Any long running series can reinvent itself to weather the changes that come from 100 hours of television. Better to try and find new creative ways to tell stories than to get stale and boring, I always say. Case in point, Smallville and Supernatural, two shows old enough to have started on the defunct WB Network and migrated to the CW. Throughout the years, both sci-fi/fantasy shows have continued to remain fresh and enjoyable despite cast changes, a writer’s strike and being shuffled around the TV grid.
In Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season, Clark Kent (the ever youthful Tom Welling), comes to terms with his destiny: to become the Man of Steel, Superman. Throughout this penultimate season of episodes, Clark delves into the training of his Kryptonian father, Jor-El and becomes obsessed with it. He dons the family crest (a variation on the famous Superman “S”) and a dark costume to perform his super hero duties. Meanwhile, his relationship with fellow reporter, Lois Lane, deepens, and he tries to help out some fellow Kryptonians, the Kandorians, who have found refuge on Earth. Led by Zod, the Kandorians want to make Earth their home, however we’ve never quite sure whether we can trust Zod.
Fans of DC comics will be get excited about Season 9 over the inclusion of such DC characters as Maxwell Lord, Amanda Wallerand the organization Checkmate. They’ll also love seeing more of Green Arrow, Zantana, Martian Manhunter and, for the first time, Dr. Fate, Hawkman and Stargirl. The last three appear in a great two hour episode that features the Justice Society of America, the original super hero group (long before the Justice League or Marvel’s Avengers) from the Silver Age of comics. It’s in that episode that Clark really starts to understand that he has a special place in the world and that his emergence as Superman will have a lasting impact on the world.
The 10th and final season of Smallville began last week. After watching the 9th season, I have no doubt that by the end of the series, Tom Welling will be donning the famous red and blue suit that we all know and love. Throughout its run, Smallville has maintained the proper balance between fanboy giddiness and nicely drawn character moments, making it one of the most fun and well made shows on television. When it finally ends its run, the TV landscape will be lacking in heroic figures we look to each week. Thank God for DVD’s.
The fifth season of Supernatural was intended to be that series last. Show creator Eric Kipke come up with a story arc that ended with the two heroes, Sam and Dean Winchester battling Lucifer for the sake of Earth and all humanity. Throughout the episodes of season five, Sam and Dean (Jared Padelecki and Jensen Ackles, respectively), along with the earthbound angel, Castiel (Misha Collins) and their trusted fellow hunter, Bobby (the great Jim Beaver), must track down the four horsemen of the apocalypse, defeat them and somehow thwart the end of the world. All within 22 TV hours. Whew! Making matters worse, Sam is craving the demon blood he ingested (and became addicted to) in season 4. Although he believes that having the blood of demons running through his veins can help defeat Lucifer (played by Lost’s Mark Pelligrino), Sam slowly comes to understand that drinking the blood may turn him into the ultimate weapon of evil.
Meanwhile, Dean must decide whether to become the vessel of Michael, the archangel, in the battle with Lucifer; Bobby suffers a devastating injury, and some old characters from season’s past make appearances in various episodes. By the season finale, sacrifices are made and the lives of Sam and Dean are changed forever. Then again, their lives are changed forever after practically every episode. You just can’t fight the living dead and monsters roaming around on earth without your life being changed forever.
The success of Supernatural has always been grounded in the relationship between Sam and Dean. From day one, fans have loved watching the undying loyalty between these brothers get tested time and again. Even in the final moments of the season finale, when you believe that all is lost, you still hold out hope because of the love between Sam and Dean. Padelecki and Ackles have grown in these roles over the years and really portray the seriousness of their fate as tools of God and the devil with the right mix of gravity and believability. They also have perfect comic timing when required to lighten the mood.
The ratings for the fifth season of Supernatural went up over the course of the year and the CW optioned the show for a sixth season. Even if this is the last go around for Sam and Dean, at least it’s one more season to hang with the guys and tag along on their road trip to save the world in their Chevy Impala.
Both series DVD’s are available now and come with a bevy of extra features. The highlight of the Smallville DVD set is the featurette on the making of “Justice for All,” that nifty Justice Society two hour episode I mentioned. Supernatural: The Complete Fifth Season comes with episodes of the web series, “Ghostfacers,” a cool featurette, “Supernatural: Apocalypse Survival Guides: Bobby’s Exclusive Video Collection” and audio commentary.