Smallville, which began in 2001 and ended in 2011, has remained–at least for me–an impressionable show. For me, Smallville is the perfect nostalgic show; it helped bolster a love for Superman as a character and honestly just plain makes me happy. The show is a perfect example of early 2000s genre television. I find it interesting that both Smallville and Buffy the Vampire Slayer were both on at the same time–for two years, from 2001 to 2003–due to the obvious influence that Buffy had on Smallville, as well as other shows of its kind. Smallville has now influenced multiple shows itself, with CW’s slate of superhero shows owing a lot to Smallville’s success and cult following. While a lesson on 2000s genre television would be fun to explore, what I want to talk about is the legacy of Superman and how Smallville both adhered to the character’s mythology as well as distanced itself. The show was famous for its declaration of “No tights, no flights,” which helped distance the character of Clark Kent from his alter ego of Superman, but the show still follows similar themes that are featured in the comics. While Clark Kent remains to be Kal-El of Krypton, the stories of Smallville liberally drew from the mythos of the comics to create a teen drama full of romantical intrigue and soap opera-like storylines.
As of writing this, I have recently finished Season 3 of the series. The third season features Clark grappling with his destiny, his identity, and his relationship with the people in his life. A glaring negative of the show is some of the recurring conflicts that remain unresolved and/or uninteresting. Clark’s relationship with Lana is a key component of the show, and Clark’s unwillingness to share his secret with Lana causes most of the tension that exists within their relationship. This itself is not a bad concept, but the hump the show can’t seem to get over is the fact that the conflict never changes and creates a stasis for the plotline and the characters. Now, bitching about the relationship drama that happens in a season that aired around 18 years ago seems pedantic but bear with me, this show has occupied a lot of my headspace for nearly 20 years now.
One component of Season 3 that works incredibly well is the main antagonist, Lionel Luthor. Lionel Luthor, for those of you who may be unfamiliar, is Lex Luthor’s father; an evil, self-absorbed, and vindictive business executive whose narcissistic impulses create hatred and division, not only in his family but also in the world around him. Lionel Luthor wants to know the secret of Clark Kent, but unlike everyone else who genuinely wants to know more about their friend, Lionel wants to exploit Clark and use his extraordinary abilities to cure his terminal illness. Lionel occupies the antagonism role that Lex fills in the comics.
This is no review, just a rant from a person obsessed with an old superhero show, but what I propose would have been unique and different for the show is that they threw the mythos out the window and forged something different. Lana, Chloe, and even Lex Luthor should all have discovered Clark’s secret during this season. Clark already has a confidant in Pete Ross, his childhood friend, but Pete is the only one who knows his secret other than Clark’s parents. This puts an unfair burden on the character of Pete who constantly remains worried he will accidentally reveal Clark’s secret. I understand that Lex knowing his secret is possibly a controversial take, but we already have the comic character of Lex embodied in his father, and it could have been interesting to see what Lex would have done with the knowledge of Clark’s secret. Maybe, he would have still turned to darkness, or maybe, Lex would have become an anti-hero willing to protect Clark through any means possible, malevolent or not.
This may seem like a random post, but Smallville has remained a favorite of mine throughout my life, and doing a deep dive into the content of the show is something I’ve always wanted to do. I have many thoughts about this show and may explore some of those in more mad ramblings at a later date.