Smallville (Season 1, Ep 1): Pilot

Welcome to Smallville. I am doing an episode-by-episode watch, recap, and reaction and blogging about it here. There will be no spoilers for the series beyond the current episode. You can find my prior recaps HERE.

For those of you that don’t want to read the long plot recap, I provide a quick episode summary here at the top. You can read that and just scroll down to the “REACTION” heading below.

THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:

A teenage Clark Kent is run over by a young Lex Luthor’s Porsche. Clark is not only unhurt – he rescues Lex after the accident. This leads his father to finally tell a questioning Clark the truth about his origins.

Meanwhile, the town of Smallville has been suffering numerous weird incidents following the meteor shower that accompanied Clark’s crash landing on earth. Most recently, a young man, Jeremy, is attacking people with electricity which he emits form his body. Clark overpowers and stops him from attacking Smallville High School’s students who are attending the homecoming dance.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:

The episode opens in outer space. We see a small space craft passing through an asteroid field on its way toward earth. On earth, a helicopter is flying over a corn field in October of 1989. The camera pans over to a sign that says “Welcome to Smallville, Kansas, population 25,001. Creamed Corn Capital of the World.”

Lionel Luthor is reading a news paper with a bold type headline touting the disappearance of the owners of Queen Industries, Inc. The paper’s sub-headline says that they are presumed dead. The older man tells his young son, who looks to be about nine years old, a red haired boy named Lex, to open his eyes on the helicopter. He admonishes the boy saying that Luthors are not afraid.

Lionel Luthor: You have a destiny, Lex. You’re never gonna get anywhere with your eyes closed.

In the town, a young girl, sitting in a store, in a fairy princess costume is waving a wand and saying abra cadabra. Two people walk into the store and greet the woman working there as Nell. She smiles and says hi to Jonathan before pausing for a few seconds to also say hi to Martha. She asks what brings the reclusive Kents to town. Martha tells Nell that they are here for tulips. Nell tries to upsell her on a tiger orchid but Jonathan speaks up and says that Martha has her heart set on tulips.

Nell: I suppose they are a very uncomplicated flower.

Martha takes the insult in stride and speaks with the little girl. She tells Lana that her dress is beautiful and asks if she is a princess. Lana tells her that she is a fairy princess. Jonathan asks where Lana’s parents are and Nell tells him that they are at the homecoming game with everyone else. Nell tells him that she is being a good aunt by watching her. Lana asks Martha if she wants to make a wish and Martha says she would love to. Lana waves her wand, says abracadabra, and touches the star from her wand on Martha’s head.

Later, outside, Martha is sitting lost in thought in Jonathan’s red pickup as Jonathan loads their purchases into the truck bed. When he gets into the cab, he tells her that he knows what she wished for. She tells him that she sees a little face. As Jonathan kisses Martha, cars start moving down the street and people are cheering. Jonathan says that it appears Smallville won again. He pulls out into the road and joins the cars moving and celebrating down the street.

In space, we see meteors and a spaceship passing through space.

Lex is now out of the helicopter and in a corn field. He sees a crow flying away as his father calls for him. The older Luthor is asking two men where to sign his name. Lex wanders off into the cornfield. He hears a voice call to him for help. Nervous and looking around, he sees a scarecrow and begins to run. As he is running, he tries to take a breath from an inhaler and falls down. He sits up and leans himself against a wooden post. He hears a voice again saying to him “hey, kid.”

Lex looks up and sees a high school aged student tied like a scarecrow to the wooden post above him, with a large red “S” painted on his bare chest. The older boy asks Lex to help him, again. As the older boy asks again, Lex and the audience sees a fiery meteor land on the ground some distance behind. A large plum of dirt and smoke shoots up into the sky. A dust cloud races toward Lex and the older boy. Lex runs but the cloud overtakes both of them.

In town, people standing outside see the plum rising up into the air in the distance. Nell is holding Lana out on the street, staring at the cloud, as Lana sees her parents across the street. A moment later another meteor hits the car where Lana’s parents are standing. A large explosion follows. People in town begin to scatter. A barrage of meteors strike all over town, destroying buildings and cars as people run for their lives. The scene cuts away as we see toddler Lana in a fairy princess costume bawling.

Outside of town, the Kents are fleeing. Martha screams to ask what is happening as they see the carnage unfolding behind them. Just then a meteor hits the road in front of their truck and they crash into the crater it creates.

In the cornfield, we see Lex’s father Lionel running around and calling out for him. He reaches a clearing in the cornfield where the stalks are pressed down to the ground for acres all around. Looking down on the ground, he finds a clump of his son’s red hair. He looks both stricken and also hopeful – thinking Lex may be close by. He finds Lex lying under some corn stalks and looks horrified. His son is alive but in the fetal position and twitching. Lex’s red hair has fallen off all over.

The Kent family pickup is upside down on the road. Both adults are alive and appear to be uninjured. Just then, Jonathan sees a small naked boy approach his truck window. The little boy squats down and smiles at him. In the next scene, Martha is carrying the boy, with a coat wrapped around him, as they walk through the adjacent field to see where the boy came from.

Jonathan: Kids just don’t fall out of the sky, Martha.
Martha: Then where did he come from?
Jonathan: I don’t know but he must have parents.
[they see the boy’s crashed space ship in the field]
Martha: Well if he does they’re definitely not from Kansas.

Jonathan tells Martha that they cannot keep the boy and asks if she thinks that they can tell people they found the boy out in a field.

Martha: We didn’t find him… he found us.

In the present, we see Clark on a computer reading about children and teenagers who can do incredible feats. Martha yells to him that he is going to be late for school. Clark grabs a jug of milk and tries to drink from it directly before his mother pulls it away from him. When she asks him where he learned his manners, he answers that he learned them on a farm.

Jonathan enters the kitchen and sees that Clark is holding a piece of paper. He asks Clark what it is and he answers that it is a permission slip to play on the football team. He says that a couple of spots have opened up on the football team and that there are tryouts today after school. Clark seeing resistance from his dad reminds him that he played football in high school. Jonathan tells him that this is different and he knows why.

Clark tells his dad that he can be careful. Jonathan pauses before telling him that he knows that this must be hard for him. He tells Clark hat he needs to just hang in there. Clark replies that he is sick of hanging in there.

Clark: All I want to do is go through high school without being a total loser.

Clark leaves the room and goes outside to find that he has missed the school bus. A girl on the bus hands a boy some cash and says that she cannot believe he bet against his best friend. The boy replies that if Clark moved any slower he would be extinct. The camera pans back to Clark who gets a look of mischief in his eyes and then burst away at an impossible speed.

The camera pans over to the Smallville town sign. We see that Smallville no longer advertises itself as the cream corn capital of the world – now it claims to be the meteor capital of the world. A speeding Clark parts the corn stalks as he runs to school. At school, the boy and the girl from the bus are talking. The boy, Pete, asks the girl, Chloe, if she wants to go to the dance with him – as a friend-friend thing. Chloe notices that Clark has arrived and asks how he got there so fast.

Clark: I took a short-cut.
Chloe: Through what? A black hole?

Pete tells Clark that their reporter friend Chloe’s weird-ar is on DefCon-5. Chloe defensively replies that just because everyone else in their town ignores all of the weird things that happen there does not mean that she has to do the same Pete tries to pull Clark away from Chloe so that they can go turn in their permission slips to try out for the football team. Chloe laughs at this. She asks their doing that represents some sort of teen suicide pact.

Pete roughly pulls Chloe to the side and tells her in a whisper that they are trying to avoid becoming this year’s scarecrow. He explains that the town has a homecoming tradition wherein every year a freshman is taken to Reilly Field, stripped down to his boxers, tied to a pole, whereupon an S is spray painted on his chest. Chloe says that sounds like years of therapy. Pete replies that their hope is that the guys behind it will not pick football players to be the scarecrow.

Just then, Clark notices a now older Lana in the distance. As Clark walks toward her, Pete and Chloe get cash out and make a bet.

Pete: I’ll give him ten seconds.
Chloe: Five.

Pete starts counting. When he gets to five, Clark – now much closer to Lana – just falls down to the ground. Chloe tells Pete that it is a statistical fact that Clark cannot get within five feet of Lana Lang without turning into a total freak show.

Lana helps Clark pick up his books. We see also that she is wearing a necklace containing a small green rock. Lana notices that one of his books is Nietzsche. She tells him while smiling that she did not realize he had a dark side. He asks “doesn’t everybody?” She tells him that she guesses so before asking him another question.

Lana: So what are you man or superman?
Clark: I haven’t figure it out yet.

Just then another boy walks over wearing a Smallville letter jacket. His name, Whitney, is on the arm. He kisses Lana and then greets Clark. Whitney asks Lana if she will look over his language paper. She agrees to do so. Clark looks ill and is squatting on the ground. Whitney tells him that he looks as though he is about to hurl. Once Lana and Whitney walk away, Clark recovers himself.

Inside the high school, in front of a trophy case, a boy breaks the glass with his fist. He says that it is payback time. When we see him, we see that he is the same boy who was the “scarecrow” on the day of the meteor shower in 1989.

Elsewhere, a silver Porsche speeds toward a parking spot at Luthor Corp. Fertilizer Plant No. 3. When the car parks, we see an older Lex step out. Lex surveys his surrounds and says “thanks Dad.”

At Smallville football practice, Whitney is a quarterback and Lana is a cheerleader. Clark is working on a school assignment and watching practice – and Lana – from the bleachers. Pete runs up to Clark, in football pads and helmet, and asks how he looks. Clark tells him he looks like a tackle dummy. Clark wishes him good luck before leaving.

Lex is speeding down the road at well above the legal speed limit. Clark is on the side of the road, leaning against the railing of a bridge. A large truck carrying rolls of wire fencing loses one of its rolls onto the road. Lex, speeding from the other direction, comes at the bundle at an enormous rate of speed but he does not see it. He then looks down as his phone rings. When he finally looks up, he sees the fencing roll on the road and tries to avoid it. He is driving so fast though that he loses control of his car. The Porsche crashes directly into Clark who is standing next to the rail on the bridge. Lex, his car, and Clark are all throw over the side of the bridge and down into the water below.

Under the water, Clark sees that Lex’s car is filled with water and Lex is not moving. Clark rips the top of the car off, with his bare hands, in order to gain access to him so that the can pull him free. Clark carries an unconscious Lex onto dry land and gives him CPR. Lex finally coughs water and revives.

Lex: I could have sworn I hit you.

Clark says that if Lex had hit him he would be dead. They both look up at the torn bridge railing.

Later, Clark waits with Lex while the authorities investigate. Jonathan runs up and checks on Clark asking who the maniac is who was driving. Lex answers and says that he was the driver. Lex and Jonathan introduce themselves to each other and Jonathan hurries Clark away. Lex asks if there is anyway he can repay them and Jonathan tells him to drive slower.

That night, Clark is in his barn looking through a telescope… and Lana’s house. He smiles when he sees her on her porch. His smile departs when Whitney enters the frame and hugs Lana.

At Lana’s aunt’s house, she tells Whitney that her aunt will be back any minute. Whitney asks where she is and Lana replies that she is at Lex Luthor’s house. He is surprised to learn that Nell is in with the Luthors. Lana explains that she sold them a lot of land. Whitney says that the Luthors own the Metropolis Sharks and that Lana’s aunt can put in a good word for him.

Lana: You want someone to put in a good work, ask Clark. He saved Lex’s life today.

When Whitney says she’s kidding Lana replies that sometimes people can surprise you. Whitney tells Lana that a scout from Kansas State is coming to their game on Saturday.

Whitney: I don’t wanna be a “remember him.” Smallville’s got enough of those guys.

Lana takes off her necklace and tells Whitney that she wants him to wear it to the gam eon Saturday. Whitney protests and says he cannot take it. She tells him he can give it back after he wins.

Whitney: Is it really made from a piece of the meteor, you know – –
{she nods]
Lana: So much bad luck came out of it – there can only be good luck left.

As Lana and Whitney kiss, Clark stops spying on them through his telescope.

At an auto repair shop, a man is working on a car as 1989’s “Scarecrow” kid enters. The man asks the still young seeming boy if he knows him. The boy does not speak. The older man says that he looks like teh scarecrow kid and asks where he has been. The boy still does not reply. The man calls him a freakazoid and then something happens causing the older man to be blasted backward with electricity. The man survives and tells the now approaching boy that the scarecrow incident was twelve years ago. He says it was all just a game and asks the boy what he wants. The scarecrow boy says he wants to play. Then he blasts the man again with electricity to the chest.

Sometime later, Clark walks up to his gravel driveway and finds a new pickup, wrapped in a bow. He asks his mom whose truck it is and she tells him that it is his – a gift form Lex Luthor. Lex also left a note.

Dear Clark, drive safely, I’m always in your debt.

– the maniac in the Porsche

Clark asks where the keys are and she tells him that his father has them. Jonathan Kent is inside the barn using a wood chipper. When he sees Clark, he turns if off. He tells him that he knows how much he wants it, but he cannot keep it. Clark reminds his dad that he saved Lex’s life and Jonathan asks him if that means he deserves a price. Clark backpedals and suggests that his dad can drive the new truck and that he can drive their own one. Jonathan tells Clark that he knows he is upset but he says that it is normal.

Clark: Normal? [turns on the wood chipper] How about this? Is this normal? [sticks his hand inside]

Jonathan runs to check on him and pull his arm out. Clark tells his dad that he did not dive in after Lex’s car. He says that the car hit him at sixty miles per hour. Clark asks if that sounds normal and adds that he would give anything to be normal. Martha walks up on them and they have an unspoken conversation. Jonathan nods and seems to be agreeing with something. Jonathan climbs up to the barn loft where Clark is sitting next to his telescope. Jonathan tells him that it is time.

Clark; Time for what?
Jonathan: The truth.

Jonathan unwraps a cloth from around a piece of metal. It is engraved with strange markings. He tells Clark that he thinks it is from Clark’s parents – his real parents.

Clark: What does it say?
Jonathan: I tried to decipher it for years but it is not written in any language known to man.

Clark asks what he means and Jonathan says that his real parents were not exactly from around here. Clark asks where they are from and Jonathan turns to look up into the sky. Clark asks his dad if he is trying to tell him that he is from another planet. Jonathan just looks at him. Clark – not believing – asks if his spaceship is stashed in the attic. Jonathan tells him it is in the storm cellar.

In said storm cellar, Jonathan uncovers the ship to Clark. He tells him that his ship crashed on the day of the meteor shower. Clark is overwhelmed and yells at his dad that he should have told him. Jonathan tries to explain that they were trying to protect him. Clark speeds away at super speed.

That night, Lana rides her horse to the local cemetery carrying a bouquet of flowers. She asks who is there and Clark tells her that it’s him.

Lana: What are you doing creeping around in the woods?
Clark: You’d never believe me if I told you.

Clark tries to leave but Lana convinces him to stay. She asks if he is okay.

Clark: I’m hanging out in a graveyard. Does this strike you as okay behavior?
Lana: Hey — I;m here, too.

Clark asks her why she is here. She walks around to stand directly in front of him and asks if he can keep a secret. Clark tells her that he is the Ft. Knox of secrets. Lana tells Clark that she came out here to talk with her parents. She tells Clark that he must think she is really weird but he tells her he does not think she is weird. He asks if she remembers them. She answers by saying that they died when she was three. Clark tells her he is sorry and she tells him it is not his fault.

It might be a little bit his fault.

She tells Clark that she will introduce him to them. She has a one-sided conversation in front of Clark wherein she agrees wither her parents that Clark is kind of shy. They apparently ask her something causing her to ask “how should I know?”

Lana: Mom wants to know if you’re upset about a girl. Dad wants to know if you’re upset about a guy.

Clark says no to both. Lana laughs and says that her dad has a twisted sense of humor. Lana’s face suddenly becomes grave and asks why he is out there. Clark answers by asking if she ever feels like her life was supposed to be something different. Lana nods yes and says that sometimes she dreams she is at school waiting for Nell to pick her up. But instead of Nell, her parents pick her up.

Lana: They’re not dead, they’re just really late.

She says the dream usually ends after they drive back to their real life in Metropolis. She says that for a minute she is happy until she realizes that she is still alone. Just then Clark begins to pretend that Lana’s mother is talking to him.

Clark: What’s that Mrs. Lang? Yeah, I’l – I’ll tell her. Your mom wants you to know that you’re never alone – that she’s always looking over you.

Clark continues and tells her that her dad thinks she is a shoe-in for Homecoming Queen. She laughs and asks if they really said all of that. Clark says yes and that they are quite chatty once they get started.

Later, outside Nell’s house, Lana thanks Clark for walking her home. Clark says that it beats creeping in the woods. She asks if he realizes that this is the longest conversation they have ever had. She says that they should do it again and Clark agrees. Clark asks if she is going to the Homecoming dance. She says that she is going with Whitney. Clark nods and says of course. Clark tells her in turn that he is not going. Lana tells him that if he changes his mind she might save him a dance. She then kisses him on the cheek and tells him good night. Clark smiles and leaves. As he goes, we see that Whitney has been watching this entire exchange from Lana’s porch.

Later, Clark is inside a castle looking around for someone. He stumbles across a fencing match. The loser of the match throws a rapier and it lands in the wall next to where Clark is standing. The thrower removes his headgear revealing himself to be Lex. He tells Clark that he did not see him. Clark says he buzzed but no one answers. When Lex asks how he got through the gate Clark tells him that he squeezed through the bars. Clark apologizes for coming at a bad time but Lex tells him it is not. He tells Clark that Heiki has sufficiently beaten him for the day. His opponent takes off her headgear and reveals herself to be a beautiful young woman. Clark comments on the house.

Clark: This is a great place.
Lex: If you’re dead and in the market for something to haunt.

Lex asks him how the new ride is and Clark tells him that is why he is here. Lex asks if he doesn’t like it. Clark tells him that he can’t keep it. Lex intuits that this means Clark’s father doesn’t like him. Clark does not deny it and Lex, with a hand on his head, says that he has been bald since he was nine and is used to people judging him before they get to know him.

Clark: It’s nothing personal. He’s just not crazy about your dad.
Lex: Figures the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Understandable. What about you Clark? Did you fall far from the tree?

Clark does not answer but hands the keys to Lex and thanks him. As Clark is leaving, Lex asks him if he thinks a man can fly. Clark tells him that people cannot fly but Lex corrects him to say that he did. He tells Clark that while his heart was stopped, after the accident, he flew over Smallville. He says that for the first time he did not see a dead end. Instead, for the first time, he says he saw a new beginning.

Lex: We have a future Clark. And I don’t want anythin to stand in teh way of our friendship.

Later, we see the electricity powered scarecrow boy watch as a man is taken on a gurney into an ambulance. Pete and Chloe are there. Pete says that is the third guy this week while Chloe points out that they are all former jocks. Pete notices “the weirdo” (i.e. the scarecrow boy) and Chloe says that they should check him out. She takes his pictures.

Later, Chloe has a yearbook out and tells Clark and Pete that the guy’s name is Jeremy Creek. She shows them the picture of him from twelve years ago and compares it to the one she took four hours ago. He has not aged at all. Clark says that this is impossible. Chloe tells them that Jeremy disappeared from a state infirmary a few days ago where he had been in a coma for twelve years – since the day of the meteor shower. The cause of his coma, she says, is a massive electrolyte imbalance. She tells them that the hospital endured a massive electrical storm that caused the power and the generators to go out. When they came back on Jeremy was gone.

Pete: The electricity must have charged him up like a Duracell.
Clark: And now he’s back in Smallville putting former jocks into comas. Why?
Pete: Cause twelve years ago today they chose Jeremy Creek as the scarecrow.

Clark reads a newspaper article from twelve years ago about Jeremy’s body being found. He says that this cannot be right. Pete tells Chloe that she needs to show Clark. The three of them going into a small room. Chloe tells Clark that it started as a scrapbook and that it kind of mutated. All over a wall are almost innumerable newspaper articles pinned or taped up. Clark asks what it is and she tells him that she calls it the Wall of Weird.

Chloe: It’s every strange, bizarre, and unexplained event that’s happened in Smallville since the meteor shower. That’s when it all began. The town went schizo.

Clark looks at the wall and kind of panics. He asks why she did not tell him about this. Chloe answers by asking if he tells her everything that happens in his life. Clark’s attention focuses on a Time Magazine cover featuring a three year old Lana Lang in tears. Clark mutters to himself that it’s all his fault and runs out. Pete and Chloe stare at each other in bewilderment.

Outside in the parking lot, Whitney grabs Clark by the shoulder and tells him that he is this year’s scarecrow. When Clark attempts to fight him off, he gets close to Lana’s necklace and becomes weak. Whitney throws him down and asks what is going on between him and Lana. When Clark says nothing, Whitney notices Clark looking at the necklace. He rips it off himself and puts it around Clark’s neck.

Whitney: That’s as close as you’re ever gonna get to her.

As they throw Clark into a truck bed, the 1989 scarecrow, Jeremy, watches from a distance with a look of anger. Later, Clark is tied to a pole like a scarecrow with Lana’s necklace around his neck. It is cold enough outside that we can see a nearly naked Clark’s breath. Jeremy finds him tied up and tells him that it never changes. Clark asks for help. Jeremy tells Clark that he is going to the Homecoming dance and that he is safer tied up.

Lex drives past Jeremy as he leaves the field and walks into the road. Lex remembers his face from seeing him tied up on the day of the meteor shower. Lex stops his car and gets out. Outside of his car, he hers Clark calling for help in the distance. Flashlight in hand, Lex walks through the cornfield and finds Clark tied up. Lex is horrified and unties him. When he asks who did this, Clark tells him it doesn’t matter.

As Clark falls from the pole, the necklace comes loose from his neck. He instantly regains his strength. Lex tells him that he needs to see a doctor but Clark runs off telling him that he will be okay. Lex sees the necklace on the ground and picks it up.

Jeremy arrives at the dance. He is messing with a fire hose outside the building. Inside, Pete is dancing with Chloe. Whitney is dancing with Lana. The ’89 scarecrow stares down the now fully dressed ’01 scarecrow. Clark tells Jeremy that he will not let him hurt his friends. Jeremy says he has no idea how Clark got there before saying those people are not his friends. He tells Clark that the sprinklers will get all of them wet and that he will handle the rest.

Clark tells Jeremy that what happened to him was his fault. He tells Jeremy that he understands his pain. Jeremy replies that he does not have pain – he has a gift and a purpose. He turns away from Clark only to find himself face to face with him again.

Clark: So do I.

Jeremy tries to shock Clark but Clark absorbs the electricity and then throws him into a car. The bad guy stands up, places a hand on the hood of the car, and somehow therein starts it. He drives it fill speed into Clark. They crash into a wall causing a water pipe to burst and flood the vehicle. Jeremy – covered in water – uses his electrical powers against himself. Clark rips the door off of the truck. Jeremy sits up and Clark asks if he is okay. Jeremy asks Clark who he is and where he is.

Clark: I’m Clark Kent and you’re in Smallville.
Jeremy: I want to go home.

Clark goes inside the dance and finds Queen Lana and King Whitney kissing.

Later, in his barn loft, listening to “Everything” by Lifehouse, Clark is surprised by Lana who is still wearing her homecoming dance dress She tells him that she did not see him tonight and that she saved him a dance. After dancing for about three seconds, she asks if everything is okay.

Clark: It’s perfect.

Suddenly a car horn honks and Clark is alone. He imagined the whole thing. He sees Lana going inside her house and says “thanks for the dance, Lana.” She turns on her porch steps as if she heard him. The camera pans up toward the stars as Lifehouse intones and the episode ends.

REACTION:

Oh man, this was a nostalgia overload. This episode aired originally twenty years ago – 10/16/01. It feels simultaneously both more recent and more distant. Smallville was the proof of concept show that eventually led to the DC TV Universe we have now in the present day. I cannot count the number of teenage drama superhero shows that followed Smallville. That said, it has its own quirks that its descendants do not entirely share.

On the re-watch, the most noticeable difference between this show and something you might see on The CW today is the musical soundtrack. I did my best to make a list:

Everything – Lifehouse
The Way It Is – Bruce Hornsby
Long Way Around – Eagle-Eye Cherry
Wonder – Embrace
Eight Half Letters – Stereoblis
Unstoppable – The Calling
Inside The Memories – Fear the Clown
Everything I Own – Jude
Maybe – Stereophonics
Let’s Go – Capitol Eye

I probably missed some. But needless to say, twenty years ago, if you wanted to know what music the industry was really pushing, you could count on a show on The WB to share it with you. That does not happen to the same extent today.

The other thing that really stands out as being different with today’s superhero shows is the cinematography. There was a major emphasis back then in shooting this show to give its model-turned-actors CLOSE UP opportunities to emote. If young Tom Welling had even a single flaw on his Abercrombie & Fitch face, you would see it (but you won’t because he did not.)

So that part is different. What’s the same? This show leaned pretty hard on abnormally attractive adult actors playing children. Tom Welling was twenty-four years old in this pilot playing a high school freshman. His cherub face obscures how laughably large the age gap is… but it is noticeable. THAT SAID… Clark Kent is an alien. Maybe he looks like a grown man because he’s, you know, not a human. Kristen Kreuk (Lana) is only about five years older than her character and by contrast stands out less.

What else is the same? Total absentee parenting. None of these kids are old enough to drive. Yet they’re just hanging out all over town, visiting crime scenes, having their own office inside a school, missing from home overnight (b/c they’re a scarecrow), etc., and no alarms are sounded.

Also similar? “Something in this town is causing people to have powers.” We see that kind of story visited again most notably in The CW’s The Flash.

I DID NOT REMEMBER:

I forgot how heavily Smallville leaned into an almost Victorian Gothic vibe (with Kansas overtones) early on. The pilot literally has a scene in a cemetery, in the middle of the night, featuring Clark and Lana talking to her dead parents. It’s not exactly clear to me how unstable we as the audience are supposed to believe that Lana is. That said, I think for a lot of people in the dating world, “horse girl” and “hangs out in cemeteries and talks to ghosts girl” are both red flags. Lana is both. Then again, if you’re attractive enough, I suppose nothing really counts as a red flag.

Other gothic adjacent oddities? How about the school mascot being a crow and a school ritual of hanging someone up in the field like a scarecrow? It felt also like a disproportionate amount of this episode was filmed in the dark of night.

SMALLVILLE UNIQUENESS:

At the time, Smallville was a shift from the established Superman mythology in several ways. Subsequently, some of the show’s changes have been incorporated into more of the source material. That said, here are some of the *then* changes:

  1. Clark and Lex being near the same age – Lex is usually quite a bit older.
  2. Clark and Lex as friends.
  3. Lionel as an established worldly billionaire. He is a named person in the comics, prior to Smallville, but not a lot is said about him. In a way, Lionel occupies in Smallville the role that Lex typically occupied in prior stories.
  4. Chloe Sullivan is a new character invented for this show. Interestingly, her character is closer to the comic book version of Lana Lang than Smallville’s Lana. So in that sense…
  5. Lana is an entirely new character – in deed if not in name.
  6. Whitney is new. I guess at this point I hope he doesn’t get a scholarship at K-State. EMAW can do better.

I enjoyed the changes from the “source material” and find that they made the stories harder to predict – as we will see in future episodes.

One specific thing that I really enjoyed from the pilot was the intense opening. That held up well. The small Kansas town looked like it was being attacked by missiles. Poor little teeny tiny Lana watched her parents explode! That broke my heart! Then her small crying face ended up on Time Magazine? Goodness gracious. I’ll forgive her oddities for that alone. Somehow that horrible scene juxtaposed with the following scene of teeny tiny smiling Clark finding Jonathan and Martha just… worked.

I’ll go on more about this in future posts but I also really like a lot of the casting for this show (age issues notwithstanding.) Tom Welling looks the part and has great chemistry with John Schneider, Annette O’Toole, Michael Rosenbaum, and Kristin Kreuk. That’s important and it will drive the watchability of the show going forward. There are some misfires, too, but those did not play a major role in the pilot.

All in all, this is a good start. Let’s keep going and let that the early ’00s music continue playing.

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