Smallville – cover feature part two

We discuss the show in-depth.

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Did you like part one of our cover feature? Yes? No? Maybe? Well, here’s the second part for your amusement, taken from issue 41 of SciFiNow:

Since season five’s ‘Justice’, an episode that displayed a prototype of the Justice League of America in a Michael Bay-style explosive shakedown, Smallville has been gravitating further towards these DC-heavy episodes. Its sequel, in a sense, was ‘Absolute Justice’, which recognised that having all these DC characters on display simultaneously marked an event that could get fans, not just of the series but also of the comics, excited about the show again. That template is likely to be adopted once more as the series moves forward, and these characters – no matter how C-list they may be in the DC Universe – will continue to make the leap into Smallville’s world.
In all honesty, we like the attitude behind it: there’s something thrilling about seeing these characters make the leap from the page to the screen. That’s why we watch comic book movies, after all, and even if an hour of Smallville doesn’t quite have the same weight or epic proportions, it does nevertheless entertain with the relatively towering nature of its TV special effects.
Plus, the writers have found a way to couple character development to the novelty of integrating these people within the show’s universe. Peterson tells us how ‘Absolute Justice’ filtered down to the dynamic between Clark and the other characters. “I think they have really lasting effects on our characters learning to work together, as far as Clark, Oliver and Chloe. They’ve all kind of gone a few different directions as this season has progressed and it will really help them find a new place in their relationship.”
On top of that, however, Peterson also believes the show has gained much from the introduction of Amanda Waller (Pam Grier) and Checkmate. Such additions won’t strike any chords with anyone but the most seasoned comic book fans, but having a secret organisation working behind the scenes has created a sustainable story arc for the show to follow. “I think Pam Grier is the perfect person to bring that iconic character to life. Amanda Waller has been such an enigma and lynchpin in the activities of the Justice League and working with Watchtower and all of the different incarnations of the mythologies. She’s such an icon that I think she is the perfect person to come in and throw the show in a different direction than anyone was expecting it to go.
She is a surprise to every single one of the characters no matter what side of the fence they’re on. She kind of comes in and changes the game on everybody.” In a sense, it feels like the show has long been trying to fill the voids left by long-standing villains Lex and Lionel Luthor, both of whom ceased as regulars at the end of season seven (Lionel, of course, was written out of the Smallville universe altogether). In season eight, we had Doomsday-as-a-paramedic Davis Bloome, played by Sam Witwer. It’s only this season that with Waller and Zod that they’ve found two villains who give the show a sustainable, interesting arc for all the characters to follow – who they replace them with in season ten will be key to Smallville’s continued success.

One thing’s for sure – the show won’t be the same next year, regardless of who fills the void as villain. At the time of writing, it’s been confirmed that a regular cast member will be killed off at the end of this season. How this death will affect the dynamic of the show remains to be seen, but given that Jimmy Olsen was for the chop last year, it could practically be anyone.
Still, Peterson remains convinced that in spite of the show’s deviation from established Superman lore, it remains spiritually relevant to the character. “It’s always been an overwhelming feeling since the first day I walked into this office, I have to say, because Superman is so much bigger than any one person on the crew or cast. The fact that we get to flesh out a part of the mythology that was a little bit vacant is so exciting. And the fact that we are now in a place where we can take what Al and Miles started and merge it into the world that is DC Comics and will be Superman, is, sadly, probably the most exciting part of my career even as I look ahead to the next 20 years. It will always probably be the most exciting part of my career. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
There’s a good chance that, by the time we get to the end of Smallville’s run – whether it’s during season ten, or, as odd as it seems in principle, an eleventh season – we’ll have seen every major event in the Superman lore through the eyes of what was once just a high-concept teen drama. The Lois Lane romance plot has reached an important crux, Clark has already fought the majority of his future enemies and he’s teaming up with all manner of costumed benefactors. All we’re missing is the spandex, and it really can’t be all that far away.
Peterson is coy on the issue. “Clearly we all know the look he ends up in. There will be an evolution in the look. I am not promising anything at the end of this season, but we all know is there will be an evolution in the look between now and where he gets to eventually,” he says. Evidently, however, they respect Gough and Millar’s assertion that Clark will never wear the costume on the show until the final shot of the final episode. “I can say that since Kelly and I have been running the show, our intention has been to stay true to Al and Miles’s vision. In essence that basically answers your question.”
So, when season ten rolls around, we’re likely to see the show reach a halfway house between Lois & Clark and the Americana aspects that defined Smallville in its early days. Whether this new iteration of Smallville captures the series’ original intent is, at least, irrelevant to its fans. There’s nary a fan base out there (save, perhaps, for Supernatural. Wincest ahoy) that has supported a show for so long with such ferocious passion – while other, more ambitious TV dramas crumble apart, Smallville continues to exist in its own humble vacuum. Its skewed representation of the DC Universe may not appeal to anyone but its core audience, but it’s obvious, at this point, that the producers are doing it just for the fans. Who else, after all, matters?

This article originally appeared in the print edition of SciFiNow, issue 41 by Samuel Roberts. To buy a copy of the magazine or subscribe, go to www.imagineshop.co.uk, or call our subscriptions hotline on +44 (0) 844 844 0245.