Shiny Shelf


Smallville Season 8

By Mark Clapham on 25 November 2008

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

Now, I have a bit of a kiss of death effect when I say a long-running series has re-found its groove – I said optimistic things about the revamps of ‘Ally McBeal’, ‘The X-Files’ and lord knows what else just before the final axe fell – but the eighth series of ‘Smallville’ seems to mark a minor creative revival for the series. It’s not turned it into must-see TV, or completely dismissed the creakiness that comes from being a teenage prequel that has run so long its cast are, being generous, in their mid twenties, but it does seem to have hopped out of a number of the deeper ruts it was stuck in.

Gone are Lex, Lana and the deceased Lionel, cleaning out most of the more overstretched story elements and leaving only Clark and Chloe left standing from the original cast. The love triangle/broken friendship business with Lex and Lana is all gone, the series only really ever goes back to the town of Smallville itself to show the characters at home in the morning and evening (and to get use out of some expensive standing sets), and this has left a hole which has had to be filled with, if not new, then less obviously overcooked material.

The main thread of the series is now a junior Lois and Clark, complete with the Daily Planet setting but without the latter getting into costume or wearing glasses. Jimmy Olsen and Green Arrow (Justin Hartley, by far the best thing in the show) are now series regulars, with the latter getting an origin episode, while on the villain side there’s a female Lex Luthor replacement (sadly not an ‘Ugly Betty’ style sex-changed Lex, apparently) and a pallid paramedic (the rather good Sam Witwer, of ‘Force Unleashed’ apprentice micro-fame) who is gradually turning into Doomsday.

Yes, Young Doomsday! ‘Smallville’ has run so far past its school based, prequel origins that its rehashing the ‘Death of Superman’ before Clark has even put on the cape. It’s emblematic of the underlying problem the series can’t get away from as a ninth season becomes a distinct possibility: as creatively recharged as the series may be with its new characters and storylines, an eight-years-and-counting prequel is taking the piss. Due to the embargo on Clark becoming Superman in the show, he’s gone from being the premier superhero of the DCU to slacking around in civvies while small fry like Aquaman and Black Canary are already running around playing full-time superhero. Tom Welling is older than the adult Superman in the comics is generally considered to be.

I’m enjoying ‘Smallville’ quite a lot this year, more than the last few seasons. If ratings and contract negotiations go favourably, it could (kiss-of-death time here) end-up retaining its place as a key part of the CW’s schedule for another year or so. The part of me that is fascinated by how creative people deal with the challenge of keeping a series going beyond its natural life span is quite up for that, but the part of me that remembers being actively excited by the fresh spin on ‘Superman’ that ‘Smallville’ provided in its first couple of years is not so keen.


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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named markclapham.com.




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