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Smallville - The Complete Fourth Season

Warner Bros. // Unrated // September 13, 2005
List Price: $59.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Scott Weinberg | posted September 20, 2005 | E-mail the Author
The Season

All my dreams are on the ground
Crawling' round and round and round
Somebody saaaaaaaaaave me
Let your waters break right through
Somebody saaaaaaaaaave me
I don't care how you do it
Just saaaave me, saaaave me
I've made this whole world shine for you
Just save, save
Come on, I'm still waiting for you

Anyone with even a passing affection for WB's Smallville knows that song inside and out, upside and down ... and they probably hear it while they're trying to fall asleep, too.

When I hear that tune (recorded by Remy Zero, btw) I know I'm in for some good, goofy, Superman-sized fun. Yes, TV geeks, it's true: The cold-hearted and perpetually cynical Scott Weinberg harbors a deep and devoted affection for the goofball X-Files / comic book amalgam known as Smallville. For all its pedantic plot twists, overbaked dialogue, and "aw-shucks" corn-pone-osity -- I'm actually a big fan of the show. To me, Smallville is like a big bowl of Cool Whip; you'll eat it because it's really tasty, even though you should probably be spending your time on something a little more substantial or nutritious.

But hey, I'm a sucker for the Superman mythology, plus there's something quaintly endearing about the young Supes stories and the way they've been wedged into a fairly convention teen-centric soap-opera story. Plus, Smallville is one of those "comfort" shows, the kind in which you always know that things will turn out OK and that the few dangling character threads will always be tabled for another day.

The story's simplicity itself: Teenager Clark Kent is forever trying to juggle "normal" adolescence while discovering his own amazing powers. Needless to say, our hero must deal with snooping pals, protective parents, and a whole host of dangerous doings in one of TVdom's most villain-producing burgs. (Second only to Buffy's hometown, of course.) It's all very broad and corny and cartoony ... and all of it works exceedingly well in the context of "Superman." Whenever the show gets too outlandish or sappy or (yes, even) silly, the Superfans can always sit back and think "Yeah, it's cheesy, but it'd still fit well within the pages of a comic book."

Clark's gang consists of the lovely Lana Lang, the ever-inquisitive Chloe Sullivan, Chloe's sassy cousin Lois (yes, Lois Lane!), and the devilishly duplicitous Lex Luthor. Toss in a few doting parents, Lex's perpetually scheming papa, Lana's bland ol' boyfriend, a few recurring characters, and an ever-fresh supply of colorful villains ... and there's your cast of players.

Forced to watch the first two seasons by a good friend who begged me to "stick with it" through the rough spots, I quickly became a true-blue Smallville fan ... even if I did consider my time spent with Clark Kent & Company as somewhat of a guilty pleasure. But I'm still a big enough fan to remember ol' Pete from Season 1 and also recognize the few recurring characters who pop up from time to time. I've watched the series in chronological order from beginning to end ... and that's how I've noticed that the show's starting to slip just a bit.

Don't get me wrong, Smallvillians, there's still plenty of good ol' goshdarnit fun to be found here, but Season 4 seemed to suffer from simple monotonitis; seemingly every episode deals with the standard Smallville material: possessions, amnesia, body-swapping, and the reliable old "freaks of the week." Good mindless fun with generous doses of super-heroism and aw-shucks sweetness -- but the season seemed to tread over the same territory time and time again. Not aggressively bad enough to qualify for "jump the shark" status, but watching Season 4 again, I get the impression that series creators Alfred Gough & Miles Millar are spinning their wheels just a bit. The same sense of sincerity and warmth is there from previous seasons, but there's simply too little in the surprise department.

Hardcore fans will find plenty to enjoy in Smallville's fourth season, but I say there was way too much time devoted to Lana's boring boyfriend, Jason, a lumbering subplot involving witchcraft got way too much screen time, and that the already well-established crush-triangles between Clark, Lana, and Chloe have, by now, been run effectively into the ground. But while I'd absolutely contend that Smallville's fourth season is its "weakest" one yet, it's still just comfy enough to keep the fans satisfied. (If fans consider S1 & S2 as "grade - A Smallville," then S3 is "B+" and S4 is "B-" -- although one small stretch of mid-season episodes manage to dip down into "C+" territory.) And if you're just jumping into the Smallville pond now, you should obviously start at the first episode. By the time you dig into this particular season, you'll love the show enough to be a little generous.

And hey, Season 5 is just around the corner; and with each new season comes a fresh chance of improvement.

Disc inventories follow, with episode synopses taken directly from the fan-friendly booklet that's packaged with the platters.

Disc 1

Crusade -- He's ready to seize his fierce destiny. Clark returns to Smallville as his alter ego, Kal-El ... but Martha may have a way to restore him to his former self. Lois Lane comes to investigate Chloe's presumed death. (Original airdate: 9/22/05)

Gone -- As Clark and Lois hunt for Chloe, Lionel sends a metal-morphing assassin to find and silence her. That may not be the only arrow in the magnate's quiver: Lois's father Gen. Sam Lane may be on Luthor's side. (9/29/04)

(Includes episode commentary with executive producers Alfred Gough, Miles Millar & Ken Horton and actresses Erica Durance & Annette O'Toole.)

Facade -- Beauty has a price. A radical Kryptonite treatment turns a Plain Jane into a hottie, but makes her kiss harmful. Clark wants to play football. And the Lana-Jason romance stays hidden. (10/06/04)

Devoted -- Don't drink the green stuff! Cheerleaders turn the football squad's electrolyte drink into a love potion so that the team (and new QB Clark) will be ideal boyfriends. Look out, Clark: Chloe mistakenly took a sip! (10/13/04)

Disc 2

Run -- Think no one is faster than Clark? That's what Clark thinks, too ... until he meets a clever, mysteriously empowered thief whose name is Bart, aka The Flash. Lana reveals the origin of her tattoo to Jason. (10/20/04)

Transference -- Clark isn't himself these days - he's Lionel. Simultaneous contact with a Kryptonian crystal causes Clark and Lionel to switch bodies, sending Lionel (as Clark) on a quest to exploit and enjoy his new powers. (10/27/04)

(Includes episode commentary with executive producers Alfred Gough, Miles Millar & Ken Horton and actor John "Lionel Luthor" Glover.)

Jinx -- A bookie who influences people's actions through his mysterious power of suggestion aims to control Clark during the championship game. Lex exerts his own clout over the Jason-Lana romance.

Spell -- Burned at the stake in 1604 for witchcraft, three women come back to life using Lana, Chloe and Lois as hosts for their spirits. Their intent: Find the Kryptonian power stones (but first they'll party a little!). (11/10/04)

(Includes episode commentary with director Jeannot Szwarc and actresses Kristin "Lana" Kreuk, Allison "Chloe" Mack, and Erica "Lois" Durance.)

Disc 3

Bound -- Clark's distrust of Lex grows as he helps his presumed friend confront a murder rap. When Jason's mother arrives in Smallville, Lana realizes the woman was in her dream of witches burned at the stake. (11/17/04)

Scare -- A living nightmare! A toxin accidentally released by LuthorCorp causes Smallville residents - including Clark and his friends - to think his or her worst fear is coming true. Jason breaks up with Lana. (12/1/04)

Unsafe -- Alicia, whose obsession for Clark is matched only by her superpower talent, returns and uses Red Kryptonite to make him say "I do" at a Las Vegas chapel. Lana decides a sexual relationship will win back Jason. (1/26/05)

Pariah -- Would life be better for Alicia and Clark if people knew she and he both had superpowers? She creates a false emergency aimed at revealing his secret to the person best able to tell the world: journalist Chloe. (2/2/05)

Disc 4

Recruit -- Metropolis U's big-time football program wants you, Clark! But Clark comes to a personal crossroads when he discovers the dilemma of Geoff, the superstar Met U. player who secretly has superhuman powers. (2/9/05)

Krypto -- Sit. Stay. Rescue! A dog Lois brings to the Kent farm has supercanine powers. The dog's strength is the result of secret LutherCorp experiments - strength that proves useful when Clark is overcome by Kryptonite. (2/16/05)

Sacred -- Trouble travels in twos. Jason and Lex are in China seeking a hidden Krypton power stone. Lana and Clark soon follow. But there's an eerie wild deuce in the whole quest: the Gertrude-Isobel connection / curse. (2/23/05)

Lucy -- Lois's sister Lucy Lane comes to town. For a vacation, she says. But can anyone believe what she says? It appears a loan shark is on her trail. Or is that what she wants people to think? (3/2/05)

Disc 5

Onyx -- Lex vs. Lex! A lab explosion separates Lex into his normal and evil personages. Evil Lex imprisons his normal self, discovers Clark's secret and invites him to rule the world with him ... or else! (4/13/05)

Spirit -- It's her big night! A car accident in a ravine filled with Kryptonite gives a wannabe prom queen's spirit the power to take over the bodies of others - including elected queen Chloe! (4/20/05)

Blank -- Is Clark's secret life like an open book? Zapped by a memory purge, he's prey to anyone (Lex!) who may try to pry information from him and dependent on a savvy friend (Chloe!) to keep him from revealing his powers. (4/27/05)

Disc 6

Ageless -- The Kents take in an infant found in a field ... and soon face a big problem: The child grows at an exponential rate, and his next surge of energy/growth could destroy the town. Lionel vies for one of the Kryptonian elements. (5/4/05)

Forever -- Last day of school! But you won't find Chloe. A student who wants high school to last forever holds Chloe, Lana and more in a secret, replicated school environment. The Luthor-Genevieve showdown escalates. (5/11/05)

Commencement -- It's pomp and circumstance time, with emphasis on the circumstance: Graduation is interrupted by an order to evacuate. Meteors are again headed for Smallville - and that's just one of the surprises in an awesome season finale. (5/18/05)

The DVD

Video: The episodes are presented in a fairly impressive Widescreen Anamorphic aspect ratio. Picture quality is above-average for a TV series, but there's some sketchy grain evident in even the brightest of scenes. You'll notice in most in the skin tones, but it's nothing fuzzy enough to mar your enjoyment of the episodes.

Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo all the way. Aural presentation's nothing to dazzling but the volume levels are consistent and the frequent pop tunes come through in fine form. Optional subtitles are available in English, Spanish, and French.

Extras

In addition to the trio of commentaries mentioned above, you'll also find a featurette on disc 5 and another on disc 6. The first is a 10-minute piece entitled Being Lois Lane, which features a brief history of Superman's main squeeze. Cinematic Lanes Noel Neill, Margot Kidder, Dana Delany, and Erica Durance share their thoughts on the character as well. The second featurette, Behind Closed Doors - Inside the Writer's Room, runs 15 minutes and gives us precisely what it promises: a peek at the creation process.

Scattered amidst all six discs are a healthy handful of deleted scenes, too.

The commentaries are informed and amusing, the pair of featurettes are skimpy-yet-enjoyable, and the deleted scenes are there for the hardcore Smallville lunatics. Not an overwhelming array of extras, but not too shabby either.

Final Thoughts

The relatively weakest and somewhat repetitive fourth season of a series that I consider a goofily enjoyable good time, this collection exists mainly for those who already own Seasons 1, 2, and 3. There's four or five episodes here that have real revisit value; the rest are perfectly watchable, but nothing more than that.

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