Mania Grade: D+
Maniac Grade: B-
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- TV Series: Smallville
- Episode: Series Finale
- Starring: Tom Welling, Erica Durance, Justin Hartley, Michael Rosenbaum, Cassidy Freeman
- Written By: Al Septien, Turi Meyer, Brian Peterson & Kelly Souders
- Directed By: Greg Beeman & Kevin Fair
- Network: The CW
- Series: Smallville
Smallville: Series Finale Review
Not a Finale! Joe calls it a Giant Turd!
By Joe Oesterle
May 14, 2011
Supershit. There it is. Contractually I don’t even have to write another sentence. I have just fulfilled my obligation as the reviewer on the series finale of Smallville. It sucked hard and it sucked hard for two hours. I guess that in itself is impressive, but everything else about this show just sucked.
By the way, if you want to skip my preamble rant, and go directly to my review, skip down to the bold header that reads, “Review Starts Here.” It’s 4 paragraphs down.
Some of you out there will violently disagree with my assessment, but you would be wrong. As many of you know, I only started watching/reviewing this program a couple of years ago, so I didn’t get as excited as some of you may have when you noticed the guy who played Jimmy Olsen came back and play Jimmy’s brother. That may have been a nice touch, but how about other, more logical touches - like Lois’s sister showing up for her wedding. And how about the way the just danced around the word “heroes,” implying the rest of the JLA would make a guest appearance? After ten seasons of introducing characters like The Flash, Zatanna, Martian Manhunter, etc, wouldn’t it seem only fair to see them during them, if only for a glimpse during the Earth’s moment of absolute peril?
Look, I know this show didn’t start out as an action series, and to be honest it’s one of the reasons I didn’t care for it. This show was designed to be in a similar vein as Dawson’s Creek, but with a young Clark Kent instead. I didn’t care for the melodrama of Dawson and his gang, so after giving Smallville a chance a few times in the first season, I bailed. Overly dramatic teen angst does not and never has appealed to me, and poorly written, overly dramatic teen angst appeals to me much less. That said, I don’t wish to get into a battle over how great or poor the first few seasons were. I checked out a few, overall they didn’t appeal to me, so I kept my distance from the show, but every now and then the idea that Clark Kent was being represented on TV was enough for me to tune in.
Most times I didn’t enjoy, but every now and then, I was entertained.
This season’s Smallville contained some of the absolute worst writing I have ever witnessed, (Episode 15 – Fortune comes to mind) and yet before anyone calls me a hater, I enjoyed episodes 17, (Kent) 18, (Booster) and 19, (Dominion.) For as long as I’ve been reviewing this show, Smallville has always made the most basic mistakes in writing, and it absolutely floors me that so many people, who I assume are over the age of seven, still love this show in spite of these problems.
Here’s an example of poor writing choices that the fans of this show are happy to gloss over, and one I don’t understand the writers making in the first place; why introduce a character named Cat Grant, a TV host, played by Emilie Ullerup, only to replace that character,r in name only, by actress, Keri Lynn Pratt, and make her a newspaper journalist. Not only that, Pratt’s Cat Grant is not her real name. Pratt’s Cat Grant’s real name is Mary Louise Shroger. Huh? Why? Even if there was some sort of contractual obligation to have a Cat Grant on this show every 17 epsiodes, wasn’t there a better way to write that solution? I only bring that example up because it serves as a quick case in point at how little thought the writers give to their decisions, and more important, how little respect they have for their audience. Needed to get that off my chest, and now…
The Review Starts Here
Supershit. I’m betting not a lot of reviewers get to lead with that word, and even less probably get to work it into the review twice, but this episode deserved it at least that much. I wanted soooo much to like this episode. I wasn’t expecting to love it, but secretly, deep down inside, I was hoping to love it. But simply liking it would have sufficed. Instead I hated it. The first hour of forced and unnecessary melodrama put me in a very bad mood. There was entirely no reason at all for Lois to get cold feet on her wedding day, especially after the progress they had recently made, turning Lois from whiney, indecisive damsel in distress to strong, confident romantic partner for Clark.
There was no need for all of the will she or won’t she, because the point of Lois and Clark’s relationship isn’t will they ever get married, but how she grounds him, loves him and inspires him to be the hero he’s capable of being. The pre-wedding jitters could have been interesting, but they weren’t, and a big part of that is because the writers had so many other story points to cram in to two hours, devoting the first 56 minutes to a wedding we all knew would be interrupted by the bad guy forced the entire tale to suffer.
I should point how ironic I thought it was when Chloe lamented to her husband Oliver that she wish she could remember her wedding. God, I wish I could forget that episode.
Here’s another piece of writing that smacked me in the face the way I was hoping to see Clark smack Darkseid. Clark enters the farmhouse and notices his mother standing there, somewhat distraught. Clarks asks, “Is this about Dad?” Martha goes on to talk about how Jonathan is always there for her, and could be for Clark if he opened his heart, and then one minute and ten seconds later Clark literally says, “Why bring Dad up on a day like this?” Hey Superdummy, you brought him up when you asked, “Is this about Dad?” Do I know what the writers were going for in that scene? Yeah, kind of, but this type of sloppy writing is my biggest pet peeve of this entire series. Granted, I don’t care all that much for the night –time soap opera genre they are trying to satisfy here, but I don’t care for Desperate Housewives, yet I have watched a handful of episodes and have to admit the writing is fine.
Next thing I know, Ollie is kneeling before Granny Goodness and two other guys whose names I forgot, but were in this show once. (Actually I do remember the names, DeSaad and Godfrey, but that’s mostly because I know the characters through the comics, and to be honest, I did have to stop and think about it for a few minutes. More credence to the fact they should have concentrated more on the development of those characters so we could work up some justified hatred when we saw them on screen, instead of wasting 120 seconds thinking, ok, that guy ran the S&M parlor and the other guy was kind of a Rush Limbaugh guy.)
By the time Clark was in front of Jonathan’s grave, I was beside myself with anger. It’s 40 minutes into this “spectacular” and we haven’t even approached a resolution. If anything, the story just took a major step backwards when Clark confides in Ollie that he is starting to think Lois had it right, and he’s going to say good bye to her forever. Wow! Could this show get any dumber? Yes. Yes it can.
However, the next scene was a brief, but tense bit of action drama that I wished was more of the norm. Tess is chased and captured in her car. It’s an easy bet who organized this crime, but that doesn’t matter. This scene was done well. And sadly, that’s it for that.
As the bride and groom walk down themselves down the aisle (by the way, Lois didn’t seem to mind her Dad wasn’t there for her, but I guess that can be poorly explained away as she’s used to be let down by The General.)
More on the no explanation front, did anyone else find it strange that Martha’s new beau, Perry White, was not at the church as either Martha’s date or Lois and Clark’s guest? Again, this could have been easily explained away that Perry was on assignment overseas, but the real reason was so Ghost Dad could have a seat next to Martha.
By the way, does Chloe have x-ray vision, because she seemed to be at an angle of that wedding ring box that looked like it had to be mostly blocked by the lid. Oh no, Chloe saves the day with knocking the ring out of Clark’s hand and to make matters worse, in almost the same way I sarcastically predicted in the last column, Ollie is saved from Darkseid’s inhuman super powers by Clark’s friendship. Wow. Lame. Seriously Lame.
Meanwhile, back to what is shaping up to be the most interesting character of this episode, Tess is tied on an operating table and Lionel 2 has explained to her he’ll be using her heart to make Lex’s clone finally come to life. Thankfully the writers decided to remember Tess has considerable martial arts training, and I was happy to see her act in a way becoming her character. Naturally the writers realizing they had made a good choice decided to atone for that by killing her off. More on that later.
In healthy shades of Lord Vader, Lex removes his James Earl Jones breathing apparatus with his mangled hand, and breathes a tiny bit of too little, too late into this episode. I suspect for most of you this was one of the high points of the episode, and while I agree, the bar was not set very high. Michael Rosenbaum has the acting chops to carry off the convoluted dialogue placed in Lex’s mouth, but sadly, the characters who are capable of spinning drivel into drama are often relegated to guest star status.
For those of you who were looking forward to the final Clark and Lex moment, I hope you were satisfied. Personally I was confused. Almost immediately after Lex droned on about how he was the only villain in history capable of to driving Clark to become the greatest hero ever, I couldn’t tell if Lex was playing the role of the bad guy to spur Clark on to becoming the good guy, or if he was merely bragging. It seemed all for naught minutes later when Lex ran Tess through with a broadsword he somehow managed to conceal from her. With her dying breath Tess wiped Lex’s face with a smidgeon of liquid mind erase that Clark created (somehow – but why bother explaining or showing us this info when it’s simply easier to make it up on the spot when it’s convenient.)
So my question now is, if Lex has no memory of anything he’s done, and yet he’s still a bad guy, why smear that crap on his face. AND CONVERSELY, if Lex is not a bad guy, why bother with the whole, “I made you a better good guy by being such an evil bad guy speech?” This is horrible writing all around. If you don’t agree, please don’t talk to me about anything, because I know we will never be anything but mortal enemies. Unless of course by being my mortal enemy you can make me a better me, then by all means argue this point, but I better not hear from more than one mortal enemy, because I only care to have the one who will prompt me to greater things, thank you very much.
Hey, by the way, aside from the fact that Ollie still wears his sunglasses at night, and a voice modulator for no apparent reason since he came out ala Tony Stark and admitted he was Green Arrow, were those arrows specially treated somehow? I mean, Granny Goodness by herself is a pretty powerful foe, but teamed with Desaad and Godfrey, how did Ollie know he’d be able to disintegrate them. It’s possible this was explained at some moment my brain was having a seizure from all the shitty writing, but it looked to me he just reached in his arsenal, grabbed some non-descript arrows and launched them, way after by the way the fact that Granny Goodness did some magic gesture with her hand which I assume would have been deadly. But the arrows hit their targets and just made them disappear. I’m left to wonder what was so special about those arrows, and if they were really just plain arrows would a really sharp pencil have done the same thing? I ask this because I tried to stab myself with a really sharp pencil to deaden the pain of this episode, and you know what? It didn’t work.
At 9:37 Clark meets Darkseid in the form of John Glover. We’d already seen the video game version of Darkseid, so they figured let’s just show him as Glover. The fans love Glover, and the producers love shortchanging the fans when it comes to giving them what they want. And so as Clark is smashed through the barn, he finds the inner peace he so desperately searched for all these years. To be honest, Smallville actually looks like a pretty good show if you’re only watching the visual highlights of ten seasons in less than two minutes, and you score it to John Williams’ musical epic. It’s much less so in real time.
Back to the Fortress and Clark gets to hang out with his two dads as they jointly present him with his super suit. Of course we never really get a decent shot of Welling in the suit, and I’m not sure who is being the dick here, but clearly, someone is. It’s probably a legal thing, but very dickish nonetheless.
So instead of having an original thought, the writing team rips off the best moment of the Brandon Routh Superman, and we’re treated to a mostly GCI Welling. I confess, that looked kind of cool, but why not strive for more of this coolness. I know, because this show was never about flights and tights. It was always about, bad writing, wooden acting, complex situations that never needed to be complex, sloppy plots and cloying dialogue. I get that. I was just hoping… you know, that this wouldn’t suck.
I’m not in the mood to talk about Lois tricking the trained Secret Service agent with her clever ruse of “look out the window,” or the fact that no one there at that table seems to have an Omega skull engraving, or the sickening way Lois convinced the table they all have families (as if these people forgot that tiny fact.) I’m sorry, I just can’t get into that right now.
And so as the giant fireball plummets towards Earth we see a red and blue blur shoot over the Metropolis skyline and in typical Smallville fashion, ruin the build of a potential climax with a quick dose of anti-climax. Well, if one thing is certain, they stayed true to themselves.
Oh, and here’s another thing. Assuming Chloe was reading this entire story to what we are led to believe is her son with Ollie in the pages of a DC comic book, wouldn’t it also be fair to say that everyone now knows Clark’s true identity? I mean that story she told was not about Superman, but about a kid from Smallville. A kid whose name was Clark Kent but was secretly a good guy alien who was really strong, and could (eventually) fly and had a girlfriend named Lois Lane who worked at a place in Metropolis called the Daily Planet. The exact same Metropolis Daily Planet that a real life guy named Clark Kent works with a real life Lois Lane. And they still aren’t married seven years later, and he’s still calling her Miss Lane, even though they’ve been engaged for seven years now and have been dating much longer. Doesn’t anyone proofread this stuff?
By the way, since the finale ended, I have checked out a good number of Smallville-centric message boards and sites and I’ve been confounded by the positive responses to this finale. I am stunned to be honest. Regardless. Please allow me to take this time to thank the wonderful folks at Mania to give me a forum to take the opposite view point much of the time when it comes to commenting on this series. I’ve not liked more than half of what I’ve seen, but I’ve always been frustrated when they manage to get enough right to make for a pleasurable viewing experience. For the most part, I’m sad this show wasn’t better than it was, and wasn’t as nearly as good as it should have been.
I’ll miss the exchanges between the readers of this column as I did when LOST went off the air. I hope the comments in the boxes below will stay at an adult level if you disagree, but I’ve been down this road with this show before, and while most of you guys have always been cool even in disagreement, that’s certainly not been the case of a select minority of people who take it personally when I point out the flaws in their favorite TV show.
And finally I’d like to say to the writers of Smallville, I hope you all made a ton of money and plan to retire immediately. I really hope that.
Follow Joe Oesterle’s book, “Weird Hollywood” on FaceBook. Lots of deleted and unedited stories from the book, but also plenty of genre discussions and some like-minded people. Daily updates.