This is probably one of the most obvious statements I’ve ever made, but I think it’s time.
Duh. 10 seasons is a looooooooong time for a series no one who seriously writes about television criticism for a living cares about. Assuming the CW orders the normal 22 episodes, Smallville will finish its run with 218 episodes. That’s staggering, especially in today’s television environment. It began at the tail end of the WB’s cultural importance, survived the transition to the CW and its lack of funding or advertising support. It’s been legitimately good and legitimately bad over the years. But despite the constant “Is this show still on?” badgering from message board trolls, I honestly think that Smallville has deserved its long run on television. Or at least I don’t think it’s the worst thing to happen on broadcast television. It has a dedicated fanbase, one that always supports the series even if they don’t like certain characters and one that keeps the DVD sales high every year (something I consider a sign of fan dedication). And to speak candidly here, the Smallville fans are not Heroes fans — we know that the series isn’t the best on television, but enjoy it for what it is.
It has never been respected and for the most part, rightfully so, but for those of us who have been with the series since the beginning, this announcement is an exciting one. That’s because the major issues with the series, especially in the later seasons, all stem from a lack of awareness in terms of an ending. Since season five, the writers have crafted wonderful first halves that indicate an end is near. Then the pick-up comes in February or March and the stalling begins. It’s been beyond frustrating to watch as a viewer and this limbo has certainly dragged down the quality of the series. And so, as an educated fan of the series and a wannabe television critic, it makes perfect sense to actually announce the end before a season begins.
Not only does this mean that there will be some legitimate closure for longtime fans, but it will hopefully lead to a more exciting and consistent 10th season. As I said before, the writers can craft truly quality stories in short bursts, and I believe that with complete knowledge of the fact that these 22 episodes are it, they can actually sketch out a season-long arc that isn’t deflated at the last moment because the series has to stall the inevitable for one more season. This is especially true because the season finale ended in a way that suggested the end was near. It gave us the first indication of a new suit, instead of a red jacket/blue t-shirt combo or the Neo black get-up. It gave us a Lois who is now aware of and welcoming to Clark’s identities. It gave us a future where Lois and Clark are engaged/married, Lex is running for president and Superman is in full power, saving Metropolis at every turn. And most importantly, it gave us a Clark Kent who is fully ready to embrace his destiny as the savior of humanity, fully ready to become Superman.
As writers, you cannot turn away from that. You can’t turn away from the suit, the future or this Clark. Not anymore, not without slapping the audience in the face one last, extremely hard time. We have waited long enough for him to fly — which is now surely coming during the 200th episode — and more importantly, we have waited for Clark Kent to act like Superman. It’s time to stop screwing around, even if it has been caused by external factors like continuing renewals. Sure, Smallville should have probably ended three years ago and “no one” will really care about it when it ends next season. But sometimes origin stories take longer than expected, and that doesn’t mean they can’t end the correct way. I’m putting my skeptical trust in the series’ writers to bring the story home.