Waiting for Superman: Week five part two: Ranking the episodes of Smallville (again)

With only five more weeks of Smallville, there are mixed emotions in the TVS headquarters. To work out those conflicting feelings, I’ll be writing a pre-episode piece every week from here on out until the final episode on May 13. You can the first five pieces hereherehere, here and here if you missed them.

And now we come to the final post in this mini-series. This past summer, I ranked the episodes of Smallville through the first nine seasons. In celebration of the final episode this evening, I decided to go back to that list and integrate this season’s previous 20 episodes into that original list. My thoughts on all the other episodes are basically the same, so the only that’s really been changed are the rankings of those episodes based on my inclusion of this season’s offerings. I am most certainly just copying and pasting my thoughts on those episodes from this summer. Clearly, this list leaves out the finale, but I’m mostly okay with that. I’ll be willing to reconsider my list for a third and final time after “Finale,” but I have to imagine that it will come very close to the top 10, maybe even top five. In any event, here we go. All 215 episodes of Smallville, in order.

215. “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.

214. “Fortune” (S10): Smallville is never beyond lifting plots and stories from other major popular culture touchstones, but its version of The Hangover was embarrassingly bad. I am all for the series dipping into a lighter, more fun tone, but if that dipping involves Clark drunkenly destroying public property and almost thinking he got married to Chloe for basically no reason, no thanks. It’s really unfortunate that this is Chloe’s unofficial last hurrah, she deserved so much better. The writers of this episode should be thankful for Stride, that’s the only thing keeping this episode from the VERY bottom.

213. “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.

212. “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.

211. “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.

210. “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.

209. “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.

208. “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.

207. “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.

206. “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.

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

204. “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.

203. “Kinetic” (S1): Giving Whitney something to do was a smart decision. Kryptonite-powered tattoos, not so much.

202. “Thirst” (S5): Most of the tweets and comments I received from the first entry were about my decision to not put this episode at the very bottom, and for good reason. However, this episode was at least fun to watch, with its weird Chloe voice-overs, Carrie Fisher guest turn and general camp. This low on the list, those things can help raise an episode a few rungs. But make no mistake: “Thirst” was an awfully bad hour of television.

201. “Reaper” (S1): I tried really, really hard to not shove all of season one’s more simplistic and goofy episodes down here at the bottom, but aside from the few beats with Whitney and his father, this episode was totally forgettable.

200. “Fade” (S5): This episode played up the Clark-Lex animosity fine, but I could never swallow much of the Lex-Lana relationship or how it affected Clark emotionally.

199. “Shimmer” (S1): Scornful women coming after Lex is a story well the series often went into in the bald villain’s time on the series, oftentimes to sort-of lame results. Just like this one.

198. “Hypnotic” (S5): This episode brought the end of the Clark-Lana relationship, even though they’d be breaking up for a few episodes in a row. Unfortunately, the hypnotizing took any real heft out of the break up, just like the series always tended to do with those two crazy kids.

197. “Witness” (S2): I have nothing against this episode, it just doesn’t bring much to the table. It’s not overly bad or overly entertaining, either. Meh.

196. “Sleeper” (S7): I actually think this episode is kind of fun and I am glad Jimmy was given the star treatment he deserved, but randomly turning him into a secret agent was absolutely ridiculous. Ab-so-lutely ridiculous.

195. “Static” (S6): Again, great that Jimmy was given some love, but the villain is one of the series’ dumbest and pushing Clark out of the main story is never, ever a good approach.

194. “Visitor” (S2): The idea of Clark running in to more Kryptonians isn’t totally out of the ordinary based on what we have seen over the series’ run, but it was obvious from the get-go that Cyrus was never going to be that person, so this episode is full of false drama.

193. “Tomb” (S5): I respect that this episode tried to pursue Chloe’s possible insanity and it actually works as a creepy murder mystery, but it was the type of episode that doesn’t work with the usual Smallville vibe. It felt like the series’ producers and writers had watched a disc of Supernatural on DVD and then broke a story idea.

192. “Mercy” (S5): And just as the TPTB surely ingested some Supernatural before “Tomb,” they must have had a “Saw” marathon before producing the Lionel-centric “Mercy.” Man, the villain’s goofy, tin foil mask was enough to make me sigh.

191. “Wither” (S6): Deadly vines! Lexana sex! Ew.

190. “Slumber” (S3): I can’t even describe what the hell happened in this episode, despite its odd entertainment value.

189. “Hug” (S1): Another okay season one episode that I can’t say I hate, but couldn’t find anything overwhelmingly redeeming about it to put it any higher.

188. “Devoted” (S4): Season four was as light-hearted as the series gets, and this one was pretty stupid. However, Clark going to the pool party with Lois and Chloe and having to hook up with the cheerleader as a way to get information? Awesome.

187. “Wrath” (S7): Lana’s string of destruction makes sense with her character, but that’s the point. In later years, Lana became too hard, too intense and just too dark for her own good and watching her terrorize other characters once she has powers was not enjoyable at all.

186. “Power” (S8): I hate to keep knocking on Lana, but giving her powers for good is 100 times worse than giving her powers for one episode. Thankfully, Cassidy Freeman and Tess keep this episode from being even more awful.

185. “Roulette” (S9): Much like Lana, Chloe has been too willing to go to dramatic extremes in later seasons and her attempts here to “save” Oliver by organizing another “Saw”-riffed deadly game is downright ridiculous. Would be lower if Justin Hartley didn’t actually sell this crap so well.

184. “Collateral” (S10): Another season ten episode, another narrative stolen directly from someone else. This time? The Matrix. Chloe’s anticipated to the series was mostly a misfire, despite a few cool ideas and some decent character moments for Clark and Lois both.

183. “Noir” (S6): This is the better of the two Jimmy-centric episodes and should be lauded for its solid set design and sense of era, but the story is ultimately fairly frivolous and the reasoning behind the specific approach doesn’t really hold up beyond, “Hey, let’s do a film noir episode.”

182. “Obscura” (S1): The sweet Lana-flying-towards-the-screen explosion that was used in the credits forever aside, this is another season one episode that’s mostly inoffensive, but doesn’t lend itself to enjoyable re-watches in retrospect.

181. “Fierce” (S7): Awful CW synergy, a season one-esque plot and the return of Lana when she really should have been dead — Yeah, this one sucks.

180. “Spell” (S4): This is by far, the silliest episode is Smallville history. However, it’s always fun to watch when I re-watch on DVD, something I can’t say for a lot of the episodes below it. Clark dancing is enough to make it to this still-low spot.

179. “Trespass” (S6): Lana has a stalker! Shocking!

178. “Action” (S7): Clark leaving the prop cape on the fence while telling Lana that she and the farm is all he needs makes me want to vomit. Hold on a second, let me go do that.

Okay, I’m back. Ugh.

177. “Supergirl” (S10): I’ve never been a big fan of the Kara character and her first of two appearances in the final season did very little to change that opinion. The introduction of the Gordon Godfrey was pretty fun, but there was no need for the criticisms of Clark this late in the game. Sigh.

176. “Velocity” (S3): Poor Pete Ross, the few times he was given a major spotlight, the episodes didn’t turn out so hot. I’m surprised it took the series this long to come up with meteor rock-fueled cars as a way to riff on “The Fast and The Furious.”

175. “Jinx” (S4): Much like a number of season four’s early episodes, this one is fun, harmless and fairly re-watchable, but still very, very goofy.

174. “Escape” (S9): Apart from the hilariously awkward dialogue between Clark and Oliver at the breakfast table, this episode felt like it was completely lifted from a fan fiction web site. In fact, I would actually believe that the production team literally stole this from a fan, though I’ve read better fan fic than this.

173. “Recruit” (S4): Clark playing football never sit well with me, so I never totally cared that he eventually chose not to play after the events of this episode.

172. “Reunion” (S6): While it was nice to dip into Oliver’s and Lex’s past, by this point in the series, I had grown tired of the “Lex had it so tough!” stories and an astral protection killer felt ridiculous even for Smallville.

171. “Fanatic” (S5): This is an okay episode that wouldn’t normally stand out, but it’s dropped right in the middle of the totally awesome early season five run from the premiere to “Vengeance,” making it seem even suckier.

170. “Cool” (S1): For whatever reason, this is one of my favorite season one episodes and still one of the best Freak of the Week efforts.

169. “Crisis” (S3): I like toying with the space-time continuum as much as the next guy, but what a weak end to the promising Adam story, right?

168. “Harvest” and 167. “Isis” (Both S10): I have difficulty separating these two episodes from the latest season. Both of them focus on Clark and Lois and the revealing of secrets (which is very good) and both of them are mostly terrible outside of the chemistry between Tom Welling and Erica Durance. The two of them are tremendous together and I like how the series dealt with The Secret, but c’mon: These two episodes are completely stupid, both in theory and in execution.

166. “Doomsday” (S8): This might seem low, but I’ll say this: “Doomsday” is the most disappointing episode in the series’ history. The last 25 minutes of this episode are stupid, illogical, cheap, messy and just so enraging because the season that led up to it had been damn good.

165. “Suspect” (S2): A fine whodunit. I don’t know what else to say.

164. “Quest” (S7): The end of season seven is obviously rushed and hackneyed, and the dialogues about Travelers and Veritas became especially annoying in this oddly-paced and weird episode.

163. “Metamorphosis” (S1): The origin story for the 500 “Lana has a stalker!” episodes to follow.

162. “Hereafter” (S3): Though this episode features some great moments (the cape, Jonathan’s fall), it’s too mushy and drills home that Clark with ultimately be alone. As if he needed any more reason to be whiny.

161. “Dichotic” (S2): Jonathan Taylor-Thomas’ brought a fun FotW character to the series and despite making Clark out to be a super jealous idiot times two, it’s one of the better instances of that beat.

160. “Crush” (S1): Same goes for this one in reference to the Clark-as-a-stalker beat. Also, Adam Brody is the man.

159. “Exposed” (S5)Dukes of Hazard reunion! That’s about it.

158. “Gemini” (S7): Though this episode includes one of the series’ best mid-season cliffhangers, the preceding 40 minutes are stale, boring and lifeless. Mostly like all of season seven.

157. “Facade” (S4): Is this episode absolutely stupid? Yes. Do I always enjoy watching it the second time around? Yes.

156. “Void” (S5): Using drugs to get closer to your parents is a sensitive subject, especially when using Kryptonite-powered drugs, but I actually kind of like this episode. It’s nice to be reminded that Lana’s life has kind of sucked, despite the whole center-of-the-universe picture the series paints.

155. “Precipice” (S2): Lex’s half of these dueling stories of frustration and age is much, much better, but I also enjoy Clark dealing with what can happen if his anger supersedes his powers. However, point deduction for starting Lana’s fight training.

154. “Rush” (S2): The red-K powered Clark is always a hoot, but the whole set-up felt like an obvious way to put something between Clark and Lana when they should have just gotten together. Pete on the drug is one of his best moments, however.

153. “Injustice” (S8): This episode had so much potential, but wasted nearly all of it by barely integrating Tess’ team of villains into the story. The Clark and Tess stuff was good, though.

152. “Extinction” (S3): A surprisingly thrilling and action-packed episode for the usually tepid third episode of the season spot.

151. “Lockdown” (S5): Though it is an obvious step on the path to Lexana and a super obvious nod to “Panic Room,” “Lockdown” is a nice little thriller of an episode that makes the gross relationship feel not as gross.

150. “Disciple” (S9): I’m happy as anyone to dip into Ollie’s past, but the Dark Archer story falls mostly flat here. This episode is exceptionally dark in tone, spirit and energy. One of the weakest efforts of a great season nine.

149. “Toxic” (S8): Sadly, the many of the same things could be said about this episode. Oliver’s origin story is fairly standard and Tess wasn’t interesting enough at this point to save one of the lowest points of a solid season eight.

148. “Resurrection” (S3): Television series like to create false drama as a way to put characters in danger, but it’s easy to see through all that. Here, it’s obvious that Jonathan is not going to die, but the hostage situation is still entertaining to watch.

147. “Sneeze” (S6): Hey, remember when Clark used to get new powers and it was oftentimes funny in the process? Sigh.

146. “Stiletto” (S8): Lois’ attempts at getting closer to the Blur make sense, but becoming a successful hero on her own is certainly one of the more ridiculous things the series has done recently. Also sucky? Jimmy randomly becoming a bartender.

145. “Masquerade” (S10): I’m more supportive of Chloe and Oliver than most, so I quite enjoyed their little disastrous night out (even if it was something of a Date Night riff). And of course, Clark and Lois’ discussion about the possibility of Clark Kent being the costume for the Blur were capital-T tremendous. One of the season’s highlights.

144. “Persuasion” (S9): There are two totally different and individually interesting episodes smashed together here, creating a tonal and thematic mess. It’s too bad it wasn’t split apart.

143. “Persona” (S7): Clark vs. Bizarro: Part II was pretty great, but we sure as hell didn’t need yet another male character falling in love with Lana. Puke.

142. “Lucy” (S4): I have never been a fan of this episode for some reason, but the jump is still bad-ass and credit sequence-worthy.

141. “Prophecy” (S10): As a penultimate episode, this one didn’t have a whole lot to offer plot-wise, Nevertheless, I found this one to be mostly enjoyable all around. The Clark and Lois power swap was better than it ever had any right to be, even if it flamed out near the middle of the episode, only to return for a stupid cliffhanger that most people know isn’t really a cliffhanger.

140. “Prototype” (S6): This episode is fine, but was the first penultimate episode in the series’ history that didn’t feel like it was really ramping up to a great conclusion (and unfortunately started the trend that would continue for two more seasons).

139. “Spirit” (S4): You have to appreciate the series’ twist on the seminal high school television series episode, but “Spirit” is perhaps too goofy for its own good.

138. “Instinct” (S8): I actually think this episode does a solid job of showing to Clark that there are other women out there aside from Lana while including some funny stuff with Lois and nicely integrating Maxima into the story.

137. “Fracture” (S7): Journeying into Lex’s mind is very, very cool, but the whole process of getting to that point is not.

136. “Hydro” (S6): For whatever reason, the series works well when dipping into more campy territory and even though this episode includes the Lexana proposal and the pregnancy reveal to Clark, all the melodramatic pieces come into place here.

135. “Accelerate” (S2): The final scene with Lionel and the clone Emily is still one of the creepiest and awesome in the series’ history. *Shudders*

134. “Dominion” (S10): This is literally one of the most obviously frivolous episodes in the series’ history. Barely ANYTHING happens in this episode and it’s mostly just an excuse for Callum Blue’s Zod to return and make some fantastic speeches. I’m totally okay with that, since Blue was pretty great. The fight sequences, though totally riffed from both Gladiator and 300, were still very good — something we cannot always say about this series.

133. “Prodigal” (S2): The Luthor family carried the series for seven years and even the most hackneyed of episodes can come off as solid because of them. See “Prodigal” for the confirmation of this rule.

132. “Progeny” (S6): Yes, it was nice to meet Chloe’s mom. And yes, this was a fine representation of Lex’s step towards the dark side. But after waiting six years for the former and only getting this can’t be saved by the quality of the latter.

131. “Fallout” (S6): Sorry Bow Wow, you don’t really work as a Phantom Zone Wraith. Raya should have lived longer, too.

130. “Shield” (S10): This is just a weird episode. Separating Lois and Clark across continents was smart, but not completely well executed. Same goes for the introduction of Cat Grant or Deadshot. A lot of solid, interesting ideas, but the episode feels too overstuffed to give any of them full attention or development. Not the worst problem to have, but still.

129. “Visage” (S2): A smart execution of a returning FotW and forcing Lana to deal with her Whitney issues.

128. “Promise” (S6): This episode is a major touchstone in the series’ run. That doesn’t mean that it is very good. Entertaining, but way too melodramatic.

127. “Requiem” (S8): I know that most fans really, really hate this episode and they have good reason to. The conclusion to Lana’s story completely robs Clark of a mature character beat and permanently puts Lana on a powerful pedestal that she surely doesn’t deserve. However, there are so many fantastic and emotionally charged moments in this episode — Clark and Lana’s goodbye, Oliver examining Lex’s “death-place” — that it almost rises above the nonsense.

126. “Ryan” (S2): Dipping back into the Ryan pool the second time offers diminishing returns, but it’s hard to deny the heft of his death and its effect on Clark. Tear.

125. “Hothead” (S1): One of the better season one Freaks of the Week, and honestly explored the football issue. Though, of course, season four messed that up.

124. “Conspiracy” (S9): This episode brings forth a few things we had been waiting for since the beginning of season nine, most notably Zod getting powers, but the execution is sloppy, hackneyed and not too enjoyable. Just a weird episode.

123. “Relic” (S3): Though the season nine retcon totally negates Jor-El’s appearance and resemblance to Clark, I’ve always enjoyed this blast to the past. But of course, Jor-El would fall in love with someone who looks like Lana. OF COURSE!!!

122. “Turbulence” (S8): The Clark-Tess relationship is one of the best things about the current iteration of the series and this episode relies on that to its success. Sad about Jimmy, though.

121. “Eternal” (S8): Perhaps the biggest retconning in a series that just loves to jack up its own continuity. The stuff with Davis, Clark and Chloe in the Kryptonite cage is emotionally charged, though.

120. “Upgrade” (S9): This episode should have been fantastic, on paper: Clark on Red-K, the return of Metallo, lots of powerful Zod and Tess’ issues. However, like its season-mate “Conspiracy,” the tone and pacing of this episode are way off, resulting in a muddy 42 minutes that are hotly disappointing.

119. “Blue” (S7): I hate season seven for its lack of narrative drive, themes or general quality, and this episode kind of sums that all up. You’d think it would be cool and important to dip into Clark’s Kryptonian past with a look at his mother and uncle, but it’s mostly a lame excuse for more melodrama.

118. “Plastique” (S8): This episode is fairly basic in its set-up, but Clark starting at the Daily Planet, dressing better and saving all those people from the bus crash are the most obvious signs of transition and growth in the series’ history.

117. “Warrior” (S9): I know a lot of people hated this episode, but they’re wrong. It’s another goofy set-up, but “Warrior” is actually a nice little character story for Chloe in its examination of what it means to be a hero, the toll that takes on a person — especially one without any abilities. Surprisingly good.

116. “Sacrifice” (S9): I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here when it comes to season nine episodes, but this is another one that should have worked better than it did. I know that I’m supposed to care that Zod kills Faora and Clark finds out that all the Kandorians have powers, but because those supporting characters had been mostly MIA for the previous dozen episodes, the impact isn’t there. I get it, though.

115. “Scare” (S4): The “biggest fears” gimmick is certainly cheap, but is entertaining. Sounds about right for a season four episode.

114. “Whisper” (S3)Not one of the best Clark gets new powers episodes, but certainly not the worst.

113. “Jitters” (S1): Clark saving Lex and Earl from the falling scaffolding is an iconic moment in the series history, but one that I think has been lost along the way. Don’t forget people!

112. “Scion” (S10): Lionel, Red K and a Clark/Lex hybird! This episode has a lot going on and somehow manages to pull it all together to make a nice whole. I’m not familiar with the Conner Kent character from the comics so I had nothing to judge this towards, but I found the development of the character and the plot to be pretty smart for Smallville standards. And it is always nice to have an episode that involves Clark teaching younger kids some valuable lesson. For whatever reason, this series nails that super-corny element.

111. “Bound” (S4): “Bound” is a weird episode that doesn’t really fit into the normal Smallville formula, but I like those kind of episodes and this is probably the most successful one. If anything, this episode is just a straight police procedural case episode, and turns out, the series can do that.

110. “Skinwalker” (S2): The fact that there a few people out there in Smallville fandom who “ship” Clark and Kyla makes me LOL. It’s too bad, because this is a fine effort.

109. “Veritas” (S8)I think it’s obvious that this episode would have been so much more if the CW wouldn’t have ordered more content after the strike ended. “Veritas” would have reportedly jam-packed Clark’s flight attempts, Lana’s comatose-ness and Lionel’s death all in one episode. Too bad that didn’t happen.

108. “Obsession” (S3): As you’ll see later, I am quite found of Alicia Baker, and that’s not just because Sarah Carter is very attractive. The relationship between her and Clark is believable and important to Clark’s maturation process, even despite this episode’s events.

107. “Odyssey” (S8): A fine episode that more or less resets the series after seven long years, but as an individual episode, it’s not that great. The series definitely “feels” different here, but different doesn’t always equate to greatness.

106. “Fever” (S2): Early in its run, the series was very good at making simple stories — like this one, where Martha and Clark are both sick — seem extremely gut-wrenching even though it’s obvious that Clark Kent or even his mother are going to die in the middle of the season.

105. “Rage” (S6): Some people think that Oliver hijacked the series too much during season six, and they might be right. But with episodes like this, I couldn’t really complain much. The Lex-Oliver face-off here is a fine one.

104. “Echo” (S9): The greatness of season nine is that it takes some fairly lame premises, like this one that sees Clark learn how to hear everyone’s thoughts, and turns it into a nice, heartfelt story about paying attention. Oliver’s story is also really great here.

103. “Delete” (S3): The Lana and Chloe fight is awesome. That is all.

102. “Hourglass” (S1): Clark and Lex’s future visions were very creepy for the typically chipper season one.

101. “Crimson” (S6): Red-K Clark is always a hoot, and even though this version of him is particularly whiny and sullen, the chemistry between Welling and Durance carries this to entertaining heights.

100. “Oracle” (S5): The second half of season five is one of the most disappointing stretches in the series’ run thanks to the wonderful first half, but this effort somehow brings all the loose strands together while dropping the nonsense in preparation for a fine finale.

99. “Combat” (S6): It’s very pathetic that the series’ biggest and surely most expensive fight in its final five years will have taken place in this episode, between Clark and WWE’s Kane. A good episode that explores Clark’s Lana-induced rage, though.

98. “Siren” (S7), 97. “Cyborg” (S5) and 96. “Aqua”: I had trouble placing these episodes on the list, so I figured it was best to just put them all together in a bunch. Each brings something different to the table and expands the universe in a fun way, but none are as good as “Run” or “Arrow,” so here we are.

95. “Patriot” (S10): In a lot of ways, this episode feels like a quasi-sequel to the fantastic season six episode, “Justice.” Sure, only A.C. and his new wife help Clark and Oliver in the mission, but this one still feels like a great, heroic actioneer. Of course, the series doesn’t have the budget capable of going all out on an episode like this, but “Patriot” is a quality continuation of the VRA story and one of season ten’s better episodes.

94. “Truth” (S3): Allison Mack’s charming grin while her Chloe discovers the truth about various characters is infectious.

93. “Cure” (S7): I used to be a much bigger fan of this episode, probably blinded by Dean Cain’s guest appearance and the great showdown with Lex. It’s certainly not a bad episode, but…meh.

92. “Freak” (S6): I still can’t get behind Chloe as a meteor freak, especially after it was handled so poorly, but this episode does fine legwork in trying to convince us that it’s a good idea.

91. “Splinter” (S5): Another episode that I used to be higher on, but it ended up falling this far once I actually finished the list. Well-executed and great at progressing the Brainiac story, however.

90. “Kara” (S7): I like Laura Vandervoort and I like this episode for the great Lois and Clark moments, but I really wish we could just pretend that this whole “arc” didn’t happen.

89. “Bulletproof” (S8): Despite Clark’s final choice, this episode is unfortunately derided just because it includes Lana. CK as an undercover cop is a great gimmick for an episode and really, for multiple episodes, and the lesson on caring about those closest to you is presented in a cheese-free way.

88. “Traveler” (S7): The Veritas arc was messy as heck (the WGA Strike is at least partially to blame), but this episode started it with some fire and intrigue. The Kryptonite-laced cage is awesome, Patricia Swan works fairly well without seeming too retcon-y and Lex’s actions are  particularly dark.

87. “Infamous” (S8): Sure all the events of this episode, including the whole world knowing about Clark’s secret, are erased. But that doesn’t make watching them beforehand any less enjoyable.

86. “Zero” (S1): This episode sticks out like a sore thumb amid the Freak of the Week-stuffed first season, and that’s perhaps why it is so good. Dipping into Lex’s past rarely disappoints.

85. “Stray” (S1): I’ve noted before that the series likes to make Clark responsible for troubled little kids as a way of teaching him some lesson and this is certainly the first and best of the ilk. “Stray” is emotionally resonant and familial in the best of ways.

84. “Mortal” (S5): The human Clark arc to start season five is one heck of a stretch, even if it does only last 2.5 episodes. “Mortal” is fairly uncomplicated in its premise, but the interaction between Clark and Chloe combined with the legitimate concern for Clark based on his lack of abilities makes for a fine, fine hour.

83. “Lazarus” (S10): The final season premiere was, much like many season ten episodes, sort of odd. The return of Jonathan Kent is always welcome and the showdown with the Lex clone was actually well-handled, but this episode an awkward pacing that I could never get over while watching it.

82. “Forsaken” (S3): Emily Dinsmore’s return is generic and weightless, but everything else in this episode — Lionel’s arrest, Pete’s departure, most notably — is wonderful. It isn’t the best penultimate episode of the series, but sets the table for “Covenant” in a great way.

81. “Nicodemus” (S1): The WB loved to re-air this episode thanks to Kristin Kreuk’s body double, but that’s not all this one offers. Smallville loves to have its characters act a fool thanks to some random substance or infection, so it’s fun to have it happen to everyone all in one episode.

80. “Icarus” (S10): Lois and Clark proposal! What a teaser that was, right?

79. “Gone” (S4): The villain who comes after Chloe is one of the series’ most egregious thefts (hello, T-1000 rip-off), but Clark and Lois’ first team-up (and first shower) is awesome.

78. “Rabid” (S9): This season nine stand-out is shockingly good despite the dumb premise (Zombies!). Amid all the zombie nonsense is a nice character story that the series needed to tell between Clark, Lois and Oliver.

77. “Prey” (S8): His arc sure came to a horrible and abrupt end, but at this early point in S8 Davis Bloome was one of the best additions to the story in the series’ history. This episode really begins the season’s arc when Chloe begins to trust Davis while Jimmy and Clark remain skeptical.

76. “Hostage” (S9): Martha being revealed as the Red Queen is ridiculous, but the execution of it in this episode works better than expected. Plus, it’s hard to knock an effort that brings back both Martha Kent and Perry White and puts them at a table together with Clark and Lois.

75. “Arrow” (S6): Though Oliver was already on the series at this point, his alter ego’s official introduction is one of the best super hero-centric efforts of the series. I actually enjoy the lecture-offs Clark and Oliver like to have, so it’s nice to be reminded that it all starts here.

74. “Lineage” (S2): This is a sneaky little episode full of history and backstory that always sneaks up on me during the DVD re-watch. Tying the Luthors and Kents even closer together is a really smart move and is well-established here.

73. “X-Ray” (S1): The first and still one of the best “power” episodes.

72. “Ambush” (S10): I wasn’t really sure about season ten’s narrative until this episode, which nicely tied together Clark and Lois’ story with the VRA and Suicide Squad threads, which had all been fairly disparate in the previous half-dozen episodes. The return of Sam and Lucy Lane was better than it should have been.

71. “Talisman” (S3): The cave mythology is one of the most original aspects of Smallville and the scene with Lex and Lionel touching the knife at the same time is just fantastic, even though we know the answer to who is Clark’s biggest nemesis.

70. “Abandoned” (S10): Smallville sure loves its retcons and revealing that Tess is actually Lionel’s daughter and Lex’s half-sister is probably one of, if not the, best one the series has ever integrated into the story. I appreciated how this episode touched on all the parental issues Tess, Lois and Clark have and how they were going to sort of work together to get over them. It’s sort of wild that Tess became so sympathetic and believable as a “good guy,” but this episode does some good work in making it a believable transition.

69. “Lara” (S7), 68. “Bloodline” (S8) and 67. “Kandor” (S9): These three episodes are mythology-heavy and shade in a lot of the El family history without seeming too expository or boring.

66. “Leech” (S1): It’s funny how so many gimmicks the series implemented in the first season continue to be brought back. This fine effort introduces Clark without powers, and just like “Stray” or “X-Ray,” the season one iteration of the story is about as good as it gets.

65. “Asylum” (S3): While it’s not as good as the episode that precedes it (“Shattered”), “Asylum” is still gut-wrenching and entertaining, especially as Lionel wipes Lex’s memory away.

64. “Charade” (S9): The season was in a bit of a slump and really, so were Clark and Lois as a couple, before this one. Thankfully, the writers rediscovered how to write for their two main characters at the right time, giving us a playful, but emotional, even if it does signal their break-up.

63. “Beacon” (S10): The slew of YouTube videos with people pledging their allegiance to the Blur gets me every time. It’s just so fantastic. Elsewhere, this episode is a bit busy — Lionel! Alexander! Martha! Luthor mansion fire! — but finds a way to pull it all together.

62. “Vortex” (S2): The conclusion to the first season’s finale is well-paced and exciting, but also sets the stage for a fine second season to follow.

61. “Pariah” and 60. “Unsafe” (S4): I noted earlier in the list that I love Alicia Baker, so it’s no surprise that these two episodes are this high on the list. Though the arcs here are fairly self-contained, Alicia’s death is oh so sad. Plus: Chloe finds out!

59. “Duplicity” (S2): Although Pete learning the secret should have opened up more storyline possibilities for the Boss, the episode itself is still damn great.

58. “Reckoning” and 57. “Vengeance” (S5): The former episode is more enjoyable and saddening overall, but that final scene with Jonathan riding away on the tractor in the latter is most definitely the most tear-jerking moment in Smallville history. I’m crying right now.

56. “Tempest” (S1): The season one finale seems so simplistic after all these years, but all the cliffhangers still hold up.

55. “Kent” (S10): The two trips to the alternate universe in season ten were honestly a bit pointless, but that didn’t stop them from being awesome. Clark Luthor’s reappearance here gave us more great Tom Welling-Cassidy Freeman scenes, and the more Jonathan Kent (no matter what universe he’s from), the better.

54. “Perry” (S3): It’s funny how fairly traditionally-structured episodes stand out so much more when there’s an epic guest star character right in the middle. This episode is so great that people were begging for Mr. White’s return for more than six years.

53. “Arctic” (S8): There’s a lot of clunky missteps in getting there, but the as-of-now final confrontation between Lex and Clark is tense, angry and thrilling without involving any fighting at all — which makes it even better.

52. “Checkmate” (S9): It seems like the people are most vocally against this episode only hate it because Lois was absent. That’s too bad because this is one of the highlights of a weak back-half season. The episode is exciting, world-building and includes that FANTASTIC scene that’s cut and directed like comic book panels. Some of my favorite editing ever.

51. “Apocalypse” (S7): Alternate universe episodes are always fun, especially when they come in the middle of a messy stretch of episodes and hint at lots of cool things in the series’ future. Of course, it is easy to make the audience feel good with glasses, Lois and Clark and an evil Lex, but I don’t care, this is a fun one.

50. “Beast” (S8): The Davis/Doomsday story derailed at the very end, but the character’s part in the destruction of the Clark-Chloe relationship was handled very well. This late season eight episode is surprisingly emotional and draining, especially the scene between Clark and Chloe on the phone. Welling and Mack prove how much chemistry they have in that one, you can totally feel the pain and hurt even though they’re not in the same room.

49. “Abyss” (S8): On a similar note, this early season eight effort is also tremendous, if only for the great production that take place inside Chloe’s mind. Some people had problems with Clark asking Jor-El to wipe her mind, but the scenes leading up to it were so good that I couldn’t totally complain.

48. “Labyrinth” (S6): Though this episode signaled that the rest of season six was going to be all about the Clark-Lana-Lex triangle, it’s a fine effort that builds a creepy mood and includes a number of great gags that do really make Clark seem crazy.

47. “Hex” (S8): I cannot believe how great this episode is, but it’s fun, smart and still delivers some nice character beats. One of the best to just randomly re-watch.

46. “Sacred” (S4): Like most of season four, this episode is totally ridiculous. It randomly expands the scope in ways the rest of the series never attempts. However, it’s awesome. The fight scenes, the torture stuff with Lex and Jason, etc. It’s all awesome.

45. “Solitude” (S5): Clark finds out and destroys Brainaic both for the first time in this really tense episode that had me convinced Martha might actually die.

44. “Zod” (S6): This episode has a lot of really cool things going on (Zod in Lex’s body, Clark in the Phantom Zone, Jimmy!), but kind of wastes them all by trying to stuff everything into 41 minutes. If this were more of a two-parter, it could have been much higher.

43. “Savior” (S9): The season nine premiere went a long way in removing the awful, awful taste the season eight finale left in my mouth. I never thought the series would be smart enough to keep the audience in the dark on major plot points (it rarely happened in the first eight years), but it was all in this episode.

42. “Insurgence” (S2): Clark’s super jump. That is all.

41. “Idol” (S9): Like I mentioned with “Rabid” a post ago, the best thing about season nine is that it took goofy, surely-lame plots (like this one, with the totally goofy and cheesy Wonder Twins) and turned them into fine episodes that were entertaining, substantive and full of heart. A highlight of the season.

40. “Lexmas” (S5): For a while, this episode entertained me, but I didn’t find lots of meat on the bones. However, after seasons six and seven happened, it’s easier to point back to this episode and see the transition Lex was making at this time in his life. The alternate reality stuff is great, but the sobering conclusion really buttons it.

39. “Phoenix” (S3): Full disclosure: I had this episode much lower on the list when it was supposedly complete, but the thought that it needed to be higher just kept coming up in my mind. There’s some drop-off from the fantastic season three premiere, “Exile,” but this effort is a fine conclusion to that story that also sets the table for the series’ best season.

38. “Committed” (S8) and 37. “Crossfire” (S9): I’m pairing these two episodes together because they are both light on actual plot, but remain tremendously enjoyable because the writers are smart enough to let Lois and Clark carry the water. Both episodes feature a number of hilarious bits (the jewelry store scene in “Committed,” Clark’s date in “Crossfire”) and are still full of heart.

36. “Phantom” (S6): During season six, the series transformed into a purely popcorn melodrama and from start to finish, is really entertaining. The climax of that 22-episode run brings all the stories together well and brings in one of the series’ best villains in Bizarro.

35. “Bizarro” (S7): Speaking of! Great fights between the two Clarks in this one.

34. “Rogue” (S1): The best non-Pilot episode of the first season and the one that proved the series could do more than just FoTW stories.

33. “Pandora” (S9): The season nine mid-season finale had a lot to live up to, considering the first eight episodes were great and Lois’ flash-forwards presented intriguing story possibilities. Thankfully, it nailed almost everything.

32. “Hidden” (S5): The conclusion to the Clark-without-powers mini arc is thrilling and includes a number of memorable moments (Clark being shot, the slow motion walk back in the Kent house, jumping on the rocket). Also: Clark being shot is one of the great act-out cliffhangers in the series history.

31. “Luthor” (S10): Alternate universes are wonderful. Cheap, but wonderful.

30. “Nemesis” (S6): This might be one of the biggest WTF’s on the list, but I can’t help it. Clark and Lex trapped in the tunnels, dealing with all their issues is such a great premise for an episode and thankfully is well-executed. The Lana nonsense is well, nonsense, but the rest of the episode totally makes up for it.

29. “Calling” (S2): This episode feels more like part one of the finale than just your normal penultimate fare, and with that in mind, it’s like the happy time before it all comes crashing down in “Exodus.” Though they should probably be ranked together, I just can’t do it since the second half is so great on its own right (no offense to this one, obviously).

28. “Vessel” (S5): I have my issues with the second half of season five (it’s meandering, doesn’t seem to care about Brainaic that much, etc.), but a lot of them can be erased when I pop in this episode. Though I hate when the series makes everything Clark’s fault, it’s nice to see how Clark’s choices have really come to stab him in the back when the you know what hits the fan here.

27. “Legacy” (S3): I held an odd grudge against this episode for so long, I think because it’s precursor “Rosetta” is just so good that it’s hard to compare the two. However, I’ve seen the error in my ways: “Legacy” is fantastic. Season three is all about Lionel Luthor’s permeation into the lives of the Kents, Chloe, etc. and the outcomes of that new dynamic, so it makes total sense to have him get involved with the Virgil Swann character. I think it took some risk on the series’ part to make Swann be a little villainous, and though it’s a shame we never saw the results of his actions here, said actions were surprising.

26. “Booster” (S10): I had absolutely no knowledge of Booster Gold before this episode. In fact, I thought bringing him on the series this late in the game was kind of misguided. But I was very, very wrong. Much like Geoff Johns’ other DC universe-centric episodes, this one is very self-contained but wonderful because of it. Johns’ scripts are good at addressing Clark’s journey and his overall place in the universe, both past and present, and this episode is important because it adds a few final touches to said journey.

25. “Pilot” (S1): It’s wild how any one of us fans could pop in the pilot episode of the series right now and still enjoy it as much as we did back in 2001. Well, at least you all should because the Smallville pilot is still one of the better pilots I’ve watched over the last 10 years. The acting is all a little raw, but the episode resets the Superman story for a new generation pitch-perfectly.

24. “Blank” (S4): Another one of those episodes that seems really cliché and television-y on paper, “Blank” is actually consistently funny, heartfelt and progressive for the Clark and Chloe relationship. We all know that Clark’s going to regain his memory at the end of the episode, but it’s still awesome to watch him cycle through all his previous life choices on an expedited schedule just to confirm that he’s probably always going to do the right thing.

23. “Metallo” (S9): The second episode of season nine continued the upward swing in quality thanks to a fantastic guest turn by the criminally underrated Brian Austin Green, who gave John Corben a real depth that short-term villains on this series rarely have.

22. “Heat” and 21. “Red” (both S2): For whatever reason, I always think of these episodes as some sort of pair, even though they aired with “Duplicity” between them. However, both early season efforts feature Clark dealing with new obstacles to his powers in an extremely entertaining way. These two episodes probably convinced a lot of people who the series could be something more than just tame Freak of The Week stuff. 

20. “Legion” (S8) and 19. “Absolute Justice” (S9): The double pairings were unintentional, but nevertheless, it seems smart to be these two Geoff Johns-penned episodes together as well. Though both episodes feel somewhat separate from the narratives their respective seasons had already built up (“Absolute Justice” certainly more so than “Legion”), but are still compelling and world-expanding in ways that the series didn’t really attempt in the early years. Even for people not familiar with the respective hero crews introduced here, the episode’s work.

18. “Run” (S4): I’m not sure if it’s the character, the actor or the writing of the episode (it’s probably all three), but this is far and away the best episode that introduces a DC Comics hero to the Smallville world. Kyle Gallner is a wonderful Bart Allen and has great chemistry with Tom Welling in all of his appearances, and it all started here.

17. “Identity” (S8): This is certainly one of my favorite episodes of the series’ later years. “Identity” is smart, thrilling and important to Clark’s journey towards being Superman. The scene with Clark and Jimmy at the Kent Farm when Jimmy starts to put the pieces together is probably Mr. Olsen’s finest moment inSmallville. I don’t care what the stupid “Doomsday” retcon says, Aaron Ashmore is Jimmy and his work here proves it.

16. “Onyx” (S4): At a time when Lex was really “trying” to be the good guy, the events of this episode really brought to the forefront that the darkness is always going to be there. Michael Rosenbaum does a wonderful job playing both versions of Lex, especially in the scenes with both of them. Watching him play two extremes of the character really makes me appreciate his normal performance as Lex because I can now see how he layers it with both of this episode’s personas.

15. “Transference” (S4): As shoddy as season four seems at first, there sure are a lot of individual highlights, aren’t there? This is yet another one that includes a light premise (body switch!), but is executed as well as it could have been. Both John Glover and Tom Welling turn in hilarious and intense performances as the other’s character, leading to a number of awkward-funny moments in an otherwise straight-forward episode.

14. “Justice” (S6): The much-hyped centerpiece of the series’ sixth season isn’t quite as great as it could be (mostly due to budgetary issues), but man is it fun just to see all the heroes together in a mini-war against Lex. The series smartly introduced the characters individually so by the time this episode came around, it felt like the band was finally coming together to blow some stuff up. The walk away from the explosion is cheesy, but in the best way possible.

13. “Exodus” (S2): I mentioned in the last post that I couldn’t pair “Calling” and “Exodus” together because I think so highly of the latter and now, you can see that. The best finales really make you feel like they brought all the weight of the previous 20-odd episodes falling down onto the lead characters and “Exodus” really hammers that home. All the changes in Clark’s life throughout season two come to a head and break him — and it’s awesome to watch.

12. “Arrival” (S5): This episode has a lot of work to do, both with the plot and its position as a transition point for the series, and thankfully, it handles both responsibilities very well. The premieres always feel like they’re zooming through so many plot beats before resetting a new status quo and this one certainly does that, but the end of the episode sets up the powerless Clark mini-arc in a smart way that avoid any “Everything’s fine again!” nonsense.

11. “Memoria” (S3): Dipping into Lex’s past is always a smart approach, and the dark, depressing aura from this season three effort is the absolute best example of that approach. The flashbacks were well-executed and ingrained into the narrative and forced us to feel sorry for Lex right as he was starting to become a monster.

10. “Bride” (S8): The season eight mid-season finale is innovative, intense and just downright awesome in almost every way. This is an episode I never thought the series could pull off, but no recent episode has so many “Holy crap!” moments as this one. Can we just pretend this is the finale to season eight?

9. “Rosetta” (S2): Another episode with a high degree of difficulty (Christopher Reeve, lots of exposition) that nails it perfectly. The scenes with Clark and Swann are arguably the best in the series’ history.

8. “Crusade” (S4): Flight. The introduction of Lois. The reveal that Chloe isn’t dead. The stones. Gah, this episode has so many iconic moments and reveals, even if it’s jam-packed all to hell.

7. “Exile” (S3): This is the episode I have seen the most thanks to a random VHS taping I had of it for so many years, so perhaps my judgment is clouded. In any event, I like that this episode doesn’t rush through plot development like other premieres and instead stops to let the characters marinate in their terrible circumstances: Clark in his exile, Lana in her sadness, Lex in his possible death and the Kent’s in their poverty. No other premiere spends time on actual character development than this one.

6. “Shattered” (S3): I praised “Bride” for its awesome climaxing of the season eight’s mini-arcs and that episode still handles those things better than season three’s “Shattered,” but man, Lex’s journey here is one gut-punch after another. The scene with Lex in the padded room as Lionel looks on while Johnny Cash plays is the most heartbreaking non-death moment the series’ has ever done. And this episode also does a great job of showing a valiant Clark who is unwilling to give up on Lex, even with all his issues.

5. “Homecoming” (S10): Without question, the highlight of season ten thus far. It’s sort of weird that this episode is so good precisely because it addresses some of the issues the writers have inflicted onto Clark Kent since season five (blaming himself for his father’s death, most notably), but I’ve learned to accept “Homecoming” as their 44-minute apology. Sending Clark to the future to see himself is a bit cheap, but it’s completely effective. Without this episode and the lessons and themes discussed here, season ten would be an even bigger mess than it already is.

4. “Commencement” (S4): Much the season four premiere, this episode is just chock-full of iconic, flat-out awesome moments: Clark saving the kid, the conclusion to the stones, the rising of the Fortress, graduation, Chloe taking out Lex, etc. It’s also the conclusion, nay commencement (see what I did there?) of the first four years of the series and in that sense, turns the page in an eventful way.

3. “Descent” (S7): It’s insane that this episode begins with Lex killing Lionel, as most series would have kept said seminal event for the climax of an episode. That approach allows for the rest of the episode to focus on the aftermath, which includes a deep dive into Lex’s psyche. This is Michael Rosenbaum’s finest work on the series, almost like a final cherry on top of seven fantastic years.

2. “Salvation” (S9): It might be the recency effect ruling over me, but my lord, this is such a fine episode. Putting aside all the awesome, OMG moments (the teaser! the kiss! the “Clark?”!), I love this episode because it finally paints Clark in the heroic and strong light he should have been in years before. Clark takes control of the Justice League meeting, realizes that he’s spent all year trying to ditch his humanity when to save them, he has to sacrifice himself and generally acts like a bad-ass throughout this episode. This is Superman, suit or no suit.

1. “Covenant” (S3): …and here we are, the best episode of Smallville, in my opinion, is the season three finale, “Covenant.” Season three is far and away the most consistent and thematically tight season in the series’ run, so it’s no surprise that the finale to that season tops the list. Every major plot point from the season is resolved or at least momentarily resolved, dating all the way back to Jonathan Kent’s deal with Jor-El and Chloe’s deal with Lionel. This episode is emotionally-charged (hello, Clark-Lex scene in the Clark room) and includes the least amount of “action” than any other finale, but proves that sometimes character beats and resolution is all you need to make a successful finale. Oh, and that montage? EPIC.


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