Look up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s…. well, Clark Kent. And we finally have to say goodbye to the wonderful universe that this show has brought to the Superman mythology. With the show ending on its own terms we expected a lot from this season, and it was something just short of impossible for the cast and crew to deliver on those fans expectations. The season wasn’t perfect, and I’m sure that each fan walked away disappointed in something that happened, or more likely didn’t happen. It was a tall order, but I think that the show delivered quite handsomely. For me, it was important that Tom Welling get that chance to put on the suit and fly. I wouldn’t think it was any kind of major spoiler to tell you that he does. Those last 12 minutes were payoff enough for me. There were also some rather emotional moments that brought back many past cast members including the much-anticipated return of Michael Rosenbaum as Lex.
There were certainly epic story-lines going on here. There’s a Watchmen/X-Men-like story that deals with a law to force masked heroes to register with the government amid a surge of anti-hero public backlash. Of course, it’s Lois’s father played excellently by Michael Ironside who leads the anti-hero legislative push.
For those of you who have been living under a rock since the 1930’s, Smallville was the Kansas farm town where young Kal-El’s space ship from the dying planet Krypton crash- landed. He was discovered by Jonathan (Schneider) and Martha (O’Toole) Kent and raised as their adopted son. The series began with Clark’s high school years. Clark always had a crush on neighbor Lana Lang (Kreuk). In a nod to the 1978 film, Martha is played by Annette O’Toole, who played Lana in that second film. Clark’s friends include Chloe Sullivan (Mack) who is somewhat of a computer whiz and ace school paper reporter. Clark also befriends local billionaire son Lex Luthor (Rosenbaum) after saving his life. In these early seasons the characters would slowly build towards the eventual hero/villain relationship that Luthor and Superman would share. Lex Luthor’s father Lionel Luthor (Glover) would go from being a bad guy to a good guy and back again as the show progressed. This season he returns as the Lionel from another dimension and is the baddest Lionel yet. Much of those early episodes dealt with Clark discovering his powers as he matured. Eventually all but the flight ability would surface. The show also took on a freak-of-the-week aspect at times. It seems that while Kryptonite robs Clark of his power, it has created mutant powers in many humans who have encountered it over the years. Clark and Chloe would spend many a season tracking down and stopping these “meteor freaks”. Justin Hartley continues on as a full on regular playing Oliver Queen, better known to comic fans as The Green Arrow. Then there is Cassidy Freeman as Tess Mercer. Tess took over Watchtower. She gets a pretty rich back story here and is not a character from the comics. It’s likely the name was an homage to Lex’s secretary in the first films and some of the comics, Miss Teschmacher.
Tom Welling plays Clark, and he does an outstanding job. He has one of the best ranges of emotions without having to truly emote all that much. He’s a gifted subtle actor. Just the kind of person needed to play the duality of Clark Kent. It’s obvious that the Christopher Reeve films had a huge influence on the series. Welling looks more than a little bit like Reeve and could easily pass as a younger version of the same persona. There are other nods. The voice of Superman’s father Jor-El is played by Terrance Stamp, who was the powerful Kryptonian Zod in the first two films. The structure of the Fortress Of Solitude is also nearly identical to the film version of the Superman hideaway.
There are some wonderful moments here. We get to see John Schneider back as Jonathan Kent a couple of times. In one episode we see what his life would have been like if the Luthors had found and raised Clark instead. Martha returns for a couple of episodes as well. We get short returns by Zod, Kara and a few of the “freaks” Clark saved over the years. I was disappointed that there was no return for either Sam Jones as Pete Ross or Kristen Kreuk as Lana Lang. Given that even long dead characters found a way into the final season, I would have expected those two to be included in some way. Still, it was a wonderful send-off, and you’re going to want to complete your collection with this Blu-ray release.
Smallville is presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The 1080p image is brought to you from an AVC/MPEG-4 codec. Kudos to Warner for correcting a huge error in the previous Blu-ray releases. They were squeezing 7 episodes plus bonus material on one disc in the first seasons released on Blu-ray. The bit rate was barely above DVD specs. What a difference just one more disc makes. One less episode on each and all bonus material pushed to the fourth disc which only has 4 episodes. Thank you, Warner. Now we get something more worthy of this show. Colors are brilliant, particularly the primary tones. Of course, that means wonderful blues, reds, and yellows. Contrast is better than average, and black levels are good. What you come to high definition for is the detail, and you get it here. In fact one of the downsides is that the Doomsday creature actually looks pretty fake with this level of detail. Most of the time it only heightens the experience.
Smallville’s audio is also an upgrade to the uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio and is impressively uncompressed. There is depth and sub to the dynamic sound that wasn’t there on earlier releases. This is how the backlog needs to be handled.
There are a few Audio Commentaries on selected episodes.
Deleted Scenes: Many of the episodes have deleted scenes available on the same disc as the episode.
Back In The Jacket: (19:44) A nostalgic look back on the 10 years of the show inspired by the 200th episode which has Clark returning to Smallville High for his 5-year reunion.
The Son Becomes The Father: (16:50) A look at the dynamic father and son relationships on the show. There are even some thoughts from real psychiatrists on the subject.
Music Video: (3:31) How We Do from the Vegas episode.
In a way, this is not just the end of a ten-year television series. It’s the conclusion of the Richard Donner vision for Superman. It’s the end of an era that began with that 1978 film. The series certainly struck out on its own but remained faithful, in many ways, to that style that Donner brought to the universe. It was quite fitting that it all ended with portions of that original John Williams score and an end credits that recalled the opening credits of the 1978 film. With the character in new, and apparently darker, hands, we’ve seen the last of this Superman. You’ll find it hard to remain unemotional as Jonathan Kent hands Clark the suit that will define him. Welling gets his moment in the suit and in the air. “A hero is made in the moment.”