Sometimes origin stories take 10 years — Ranking the episodes of Smallville [Introductions and Episodes 195-185]

After the positive response to my ranked list of Lost and Office episodes, I just had to do another. Heck, even if there wasn’t a positive response for those two features, I probably would have done another one anyway because I love lists. I’ve been thinking about what series to tackle for nearly a month and finally decided on the one that I may be more familiar with that any other television series on air and one that is very difficult to organize based on the sheer number of episodes alone — Smallville.

The former WB and current CW series has aired a staggering 195 episodes (196 hours) in its nine-season run, some very, very good and some very, very bad — with a whole lot of just fine efforts in the middle. And although almost everyone in critical circles don’t give Smallville the time of day, I believe legitimate merit can be found in discussing the series and will always hold the series dear to my heart since it was the first major television series I watched on a weekly basis. So though this list will look odd amid recaps for the likes of Mad Men or even True Blood, I’m hoping that the feature will ignite conversation among the die-hard fans and inspire some of the jaded or uninitiated to take some interest or respect in a product that’s entering its unbelievable 10th season on television.

With that said, unlike my Office list, I’ve decided to rank each individual episode, from 195 to 1 instead of sticking them in various tiers. For a number of reasons, I’m much more confident in that process for Smallville (and dramas in general). Most importantly, dramatic television lends itself to full-episode analysis, whereas individual episodes of comedic television can rely on specific gags or moments to keep it afloat. Moreover, I’m hoping the individual rankings will push you folks to speak your mind. Perhaps I have an episode in the high 100s that you think deserves to be in the top 25 or vice versa. I also know that lists like this uncover personal basis against specific seasons, storylines or characters and I’m okay with that because I still think my opinion is valid and as straightforward as can be. Just know this: I’ve been with the series since the beginning, through the ups and downs so I respect how the series has evolved from a high school-reliant origin story to a middling melodrama and finally to a compelling actioneer.

Finally just a note: I haven’t quite planned out a tight-nit schedule for this list, and honestly, I don’t expect there to be one. External factors over the next few weeks will probably keep me from posting entries to the list on a daily basis, so I figure there’s no reason to say the entries will be coming and then not deliver. I definitely want to finish them by the end of the month, but again, no set schedule or even set number of episodes in each post.

To start things off, the worst of the worst, episodes 195 through 185.

195. “Hero” (S7): As great as it was to have Pete back, this episode convinced me that the series was dead creatively. From the horrendous and egregious product placement for Stride to the simply terrible set-up that tried to work in said product placement, this is the only episode I’ve skipped on subsequent DVD viewings because it’s just so awful.

194. “Subterranean” (S6): This season one-feeling episode awkwardly pushed the series into territory it should really never go: issue storytelling. “Subterranean” brought illegal immigrants and mole-like metahumans to Smallville. I think that sentence explains it all.

193. “Ageless” (S4): Amid nearly 200 episodes, there are bound to be ones with just horrible ideas that never feel right, even on paper. The rapidly aging, exploding baby from this episode is certainly one of those, even if it did bring Clark and Lana back closer together.

192. “Forever” (S4): The tail-end of season four really had some winners, didn’t it? I know season four was all about returning to the roots of Smallville High School and that’s where this “high school forever” crux comes from, but…no. The Teague-Luthor showdown in the woods aside, this is just an awful penultimate effort from a series that usually nails said episodes.

191. “Fragile” (S5): The series likes to put Clark in situations where he has to quasi-raise little, cute kids with powers as a way to teach himself something about having abilities, but this isn’t the strongest of those episodes. Throw in the first major Lex-Lana kiss and the writing staff should be embarrassed that they gave Tom Welling this episode to work with his first time in the director’s chair.

190. “Nocturne” (S2): The series was always willing to come up with dumb reasons or lame, flimsy characters to put between Clark and Lana, but makeshift werewolf-vampire-whatever Byron brought some of the most unintentional comedy.

189. “Drone” (S1): Clark running for class president was charming, but amid a season full of gimmicky, cheesy ideas, a hive of attack bees controlled by a jilted high school gal was just ridiculous.

188. “Krypto” (S4): I’m glad Clark was given a new friend and would never knock anyone for saving dogs, but this yet another season four episode that belongs in season one because it’s so simplistic and gooey.

187. “Magnetic” (S3): Yet another episode that pushed Clark into creepy stalker territory in the eyes of Lana, even though he was ultimately correct. The series went to that storytelling well way too often in the early years.

186. “Redux” (S2): I love Maggie Lawson as much as the next guy, but she’s wasted in this dumb Freak of the Week effort.

185. “Craving” (S1): For season one, this isn’t a totally terrible episode — until the gal feeds on a wild animal. That’s just too much. Amy Adams probably doesn’t like to talk about this job she did now that she’s a major award nominee.

There we go! Your take on the bottom batch of episodes? Am I totally wrong or spot-on?

19 thoughts on “Sometimes origin stories take 10 years — Ranking the episodes of Smallville [Introductions and Episodes 195-185]

  1. Thank you for doing this. I always love to do rankings, or make chart comparisons between seasons of how many episodes I liked or didn’t like. So it’s nice to see someone doing something similar. But wow, quite a grand scale, making a ranking of all the episodes. I’m not sure I could do that. I know I would get stuck at some point. Kudos to you, and I wish you luck in finishing this.

    As for the episodes you have listed so far… oh my god, yes to “Hero” being last! Unless I went over all the episodes, I’m not completely sure I could put it as the worst, but it’s certainly damn near close. I only liked Pete for a short time during the first season and after that I hated him. Episodes that focused on him were some of the worst, as they just wrote him as this horrible character and, in my opinion, the actor did a horrible job as well. The only good thing about episodes that focused on him was that he usually got the crap beat out of him, which made me cheer. However, that is not enough to make me ever want to watch some of those episodes again. I have not watched “Hero” since it aired, and I don’t intend to. What makes it even worse is that I thought the title “Hero” would be something great to use for Clark, possibly even one that could be used as the series finale title. But they wasted it with this piece of trash. :-/

    “Subterranean” is also quite horrendous. I think I have only watched that one once as well. It astounds me that they had that episode be the mid-season finale. They expected that episode to make people want to come back for more after the winter break? The only good part of the episode is the end with Lex in 33.1 and the cool music.

    With “Ageless”… I am not one of the ones that thinks it is so bad. Certainly shouldn’t be put this low on the list, in my opinion. It’s not great, by any means, but I know there are episodes that are much worse. There are a good amount of moments in the episode that make me smile, especially when the child was reading that book (The Velveteen Rabbit, I believe), so it’s not horrible for me.

    “Forever.” Now, this one I completely agree with. I hated this episode and can’t understand why anyone would like it. I’ve been telling myself to give it another chance, as I have hated other episodes and then really come to like them (like “Splinter”), but… I really don’t want to watch it. I don’t want to commit the time to try and give it another chance. My god, I might actually give “Hero” another shot before this episode.

    “Fragile.” I don’t agree with this at all. I used to think I didn’t like it that much, but on my most recent watching, I really enjoyed it. I also found Tom’s directorial debut to be very good; there were some wonderful moments and shots. I enjoyed the young girl’s performance and thought that she and Tom interacted very nicely. It wasn’t as good of a relationship as that with Ryan, but it was still quite good. And SO much better than the interaction Tom had with the kid in “Warrior.” It’s possible that Tom was just having a bad week during the filming of that episode, as I found him almost unbearable in his quality (or lack there of) of acting in that episode, but… the scene with the kid just felt extremely forced. Maybe it’s because they only had one scene together and not a whole episode to build a relationship… I don’t know. And I’ve completely gotten off topic. Anyway. I like “Fragile” a lot and don’t think it should be anywhere near the bottom. The only scene from it I can’t stand is where that idiotic foster mom knew that the glass in the mirror was going to shatter, but she just stood there, stared at it, and screamed. Deserved to die if she’s that dumb. But other than that, it’s a good episode for me.

    “Nocturne” is another one that I certainly won’t call it a favorite, but I don’t think I would put it *this* low. I can find things to enjoy about it. Although some parts of the plot are completely non-sensical. But there are good moments, especially the scenes with Lionel & Martha. It’s also lends to the fact that Lionel knew about the Traveler way before he found out Clark’s secret, with him doing tests to have a person be given power by the sun. Yay, it worked… too bad it turned the subject evil, but hey… trial and error and all that jazz. 🙂

    “Drone.” I hate bees. Again not sure where I would put this episode without going over all of them, but I don’t mind it being this low. Other than some of the fun of Clark running for class president, this episode is pretty bad. Oh, but here’s a funny story… at least I think so. There’s some person in our area running for congress named Terry (or Terrie) Clark. It’s a woman, but that doesn’t matter. They call our house a lot to get support and the Caller ID reads “Clark for Congress.” It always makes me giggle and think of this episode.

    “Krypto” is such a ridiculous episode and I’m so glad you placed it here. I don’t get why so many people love it, it’s REALLY bad. The only thing it has going for it is the dog. That dog is awesome and it made me go “aaaw” a million times during the episode. But it doesn’t change the fact that the episode itself is just BAD.

    “Magnetic” is another one that isn’t my favorite, but I’m not able to see why people hate it so much. It’s nowhere near the best and I don’t watch it often, but it’s not one of those ones that makes me angry to just think about, or where I refuse to watch it. Too bad that guy in it turned crazy. Other than that he seemed nice.

    “Redux” is a pretty basic Freak of the Week and kinda bad, but I’m not sure I would put it this low on this list. But I can certainly understand why someone else would.

    “Craving.” I completely agree with you. It’s really not that terrible of an episode and I feel quite bad for Amy Adams’s character, but… eating the deer completely turns me off from the episode. I think I’ve only watched it twice. But if they had skipped the deer eating, then I’d feel better about it. And if she had succeeded in eating Pete… that would make me REALLY happy. Although I’m not sure I hated him at that point. I’ll have to check to see if that episode is after “Nicodemus” or not (which is when I started to hate him). Even if I didn’t hate him then, it sure would have saved me a lot of pain. Ah well.

    Looking forward to more of these. It’s fun to read someone else’s opinion and I just love discussing Smallville in general. And if you put “Checkmate” in the next batch or two, I may just have to give you a virtual hug. 🙂

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  2. To many of what I would consider harmless episodes on your list. Sure most of them aren’t that great, might be slightly on the boring or not so great premise but there is much worse where Clark comes off terrible that I would rate lower. Of you bottom 10 only 1 would make my bottom 10(Ageless) and one other would make my bottom 25(Hero)

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  3. Sorry. I don’t mean to criticize but right off the bat but I would have to disagree with you choice for #195.

    Yes HERO was bad but in my opinion THIRST was the “worst of the worst”. Ffollowed by SACRED. Don’t get me wrong I don’t HATE these episodes; even the “worst” episodes have something redeeming in them (in fact I can think of a good thing to say about every single episode of Smallville). The only thing is out of all 196 (I count Absolute Justicew as two episodes) these are the only two episodes that had me actually looking at the clock to see when they would be over.

    Secondly, eventhough Javier in SUBTERRANEAN was the fake-est Mexican I’ve ever seen (I mean seriously, the three words of Spanish he spoke were HORRENDOUS) and the “big battle” between Clark and Mr. McNally was nowhere to be found, the writers made up for it with (in my opinion) one of the best lines and gretest disses Smallville has ever delivered:

    Clark: All he’s trying to do is find his mom!

    Martha: I know, but we have to go through the proper legal channels.

    Clark: Was it legal when you forged my adoption papers? I’m an illegal immigrant, Mom. You’ve been harboring me for over seventeen years!

    IN YOUR FACE AMERICA! lol.

    Anyways, beside those three things I pretty much agree with you choices. Great job with the list by the way, this is the perfect way to reminisce and get me pumped for the final season. XD

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