15 April 2011

Andy's Friday Five: Top 5 Smallville Episodes

Hello, and welcome to this new random feature! Random as in, it won't be every Friday, but I'll post 'em when I get some ideas flowing through this twenty-year old dried up noggin'. For my first installment of this feature, as the title suggests, I'm picking my favorite five episodes of SMALLVILLE to commemorate the show's final run of six episodes starting tonight at 7 PM, culminating in the series finale on May 13th. It's going to be a sad day. Anywhoozles, without further ado, Andy's Friday Five presents my top five favorite SMALLVILLE episodes! w00t! w00t!
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Season 4, Episode 1: "Crusade"
Airdate: 22 September 2004
Writer(s): Alfred Gough & Miles Miller
Directed by Greg Beeman

A lot of folks don't like season four, finding the whole dealio with the Four Elements and how all the characters find themselves intertwined to be a bit over-the-top, even by SMALLVILLE standards. I, however, love this season, and "Crusade" is a beautiful example of the show firing on all cylinders and giving the audience a truly spectacular 41-minute episode of awesomeness. Most will note this is the first instance of Kal-El flying, seeing as how he has completely embraced his Kryptonian destiny, and the visuals deliver every fanboys and girls hopes and dreams. It's friggin' awesome, I tell you, awesome! What intrigues me the most is Lex Luthor, who was poisoned by his good ol' daddy Lionel in the season three finale. His journey this season is riveting, and Michael Rosenbaum gives one hell of a stellar, complex performance. And for that reason, and for the characters' strong writing, I will forgive the creators for entirely abandoning that subplot about his blood needing to be cleansed every eight hours or so because of the whole being poisoned thing. Bad writers, bad. "Crusade" is also noteworthy for introducing Lois Lane to the SMALLVILLE mythology, played brilliantly by Erica Durance. In their scene together in the hospital, the chemistry between them is already quite evident, leading us to the great romance that begins in season nine. Overall, "Crusade" is top notch work, and gives me everything I want from a Superman/SMALLVILLE story.

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Season 4, Episode 22: "Commencement"
Airdate: 18 May 2005
Writer(s): Todd Slavkin & Darren Swimmer
Director: Greg Beeman

With regards to finales, SMALLVILLE usually pulls out all the stops, and "Commencement" is no different. We have a huge Superman moment, pictured to the left, and we have a major element of Superman mythology play out in this extended episode - the Fortress of Solitude's origins. And with a ticking clock until another meteor shower hits Smallville, what more fun can there be in this show? The most surprising thing is how the seasons storylines converge and are satisfyingly wrapped up here (with the exception of Jason Teague's subplot, which was resolved rather lousily). Plus the events of the hour lead us to The Caves (!!!), Lex following Clark, Chloe following Clark and knocking out Lex, Lana professing her love to Clark (plus smoochies!), and the Kent house battered and bruised by a meteor (but of course they survive...damnit). It's just a very satisfying episode with action, great character beats, and the super happiness of seeing Clark Kent get the frak outta high school.

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Season 5, Episode 1: Arrival
Airdate: 25 September 2005
Writer(s): Todd Slavkin & Darren Swimmer
Director: James Marshall

Yes, I know, you're probably thinking, another premiere? Apologies, but it's no coincidence these tend to be some of the best material SMALLVILLE produces. Here we have some gorgeous - yet strikingly fake looking - digital effects in the creation of the Fortress of Solitude, we have two Kryptonians who are looking for Kal-El and want a fight, we have a mysterious black spacecraft that lands in a field and will become a major part of season five, and we have Lex once again keeping secrets. Oh, and in the end of "Arrival", Clark losing his powers (for a episode and half...). And Clark and Lana smooching. And Chloe acknowledging she knows Clark's secret. That was a fun scene. And we also get the first use of the Phantom Zone in SMALLVILLE mythology! "Arrival" really is a big step forward for Clark. The last four seasons was the build-up, and "Arrival" is the kick in the arse to get Clark moving.

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Season 7, Episode 16: "Descent"
Airdate: 17 April 2008
Writer(s): Don Whitehead & Holly Henderson
Director: Ken Horton

Yes, SMALLVILLE has always been about Clark's journey in becoming the red cape and blue tights wearing Superman, but the pivotal attraction for me to this show is Lex Luthor. Similar to how engulfed I am by the STAR WARS prequels, I can't help but become so intrigued in watching a character who wants to do good end up succumbing to their dark side (hehe, dark side). For Anakin Skywalker, REVENGE OF THE SITH was his breaking point, and in SMALLVILLE, "Descent" is Lex Luthor's. Within the first ten minutes, Lex breaks his soul, killing his father in a fit of anger and tiredness. Not saying Lionel didn't have it coming - after all, over twenty years of lies and deceit will probably drive anyone into a craze - but this is the episode where the dark side of Lex truly begins to overcome him. Throughout the first couple of seasons, Lex has swapped between his light and dark personalities, becoming friends with Clark, and then being on not so friendly terms. Lex Luthor has been a utterly fascinating character to wait for over a hundred and fifty episodes, and "Descent" is a beautiful example of the richness of this individual, the multiple dimensions inherent in his personality. Lex aside, "Descent" is also a marvelously written and directed episode. The first ten minutes at LuthorCorp as Lionel and Lex engage in a verbal jest that ends badly, later at the Luthor Mansion as Lex is haunted by visions of his younger self - all marvelous material. "Descent" is SMALLVILLE at its highest point.

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Season 10, Episode 1: "Lazarus"
Airdate: 24 September 2010
Writer(s): Don Whitehead & Holly Henderson
Director: Kevin Fair

"Lazarus" deserves a best of award because this has everything I want from a series dedicated to a young man becoming a superhero: heroic acts, a resurrection (of sorts) of the arch villain, introduction of another Big Bad, and best of all, the set-up for a inner hurdle the hero must overcome, and in this instance, it's himself. For years, Clark has been guided to become a savior in part because he was told countless times by the voice of his dead father Jor-El that he has a 'destiny' (I hate that word), and that was what he was meant to become. "Lazarus" forces Clark to re-examine himself. At this point, he has got a little arrogant with his powers, and I frankly still don't understand where that click happened that made Clark want to be a superhero instead of just an insignificant farmer with superpowers. This episode marks Clark's journey to prove his worth, to say this is who I want to become because I want it. He needs to face his own darkness before he can become a symbol of light, and that is outstanding writing in my opinion. It's a gorgeous character arc that every hero needs to face, and I was super giddy watching "Lazarus" for the first time hearing that Clark will be facing himself in his final season as the Blur. In my opinion, "Lazarus" epitomizes Clark's journey and who Superman is. Major amounts of kudos, writers.

2 comments:

The Mad Hatter said...

Some others that are my own favorites...

From Season 2, "Rosetta"
From Season 6, "Justice"
From Season 7, "Persona"

David Bishop said...

I always thought they put out some pretty good openers and finales. Based on your list, I'd say that I'm not the only one.