InsidePulse DVD Review – Smallville: The Complete Fourth Season


Credit: DVDtown.com

Created by
Alfred Gough
Miles Millar

Cast:
Tom Welling …. Clark Kent
Kristin Kreuk …. Lana Lang
Michael Rosenbaum …. Lex Luthor
Allison Mack …. Chloe Sullivan
John Schneider …. Jonathan Kent
Annette O’Toole …. Martha Kent
Jensen Ackles …. Jason Teague
John Glover …. Lionel Luthor
Erica Durance …. Lois Lane
Terence Stamp …. Jor-El
Michael Ironside …. Lt. General Sam Lane
Margot Kidder …. Bridgette Crosby
Trent Ford …. Mikhail Mxyzptlk
Kyle Gallner …. Bart Allen
Sarah Carter …. Alicia Baker
Peyton List …. Lucy Lane

The Show

The Superman mythos has gone through several different forms over the years. After his initial inception in 1938 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in Action Comics #1, Superman has been seen and heard by the public in Comics, newspaper strips, a radio show, the amazing Fleischer animated adventures, a serial that included Atom Man vs. Superman, TV series, and four feature films from the 1970’s-80’s, the first being the best of its kind. In addition, Supes has been featured in Video games, toys and a mountain of varied children’s items.

Although Clark’s days as a boy have previously been covered in the first Superman film and the animated show that began in 1996, the best incarnation of Superman’s early days may be the series Smallville. Created by Al Gough and Miles Millar in 2001, Smallville looks at Clark Kent’s High School years and his relationships with his family and friends, including Lana Lang and Lex Luthor. Gough and Millar have constructed a well developed, character driven show with Clark (Tom Welling) having to deal with the development of his powers as well as a Superman sized helping of teenage angst. Their motto of “No Tights, No Flights” has kept the series grounded a bit, while keeping the show from just being an action series. Not that there isn’t plenty of action and intrigue. Part of the show’s fun has been showing Clark face up different foes that have been affected by the abundance of Kryptonite that can be found in the little Kansas town.

In season 3 of Smallville, the series focused much heavier on Clark’s destiny and whether or not he would rise up to meet it. Getting away from “Freak of the Week” type episodes, the show started to focus on Clark’s relationship with Lex Luthor (a fabulous Michael Rosenbaum) and the eventual turn Lex would have to make toward the dark side. When last we saw our cast of characters, all hell had broken loose. Clark had seemingly been pulled into a Kryptonian portal that would transform him into the man that would rule Earth. Jonathan Kent had gone into a coma trying to save his son. Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk) had abandoned Clark to try and find herself elsewhere. Lionel Luthor (John Glover) had been arrested and was awaiting his trial for murder, but in a Godfather-like stroke had seemingly eliminated his opposition by poisoning his son Lex and blowing up Clark’s nosy reporter friend, Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack).

Smallville’s fourth year begins with Crusade, an episode that does a great job of setting what happens for the rest of the season. First off, the episode brings two very important characters to the new year of the series. Most controversial is the introduction of Lois Lane (Erica Durance). While having Lois on the show is a big break with continuity, Durance brings a fire to the cast that was sorely needed. She’s a great Lois Lane, with lots of spunk and a wonderful repartee with Tom Welling. The two have a natural chemistry that has energized the show. Smallville has a history of breaking with tradition already with having Lex and Clark being friends and Jor-El being less than a benevolent father, but the series has always used breaks in continuity to their favor and Lois is no different.

The other introduction to the cast is Jensen Ackles’ Jason Teague, Lana’s new love interest. With Lois now on the show, the dynamic between Lana and Clark has now changed from doomed lovers to merely friends with a lot of baggage. Jensen Ackles does an admiral job of stepping in to give Lana a new direction and storyline. Jason has a big change in character toward the middle of the season and Ackles doesn’t miss a beat. The actor seems as if he were a seasoned pro on Smallville as Teague comes off as a fully developed character in his own right and not just an inserted fling for Lana.

Also important to the episode and the season is the appearance of three Kryptonian artifacts. Apparently legend has it that when the three are combined, they will lead to a wealth of knowledge like the world has never seen. The search for the artifacts is all consuming to several characters of the season and gives the episodes a lot of momentum. Many hidden facets to the characters’ personalities are revealed as betrayals and underhanded dealings happen early and often.

The season is loaded with great episodes as Clark’s final year in High School is marked with inner turmoil as he struggles with trying to simply live out his final of school as a normal senior without having to deal with the trouble and responsibility his powers bring. Early episodes Facade, Devoted, Jinx and Recruit all deal at least in part with Clark wanting to finally play football. The seeds of this subplot were sewn all the way back in the first season and it’s nice that they finally came back to it. Putting Clark in situations where he simply wants to interact with other students gives the show a better weight to its realism, even if it features a main character with super speed and heat vision.

Most season’s feature one great installment, but Smallville season 4 is so chocked full of entertaining moments, it’s hard to even decide which episode is the best. While Crusade has a plethora of cool moments including Lois’ entrance, Clark’s first flight, and um…Lana in a pretty long shower scene…, Transference may be the best episode of the DVD set. With Lionel Luthor stuck in prison and dying of liver disease, the series’ perennial villain makes a last ditch effort to escape. Using one of the artifacts, Lionel attempts to swap bodies with his son, only to have Clark interfere. This causes Lionel’s consciousness to go into Clark’s body, while Clark is left with Lionel’s deteriorating self and the desperate situation of trying to survive constant run-ins with prisoners.

The episode is a wonderful showcase for Tom Welling. With the subtle use of body language and a different inflection in his voice, Welling is completely believable as Lionel. He seems mesmerized as he learns of Clark’s powers and is absolutely hilarious in scenes where the highbrow Luthor is trying to fit in with the down-home Kent family. There is even a creepy scene in which “Lionel” shares a warm embrace with Martha Kent (Annette O’Toole), who he has been infatuated with for some time. John Glover also shows his acting chops and shines as “Clark”. After seeing Glover be the picture of evil for three seasons, it’s tough to look at that face and feel pity for it. Both actors do stellar work in this episode, which is one of the finest of the series’ entire run.

Its easy to take for granted the acting jobs done by the principle cast, but some really great work is done here. In Onyx, Lex splits in two, with one Luthor looking like the classic Superman foe of old. For those not happy with Hayden Christensen’s work in showing Anakin’s descent in the Star Wars Prequels, check out Rosenbaum as Lex here. Subtly over four seasons, Rosenbaum has crafted a character that has captured fans’ hearts just to turn around and break them as he travels down his eventual road to evil. Kristin Kreuk also does good work here. In Spell and other episodes throughout the year, Lana is inhabited by the spirit of an ancient evil relative. Watch as each time she is possessed everything about her changes, but she is in no way over the top about. Her demeanor shifts ever so slightly as to inhabit a totally different character.

Fans of DC Comics may or may not like other breaks in continuity as appearances from The Flash (Run), Mxyzptlk (Jinx), Lucy Lane (Lucy), and a certain Super dog (Krypto) make for fun episodes, while not strictly staying with DC’s origin’s for each. Former Lois Lane, Margot Kidder also makes a couple of appearances as well. The season does have the occasional misstep, as in episodes Ageless and Recruit, but overall things are kept really entertaining.

The season ends with an apocalyptic finale with Smallville getting hit with another meteor shower and the artifacts being up for grabs. The installment’s excitement never lets up as its ending has (Minor Spoilerage) Lana face to face with an alien spaceship, Lex shows nearly all of his true colors and Clark survives the disaster to get thrown across the globe. Commencement caps off a season of fun episodes and highly satisfying character work.

Score: 9.0/10

The DVD:

The Video

In short, the DVD transfer is great. Every episode is presented in an Anamorphic Widescreen with a ratio of 1.78:1. The picture quality is absolutely beautiful and the colors pop as the blues and reds jump off the screen.

Score: 9.0/10

The Audio

The audio here is just as good as its video counterpart. The show is presented in a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround that is just as good when you’re listening to Clark bust through a wall or listening to Lifehouse on the soundtrack.
Score: 8.0/10

SPECIAL FEATURES: Behind Closed Doors: Inside the Writers Room, Being Lois Lane, Deleted Scenes, Audio Commentaries, Bonus Disc

Behind Closed Doors: Inside the Writers Room: The Process of Writing an Episode: This is a 15 minute look at the writers on Smallville and what they go through to finsh a script for an episode. The process is a group effort with several staffers throwing out ideas about the show and the consensus taking the best ideas forward. Creative Consultant Jeph Loeb, the author of Superman For All Seasons, is featured very prominently in the documentary.

Being Lois Lane: Dana Delaney, Erica Durance, Margot Kidder, Noel Neill and other Portrayers Share Their Thoughts : This is a look at the evolution of the Lois Lane character on screen. Each of the ladies here played Lois Lane at one point or another and it’s interesting to look at how each approach differed from period to period.

Deleted Scenes: There are 21 deleted scenes for 11 episodes on the DVD set.

Gone– Chloe, Lois and Clark have a nice little scene following their reunion.

Facade – Abigail (Brianna Brown) and her mother discuss her physical problems. The scene is a bit redundant when looking at the whole episode

– Lois and Clark talk about their little investigation into a boy going crazy.

– Clark questions Abby about the accident. Once again, this scene is a bit redundant and its pretty easy to see why it was cut.

Devoted – Jason and Lana have a nice dinner, recalling the events of the episode. While the scene is nice enough, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before at this point.
Jinx – Clark and Lana argue about Jason’s and the nature of their relationship. Good scene here with some real intensity by both leads.

Spell – Clark assures Martha Kent that she is doing the right thing by going on vacation, right before all hell breaks loose.

– Clark, Lois, and Chloe all speak about the previous night’s adventure. This is a pretty funny scene with great wordplay between the three actors.

Bound – Lex’s Lawyer (Claudette Mink) threatens Clark to stay out of the investigation on Lex for murder.

Scare – Lionel plays chess with another inmate and uses the game as a metaphor for his strategy for life. The scene is captivating as John Glover really shows how you don’t need to be huge to have physical presence.

– Lex has a hallucination that involves marrying his mother and then her committing suicide. The scene is a bit heavy handed in its images, but Rosenbaum does give the scene some weight.

Pariah – Clark and his girlfriend Alicia (Sarah Carter) speak about how she doesn’t fit in. She had previously tried to kill several members of the cast in a season 3 episode.

– Lana and Jason speak about their trepidation about trusting Alicia.

– Jason threatens Alicia to stay away from Lana. The scene isn’t bad as it shows a bit of Jason’s dark side, but might be letting the cat out of the bag as far as his character goes.

Krypto – Clark is surprised by the strength of his new dog. The scene is funny, but there are plenty of those in the episode.

– Lionel and Genevieve Teague (Jane Seymour) have a great scene together where she makes veiled threats against Lex. This scene is fantastic as two pros do their stuff. On the other hand, there is a plot point that is nicely vague in the season, but is out in the open here.

Sacred – Lex examines a shirt that may be a map to one of the artifacts.

Onyx – This scene has “evil” Lex berating a Luthorcorp security guard. When his act goes awry, the guard gets shot for his troubles. Great stuff here as Lex is just oozing with evil charisma.

– The Kent family discusses Lex’s ordeal and how important Clark is the Luthor. There’s some nice foreshadowing here as we the audience knows the only path Lex can take.

Blank – Clark comes home after regaining his memory. Jonathan Kent (John Schneider) speaks about how the couple discussed not telling Clark about his origin, but how that would be unfair to him. This is a really nice scene with the Kent family. One of the best strengths of the show is illustrating where Superman would get his values from and this scene is one of hundreds where lessons are ingrained into Clark.

– Chloe sneaks into the Summerholt institute to save Clark. This scene just illustrates the great sense of humor the series has as Chloe uses some slight of hand to gain entrance.

Crusade – Audio Commentary by Co Creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, Executive Producer Ken Horton, and Stars Erica Durance and Annette O’Toole: This is a nice and informative commentary. The group makes an interesting point that Crusade was almost like a second pilot, as it has to re-establish several characters with new relationships. In addition to Lois and Jason’s intros, Clark cannot remember his past, giving the audience little grounding with identifiable characters. There’s also a discussion on Clark flying and how it was the first time Superman had flown since the evolution of CGI. Other anecdotes have Annette O’Toole working with Margot Kidder in the episode and Gough and Millar discuss how Superman’s Clark and Kal-El personalities were going to have a more elaborate fight then the one that takes place in the season premiere.

Transference – Audio Commentary by Co Creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, Executive Producer Ken Horton, and Star John Glover: Another good commentary here. Gough and Millar talk about how they really wanted to do this story way earlier, but the timing was never right until now. John Glover goes into detail about how he and Tom Welling prepared for the difficulty of the episode.

Spell – Audio Commentary by Director Jeannot Szwarc, Stars Kristin Kreuk, Allison Mack, and Erica Durance: This is the worst of the commentaries, but its still amusing. To be honest, the commentary is three girls giggling a lot and the episode’s director cutting in every once in a while. Still the track is not a total waste of time.

Bonus Disc featuring an episode of the series The Flash: The coolest feature of the set is an episode of the 1990 series The Flash. The series has a very Batman like feel to it, but not quite as dark. John Wesley Shipp’s interpretation of the Flash was pretty cool and I love the look of the costume. Adding this disc came as a complete surprise so kudos to Warner Brothers!

Score: 8.5/10