Season ReviewsTelevision

Episode Breakdown: SMALLVILLE Season Four (2004-2005)

Lois Lane turns up and is ace but the seasonal arc kicks in and it’s very, very, very bad. Like, really bad. The show wastes Jensen Ackles. How can you waste Jensen Ackles? 

Welcome, Lois Lane to Smallville! The show is starting to incorporate more aspects of the Superman mythology, so who bigger than Clark’s future true love: Lois. On the one hand, it seems a little iffy to have her turn up at all, but in one scene at the end Erica Durance manages to generate more chemistry out of Tom Welling than Kristin Kreuk ever did. Any character that manages to have the last word on Lionel Luthor of all people is someone worth noting. The Lana scenes aren’t particularly exciting or mysterious, however. Instead of generating mystery they just leave you thinking: what’s the point. The whole Kal-El/Clark struggle feels woefully under-developed and lacks explanation or clarity, and the literal battle with himself just confuses. It’s nice to see Margot Kidder turn up though; a nice nod to Superman’s film past.

Michael Ironside turns up as General Sam Lane and Lois is still a much, much, much more entertaining character than Lana. At times, Durance feels a little too excitable; but she does feel as if she’s a great breath of fresh air. The freak-of-the-week isn’t a breath of fresh air; being an afterthought in the search for Chloe just so there’s something science-fiction-ish. But as the episode goes on, there’s a worrying lack of cohesion as the focus shifts from the search for Chloe and then whimpers through to discussions about Clark being concerned about Lex. The episode then ends with a Lana and Jason which doesn’t feel like a great end to the episode.

The kryptonite-infected returns with “Abigail” who apparently has been there all the time. The episode spends most of the time revisiting the lesser quality aspects of the first season. It didn’t work in previous seasons and it still doesn’t work now the show is capable of proving that it’s above and beyond this kind of story-telling. What’s more interesting is Clark finally wanting to play football again and making the plunge into the sport. There’s an interesting conversation in which Jonathan explains that Clark could one day be tempted to use his powers as an advantage and it’s a nice little callback to the moral upbringing that Jonathan imposes on his son. It’s a little moment, but a nice one.

Surprisingly, a more humourous episode from the outset as love potions abound leads to some cringe-worthy scenes of Alison Mack in a cheerleading costume. There’s the actually-funnier-than-it-sounds scene where Clark attempts to act devoted to the villain of the week as Lois sneaks around. The more interesting aspect involves the making peace that Lex and Clark have as they slowly become reluctant friends again.


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

Bart Allen one of the Flashes in the comic books turns up and is a wayward thief moving from town to town. Aside from several references to Flash-lore, the idea is that Clark finds a kindred spirit – or another hero but ends up setting them on the right path. Whether it’s unintentional or not, there’s a loose link between Clark’s mentoring of Bart alongside his leadership as the Quarterback a few episodes ago. The episode manages to also wrap a story revolving around Lex and Clark’s relationship and it’s connection to the ongoing storyline involving the caves and Lana’s mysterious tattoo.

The body swap episode. Or one of them, anyway. It features Tom Welling doing an impression of John Glover which is quite amusing and almost pokes fun at how he delivers his own unique method of soliloquy. Lionel shakes up some character dynamics but its main plot ends about five minutes earlier than it should do, which means that there’s a good ten minutes of wrapping up that feels like they drag. Also, Lana and Chloe aren’t speaking to Clark again. It’s quite hard to believe that Chloe wouldn’t suspect that Clark isn’t himself a week after she was under a love potion. But strong continuity isn’t this show’s strong point…

Not the first time that the show has skewed the themes it wants to tell as it’s very uneven. There’s your usual freak plot (reinventing the magical imp whose name I’m not going to embarrass myself by trying to spell) and little side plots that could’ve done with a better focus. There’s Clark’s control of his powers, the clashing with him and Jonathan and even a breach of trust with Lex that feels like it should’ve been the central plot of the episode. Lana doesn’t really do much until the last five minutes and is only really a tool to derive conflict between Clark and Lex.


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

This one is not good. It purports to advance the season story involving the Three Pieces of McGuffin and turns into an homage to Hocus Pocus. As much as Kreuk looks like she’s having fun – her, Durance and Mack are cringe worthy whilst under the influence. It doesn’t look good when the assumed season villain (Isabelle) is written as if she is supposed to be a Buffy villain without the writing to support it. In a season saturated by mind control and possession, this is the weakest of the lot. The comedy doesn’t really work (why would the Princeton guy appear at that time?) and it runs on contrivance so much that it wears out. One of the worst Smallville episodes ever? Quite possibly.

Ahh yes, a Lex episode. So it’s a bit better and it’s focused on his treatment of women so obviously the series is going to focus on the impact that Helen had on – – oh, wait. There’s elements of the story that reminds me a lot of “Zero” in that Lex’s past crops up again but it’s the show plagiarizing itself again. The Clark/Lex stuff is great to watch though, their relationship is very different now. The show does keep unsubtly referencing it though. What lets the episode down is a waste of Jane Seymour in the Lana storyline. It’s so trite and dull that it just doesn’t conjure any interest in me.

In keeping with the plagiarism theme, the show seems to recreate “Slumber” from last season. But it’s generally more effective and the dropping of the main cast is quite creepy. The nightmares don’t reveal much (and in Lex’s instance a rehash of “Hourglass”) apart from Chloe’s that suggests some development in what happened to her mother. Chloe’s relationship with Clark is also delving into some more interesting places that bodes for the future.

Alicia returns and I still believe that she’s a decent character. The show has a really great idea with her and the idea of a former freak that wants to “get better”. I quite like the idea of Clark exploring the idea of a relationship with someone with abilities so he can experience something different than what he has/had with Lana. It may have been handled with a lack of care but I liked how a red kryptonite-Clark jumped to get married. Alicia is a damaged individual with a unique position in Clark’s life who can bring some new stuff to Clark with haven’t seen before.


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

Whilst it’s not on the same level, this reminds me of the Faith arc in Angel in that Clark seeing the good in someone and even doubts but comes around. The general episode plot is a bit weak and the villain isn’t much to right home about but the rest is great. The big thing with this episode is that it’s apparent that Alicia should’ve been in the show for longer and fleshed out as a proper recurring character on the season. This would mean that the relationship between her and Clark could’ve developed more naturally and the reaction to her death have a greater impact. And be caused by a better villain. I do like how they managed to fit Alicia showing Chloe Clark using his abilities and slow burning it – Alison Mack does some great stuff at the end of this episode.

Strangely focused for a season four episode and the freak of the week is underplayed but works in the context of Clark’s development as a young adult and his plans for the future. This is the inevitable end of the football storyline and it’s a great way to end it. Not so interesting is the separate storyline involving Lana, Lex and the Teagues – this story drifting away in the background without any seeming influence by Clark until the odd episode is hard to really be invested in. This isn’t really a good arc. Sidenote: I feel as if we’ve missed an episode where Clark discovers an immunity to alcohol. That would’ve been interesting.

On paper this sounds bad, but it’s actually more entertaining than I remember it being originally. Welling has fun bouncing off Durance and the general premise of the episode doesn’t feel as schlocky at it sounds. It’s probably because Clark isn’t as mopey as usual. This must be the most I’ve seen him smile in a whole episode. I’m also sick of writing about how crap the Teague plot is. I’m running out of adjectives.


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

I’m sure my feelings on Isobel is apparent by now, and this arc is the main focus of the episode. There’s not much to go on if you dislike it, but it does looks great. The set design is impressive and whilst I doubt it was filmed in Shanghai – it’s the least looking Vancouver the shows ever been. It’s just a shame that Isobel as a villain feels so tacky and any threat the show tries to sell from her is laughable. Her appearance only really lasts ten minutes and doesn’t feel like a great way to advance the plot.

Lucy Lane turns up and is established as a manipulative trouble maker. Lois has been the highlight of the season so it’s nice to see an episode based on her. It’s just a shame that the episode is as predictable as a really predictable thing and that it doesn’t really add anything to anyone.

Oooooooooooh yes. This one is awesome. Lex gets split in two and Rosenbaum is absolutely amazing as evil Lex. It’s a great look at the dark side of Lex and whilst the memory loss is a massive cop-out, it leads to some gold. The scene between Clark and Lex in the barn is amazing – Rosenbaum embraces the type of Lex we know the character to be one day. The kryptonite ring, shooting Jonathan – – it makes you transfixed to the screen. If there’s a fault it’s that it’s an excuse to write-off Lionel’s development as they clearly had no idea what to do with him this season.

Smallville does prom via the spirit of a dead Prom Queen nominee. The way the show tries to bring forth it’s science fiction in comparison to a teenage right of passage doesn’t work properly in this instance as the villain is played more for comic value than any dramatic tension. As funny as it might be to see Annette O’Toole act like an eighteen-year-old, it just appears more cringeworthy than anything. Plus its possession AGAIN. Bonus points for subverting the knocked-out-to-avoid-Clark’s-secret trope.


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

Piling on the amnesia in a big way, this episode is focusing on Chloe knowing about Clark’s abilities and the trust between them. The convenience of amnesia is played up to overkill here, but the episode plays on how Chloe and Lex react to Clark. Chloe wants Clark to trust her but Lex is very manipulative and gets more information on the caves. This plot development with Chloe is an interesting spin on it, but the show does seem to stall this arc. Oh – and Clark/Lana stuff.

Clark and Lana are surrogate parents to a rapidly aging child who could explode. Yeah it sounds bad, but it’s an excuse for some great Lex and Clark scenes. The story doesn’t really do anything and it appears the show thinks it’s as emotionally affecting than it actually is. Also – more boring Teague stuff.

A better metaphorical exploration of not moving on from high school, which kinda works as the show saluting the old type of story-telling it had at school. The logistics don’t hold up in how Clark finds the fake school though-almost rushed. Also – yet more boring Teague stuff. Jason’s character has been all over the place and being reduced to lackey just shows how badly he was conceived.


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

Naturally it’s one of the best episodes in the season. The pace is breakneck, storylines come to a head and surrounding the episode with another meteor showing means that it’s the focal point of the episode rather than the Teague family (they decide to have Jason interact with the Kents? At gunpoint?). The last the minutes of the extended episode looks great, making Tempest look tame in comparison. The countdown is quite tense and again there’s show-changing developments that are quite exciting. Lex’s darker desperate side starts to crop up and it’s brilliant to see – especially with his scene with Chloe (with some semblance of pay off her knowing Clark’s secret). The multiple cliffhangers are layered well (although why didn’t Lana go into a wine cellar at the Castle instead of going IN A HELICOPTER). But the final shot of Clark in the Arctic is a great moment to end the season – it’s edging closer to Superman lore….

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Episode Breakdown: SMALLVILLE Season Four (2004-2005)
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