Smallville: The Complete Third Season Review
It really stinks having super-powers. Life is fraught with derring-do, doomed relationships, and constant loneliness...especially for Clark Kent (Tom Welling). The last time we saw him, Clark was off to Metropolis, after OD’ing on Red Kryptonite. For the uninformed, this red rock robs Superman of his inhibitions, and his teenage-self is having a whale of a time in the big city. He robs banks, shuns his friends, and decides to work for crime boss Morgan Edge (played with sneering glee by Rutger Hauer). Hardly the all-American crime-fighter we all know and love...
Of course, his less-than-tranquil life in Smallville, Kansas, soon catches up with him. The love of his life Lana Lang (Kristin Kruek) is distraught; his “parents” Jonathan (John Schneider) and Martha (Annette O’Toole) are worried sick, and in danger of losing the farm, and his best-friend Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) is presumed dead, after a plane crash. Soon enough, Clark comes to his senses and returns home. Unfortunately, he’s got numerous new enemies to face, and a personal life to fix.
Once again, producers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar have taken the roots of DC’s comic legacy, and put a neat spin on the well-worn mythology. Season Three was a step-forward for the show, following the brilliant sophomore year (which many fans consider to be the best yet). This series goes in a much more serious direction, as Clark faces his lineage, and tries hard to escape his status as “The Man of Tomorrow”. He’s a long way off from donning that infamous red and blue costume, but the seeds planted by Season One are beginning to blossom.
The first episode, Exile, sets a bleak tone that forms the series’ later instalments. Clark’s stint on the dark side is pretty thrilling, with the writers offering another side of the character that is fascinating to dissect. Having all the power in the world still makes life difficult, and Clark soon returns to hiding his true identity as “Kal-El of Krypton”. But he can’t escape his past, and the spirit of his deceased father Jor-El (voiced by Superman II’s Terence Stamp) continues to linger around the Kent farm. It’s one of the many sub-plots that Gough and Millar exploit, and Season Three has the strongest story arc to date.
But the show doesn’t restrict itself to telling Clark’s story. This is also a major year for the troubled Lex. Escaping death once again, his fight with billionaire father Lionel (John Glover) reaches new levels. This power-struggle has been a major part of the show, and comes to a pretty chilling climax with the final episode, Covenant, which made my jaw drop. Still, the major developments come earlier on, as the sinister Lionel has his son admitted to a mental institution and his memory wiped, in order to hide his nefarious activities from decades ago. The chemistry between Rosenbaum and Glover continues to impress, offering many scenes of effecting drama. There’s also the prospect of Lionel’s relationship with Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack), who was prepared to spy on Clark for a job at the Daily Planet. Needless to say, the villainous Lionel has something terrible in mind.
These storylines aside, the best Smallville episodes are always those that build the mythology, paving the way for Clark’s ascension to costumed superhero. My favourites include Perry, in which future Daily Planet editor Perry White comes to town. Played with knowing-humour by Michael McKean, the episode is a lot of fun, especially for fans of the source material. There’s also the powerful instalment Legacy, in which Christopher Reeve returns for his final screen performance as Dr. Swann (who knows Clark’s secret), and the truly brilliant Memoria (directed by Miles Millar). The latter is possibly the finest story Smallville has seen to date, and is high on my list of favourites. Determined to regain those lost weeks after Lionel’s tampering, Lex is struck by a series of repressed memories, that gives us a great look into the psyche of this future criminal. It’s also memorable for offering a glimpse of Clark’s life on Krypton, as his parents place him into the ship that transports him to Earth...such moments give this comic fan the chills...
Of course, there are some faults - the romance between Clark and Lana was dragged-out beyond belief (and thankfully dropped for Season Four), and there’s several naff “Freak of the Week” stories to contend with (I mean, how many kyptonite-enhanced villains can you get?). Yet, Smallville continues to improve and grow in stature with each season. It mixes smart writing with high production values, thrilling action, and moving drama. Superman Returns will have to be damn good to beat this...
3.01 Exile: Under the influence of red kryptonite, Clark is living a life of crime in Metropolis, where he gets involved with crime lord Morgan Edge, who hires him to break into LuthorCorp. Meanwhile, Jonathan is trying everything he can to bring Clark home.
3.02 Phoenix: Taking drastic measures, Jonathan is imbued with temporary super-powers by Jor-El, resulting in a destructive battle with Clark. Lex finally returns home, a little world-weary, and attempts to learn the truth about the plane crash.
3.03 Extinction: Someone at Smallville High is killing off the “meteor freaks”, and saved Lana from one such being. However, some of them are innocents, and when Clark saves Lex, he reveals his powers to the shooter. The attacker discovers his weakness, and almost kills Clark when he develops kryptonite bullets...
3.04 Slumber: A frightened girl is entering Clark’s dreams, sparking him to investigate, along with Lana. How is she doing this, and does her father have something to do with her comatose state?
3.05 Perry: Perry White comes to Smallville - a once-powerful journalist, whose career was left in tatters by Lionel Luthor. He believes he has seen Clark use his abilities, which are going haywire after a series of sonar flares. Meanwhile, Perry informs Lex that he has some details on Lionel’s shady past...
3.06 Relic: After Lana uncovers a photograph of a mysterious drifter in 50’s Smallville - who looks exactly like Clark - he is granted with a flurry of memories. Jor-El was in Smallville all those years ago. Did Clark come here by sheer chance, or was it planned?
3.07 Magnetic: Lana becomes romantically-linked with a boy at school, who happens to possess magnetic abilities. Naturally, Clark is jealous, but can her new-found boyfriend be trusted?
3.08 Shattered: Powered by Perry White’s incriminating evidence, Lex manages to track down Morgan Edge, who reveals his dark past with Lionel. However, when returning to the mansion, someone tries to kill him. Fleeing, he asks Clark for help, but he doesn’t find anything wrong at the crime scene. Did it really happen? According to Lionel, Lex is slowly losing his mind, and needs to be institutionalised.
3.09 Asylum: Locked away with the mentally-insane, Lex enlists the help of three supervillains, who promise to help him escape. Meanwhile, Clark uncovers Lionel’s dastardly plan - he’s going to use electro-shock therapy on Lex, to make him lose his memory...
3.10 Whisper: After an accident involving kryptonite, Clark temporarily loses his sight. However, it sparks a new ability - acute hearing - which he will need to help save Pete from a grisly end.
3.11 Delete: Someone is trying to kill Chloe - could it be the invisible hand of Lionel Luthor? However, the assassins so far have been Clark and Lana! Someone is controlling them, but who? Meanwhile, the relationship between Lana and Adam (Ian Somerhalder) deepens.
3.12 Hereafter: One of Clark’s schoolmates says he can “see” the future; believing that Lana’s life is in danger. Meanwhile, suspicious of his behaviour, Chloe investigates Adam's background and discovers some disturbing news.
3.13 Velocity: Pete (Sam Jones III) is caught-up in the dangerous world of street racing, and is threatened by some thugs, after he refuses to throw a race. Naturally, he goes to Clark for help, who is isn’t pleased. Jonathan, meanwhile, is beginning to suffer after his deal with Jor-El, and Lex finds out that Adam is injecting a highly experimental drug.
3.14 Obsession: Clark is forced to use his powers in front of Alicia, a new girl at school, but he is surprised to find out she has powers of her own - teleportation. However, Alicia soon becomes obsessed with Clark, and jealous of his relationship with Lana; once-again putting her life in jeopardy.
3.15 Resurrection: While his father is awaiting life-threatening heart surgery, Clark befriends a young boy, Garrett, whose brother just died from liver failure. However, everyone is shocked when he shows up at the hospital alive and seemingly well -- until his liver starts failing again. In a desperate attempt to keep his brother alive, Garrett straps himself to a bomb, and threatens to blow-up the hospital...
3.16 Crisis: Clark receives a panicked call from Lana and hears a gunshot before the line goes dead, but when he arrives at the Talon he is stunned to discover she is alive and well. Clark realises the phone call came from the next day and that Adam is the one who will shoot Lana.
3.17 Legacy: When Jonathan begins to act strangely, Clark believes Jor-El is sending Jonathan messages through the key and is the cause for his father's withdrawal from the family. Clark goes down to the caves to confront his biological father but Lionel catches him there and begins putting the pieces together - leading him straight to Dr. Swann. As the two billionaires face off, a deal is struck and Lionel's true motives are revealed.
3.18 Truth: When Chloe accidentally inhales a mysterious krypto-gas, she discovers it acts as a truth serum to anyone who comes into contact with her, and decides to take advantage of her new power by going to the Kents to find out Clark's secret. However, her new power comes with fatal consequences and Clark must find an antidote before she discovers the truth about him or worse, dies.
3.19 Memoria: Believing that key information about his father’s past was lost when his memory was erased, Lex decides to join an experimental program with the sinister Dr. Garner, to regain those lost weeks and hand his father over to the FBI. Knowing that Lex will discover his secret if he regains his memory, Clark tries to stop him but is caught by Lionel and the doctor and exposed to the same radical treatment so that Lionel can “solve the mystery of Clark Kent”.
3.20 Talisman: When a Kiwatche Indian steals a mythic knife from the caves, he is bestowed with superpowers similar to Clark’s, causing the young man to believe he is the legendary Naman, 'the man who fell from the stars'. Clark learns the Kiwatche legend foretold of a knife that could kill Naman and sets out to reclaim it before the young Indian can use it on Lionel.
3.21 Forsaken: Clark decides to tell Lana his secret so they can finally be together. Meanwhile, an errant FBI agent kidnaps and tortures Pete to try and force him to reveal Clark's secret. Also, Lex panics after the FBI gives him 24 hours to turn over information on his father or face jail time, but help arrives from an unexpected source...
3.22 Covenant: Things come to a head in Smallville when Kara, a beautiful girl with superpowers, who claims to be from Krypton, comes to entice Clark to fulfil his destiny. Overwhelmed, Clark turns to his parents for advice but is shocked when Kara forces Jonathan to finally reveal the deal he made with Jor-El. Also, Clark makes a discovery that ultimately redefines his relationship with Lex, and Clark's relationship with Lana takes a final turn.
Warner once again give Smallville the deluxe treatment, with this lavish six-disc set. It manages to improve on the past releases - which were pretty good - with greater picture and sound quality, and a fine array of supplements. Fans of the show should definitely add this to their collection...
The Look and Sound
Smallville is one of those shows that looks like a motion picture every week, and the quality is neatly transferred here. The episodes are presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1), and look excellent. The transfers are clean, with no defects, and little in the way of compression (though eagle-eyed viewers might notice some). Still, the colours are superb, giving the show plenty of visual appeal. There’s no doubt in my mind - Smallville is one of the better-looking shows on television. As per usual, the audio is a slight disappointment, but it’s still well above-average.
Each episode comes in 2.0 Stereo, and they sound very dynamic. There’s plenty of room for invention, with the show including everything from large-scale explosions to gunfire. The dialogue, theme music, and action is crystal-clear, though it would be great to have this show mixed in 5.1 - it seems built for surround action. Grumbles aside, Smallville looks and sounds like the bees-knees.
The previous sets were pretty good in terms of bonus material, but this is the best collection yet. The extras are spread across the six discs, and include:
These begin with a track for the first episode, Exile, with Michael Rosenbaum, executive producers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, director Greg Beeman, and co-producer Ken Horton. As you’d expect, this is a very enjoyable track, and Rosenbaum leads the way with his witty banter, and jovial presence. The producers go into some pleasing detail about the episode, and the continuing development of the show; such as story ideas and getting the look just right. It’s light, breezy, and often hilarious.
The next track covers Truth, which includes director James Marshall, and co-stars Allison Mack and John Glover (who are recorded separately). Again, this is entertaining stuff. There’s a great rapport between Mack and Glover, who despite their age differences, get on very well indeed. They share some thoughts about the episode - an important one for their characters - and divulge some amusing details about their careers (Mack, for instance, began with a small role in Police Academy 6). Marshall is much more technical, obviously, documenting how certain scenes and effects were achieved.
The final commentary is for the brilliant Memoria, with Gough, Millar, Beeman, Horton, and Rosenbaum. A landmark episode for all involved, the group offer a lot of fascinating facts about the story, between the typical jokes. Millar is a good sport, offering some intriguing thoughts on his first directing gig. It’s a must-listen for any fans of the show.
"Producing Smallville: The Heroes Behind the Camera"
A brilliant featurette, that runs for nearly 30-minutes, it includes interviews with most of Smallville’s principle production crew. Gough and Millar are on hand, along with Beeman, Rosenbaum, Mack, Tom Welling, and Kristin Kreuk. The documentary covers special effects, photography, wardrobe, and even random topics like Rosenbaum’s head (the actor has it shaved everyday). It’s a very fun look at the creation of the show, with oodles of behind-the-scenes footage, and plenty of trivia.
The Chloe Chronicles, Vol. 2
Like the previous set, this is a collection of "webisodes", that appeared as a weekly serial online. Allison Mack is always an infectious presence as Chole, getting the chance to delve more deeply into her journalist character. Along with Pete (Sam Jones III), she tries to get to the bottom of several town mysteries. There’s a fleeting appearance from John Glover, and even an extract from the comic book for fans to savour.
The other extras include the hilarious “Gag Reel”, which shows off Rosenbaum’s skill for comedy yet-again. It’s a funny collection of cock-ups, including Welling and Kreuk cracking-up in their frequent romantic moments. There’s also a clutch of deleted scenes on each disc, and even an easter egg. To find it, go to the features menu on disc 5, and highlight the “Heroes Behind the Camera” documentary. Move left with your remote, and the Superman logo will appear. Select it, and you’ll be treated to Rosenbaum’s interviewing methods, as he questions Steve Oben, the wardrobe set supervisor. As you’d expect, I laughed myself silly. A great box set overall.
The Bottom Line
Smallville continues to impress with it’s third year, using the comic book mythology to great effect. It also promises a lot for the shows fourth season, currently airing on E4. Combining action, drama, top-notch special effects and some great acting, Smallville offers a lot for fans of Superman and fantasy entertainment. Warner once again exceed themselves with a technically-sound box set, and some fun special features. Shazam!
“Smallville: The Complete Third Season” is available from the 18th April