One of the CW’s strongest and longest lasting original shows, Smallville has gone on for a lengthy seven seasons and is currently gearing up for another season to add onto its resume. With some of the cast leaving after the seventh season, the eight season promises to shake things up like never before. But how did the season that will have preceded it, this seventh season, fare in the big picture? While it brought Lana (Kristen Kreuk) and Clark (Tom Welling) closer together than ever, it also introduced a new character into the mix. It wasn’t a new love interest or a new rival (at first), instead it was his cousin: Supergirl.
After a cliffhanger from season six, Smallville returned with a seventh season filled with new Kryptonian blood. The introduction of Kara (Larua Vandervoort) as the cousin of Clark Kent infused the show with new life, as did the expansion of the villain roster which included the deadly Bizarro and eventual return of Brainiac (James Marsters). Mix in Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) whose affections shift from Lana to Kara and you get a whole season filled with plenty of twists and turns as Clark continues his fight for all that is good.
Anyone who knows me knows I have a serious hate/love relationship with Smallville. For years now (since about the third season) I’ve been calling it one of the worst shows on television, yet I keep watching. On the occasions that Smallville does something right, it’s often a home run as several episodes this season were. When it stumbles, however, it does it in such a fantastically horrible way that I end up banking my head into the way because of the stupidity. I’ve been doing this for years now and although I scoffed at the show originally, I was brought into it eventually by the end of the second season, which I quickly rewound back through and caught up with. Unfortunately by seeing all that was done in the past I set myself for infinite repeats as the series seemed to consistently drag the series through a loop of the same storylines between the characters, especially between Clark and Lana.
Let’s face it, Lana’s the elephant in the room. She’s the cause of all of the love and turmoil in the show and without her the show would, yes, be a little less dull but she causes so much of the same crap to happen over and over again that it just grew to be so tiresome. So with this season and her finally learning of Clark’s true abilities (and not forgetting them by the end of the episode), it seemed like the perfect opportunity for her to become less annoying. Instead she ended up having secrets of her own as she continued to spy on Lex and then she eventually went into a coma like state which just…screwed up stuff even more. Her character is just so annoying that even when they remove the annoying element, they had to infuse her with another one. Mind boggling, but it appears that maybe, in fact, she has finally left the show. Though I doubt it and she’ll show up in the eight season again to toy with Clark’s heart and make him all mopey again.
Ok, well that felt good to get off my chest. So many years now I’ve watched the series and never really vented (outside of complaining to those around me) about the elements of it that annoy me, but I was finally able to distill it down to one character. With Lana out of the show for a good portion of the season, however, we were able to get back to the characters that I actually cared about. The Lex/Clark dynamic took some fun turns this season and resulted in one of my absolute favorite episodes the series, “Fracture.” I absolutely loved that episode, but I have a weak spot for the psychological episodes that mess with your head and traveling through what Lex thinks of was just fantastic.
Of course the series wasn’t all great episodes like “Fracture” and there were quite a few stinkers as well. The return of Pete in “Hero” was quite a sad episode and seemed to be a throwback to the “Freak of the Week” days with the kryptonite gum and the annoying whining that Pete brought with him to Smallville. “Siren”, which introduced Black Canary, was also a bit on the annoying side, as her character was just…so incredibly strange and looked like some sort of early 90s mashup in terms of how her character was designed. Although the accompanying storyline with Oliver (Justin Hartley) and Lois (Erica Durance) was interesting to see unfold.
All together it was a rather solid season. The guest stars on the show really seemed to help it move along rather than simply hinder it this time and the “Apocalypse” episode was also another fantastic trip into a “what if” type world with Lex as president. As much as I badmouth the series, the season really did pick up and kept a steady pace going. The final episode of the season was a bit of a letdown, but with the events that transpired, we can hope that the next season can continue to mix things up and keep it interesting. Recommended.
On the outset this set appears to be a bit light on the extras, but what’s contained on the set is one of the coolest bonus features from any set I’ve ever seen. We’ll get to that in a bit, as first we get to talk about the presentation of the set. The set comes in a slightly thicker than usual Blu-ray case from Warner Home Video and houses the three discs for the set. If this seems like a bit low for a twenty-episode season then…yeah, it does to me too. In addition to the discs we have a booklet detailing the summaries for each episode as well as the bonus features contained on each disc. Menus are simple and easy to navigate, although with all Warner Blu-ray’s thus far, it auto plays so it’s a bit of an awkward start to have it suddenly blast “Previously on Smallville” out at you when you insert the first disc.
The video for the set honestly seems to be a bit on the weak side. I don’t know if I should attribute this to the fact that there are twenty episodes spread across three discs or what, but the picture gets a bit soft looking at times and doesn’t seem to have the same clarity as other TV shows on Blu-ray that I’ve seen. Of course there’s still plenty of detail to be seen on the picture and it’s still definitely a step above the original 1080i broadcast, but just barely. The VC-1 encoded video transfer is accompanied by an English Dolby 5.1 track, which may explain why there was room for twenty episodes on three discs—this is just your standard 5.1 mix without any TrueHD boost. Still it’s not a bad mix and does a satisfactory job of enveloping the room in sound, so it should be good enough for now.
Moving onto the extras we first have a series of deleted scenes, spread across the three discs. Each disc contains twelve to thirteen minutes of deleted scenes, so all total we’re looking at about thirty to forty minutes of bonus footage to look at. The deleted scenes are included in 1080p VC-1 1.85:1, just as the show, so there’s no discrepancy when watching the episodes and then traveling to the deleted scenes. Strangely enough, while there’s a “Play All” feature for the deleted scenes on the first and second disc, the third disc doesn’t contain one.
There are only two commentaries on the set and both are contained on the second disc. The first commentary is on “Persona” by Actor John Glover, Executive Producer Ken Horton and Director Todd Slavkin and another on “Siren” by Executive Producers Al Gough & Miles Millar, Writers Kelly Souders and Brian Wayne Peterson and Actor Justin Hartley. Both tracks are informative and lighthearted and contain some nice discussion on the series itself. It’s odd that the major stars of the series don’t poke their heads in for a chat, as the only star power we get here is Glover and Hartley—which his fine, really, they play two of the best characters on the show.
The featurettes included here are two of the best that I’ve seen come out of a DC production before. The first is “Supergirl: The Last Daughter of Krypton” (17:49, 480p), a really in-depth (for its run time anyway) look into not only the Supergirl on Smallville, but also her history through the years. Everything from the comic book to the live-action film is covered (and no it isn’t glorified; they pretty much say it was a piece of crap), and we get to hear from both the film’s star as well as Laura Vandervoort about her time on Smallville.
Up next may be one of my favorite extras of any of the DC “retrospective” type extras that have graced the various releases over the years. “Jimmy on Jimmy” Featurette (23:17, 480p) gathers up Aaron Ashmore (Smallville), Jack Larson (Adventures of Superman), Sam Huntington (Superman Returns) and Marc McClure (Christopher Reeves Superman). Oddly the Jimmy from Lois & Clark is left out—scheduling conflicts maybe? In any case he isn’t even mentioned, so maybe they just forgot about the series. Whatever the reason, the four here alone are enough to keep it highly entertaining and interesting for the entire run time. None of the men who have played Jimmy seem to have an ego about it and everyone just seemed incredibly grateful. Stories from the sets of their respective productions are told and honestly, I just had a blast watching this extra. It really is one of my all-time favorite DC bonus features I’ve seen yet.
The rest of the extras on the third disc are of the generic variety. The Smallville and Legends: Kara and the Chronicles of Krypton (21:23) that were advertised all throughout the season on The CW are included here and really aren’t all that much fun to watch. The Smallville Visions: Digital Comic Book is also a bit of a waste and loses my interest after a short while (I need to actually hold a comic book to enjoy it; reading them off of a screen just doesn’t do it for me).
That wraps up the extras and while there is curiously no retrospective on the season itself (only two commentaries is all we get when discussing the season), which is strange in of itself since apparently series creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar will not be returning for the eight season. You’d think they’d want to weigh in on it, but maybe they’re saving that for an all-series retrospective for the final season, whenever that is.
While the season is hit and miss with me (they all are), the extras are definitely worth checking out. If you haven’t already seen the season, then this one comes Recommended. Those who have seen it will want to give it a Rental unless they’re big fans.
Smallville – Season Nine arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on September 9th.