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?