Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Smallville - the series finale and possible spin-offs

I’ve only been a big fan of the show starting in the ninth season with the two-part Justice Society episode. Until then, I only watched occasionally when there was a guest super-hero appearance or when there wasn’t anything better on. I was a huge fan at the very beginning but I stopped watching in the second season, back when the formula was “introduce meteor rock to someone Clark goes to school with” + “they develop a power and turn evil” + “Clark keeps identity secret from friends while exposing it to new villain” = “Clark and Lana talking about secrets in the barn (which is the way every episode ended back then).” But when season 9 was released on Blu Ray, I bought it and seasons 7 & 8, watched all three seasons and really enjoyed them.

In order to gage my reaction to the finale, I went over to to see how others were reacting to the finale and the people who identified themselves as fans from the beginning gave it high marks. I’ve had a few days to digest the series finale and really think about what I thought about it closing out the series.

My expectations aside, I was really happy with the way that it ended. Although I’m about to go into depth about the lowlights of what I thought were the shortcomings of the finale, I just wanted so much more stuff – another season’s worth. I’ve just become a fan again and may be a little bitter that it’s over.

Lex being back was a highlight and a lowlight for me. He’s back and giving Clark yet another speech about how special and important he is to the world (this is in addition to hearing about it at length from his mother and Lois in the same episode). Also, I don’t know about this toxin stuff that robs you of your memory – was the toxin discussed in a previous episode? – and I don’t know how many years of memories it took away from him. But, Lex being restored to the mythology with no memory of Clark having superpowers is a highlight.

Tess made two major contributions before dying in this episode: killing Lionel (which made me cheer) and robbing Lex of his memories. Tess’ character arc throughout this series, starting in season 8 until the finale has been all about redemption and the character made a complete 180 and her loyalty to the team stands as the ultimate example of Clark’s influence. Clark always says there’s good in everyone and Tess gets her warning out about Apokolips, foils Lionel’s plan to kill her (by killing him), and dies in order to get close enough to Lex to put mind-erasing toxin on him. She goes out a hero – taken as a whole, Tess is an amazing character.

Clark convincing Oliver he’s strong enough to fight Darkseid’s influence was awesome. That’s what Clark does – inspire. And Oliver getting rid of Darkseid’s influence fills him with the power of light necessary to destroy Darskeid’s minions (even if I wanted that battle to be Green Arrow with some of the JLA vs the minions). All of the stuff with Oliver and Chloe was great – it’s nice to see that have a happy ending.

If Jonathan had only shown up for the wedding and in the fortress, it would have been a highlight. All the, “don’t forget where you came from,” crap clogged the first hour of the finale as did the Jonathan standing around stuff. So by the time Jonathan was at the wedding, the emotional impact was gone for me. It would have been nice if we only saw Jonathan in the fortress so it would have been surprising and nostalgic (I might have cried a little). But the stuff in the fortress about being proud of his heritage remembering the lessons both his fathers taught him was great.

A lowlight was the final confrontation with Darkseid in Lionel’s form. I thought that the fight should have been better (especially since the Doomsday fight took 5 seconds and the Darkseid fight in Superman/Batman: Apocalypse was bone-crunching and 10 minutes long). I also thought the confrontation should have come after Clark pushes Apokolips out of orbit while he was wearing the tights and that Darkseid should have appeared as the shadowy-menacing figure he’d been all season long and not as Lionel. Instead of spending the money on Apokolips CGI (which was a pretty weak threat and didn’t add much to the story), you could have had an awesome Darkseid CGI fight.

It was also a lowlight that you never clearly see Clark in the suit – it’s always a small CGI Superman flying around with close-ups of his face. I haven’t seen anything on the internet about this, but my guess is that Tom didn’t actually put on the uniform to prevent some jerk from taking a picture of him and posting it on the internet which would have destroyed the surprise. Still, we’ve known from the end of the last season when Martha gives Clark the uniform that he’d be wearing it at some point so it really wouldn’t have been that big a surprise.

But it was a highlight that Lois was the first to see him in the suit after doing the iconic plane-save Superman has done dozens of times in various media. It would have been awesome to see the other heroes’ reactions to the suit up close (Oliver reacted to it a bit but at the speed he was going, he could only really see a red/blue blur).

Most of the appeal of the show for me was that many heroes could stop by to share adventures with Clark. I hoped that the finale episode would feature the formation of the Justice League since the previous episode introduced a ‘Legion of Doom’ type team and that both teams would fight it out. At the very least, I expected Aquaman, Cyborg, and Impulse to show up to help Clark and Green Arrow out.

I felt the cold feet story was a huge time waster. It could have been this cheerful charge to the alter that made fans happy and ended up being this melodramatic event that ended with them not being married until 7 years in the future. Seriously? They waited another seven years to exchange vows? Thanks for not letting us see the happy occasion (that’s sarcasm).

The ending was also a highlight – Tom ripping open the shirt to reveal the “S” as John Williams iconic score to the first Superman movie played in the background.
I’m sure that I loaded this episode down with a lot of unrealistic expectations and that when I see the tenth season again I will appreciate it so much more.

Still, there was a rumor about the WB possibly considering developing the Teen Titans’ Raven as a replacement. I haven’t heard anything about that since the one article so I decided to make a list of 5 possible Smallville spinoffs.

Zan and Jayna star in “The Wonder Twins”: I know the cartoon versions were never popular but Smallville’s Wonder Twins were enthusiastic youngsters who gleefully fought crime and idolized The Blur. In this series we’d learn about these two who were orphaned at a young age and had to depend on each other from foster home to foster home before discovering they had powers. Now they’re out on their own learning to fight crime while going to college and working part-time job at the library.

Green Arrow and Chloe star in “Watchtower”: Chloe and Oliver move to Star City to start a new life only to discover that the more things change, the more they stay the same. This series follows the pair as they discover and train new heroes. Mia, Oliver’s first apprentice, co-stars as someone who’s still in training but is still more seasoned than the rookies they’re training. And when someone is done being helped, Chloe and Ollie help them get settled some place new or help them mend fences with family members. There are a lot of introduced and new characters to play with and Oliver’s public identity will make things difficult on them from time to time.

Impulse, Arthur Curry, Cyborg, Martian Manhunter, and Black Canary star in “Justice”: The budding Justice League take their marching orders from a mysterious business man named Max Lord. Max gives them a headquarters and new uniforms and finds missions where innocents are being threatened and need saving. Unfortunately Max has a few secrets including mind control which he’s using to influence the team to carry out his orders. In order to become the heroes the world needs, they’re going to have to ban together to protect from threats inside and outside their inner-circle.

Zatanna stars in “Zatanna”: Zatanna is travelling the country and abroad trying to locate all the objects her father has cursed. In her quest she’ll run into other magical heroes and even teams of heroes like The Teen Titans. Imagine a Zatanna/Raven team-up. To earn a living she’ll perform magic to sold-out crowds and sometimes take side-jobs as a supernatural detective of sorts.

Booster Gold and Blue Beetle star in “The Brave and The Bold”: Booster Gold is making a splash as the second-most popular hero in Metropolis while mentoring Jamie on being a hero. The scarab is a powerful object and exerts a lot of influence on Jamie but Booster’s faith and friendship will help him control it. With Booster’s big ego and Jamie’s humility, they’ll both be teaching each other lessons while fighting crime.

I figure these spinoffs are possible since we don’t really know where the other heroes are when we go 7 years into the future in the finale. And all five of these spinoffs have two things in common: 1) Access to all the Smallville characters which could result in Tom Welling showing up in costume for an adventure or Lex causing trouble, 2) access to all past adventures and mythology which means that Zod could still find a way out of the Phantom Zone or Doomsday could dig himself out, and 3) viewers will feel less like they’re getting to know a new environment and more like they’re seeing a new corner of the DC Universe.

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