Despite season two’s unquestionable quality, Smallville’s third season is probably its best — and with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel now completely off of television, it’s pretty much the only thing around that can fill the whole supernatural Scooby gang void.
Of course, one of the big reasons that Smallville helps fill that spot so well is because it has a lot of the same ingredients that powered Whedon’s universe along in its prime: that is, it has a ton of supernatural special effects, and a heal…hy but intimate cast of likeable heroes.
Not surprisingly The DVD release of Smallville: The Complete Third Season continues the same excellent standards set forth by the first two box sets.
Now granted, the series has never been as witty or as slapstick funny as the Buffy and Angel shows were, but it’s never really needed to be. The show’s more lighthearted tone and subtle bombardment of comic-related in-jokes is usually enough to please the hard core and casual Superman fans alike. Season three perpetuates this same basic approach for most of its episodes as well, but has now managed to add a bit of the darkness that most dramas seem to need to throw out there as they mature.
Picking up exactly where Season 2 left off, Season 3 opens with our conflicted hero Clark causing trouble in Metropolis. Thanks to the red Kryptonite ring on his finger, his usually generous and giving manner has been replaced by an overwhelming degree of selfishness with hope of his recovery being rather slim.
Thankfully for Clark (and for fans), his adoptive father Jonathan strikes up a deal with the spirit of Clark’s real father Jor-El to gain the strength necessary to bring the young Superman home. Part of what makes this arrangement so interesting is that we don’t know the consequences of this deal between Jor-El and Jonathan right away — building a nice undercurrent of mystery to the usual formula.
Another one of Season Three’s ongoing plot points is the slow transformation of Lex Luthor. In fact, some of the Luthor stuff in this collection is pretty crazy as secrets are revealed, revelations are made, and the relationship between Clark and Lex begins to complicate.
Then again, transformed relationships seem to be the theme of Season Three, as Clark is also forced to reevaluate his association with Pete, Lana, and Chloe for reasons best left for you to discover. I do have to admit, though, that it’s Chloe’s ongoing Lionel Luthor subplot that rises to the top of this season’s storyline heap. An underused and more interesting character than Lana Lang has ever been, her constant struggle with good and evil is really good stuff. If only she was used this well in the previous two years.
Despite the season’s continuous underlying storyline, there are a few key episodes to keep your eye on. “Asylum,” for example, is a fun little episode that sees a collection of Clark’s former enemies joins forces in vengeance; only things don’t quite work out they way they expect. “Delete” is an interesting mystery-oriented story that can shock you with some of things that Clark and Lana do throughout the episode, while the season ender “Covenant” has a few moments that will undoubtedly send Superman fans into a frenzy.
Smallville’s season two quality was a big improvement over season one’s and season three keeps that trend alive. The difference in picture from season two is subtle, but it’s still slightly sharper and offers a terrific 1.78:1 anamorphic view of the action. As always, the classic Smallville warm-color saturation is in full effect. The colors are bright and well represented as are the black levels.
Even so, The Dolby Surround 2.0 mix sounds very good for what it is and is definitely a step up from the original episodes in their original broadcast form. The dialogue is clear and the music and sound effects are well mixed with a good dynamic range.
I think I’m a bit spoiled by the audio commentaries on other television box sets, because the three included commentary tracks for Exile, Truth and Memoria don’t seem like they’re enough. The Truth commentary is a pretty interesting diversion, though, as we get to hear from both John Glover (Lionel Luthor) and Allison Mack (Chloe Sullivan), while the Exile and Memoria commentaries are solid, if not somewhat formulaic thanks to the always-talkative Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor).
One of the most disappointing additions to the set is probably Producing Smallville: The Heroes Behind the Camera, a 22-minute featurette that feels more like one of those canned HBO behind-the-scenes documentaries than something with real substance.
The seven short webisodes of The Chloe Chronicles Volume 2, however, are a great entertaining. Other cool includes like deleted scenes with an optional commentary track, a hilarious gag reel, and a somewhat interactive comic book help round the collection out rather nicely.
Season Three of Smallville takes the future Superman into an unexpected area early on in the season which has ramifications throughout, and will leave fans clamoring for more. Highly recommended.
Special Features List
- Three episode specific audio commentaries
- Producing Smallville: The Heroes Behind the Camera featurette
- Seven short webisodes