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Episode Breakdown: SMALLVILLE Season Five (2005-2006)

At this point in the show, the original premise of Smallville began to twist and alter as meteor-rock infected villains begin to get phased out for more comic-book like villains from Superman’s own mythos. In a very pivotal season for the show, how does season five fare against season four? (Spoiler: better)

The show finally gives us actual Kryptonians, and the Phantom Zone is seen! With the end of high school, it appears the series is wanting to go more in the direction of the comic book stories; and is embracing it a lot more. The magic stuff is glossed over; as is the fact that the Teague’s deaths have been forgotten (I’m sure that Jason would be dead in that house). But thematically the cobwebs of season four get shaken off and the show looks to go into some more interesting areas. Mainly with a mortal Clark and James Marsters turning up.

Clark and Chloe’s friendship is probably one of the better developments now that they know that each other knows about his powers. But what this episode gets to, is how Clark is able to be who he is without his powers. It’s something that’s happened before, but the audience doesn’t know how he’ll get them back – and wisely the show seems to keep reminding us that he’ll get them back somehow. At least there’s Clark/Lana stuff happening that doesn’t feel trite, and the Clark/Lex scene near the end is great to watch.

Clark faces his mortality as a student threatens to blow up Smallville with a missile. Tension isn’t in that Clark died (because, hello, Superman), but more on the reactions of Lana and his parents. They don’t dwell on it too much, as tit turns out the episode wants Clark to feel guilty over something he clearly had no control over. As cheesy as it sounds, however, Clark taking down the missile was quite a cool moment (though it did look dated).


Smallville (2001-2011) – The WB/The CW

Woah, bro. Whilst I’m not the most knowledgeable on Aquaman, I know that this version of Arthur Curry isn’t particularly exciting and the whirlwind romance that develops with Lois, and Clark’s jerkish reaction to him doesn’t sit right. The episode is quite important, however, in the fact that this must be the first episode that paints Lex in a purely 100% villainous light. Without the stuff with Lex and Fine influencing Clark – you could easily have subbed Lex for Lionel and it’d have felt like a season three episode. For that, the episode gains a lot more interest.

It can’t be a mistake that at this point in the show’s run, that anything Lana-based means the show drops a level of quality. It doesn’t help that after the debacle of the previous season, they still have silly supernatural-like stuff happen to Lana, and for her behaviour to be influenced. It feels embarrassing and the shoe-horned references to Buffy are groan-worthing. The framing device of Chloe’s narration leading to her getting a job at the planet doesn’t really work – because the episode breaks its plot with a B-plot of the further development of Milton Fine. Was that in Chloe’s story as well?

The cynic in me is thinking that this episode is trying to appeal to all manners of people: those who want to see a Dukes of Hazzard reunion as Tom Wompat guests as an old friend of Jonathan, and those who somehow find the story of Lois going undercover in a strip-joint appealing. The interesting aspect of the episode comes from the season arc plot, which is several shades better than last seasons; as Milton Fine is an intriguing presence and the casting of James Marsters helps a lot.

An episode that gets into the psychology of Clark in seeing the worst case scenarios in the people he trusts the most. Some of these are darker than others, particularly the weird-feeling Lex and Lana thing. Tom Welling has a chance to do some different stuff than he usually does and shows some new stuff that he’s capable of. A big help in this episode is the development of the Milton Fine plot, as the revelation, he’s a Kryptonian is a sinister twist.

The increasing incorporation of more comic book elements into Smallville is one: exciting and two: worrying. As Milton Fine reveals his true agenda – he nearly brings forth General Zod. At this rate, Clark would’ve met all his enemies before he even becomes Superman! But the show has moved on and embraced its comic book heritage, and it is better than the meteor-freaks it used to have in its earlier seasons. The Clark/Lex stuff continues to be great and Rosenbaum is fully embracing more of Lex’s darkside.


Smallville (2001-2011) – The WB/The CW

The show does really well when it’s exploring Lex’s psychology, here it’s an ideal life he wants but can’t accept that a life of love means more death in his life. He’s at a crossroads and chooses one that gives him more agency in his life. Rosenbaum continues the dark descent of Lex, ordering someone to find dirt on Jonathan and standing up to his father whilst recovering from surgery.

Lex and a stalker is something the show’s done once or twice in the past, but under the premise of the senate race is a bit different. There’s so real manipulative editing at the start of the episode with an in media res opening that suggests Lois shoots Jonathan when it’s not. The growing rift between Clark and Lana feels trite, but the scene in which Clark talks to Chloe about his sex life is entertainingly awkward and fits the show.

Smallville lifts off another film, this time picking the Jodie Foster movie “Panic Room” as an excuse to start getting Lana and Lex closer together and Clark and Lana further apart. The show also doesn’t really try to play on the fact that Lex is dying but instead manages to raise the stakes a little by killing off Sheriff Adams. Goodbye, Sheriff Adams – you’ll be missed.


Smallville (2001-2011) – The WB/The CW

Tom Welling acts a bit as he makes some decisions that shape the rest of the series. Telling Lana his secret and then going back in time to save her when she died. On the one hand, it’s still forcing two characters away for the sake of drama but again the shadow of Clark’s future with Lois is forever in the background. The show even has a scene that feels weird being there and even acknowledges Lois is Clark’s future. But the show seems to continually paint Clark and Lana as this destined-to-be couple that the WB often marketed to appeal to those interested in romantic drama. But at this point it shouldn’t work – and the show will get more affected by this. But at least the show has another major change, and that’s the death of Jonathan reminiscent of the scene in the original Superman movie. The scene at the end with Clark and Martha is quite moving, and it’s a bold decision for the show to take as it moves further forward in Clark’s life.

It’s like they gave up any hope of Bruce Wayne turning up and use the mourning episode after Jonathan’s death on a badly acted vigilante storyline to provide parallels to Clark’s story. There’s some great moments in which Annette O’Toole finally gets some good stuff to do, and her scene with Chloe is great and the final show is moving; it’s just the rest of the plot is a bit…meh.

A story about Chloe and her mother’s mental health deserves much, much better than this story. The show plagiarises itself rotten here, with ghosts and possession and unnecessary darkness. Why did the ghost not appear before? Why does no one figure Chloe is possessed? Though the joke about them not bringing up Isabelle is hilarious. Though the dragging out of Clark and Lana’s breakup is bordering on ridiculous.


Smallville (2001-2011) – The WB/The CW

The introduction of comic book character Victor Stone starts laying down members of the Justice League that’ll be established in the future. The story isn’t really that exciting until Lex gets involved and he takes on the villain mantle again. The stuff with Clark and Lana still drags, but it’s redeemed a little with the intriguing Lionel ending.

Sweet potato Kent corn cobs — why does no one ever immediately jump to the conclusion that people are being affected by someone else. Except Chloe who seems to have an actual brain cell. It’s all leading to the break up of Clark and Lana, which to be honest is the least interesting thing in the show. It’s dragging her toward Lex and it’s dragging him down. The season arc returns alongside Fine, but the story has felt so far away from its last appearance that any momentum doesn’t feel earned.

Lana goes all druggie and gets addicted to seeing her parents by flat-lining. As always at this point, any focus on Lana is not that interesting when you have Lex and Clark speaking to deceased family members. Both scenes are great for different reasons, and this very much cements the show’s stance that the afterlife is real. It also allows for some further development on Lionel knowing Clark’s secret.

From the latest showcase of Clark’s relentlessness faith in people and him being a natural role model that children look up to, Tom Welling’s directorial debut is quite impressive. The actress playing Maddie does a decent job and isn’t as annoying as you might expect. What isn’t as impressive is the sub-plot in which Lex and Lana seem to get closer and cross the boundaries of friendship. I remember this happening – I can’t remember much about what happens after but it doesn’t feel right in the slightest.


Smallville (2001-2011) – The WB/The CW

Smallville continues its habit of remaking films with a very, very tame attempt at recreating Saw to help in the growing redemption of Lionel Luthor. To John Glover’s credit, there’s something feeling genuine about it this time – and it’s interesting to see how this change in dynamic will play out. Also, notice how interesting Lex is when he’s not making uncomfortable scenes with Lana.

The focus on Clark finding out about Lex and Lana is very much a snoozefest. It’s Smallville by the numbers and the show really needs to take its own advice and get Clark to get over Lana. Graham is such a non-entity and he doesn’t really deliver anything that the show hasn’t done before.

This is exciting stuff. The Fine stuff hasn’t been as prominent as the magic stones from last season but the plot is great and the further descent of Lex fascinating. The show continues to push that Lionel has completed an about-face turn and the dynamic with Clark gets extremely interesting. There are some great scenes with Clark and Lois, and the penultimate scene with them feels fresh in comparison to all the Clark/Lana stuff with have. Lana, however, has now driven to beMacGuffinfin with no real purpose except to drive a further wedge between Lex and Clark.


Smallville (2001-2011) – The WB/The CW

Michael Rosenbaum has now played two iconic Superman villains. As great as some of the visuals are in this finale, (Clark stopping the car through the wall) the concept of Zod in Smallville feels a little too much to take. If season four was the point where the show was proving that some abstract concepts just didn’t work, then season five was a mixed bag in terms of inclusion of more comic-book elements. Using Rosenbaum as Zod feels as if it’s a way of getting Clark and Lex fighting without them actually fighting. The usual finale cliffhangers are exciting though, with Lois and Martha in the plane being the best. The closing visual of Clark in the Phantom Zone is a treat, however.

What did you think of this season? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook or in comments below.

Episode Breakdown: SMALLVILLE Season Five (2005-2006)
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