Smallville: Season 5
By the time most television series make it to the fifth season they have had enough time to build up the characters and define the major plot lines. With Smallville they also had to recover from a rather lack luster forth season. Fortunately, they found their groove again and season five was a winner. This season was focused more on the psychological impact that Clark Kent’s (Tom Welling) amazing powers have had on him. In the first three seasons it was all about a physical self discovery, Clark learning how to control his growing list of powers. Now with the roster of super powers pretty much set Clark has become an adult and must face even more difficult emotional issues.
Season five picks up almost exactly where the previous season left off. A new meteor shower has crashed into Smallville bringing with it a mysterious space ship. Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk) witnesses two Kryptonians exit the ship and begin a deadly charge through the town looking for Kal-El, Clark’s Kryptonian name. They don’t realize that Clark in his is artic fortress of solitude to begin his lessons from a hologram of his father Jor-El (voiced by Terence Stamp). Clark’s best friend Chloe (Allison Mack) managed to stow away when Clark was transported to the fortress but without super powers she is ill fitted to survive the artic climate. Jor-El gives Clark a choice, take Chloe back to Smallville to save her or continue his education. Clark saves Chloe but it costs him his powers. This is the first of many adult decisions that Clark must face. He finds that the lack of powers is not as freeing as he had hoped. He still is driven by a need to help others and without his powers he is unable to save the ones that are closest to him. When he finally gets his powers back Jor-El informs Clark that there is a price, someone close to him must die. This comes back to bite Clark hard when he finally reveals his true nature to Lana and proposes marriage to her. She dies and Jor-El offers a trade, the life of Clark’s adopted father Jonathan Kent (John Schneider). Jonathan dies on the eve of winning the Kansas state senator seat leaving his wife Martha (Annette O'Toole) to assume the political position. She hires Chloe’s cousin Lois Lane (Erica Durance) as her assistant.
While all this is going on in the Kent family things are moving fast for the ultra rich Luthers. Patriarch Lionel (John Glover) has recovered from a catatonic state where he was sketching Kryptonian symbols on the wall as a new man. Apparently the evil plotting Lionel is now dedicated to reforming his life. He seeks to help Martha cope with the machinations of political office and also hopes to establish a personal relationship with the widow. His son Lex (Michael Rosenbaum) begins to show a darker side becoming the villain we all know he will be. The Luthers are under investigation by one of Clark’s college professors, Milton Fine (James Marsters). It turns out that the professor is not human but actually a Kryptonian super machine bent on turning Lex into a minion of General Zod, Krypton’s worse criminal imprisoned in the Phantom Zone.
All of this may sound like an elaborate soap opera and for good reason, it is. Now there is nothing wrong with a well constructed soap opera. There is a reason why there are millions of fans hooked on them, the format works. Even though the audience knows the final outcome of many of the major characters we are pulled in by the telling of the story. Like a child listening to the same bed time story night after night it is the journey not the destination that matters. In this season the story was kicked up a notch. There was still the random Kryptonite induced villain to break things up but the more sinister theme drive the season. Clark now has to save the world instead of just a few friends back in Smallville. This is the first real steps to become Superman, his destiny. He also learns about true sacrifice in this season. Having to trade the life of his beloved father to save Lana weighs heavily on him. When he breaks up with her and she turns to his former friend Lex the stage is set for the famous rivalry between him and the villain in training. The all important relationship between Clark and Lois also changes in this season. At the start in season three Lois saw Clark as an idealistic farm boy. Now she has come to realize that she has always been attracted to bad boy losers and perhaps a man with a steadfast moral compass will do her some good. Martha has to learn to cope not only with the loss of her husband but also with the new political office she has taken on. In the early seasons Lex had fought hard not to be like his father, ruthless. Now, the positions have reversed. Lionel is seeking to change his ways while his son is become worse than he ever was.
Everyone in the cast has now had the chance to grow into their roles. Tom Welling is no longer the wide-eyed innocent farm boy. His Clark has now seen enough to realize just how high the stakes are. Welling plays Clark as a super hero with very human doubts and foibles. He is a handsome young actor with talent that will take him far from this series. There is an emotional availability in his portrayal of Clark that pulls the audience in. Annette O'Toole does a great job as the widow Kent. She has taken the role of Martha Kent and created a woman who is stronger than she can imagine rising to every challenge her unusual life brings. Michael Rosenbaum has spent several seasons as the nice and helpful Lex Luther. Now in season five he begins to slowly pull out the stops and become a villain. Instead of playing Lex as the all out comic book villain Rosenbaum has control. He gives his character an emotional arc that pushes towards his destiny. Most people know James Marsters as the bad boy punk rock vampire on Buffy. Here he plays Fine as a more urban and sophisticated villain.
Warner Brothers continues to present this series on DVD with excellent technical specifications. The anamorphic 1.78:1 video is clean and without defect. The colors are bright and vibrant. The Dolby audio provides a full and realistic sound stage. The special effects really pop using all the available speakers. This season has redeemed the series and will provide many enjoyable viewings.