There are only a few quality television shows that I think were still good in their seventh season, and unfortunately, I would not count Smallville among them, despite some standout episodes. In fact, an avid watcher of the show, I felt like hanging up my TiVo for this particular season. But while the writing may have been less than stellar, we can't ignore the important moments that befell our Smallville superhero, Clark Kent (Tom Welling, Cheaper By the Dozen).
When last we left Clark and his merry band of friends and enemies, Lana Lang (Kristen Kreuk, EuroTrip), the love of Clark's life, had faked her death to get away from her tyrannical husband Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum, Racing Stripes). Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack, The Ant Bully), Clark's best friend and fierce reporter for the Daily Planet, was trying to help a cousin, stabbed Lois Lane (Erica Durance, House of the Dead), and Lex had fallen into the river when the Reeves Damn broke, presumably to his death.
Ah, but death doesn't come quickly to any of these folk. In the seventh season, we are introduced to Kara (Laura Vandervoort, The Lookout), Clark's true-blue cousin from Krypton. Her spaceship had been stuck under the river, but when the damn broke, it brought her to the surface. It was she who saved Lex from drowning. We also see a return from the Green Arrow, a.k.a. Oliver Queen (Justin Hartley, A Way With Murder), who, for a time, was Lois Lane's main squeeze on the show. Meanwhile, there's still a scheming Lionel Luthor (John Glover, Paytback), Lex's father, to deal with, and Jimmy Olsen (Aaron Ashmore, The Stone Angel), the photographer at the Daily Planet--and Chloe's boyfriend--has no idea any of this is going on. If you want to go in watching season seven without a clue, I understand. A word of warning, as, minor spoilers are below.
There are some highlights in the seventh season of what used to be a fantastic show, one being the murder of a fairly major character. The biggest event that occurred this season was the addition of the new Krypton, Kara, known in the Superman comics as Supergirl. She was sent to earth to find Clark. So as Kara tries to get used to life on earth, Clark tries to adjust to finally having Lana in his life who eventually returns to Smallville after a brief stint in China. Although she's kind of a different Lana; she becomes obsessed with trying to take out Lex, even setting up a foundation to help meteor-infected individuals, which is just a front to spy on Lex.
That's right, Lex isn't dead. How could he be? He hasn't even discovered Clark's secret yet. But, what's interesting is that Kara was the one who saved Lex from drowning in the river after the damn broke. His obsession this season is finding someone called the "traveler." This someone was being protected by a group called "Veritas." Several members of the group included Lionel, Oliver Queen's father, and Dr. Virgil Swan. Nearly everyone in the group is now dead, except for Lionel. And Chloe, whose meteor power is the ability to heal both others and herself, tries to hide her meteor powers from Jimmy, something that causes a strain on that relationship. So much so that Jimmy falls away from Chloe, briefly taking up with the exciting Kara.
In more relationship news, Lois discovers the truth about Oliver Queen and his other superhero identity. Although Oliver really wants to be with Lois, Lois understands that his destiny is much more than being her boyfriend. But Lois is pretty busy as well; she is now a reporter at the Daily Planet, which now has a new editor with a surprising relation to Lex. The Green Arrow also first discovers a new superhero whose thing is all about justice called Black Canary (Alaina Kalanj, Serving Sara) in the episode titled "Siren."
The final battle begins when Brainiac, a.k.a. Milton Fine (James Marsters, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) returns, dead set on destroying earth and creating a new Krypton. Brainiac does something to Lana that leaves her mind sort of blank, with a vacant, glazed expression of her face. But this fight just leads into the bigger conflict; Lex finally finds what Veritas was trying to hide; an object that would control the Clark, the traveler. Both Lex and Clark meet at the Fortress to fight the ultimate battle, and that's all she (or they) wrote.
(Resume reading if you've skipped ahead). In a season of mostly disappointing episodes, the best few were toward the end, including "Veritas," "Descent," and the finale, "Arctic." With certain shows, it's easy to see where things hit the skids. In Smallville's case, I would probably consider it the introduction of Supergirl, Kara. When you can't make things happen with the characters you have, you introduce another one, granted, at least she has a history with the comics, but I suppose from a writing point of view, it enables more stories.
This season was replete with product placement, most notably the gum company, Stride. The characters are chewing it, going into a gum factory, and it's more than a little cheesy. Now that Michael Rosenbaum and Kristin Kreuk have left the show (Kreuk is slated to appear in a couple of episodes in the eighth season), I do wonder how long they have left to go in the story of Clark Kent. There may not be much life left in this show, and it's more important to go out with dignity than to grasp at flimsy storylines, something I think they did quite a bit in the seventh season.
1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen which looks good, I've gotta say. There's quite a bit of color to be found in the season, and images look pretty good, although it's a step down from the high definition discs that are currently available. However Smallville remains one of the better (read: high production values) looking shows out there.
Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, which is encouraging considering how much action is packed into the course of a season; I picked up a bit of speaker panning and subwoofer engagement, and the dialogue was recorded well for the most part, and has always been fairly solid on the sonic side of things.
Seriously short on extras; only two commentaries, no gag reel. It's just sad. And what is included is a fairly poor showing. I mean, if you don't have high-quality episodes, at least put some effort into the extras. There are deleted scenes though on nearly each episode, and you can play all of the deleted scenes on each disc at once, or play all the deleted scenes from each episode. It's not broken down by scene, just by episode. In some cases, I thought the deleted scenes were definitely a different direction for their respective episodes, and using them might have improved the episodes. For example in "Kara," Chloe sees Kara before Clark does in an interesting moment.
The commentaries are all on Disc 3; one for "Persona" with Executive Producer Ken Horton, Director Todd Slavkin, and Glover. They talked about how Welling's acting was such a subtle difference when he was playing Bizarro and the plenty of early morning shoots, like 2:30 and 3 a.m. Apparently, the muted dialogue filmed in the Isis Foundation is because the set is so close to train tracks. They also mention James Marsters, who, according to the group, has a different speech pattern than the other actors, very staccato. John's comment about working with Rosenbaum is quite amusing; "it's like Heaven and Hell at the same time." According to the crew, Rosenbaum is a big clown and mimic. In "Siren," we have Executive Producers Al Gough and Miles Miller, Writers and Executive Producers Kelly Souders and Brian Peterson, and Hartley. Gough and Miller mention that they got a lot of flack last season for not having any commentaries so they "reinstituted" them for this season. It's kind of sad that adding two commentaries is how they think they could satisfy the fans. Since Hartley is included in this commentary, course he has to talk about physicality. He mentions that compared to Welling, he looks like Lana in size. Also (and I didn't know this, being a comic book plebe), the Lois/Green Arrow relationship has no history in the comics. Comments were made about the looming writer's strike that happened while this season was filming. Overall, both commentaries are pretty interesting; there was a beaucoup of new information revealed, and I was surprised that the groups worked together well. There was essentially no dead air and no simple watching as happens often during commentaries.
Disc 6 holds the remainder of the special features, which include "Supergirl: The Last Daughter of Krypton" (17:40), an interesting look at the development and origins of Supergirl comes from comments by notable people including the president of DC Comics and even Helen Slater, who played Supergirl in the 1984 movie of the same name. Supergirl came into the comics scene in 1959, a time when women were really relegated to certain roles, and that was reflected in the comics at the time. "Jimmy on Jimmy" (23:00) covers the role of the newspaper photographer, as four Jimmy Olsens appear here, including Jack Larson, who played the bow-tie wearing photographer in 1951's the Adventures of Superman, Marc McClure, the Jimmy Olsen from the older Superman films, Sam Huntington, the version of Jimmy Olsen from the recent Superman Returns film, and finally, Aaron Ashmore, Smallville's resident Jimmy. This was a lot of fun to watch, actually, although, I'm not crazy about the addition of Huntington. One film does not a Jimmy Olsen make. I'm guessing the DVD production people just wanted to have another Jimmy. The age-distanced foursome talk about their respective eras as Olsen and shared stories including how they were all offered the role, about the look, and where they think Jimmy will finally end up. I didn't know this, but apparently. The bowtie that Jack Larson wore as Jimmy is now in the Smithsonian. "Smallville Legends: Kara and the Chronicles of Krypton" (21:00) are six animated episodes run a total of 21 minutes, they're all a little too generic, and the animation is very 1995-Disney like. If you're a kid, or have a kid, they might watch these, but otherwise, pass. "Smallville Visions" is a series of static comic book frames that seem to be from the episode in season seven titled "Hero" and work best of a personal computer, as a disclaimer advises. It might have been my computer, but I had problems navigating the frames.
If you like at least 75 percent of a show or film, you'd usually purchase it, yes? If you stick by that rule then Smallville The Complete Seventh Season should NOT be on your wish list. However, it's Clark Kent, Superman, and that stands for something on its own. So, while I only liked 30 percent of this season, I watched every bit of it to not miss any of the momentous events that Clark went through. I would advise the writers to stick to the main character's inner struggle with who he is and what his place is in the universe will be. Smallville needs you Clark, but the world needs you more, and I need some better episodes to get me to stick around with this series.