when Chloe's affection for Clark is revealed he apparently forgets it until 3 episodes later where it's a new and troubling revelation. Clark saves the day. Lex intersects, but has his own thing going. Jonathan and Martha support Clark and keep his secret. And even if there were choices, they wouldnít matter because tomorrow is a new day, a new villain and Clark will save everyone.

Smallville is exceptional at giving us subtle quotes from the characters that reference the Superman mythology in delightfully ironic ways. Smallville also has superb special effects most of the time. Lex really is cool and itís interesting to see his friendship with Clark develop, knowing where it leads.