Judge David Gutierrez dons his Man of Steel underoos for an in-depth look at one of the WB's flagship series.
Our reviews of Smallville: The Complete First Season (published November 24th, 2003), Smallville: The Complete Third Season (published December 15th, 2004), Smallville: The Complete Fourth Season (published October 19th, 2005), Smallville: The Complete Fifth Season (published October 16th, 2006), Smallville: The Complete Sixth Season (published October 3rd, 2007), Smallville: The Complete Sixth Season (HD DVD) (published October 24th, 2007), Smallville: The Complete Seventh Season (Blu-Ray) (published September 26th, 2008), Smallville: The Complete Eighth Season (Blu-Ray) (published September 3rd, 2009), Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season (Blu-Ray) (published September 7th, 2010), and Smallville: The Complete Tenth Season (Blu-ray) (published December 22nd, 2011) are also available.
"I've got all these questions and I can't leave them in the storm cellar anymore. Why'd my parents put me in that ship? What was so bad they had to send me away? I have to do this."—Clark Kent (Tom Welling) in Rosetta.
The Superman mythos continues to build with Smallville: The Complete
Facts of the Case
For those late to the party, Smallville chronicles the adventures of Clark Kent. Clark was rocketed to earth when his home planet of Krypton exploded, showering Smallville, Kansas with its remains and delivering its sole survivor. Various citizens of Smallville began developing special abilities and powers, as did Clark Kent. Since Clark is a teenager, along with a voice dropping a few octaves, Clark is able to run at incredible speeds, is impervious to harm, exhibits amazing strength, and—like most guys I knew in high school—doesn't do as well as he'd like with the ladies.
Following his arrival on Earth, Clark was taken in by Jonathan (John Schneider, The Dukes of Hazzard) and Martha Kent (Annette O'Toole, Superman III) who have raised him as their own on the family farm. Growing up, Clark befriended Pete Ross (Sam Jones III, Snipes) and Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack, Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves), fell hard for the girl next door, Lana Lang (Kristin Kruek, Eurotrip), and saved the life of a young Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum, Sorority Boys)—a rich kid who has become obsessed with all things Clark. Lex's father, Lionel (John Glover, Gremlins 2: The New Batch)—a vastly wealthy corporate mogul mastermind and the CEO of Luthorcorp—also shares an interest in young Clark and those strange green meteor rocks indigenous to Smallville.
Whereas Smallville: The Complete First Season dealt with the overall theme of discovery, the second season endeavors into the territories of identity and family. While a few of the episodes are standard villain-of-the-week stuff, most tackle the meta-arc of the season. It's a solid sophomore year for the citizens of Smallville.
Smallville: The Complete Season Two has everything. Honestly, it could be the super-fan in me, but this season is chock full of "whoa" moments. While viewers are well aware of the eventual destinies of Lex Luthor and the man who will become Superman, watching their doomed friendship build is truly the driving force of the series. We know they will eventually want to kill one another, we know Lana and Clark are doomed to fail as a couple, and we know the type of man Clark becomes. However, it's how we get there that matters this time around. While the first season served to introduce the cast and the town, the second spends more time developing these interpersonal relationships. As in Greek tragedy, the father/son relationships and rivalry help captain the series' direction.
For the sake of review, I will address my concerns on an episode-by-episode basis. However, it is worth mentioning that the season intentionally builds to its strongest and most crucial episode "Rosetta."
Heavy spoilers follow below, so be warned:
"Vortex"—The conclusion to Season One's cliffhanger. Clark saves Lana from the tornado only to find the spaceship that brought him to earth has landed in a field somewhere. The nosy reporter tailing the Kents (on Lex Luthor's behalf) meets his fate, buried along with Jonathan Kent. Family angst between the Luthors begins after Lex has his father undergo a surgery that blinds him. The Chloe/Clark romance reaches a turning point. (Grade: 90)
"Heat"—An adolescent's body changes. A Kryptonian adolescent's body changes even more. Clark gains a new power that emerges when he gets aroused. A new science teacher, Desiree (Krista Allen), begins to manipulate the men of Smallville with her pheromone-based super-powers. For the first time this season, Lex is manipulated into marrying Desiree, who leaves a trail of dead husbands in her wake. Outside of how a new power emerges, this episode features a terrific father/son moment between Jonathan and Clark. (Grade: 90).
"Duplicity"—Clark is forced into revealing his secret when (underused) best friend Pete finds the spaceship. Their friendship is tested when Pete questions Clark's loyalty and his need for secrecy. Pete's a great character played by a strong actor, so any Pete is welcomed Pete. Dr. Hamilton (Joe Morton, Terminator 2: Judgment Day) steals the ship and ends up with a Kryptonite disease. More father/son rivalry, as Lex and Lionel Luthor move in together. (Grade: 90)
"Red"—The class rings arrive with a surprise—they all have Red Kryptonite stones. This new variety doesn't weaken Clark physically; instead it weakens his inhibitions. Jonathan and Martha are faced with a challenge most parents can't conceive of—how do you discipline a rebellious teenager with super-powers? More father/son goodness as Jonathan makes a painful choice in dealing with Clark. What makes this episode so compelling is seeing what Clark may have become without the Kent's moral center. Neat production note: Notice that Clark abandons his traditional colors of red, yellow, and blue when wearing the Red K ring. (Grade: 95)
"Nocturne"—An obsessive teen poet named Byron stalks Lana and leaves her love poems. Clark discovers that Byron has solar-based powers of his own. Martha decides to become Lionel's assistant, creating some friction between her and Jonathan. A nice cameo by Richard Moll (Night Court) as Byron's father and Lana calling a jealous Clark a "man of steel" help an otherwise average episode. (Grade: 80)
"Radix"—A high school student turns out to be a life-sucking vampire that steals youth from her victims. The highlights of this episode include Lana's discovery that her father may not be the man she thought he was and the introduction of Martha's father, William Clark. As it turns out, Jonathan and William don't get on very well and Clark was never allowed to see his grandfather for fear his powers would emerge. We also learn the origins of Clark's first name. Not much happens this hour, but we do get some more set-up and back-story for the rest of the season. (Grade: 75)
"Lineage"—A woman who had a relationship with Lionel believes Clark to be the product of that union. The big reveal this episode revolves around the clandestine agreement Jonathan made with Lionel regarding Clark's adoption. Lana meets a man she believes may be her father. (Grade: 85)
"Ryan"—The telepathic Ryan—from last year's episode "Stray"—returns. Clark finds out Ryan is a test subject at an institute and rushes to save him. Unfortunately, Clark can't save everyone from everything. Lana's aunt is moving to Metropolis, making Lana decide if she wants to stay in Smallville with her friends and her possible father. Bonus DC Comics Geek-Out moments include a mention of The Question's Hub City and a comic book cover that looks very much like the first appearance of The Last Son of Krypton. (Grade: 90)
"Dichotic"—Ian Randall (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) has the special ability to split himself into exact duplicates. With all this added time on his hands, Randall juggles dating both Chloe and Lana, acing every subject in school, and making Clark jealous. When suspicions of Randall's double nature arise, he makes an attempt on Clark's life. Fans of Randall will get another glimpse of him in Season Three when Clark faces his first super-villain team-up. Lex meets Dr. Helen Bryce—a woman who will become a very important person in his life—when he's sentenced to take anger-management classes to curb his temper. This episode has some very good Lex moments. Geek-Out moment: While in metal-shop, a student holds up a metal "S" directly in front of Clark's chest. This is one of a few instances this season where we begin to see the beginnings of the famous "S" shield. (Grade: 90)
"Skinwalker"—A very important episode that helps determine the direction of this season and the rest of Clark's life. Clark falls into a cave complete with Native American cave drawings. The cave tells the story of the Na-Man, a man who fell to earth from the stars (not David Bowie) possessing abilities greater than those of mortal men. Clark also meets Kyla Willowbrook and her grandfather, Joseph. The Willowbrooks help Clark decipher the cave-wall messages and become convinced he is the Na-Man. Whilst all this occurs, a powerful wolf has been attacking Luthorcorp employees at a construction site near the caves. Clark and Kayla grow closer, so it's not too difficult to see how this will turn out. Lana learns who her true father is and is told that her boyfriend, Whitney, is missing in action. Na-Man fans take heart—Joseph Willowbrook sheds further light on the Na-Man legend next season with a return appearance. (Grade: 85)
"Visage"—The appearance of Lana's boyfriend Whitney dissolves any chance Clark had with her, when he returns to Smallville claiming amnesia. The ever-compassionate Lana is reluctant to remind Whitney that she'd dumped him via videotape when he was away. In addition to his supposed amnesia, Whitney is acting oddly and displaying super-strength. Clark does some investigating and discovers Whitney is actually shapeshifting villainess Lizzy Caplan from Season One's "X-Ray" episode. Lex's love life is just as difficult as Clark's is. After having his girlfriend followed, Lex is handed photos showing Helen and Lionel meeting. Luckily for him, these photos weren't as bad the ones he saw with his girlfriend and father last season. Lex, like most guys, says all the wrong things. Easily the best moment in this episode is when Clark uses two of his super-powers in tandem. Our boy is learning. (Grade: 95).
"Insurgence"—Another "whoa" episode (and that's a good thing). Things go terribly wrong for Lex, when the unsavory sorts he's hired (to do some Black Ops work at Lionel's Metropolis office) take Lionel and Martha hostage. In a jaw-dropping scene, Clark decides to save them, managing to leap a tall building—the Daily Planet—to break into the Luthorcorp offices. The crooks sell themselves to the highest bidder when Lionel and Lex engage in bidding war. Martha discovers Lionel has been keeping Kryptonite bars in his vault, has the key to Clark's ship, and a file on her son. Naturally, Clark saves the day, but since Lionel is supposedly blind, the use of Clark's power goes unnoticed. Martha and Jonathan decide Martha should keep her job with Lionel to spy on him. Martha pockets the space-ship key and hides it from Clark and Jonathan. Key Superman moments: Clark leaps a tall building in a single bound, we see the Daily Planet, and we meet a cop named Maggie Sawyer. Introduced in the "Superman" comic book, Sawyer will one day lead the Metropolis Special Crime Unit and later transfer to lead the day shift of the Gotham City Metro-Crimes Unit. (Grade: 95)
"Suspect"—Who shot Lionel Luthor? Don't trust anyone over thirty. Every male adult regular cast member and guest star is a suspect. Gee, who did it? The cast regulars or the guest star we will never see again? (Grade: 80)
"Rush"—A very special Smallville. Don't rave in a cave, kids. Alien parasites activate when adrenalized causing their hosts to lose their inhibitions. Pete and Chloe are infected. The pair brings Clark along on their bad trip by using the Red Kryptonite. Lana catches Clark and Chloe making out, making things worse of Clark. While under the influence of Red K, Clark displays his abilities to Chloe. Lucky of him, once the parasites die, she remembers nothing. Unlike its comic book counterpart, Red Kryptonite's affects on Kryptonians are a predictable one. It was nice to see more Pete. (Grade: 90)
"Prodigal"—Another father/son episode. Lucas, Lex's half-brother, moves into the Luthor mansion. Lex is trying to leverage Lucas to gain control of Luthorcorp. Lionel plays Lex for a fool, forcing him out of the mansion and onto the Kent farm. I love it when these family problems end up in gunplay. Lionel's condition may not be as grave as believed. Has he been faking? If so, how long? (Grade: 85)
"Fever"—They should have named this one "It's the Poppies" or "Don't Inhale." A good deal happens in forty-five minutes. Martha lapses into a spore-induced coma, but we learn that she's pregnant. The Feds raid the farm and recover the hidden key Martha. Clark falls sway to the spores and loses his powers, giving Dr. Helen Bryce the opportunity to draw some blood. The Kryptonian ship shows more signs of intelligence by curing Clark, Martha, and her unborn baby. Pete gets some more screen time and Lex adds to his Clark collection by stealing Kent medical records. (Grade: 95)
"Rosetta"—This episode hits on every note. Be warned, readers, and don't expect a three-act structure, a conflict, or big explosive action. Beginning to end, "Rosetta" is strictly a mythology episode and the strongest most important Smallville this season. It also happens to be my favorite. In a dream, Clark is drawn to bring the key to the cave, causing red, yellow, and blue streams of light to lift him off the ground. The key embeds itself into the cave wall. Later at the Kent Farm, Clark's heat vision kicks in and burns the Kryptonian symbol for "Hope" into a barn wall. Elsewhere, Dr. Virgil Swann (Christopher Reeve, Superman) is introduced as a Stephen Hawking-like scientist who has taken an interest in Clark, inviting him to New York. Clark agrees and learns more than he could ever hope to know about his past. Swann has deciphered a message from Krypton. Clark learns the name and fate of his home planet, as well his given name, Kal-El. Told he is last survivor of a dead race, he was sent to Earth to rule. For the first time, Clark feels truly alone. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor has hired Dr. Walden to investigate the caves, leaving Walden in a coma. We see more "S" shield references in the Kryptonian message and the keyhole made in the cave. Big tips of the hat to the Superman mythos: Dr. Virgil Swann is named after long-time Superman artist Curt Swann, the phrase "Man of Tomorrow" is used, and we get to hear some of the John Williams "Superman" score. (Grade: 100)
"The Visitor"—Possibly crazy teenager Cyrus believes he receives messages from space. When it appears he has some healing powers and can create fire from his eyes, Clark senses he may have found a kindred spirit. Lex tries to get Helen to move in with him. She finally agrees and wonders what Lex has got hidden behind the one locked door in the mansion. Lex shows her the Clark room, causing Helen to wonder just what interest Lex has in him. (Grade: 85)
"Precipice"—Another very special Smallville. When Lana is hassled by some college kids, Clark steps in. After injuring one of them, Clark is sued, making things financially more difficult for the Kents. Helen is yet another target of violence, when her ex-boyfriend rolls into town causing some tension between her and Lex. (Grade: 85)
"Accelerate"—Lana's dead childhood friend, Emily, returns. At first thought to be Emily's spirit, Clark and Lana discover that Emily is a clone. Lionel has been secretly funding Kryptonite assisted clone research. Emily's a bit demented and tries to drown Lana. Clark saves Lana, but not before Emily can get away. Emily fans take heart; we'll see her again in Season Three. (Grade: 90)
"Calling (Part 1)"—A super-powered Dr. Walden springs awake from his coma and writes "the day is coming" in Kryptonese on his padded cell ceiling. Lex takes some time away from his upcoming wedding to do some more digging. Clark and Lana's relationship takes a turn for the better. Clark's biological father, Jor-El, summons him to the spaceship as we close the episode. Superman note: Jor-El is voiced by Terence Stamp who played General Zod in Superman II. Brilliant decision by the producers to use Stamp in this capacity. (Grade: 90)
"Exodus (Part 2)"—The season finale sets up everything for Season Three. Clark discovers that the spaceship is programmed with Jor-El's memories. Clark is left with instructions to fulfill his destiny by leaving his life in Smallville and has the familiar "S" shield shape burned into his chest. Everything is downhill from here. Lex's wedding plans continue, but best man Clark skips out deciding it's up to him to destroy the ship. Clark discovers nothing is without its repercussions when his family bares the brunt of the effects of the ship's destruction. Blaming himself for the aftermath, Clark needs to get away and using the only outlet he has, wears the Red Kryptonite ring. Lana tries to top him and confesses her true feelings. Clark asks Lana if she will go off with him. Meanwhile, en route to his honeymoon, Lex awakens to find himself in a life-threatening situation. Always knowing a good opportunity, Lionel makes Chloe an offer that she's all too eager to accept. This episode will leave you hanging, waiting to see what will happen in Season Three. (Grade: 95)
Smallville: The Complete Second Season comes packed with some keen special features. First, we're treated to two commentary tracks on two episodes. Producers Miles Millar and Alfred Gough, accompanied by episode writer Jeph Loeb, discuss "Red." Separately, co-executive producer Greg Beeman, along with cast members Tom Welling, Kristin Kruek, and Michael Rosenbaum share their thoughts. Beeman and company are joined by James Marshall to discuss "Rosetta," as do Gough and Millar. All the commentaries are filled with trivia, background, and criticism. Rosenbaum was never afraid to poke fun at some of the more extreme expectations and story points in the episodes. My only criticism is that the cast commentaries often went off on tangents and didn't always focus on the episode at hand. Next, "Christopher Reeve: The Man of Steel" is a touching ten minute featurette. Producers Millar and Gough, writer Jeph Loeb, and Christopher Reeve himself discuss the impact Reeve has had on the Superman mythos and his portrayal as the definitive Last Son of Krypton. Keep the tissues handy for this one. It is always inspiring to see Reeve continue his battle to walk. He will truly make you believe that a man can fly. "Faster Than a Speeding Bullet: The Visual FX of Smallville" is another ten minute piece examining how some of the series' special effects are created. We also get a "Gag Reel." I never am a big fan of these, but if you like to see your show's actor flub lines, a few minutes are available from this season. One thing to notice is the comradery between Rosenbaum and Welling. They have a hard time keeping a straight face in each other's company. Select episodes include the option to view deleted scenes. Unfortunately, they are always out of context and lack any set-up or explanation of what has come before. The most interesting Special Features inclusion for this set is the "Chloe Chronicles." Originally available as on-line shorts featuring intrepid Smallville reporter Chloe Sullivan, we now can see them in their entirety. We follow Chloe as she investigates the whereabouts of a Luthorcorp employee last seen in the Season One episode "Jitters."
Thank you, Warner Brothers, for the video and audio treatment this set receives. We get letterboxing and crisp Dolby digital sound. Everything works perfectly. I couldn't ask for a better looking or a better sounding DVD set. Well done.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Not all the shows can be winners. Some episodes felt like filler, as we wait to get back to the meta-arc of the series. Some set-up or context for the deleted scenes would have helped me appreciate them more. It would have been great if Christopher Reeve had added his commentary to Rosetta.
I loved this DVD set. I love the mythology they're building. It's a great chronicle of the makings of a hero. Many find that Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman's invulnerability makes him a boring character. Many believe that he's too much of a boy scout and prefer the darker, more brooding lead. Personally, what makes the Last Son of Krypton so interesting is that he chooses to be a hero, to do what's right, and inspire others to do the same.
It's not like any prison could hold the Man of Tomorrow. All charges dismissed. Smallville: The Complete Second Season is free to go.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Audio commentaries on "Red" and "Rosetta"
Review content copyright © 2004 David Gutierrez; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.