Smallville can be such a frustrating show at times. It has a lot going for it, it really does. There are some real stand-out episodes this season that has the show firing on all cylinders, making it an addictive and engaging watch. Personally, the third episode, “Rage,” is probably one of my favorite episodes merely because it’s a cool little zombie tale starring Superman. However, there are other times when the show just starts to buckle under its own weight, no surprise given the bounty of subplots the show is juggling. Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season is a mixed bag with (thankfully) more pros than cons. More after the synopsis!
Great planet, Earth is. So great that other survivors of Planet Krypton wouldn’t mind making it home and taking control. But fellow Kryptonian Clark Kent has a warning for Zod and his followers who cross the line, especially if they seek to enlist Lois Lane in their schemes: I will destroy you all! Hearts grow fonder (Clark & Lois) and dangers grow stronger (Clark vs. warriors of Zod) in this 21-Episode Smallville Season 9 Collection. Plus, unexpected characters from DC Comics lore add exciting new layers to the adventures of the man who will become Superman. Among them: the shape-shifting Wonder Twins, magical Zantanna, and Justice Society of America’s Dr. Fate, Hawkman and Stargirl. May justice prevail – and Earth survive!
I gotta say, Smallville has this indescribable charm to it. While watching an episode, nearly any given episode, there are plenty of moments of just ridiculousness or stupidity. A character will say or do something that just doesn’t make sense, will have a major face-palm moment, whatever, but I still can’t stop watching. I was actually surprised that the more I got into the season, the more I found myself enjoying the overall series.
This season gets us closer, inch by inch, to Clark Kent finally taking up the Superman mantle. Yeah, there’s still a host of “I don’t know who I am”/”I know who I am” moments with Clark that feels repetitive, reminiscent of previous seasons, but now we’re actually getting the sense that those fabled red and blue tights are finally just around the corner for Clark. In fact, there are plenty of moments spread throughout the season that seems to blatantly set-up what’s coming in the tenth and final season of Smallville. We see his rogue’s gallery starting to build up, coming more and more credible, and he’s firmly making his mark in Metropolis. This whole season feels like a bridge, joining the previous Smallville mythos to the grander scheme of things. After a lackluster eighth season, things seem to really be picking up here, like there was a bit of a creative rebirth for the series. It’s amazing, nine years into a show about Superman’s early years, that it’s still able to remain relatively fresh despite going back to the same well more than a few times.
But as great as some episodes are, we do get a few lackluster one. Given how hard it was promoted as the big event for the ninth season, the two-part episode “Absolute Justice” was kind of lackluster. What’s starts out pretty compelling in the first hour seems to just lumber on in the second one. While the idea of seeing classic costumed heroes like Dr. Fate and Hawkman is incredibly cool, what we get are what appear to be some cosplay costumes and some questionable acting (like Hawkman’s repeated attempts to “out-Batman” Christian Bale). Still, it’s a nice shout-out to fans, but also a deft reminder as to why full-out classic superhero costumes still have a ways to go before being perfected for live-action.
And, like any serial series, we have subplots that play throughout the series. The subplot with Zod is actually very fascinating and expertly paced; the audience is in the front row as we see Zod rise to power among the Kryptonians stranded on Earth. Oliver Queen’s fall from grace after his actions last season, and his subsequent recovery, also plays out interestingly throughout the season. On the other side, we get the incredibly tedious subplot of Lois pining after The Blur (aka Clark’s secret super-hero persona). It just kind of goes on and on and on, dragging to the point where even mentioning the word “blur” is enough to throw these Blu-ray discs into a shredder.
Actually, even the weakest episodes are usually saved from being a total waste thanks to appearances by Zod and the Kryptonian subplot. Thankfully, the subplot actually has a satisfying pay-off in the season finale that will actually have me tuning in to find out what happens next when the tenth season premieres in just a short time.
If anything, Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season should be able renew interest for those whose interested in the series may have waned, or perhaps bring in a couple new viewers. The season does start off pretty strong, though newcomers will be lost until the standard “villain of the week” type episodes kick in around the third episode, and does keep a good momentum until the end. It slips here and there, due to some weak episodes, but it’s still an overall enjoyable season thanks to the great Zod subplot and some genuinely good top-to-bottom episodes. Like I said, the show does sometime buckle due to all the subplots, both the good and bad, but it manages to keep them in the air for the most part. The show still suffers from the same weakness it has always had, like the over-the-top melodrama and cheesiness, but the pros outweigh the con. How Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season is an odd place for newcomers to start, but if you can get up to speed you should be able to enjoy what comes next. Recommended.
Warner Home Video has once again created a great high-definition Blu-ray release for Smallville. While not overflowing with extras, you can’t argue with the quality of the presentation here.
First up is the audio and video presentation. Warner Home Video has provided a nice, consistent and pristine 1080p transfer. Sure, it makes some of the soft-focus shots more apparent, and the special effects really can’t hold up to such clarity, but the detail on display here is probably the best the series has seen to date. There’s the odd flick of grain and some hints of compression here and there, but those are a rarity, especially considering the amount of episodes. A definite step up from previous season releases. The 5.1 Dolby mix is a nice compliment to the video, though the audio I find is a shade weaker than the video. It does its job, yes, and everything is crystal clear, but it does lack a certain oomph to it.
On to the bonus features, which seem to emphasize quality over quantity. We get a good batch of bonus content, even if it feels a bit light. Two episodes, “Idol” and “Kandor” get audio commentaries. “Kandor,” a stand-out episode this season I thought, gets a really informative enjoyable episode where the cast and crew on the episode actually discuss different development aspects of the episode. The “Idol” commentary” is lighter in comparison, but still entertaining and is able to provide some good behind-the-scene nuggets.
After that we get a host of deleted scenes scattered throughout the collection, and a couple of enjoyable featurettes. The featurettes look at the two-part Smallville episode “Absolute Justice” and the history of the General Zod character. The “Absolute Justice” featurette is a nice 30 minute look at how the episode came together, the behind-the-scenes details and comic book origins. Really good stuff, I have to say. The “Kneel Before Zod” featurette is a quick look at Zod’s background in comics and media, providing a light, fluffy look at this great Superman villain.
For the Smallville fans, this is probably the best release the show has received yet. The audio and video is excellent, especially the video, and the extras are pretty informative. Yeah, they are a bit light, but what we get is interesting for both fans of the show and the comics from whence they came. Season nine definitely rebounded after a weak eighth season, reinvigorating the series as it heads toward its tenth and final season. While Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season may not be the best place for new fans to start, it is somewhat accessible if you stick with it for a couple episodes. However, for the die-hard Smallville fans, it goes without saying that Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season comes Recommended.
Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season is now available to own on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video.