Smallville Season Rankings

This year marks the 20 year anniversary of the debut of Smallville, one of the longest running sci-fi shows in history. To celebrate 20 years here is a ranking of all 10 seasons.

10- Season Eight

After Michael Rosenbaum left at the end of season 7, the show was left without a main villain. The decision was made to split the villain duties up between Tess as the near carbon copy human replacement for Lex, and Doomsday as a supervillain for Clark to take on. Although Tess would not develop to the point of being interesting until sometime in Season 9, and the idea to make Doomsday a brooding human paramedic slowly transforming into a monster was a terrible idea, the real problem with Season 8 isn’t even in the lack of a good villain. It’s just an all around miserable season. All the characters are miserable and the story line is bleak. This season had one good thing going for it, and that’s the advancement of Clark and Lois as a duo and the chemistry Welling and Durance had. After 7 seasons of Lana/Clark becoming tiresome, the Lois and Clark dynamic was enough to give some life to the first half of the season. Then it all falls apart as Lois is written out so that Lana can be brought back for several episodes. There are so many episodes that are just painful to watch, including the finale which is incredibly sloppy and anti climactic. The few bits of fun episodes throughout the season are refreshing, but there’s too much misery to enjoy much else outside of a handful of episodes.

Season Highlights: Legion, Identity, Committed

Season Low Points: Power, Doomsday

9 – Season Nine

After the disaster of Season 8, the show rebounded just enough to become somewhat watchable again. The format remained the same, with more focus on Clark and Lois as reporters, and the villain of the year focus. Really the changes from Season 8 to Season 9 are minimal, but getting a better villain, and finally being able to move on from Lana made enough of a difference to bump it up a single spot higher on this list. Not to downplay the improvements, as even though it’s ranked a single spot higher, it is significantly better than the previous season. Callum Watson brings a lot of charisma to the Zod character, but at times it feels like they either didn’t know what to do with him, or were hesitant to give him role as big as David/Doomsday had the previous season. He spends too much time as a background player. This is the most mythology heavy season since 3, at times leaning a little too much on the fantasy side. In a perfect world where it wasn’t already decided to stretch the show out for a 10th season, I can see years 8 and 9 being combined as one story and flowing much better. As Clark finally steps closer to being a superhero by the finale it does bring some genuine excitement about where the show will eventually wrap up in the final year.

Season Highlights: Absolute Justice, Pandora, Salvation

Season Low Points: Rabid, Escape

8 – Season 6

Season 6 has one thing in common with Season 8, and that’s the fact that all of the characters are absolutely miserable. I think it’s one thing to have a character go through a darker patch for the sake of development, but you have to pick and choose when and who to do it with, and make sure you don’t have so many characters that are depressing for the audience to watch. One of the things that makes Season 6 so much more watchable is the introduction of Justin Hartley as the Green Arrow. Unlike Justice League characters such as Cyborg, Aquaman and Flash that were introduced in seasons prior, he’s given a multi episode story arc and basically becomes a main cast member. His addition was exactly what the show needed after losing several cast members leading into this season. The Lex/Lana/Clark drama is definitely too much soap opera for my taste, although there are some positive twists that play out better on repeat viewings. The main plot line of the Phantoms from the Phantom Zone escaping starts out strong, but becomes a little repetitive throughout the season as the show slips back into the forgettable monster-of-the-week format of the 1st season, but the finale “Phantom” may be the strongest episode in the history of the show, so it more than makes up for some of the duller parts around the mid season mark.

Season Highlights: Phantom, Justice, Crimson

Season Low Points: Subterranean, Wither

7 – Season Seven

Of all the Smallville seasons I find this to be the most unfairly criticized. There are some major issues with the season, but one reason for that comes down to the writers strike cutting the season short by 2 episodes. You would think 2 episodes wouldn’t make that much of a difference, but the decision was made for one of the major plot lines with the Veritas organization to be reserved all for the second half of the season, and it just so happened to be the most complicated plot the show ever had, so losing 2 episodes makes a complicated story feel even more rushed. Had it been spaced out more from the start this wouldn’t have been as much of an issue. Kara/Supergirl is the first decent new character that the show has introduced in years. She brings a lightness back to the show after a few heavier seasons. What it costs the show is that Clark himself feels less special, which would lessen his character even more as other Kryptonians came in throughout the season. The Bizarro character was a great addition to the season, and both Lex and Lionel shine.

Season Highlights: Siren, Gemini, Apocalypse

Season Low Points: Hero, Cure

6 – Season Three

There is a difference between a show being dark and a show drenched in misery. As I stated earlier with Seasons 6 and 8, those are drenched in misery. Season 3 is a perfect example of how dark can work, even if it’s a little hit and miss. The show often struggles with trying to go darker and it failing miserably (horror film inspired Slumber) and the dark mythology heavy episodes focusing on the caves which succeed. The third season arguably has the best one off villain in the history of the show with Alicia, who would technically come back the next year, but as a one off in Obsession she made one of the strongest impressions of any villain. As much as this season ages well on repeat viewings, the radical change in tone can be a little off putting when viewed back to back after season 2. While some of the supporting characters such as Pete, Lana and Adam are far from their best, the Lex and Lionel feud along with the Jonathan and Jor-El conflict really bring the season up a notch.

Season Highlights: Obsession, Crisis, Truth

Season Low Points: Velocity, Slumber

5 – Season 10

Throughout Seasons 8 and 9 it felt like the show was ready to end, but kept getting renewed and messing up the producers plans. Going into Season 10 knowing it would be the last one allowed them to tell a story that didn’t feel like it was stalling for time. There were appropriate wrap up episodes for past characters like Kara and Zod. Chloe being off the show for a good chunk of the season allowed Tess to finally fit in. A smaller overall regular cast allowed for more focus on Lois and Clark. The show also had a good balance between the Metropolis heavy stories of recent seasons and more traditional Smallville centered stories. The basic plot of a superhero registration act already felt tired in 2010 having already been a part of so many X-Men movies, and this was years before Civil War did the same thing, so now it’s even less interesting, but the episodes involving it are definitely interesting enough to hold your interest. Although fans were disappointed with the handling of Darkseid in the finale, the build up to him was exciting, and with several minor villains filling the void throughout the season it never felt like it dragged like the Zod and Doomsday seasons did. Aside from the minor issue of Darkseid’s finale appearance being hurt by budget restrictions, the series finale was everything it should have been.

Season Highlights: Finale, Booster, Homecoming

Season Low Points: Collateral, Harvest

4 – Season 1

The only thing that works against Season 1 is the fact that there’s next to no story arc carried through the season. This is an episodic season, while all future seasons relied at least in part on some serialized story telling. While it may seem out of place looking back now, it should be considered that almost every show was like this in 2001. Alias and 24 debuted the same year with a serialized format, and they were the unusual shows at the time. Still the villain of the week stories in season 1 were among some of the best the show ever featured, so it’s only a minor distraction now looking back. Some of the characters like Chloe, Pete, Lana and Whitney didn’t quite click right off the bat, but it’s incredible to look back and see how quickly Clark, Lex, Jonathan, Martha and even Lionel with limited appearances were established so well right from the beginning. While this season probably wasn’t considered the most ground breaking show in history, it really should be appreciated for bringing such a cinematic scale to the TV superhero genre.

Season Highlights: Jitters, X-Ray, Leech

Season Low Points: Kinetic, Craving

3 – Season 5

In all 10 seasons of Smallville there was never a better run of episodes than the first half of season 5. With the exception of only the infamous ‘Thirst’ the first 12 episodes are as perfect as the show would ever get. The last 10 episodes are very hit and miss. It’s a credit to how strong the first half of the season is that I rank season 5 this high. The show subtly transitioned from a high school drama to a a more adult oriented drama. Clark does become a little mopey in the later episodes, a flaw that would plague season 6 even worse. The introduction of Milton Fine/Brainiac added so much to the series, and honestly they never brought another comic book villain in after that was done as well. Reckoning might be the strongest dramatic episode the show ever had, and even though comic fans probably knew where they were going with the story, how it played out still had some surprises and was perfectly executed. The darker sci fi elements definitely increase throughout the season, but there’s enough of the fun superhero elements from earlier seasons to not make season 5 feel like such a drastic shift.

Season Highlights: Reckoning, Lexmas, Hidden

Season Low Points: Thirst, Void

2 – Season 2

The first season laid all the groundwork, but season 2 is where Smallville came into it’s own. The show began to focus on some serialized storytelling that would play out during this season and beyond. There’s more focus on Clark’s origins which is made even better by the mentor character created for Christopher Reeve. Comic book elements such as red kryptonite play a part in multiple episodes. Lana’s character is infinitely better than in the first season, largely due to Whitney being written out. Pete is given a purpose as Clark’s sidekick, so Clark has someone to play off of in scenes where he uses his powers. Lionel has an increased role, and John Glover’s chemistry with any actor he’s in a scene with is off the charts. So many of the best episodes in the show’s history are scattered throughout season 2. At no point does the season ever get boring. Even the bad episodes of season 2 are enjoyable.

Season Highlights: Suspect, Rosetta, Fever

Season Low Points: Redux, Prodigal

1 – Season 4

A lot of shows will have a unanimous fan opinion on what the best season is. Smallville fans are all over the place. There never seems to be a general consensus. Season 4 has been ranked all over the place. Some consider it one of the best, some consider it one of the worst. Some put it right in the middle. For me this is an easy choice for #1. It was the last of the high school seasons, and brought so much fun back to the show that season 3 lost. Season 3 definitely has the edge for dramatic storytelling, but it at times got too dark. Even the heavier story arc of season 4, involving the mythology of the stones is more action/adventure than had been featured in previous seasons. Sure there’s some silliness with Lana’s possession, but the show is embracing the cheesiness, so I don’t have any major issues. At the start of the season I felt Jason would really drag the show down, and he does for a while, until Jane Seymour comes in as his mother, then both characters really take off. If there’s one major flaw this season had it was waiting too long to get to the point with the Teagues. The single best thing the show ever did was bring Lois in at the point they did, and maybe the single best casting outside of season 1 comes with Erica Durance. She brings so much life to the character, to the show, to all the other actors she interacts with, and makes even some of the weaker episodes of the season so much fun. With classic action episodes like Onyx, DC character introductions for The Flash in Run, traditional high school villain of the week stories such as Devoted and Spirit, and a 2 parter featuring Alicia’s return that gives Clark some of his best character moments yet, there’s a little bit of everything in season 4. And of course the finale, which is as excited and cinematic and most superhero movies.

Season Highlights: Commencement, Pariah, Spirit

Season Low Points: Spell, Recruit

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