Smallville’s Middle Years
I’ve just been blowing through my rewatches lately and have finished Smallville season six! I’ve never held these middle seasons in high regard. Zach Moore from the Always Hold On To Smallville podcast refers to this time period as the “College Dropout Years”.
In my memories seasons three and four were peak Smallville. This rewatch has added some new perspective though. Season four was stuck with the awful Lana’s a witch, Kryptonian magic crystal, Genevieve story arc. This wasn’t just freak-of-the-week stuff. This was the main arc of the season. Real lackluster. Season three doesn’t have a strong over-arching plot, it’s just Clark dealing with Jor-El. But it does have some of the worst one and done episodes. Like Pete racing Kryptonite fueled cars.
So Are These Middle Years Really That Much Worse?
I wrote a bit about season five recently when talking about guns in Smallville. It was as much a complaint about how they ignored continuity in the show as much as they ignore the very real danger of firearms. Season five has some of the lowest moments. Jor-El’s reasoning for removing Clark’s powers at the beginning are asinine. “Thirst” is possibly the worst episode the show ever does. “Tomb”, “Void”, “Exposed” and “Mercy” are also really bad. Brainiac was a weak adversary as well, posing almost no threat all year.
Season five does give us Cyborg and Aquaman though. Plus Chloe being brought in on Clark’s secret is excellent. Despite the fact that it continues to put her in the Lois role leaving actual Lois with nothing to do. “Lexmas” is a series highlight for me and episode 100 “Reckoning” has a major character death. Even if the bait and switch with Lana bothers me as much now as it did in 2006. Seems like season five is probably just below seasons three and four. Worthy of my feelings for it. Season five makes more sense with the knowledge they went into it assuming it would be the last season, but then needed to scramble when it got renewed.
Season six on the other hand? There are no terrible moments like there have been in the last few seasons. Sure there are some episodes that aren’t great. “Subterranean” is bad and should be skipped, but it’s not “Thirst”. They tried to do something, but failed. Almost all the episodes that have to deal with the season’s big problem—Phantom Zone escapees—are below average. The exception being “Labyrinth” which I remembered very clearly and still holds up as a good episode. The final episode of the season “Phantom” is also mostly good, and I love Bizarro. But this is not a good Bizarro. We also get an all time great episode “Justice”. Justin Hartley’s Oliver Queen is in much less of the season than I remembered (The CW’s focus on Green Arrow in Smallville made me skip Arrow when it first debuted years later). Even the Tori Spelling episode “Hydro” has some really great moments when Clark helps Oliver keep his secret identity by posing as Green Arrow. We also get the first hints of a Lois & Clark relationship even though it’s in a red kryptonite episode.
Face It Lana You’re Perfect
I’m not a Lana fan. She holds Clark back so much throughout the show. Which makes a lot of her story this season good! I actually liked her descent into darkness alongside Lex. She was a true Luthor on many occasions. Even though she did continue to keep Clark on the hook which drove me nuts. I know we are almost done with her though.
The Jimmy Olsen of It All
Introducing Jimmy drove me nuts back then and it still feels pointless on a rewatch. He’s nothing but comic relief. He adds very little to my enjoyment of the show and knowing that they eventually just kill him off and say he was never actually Jimmy in the first place makes it worse.
Lois starts to actually be Lois this season which I enjoyed. It’s tough with Chloe fulfilling the Lois investigative partner role to find stuff for her to do, so she’s mostly out on her own investigating. Her relationship with Oliver was better than her relationship with Arthur Curry. I, of course, love her chemistry with Clark when they finally let that happen. She gets in goofy costumes this season like last, but it felt way less t&a than “Exposed”. Erica’s PSA at the end of “Progeny” as tribute to Dana Reeve was also really well done.
Speaking of “Progeny”, Smallville did a great job with guest stars. Lynda Carter rules and it was awesome having her on Smallville. This is the kind of freak-of-the-week I wish we got more of.
So yeah, Smallville season six is better than I remember. The quality didn’t dip as low as I thought. The bad is just skippable and the good is really good. We’ll see what season seven has in store next.
On a side note, the aforementioned Always Hold On To Smallville has been a great addition to my rewatch. I’ll sometimes blow through these episodes barely noticing them, but listening to them talk about each on in detail has really helped my memory.