This is it! This is the moment we've all been waiting for. Superman versus Doomsday - the thingie wot killed him in the comics! The ultimate smackdown.
Oh. That really wasn't ultimate at all, was it?
For most of its run, season eight of Smallville was a definite upturn in quality. With new show runners and a slightly more adult approach to the show, we've been free of meteor-freaks and insane Lex Luthor science-fiction schemes for most of the run. We've also not had Lana around much which can only be a good thing. Tess Mercer has been an improvement on Lex in the sanity department, if not the charisma department. Chloe's place in the DC universe is finally revealed. And there have been some nice borrowings from DC Comics, including Zatanna and Maxima.
Yet, despite this, season eight has hardly been flawless. Just about everyone's had major character flip-flops for no adequately explored reason: Jimmy turned from eager reporter to drug addict conspiracy freak in about ten seconds flat; Chloe turned mental for no good reason; Oliver turned psycho; and Lois turned into a dewy eyed fan of farmer boy without much explanation at all. We also had Lana and her super-suit, nicked off Lex Luthor, about which the less said the better.
The biggest highlight has been Doomsday. Strangely enough, thanks to a crap costume, he actually looked better off-screen than on-screen, but he's been the serious threat promised throughout the season: someone stronger than old Clark, who's unstoppable. What massive stand-off will we see in the final episode?
Erm, not a great one. In fact, it lasts about two minutes, with Clark getting punched a bit and then jumping into an explosion. Great. Add to the list of bizarre personality flip-flops Davis, the nicer human side of Doomsday who apparently was a truly mental stalker after all, despite previous suggestions to the contrary.
But we did have an actual fatality, which is something to be thankful for, I guess, and maybe Lois really is stuck in the future forever (less likely). Goodbye Jimmy Sr then: one day your younger brother will become the real Jimmy Olsen, eager bow-tied photographer. Until then, Smallville will be able to do without you, I'm sure.
Quite what season nine will bring us, I don't know. Apparently, General Zod again. That's a cert for one episode at least. Why do we need him, exactly? Don't know. Presumably to show newly hardcore Clark that the Kryptonian way isn't the best way either, which we already knew from a few seasons ago, so not something to be anticipated with a great enthusiasm.
What Smallville really urgently needs to do though is
- Grow up. After eight years, your audience is now in its 20s and 30s. Time to be a grown-up programme.
- Develop. There are still a good few Superman powers to work with, and more of the mythos to deal with. Try it, rather than treading water the whole time.
- Make up its mind. Stop teasing and pick a direction. Lana? Lois? Chloe? Which one. Then let the other characters act accordingly.
While a definite improvement on previous seasons, season eight was only the halfway point on a road to improvement. Let's hope the producers can come through on their changes for season nine (and possibly ten, since Tom Welling is apparently signed until then).