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RERUN REVIEWS: Smallville 1×01 “Pilot”

Written by Scott Swartz

With months of waiting ahead of us before the return of ArrowDoctor Who, and the premiere of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., not to mention the rest of our favorite (American) shows, what is one to do? Well, take a trip down memory lane as we take a look back at one of the best superhero TV shows in recent memory: Smallville.

That’s right folks, we’re  no that is not an exaggeration; we are indeed going to go back and review every episode of Smallville. Yes it will take us a while to get to Lois, Ollie, and Perry, but Smallville was mostly about the journey and not the destination. And we might review two or three at a time to speed things up.

This show holds a dear place in our hearts, as it gave us our version of Superman for a decade (sorry Brandon Routh). It is fitting that I am writing this column in the exact location I first saw the series back in 2001 as I grew on Smallville and it was awesome. So, like all things, we will start at the beginning with the first episode, “Pilot”.

So yes, “Pilot” is indeed a pilot, by that I mean it is rigid, does not take many risks, and barely resembles the show we see at the end. However, the opening sequence with the meteor crash still ranks up there with the best scenes in Smallville history. Watching the meteors rain down on the small town and forever change the landscape of the city was always a magnificent visual and the discovery of Clark by Jonathan and Martha was handled splendidly. We also gain the lasting image of young Lana weeping after her parents are blown to bits by the meteor.

Of course the pilot’s plot is very by the numbers as we start out with the flashback to the day of the meteor shower as well as when Clark first arrived on earth. It also gives us the visual of young Lex running through the field and finding Jeremy “scarecrow” Creek tied up. We then flash forward to present day and follow the adventures of high school Clark Kent and his first meeting with Lex. At the same time Creek, who has just woken up from a coma and decided to take revenge on those who strung him up in the field. This episode was about laying the foundation for what the series would be and showing the first steps of Clarks journey.

Of course, the great moments of the pilot are fairly few and far between as the majority of the episode plays out like your basic high school drama. The early part of Smallville suffered from this often, whereas Buffy was made for the “freak of the week” format, Smallville and by extension Superman had decades of cannon to play with. The core relationship of this episode and a large part of the first season hinged on us caring about Lex’s interaction with Clark. There are standout performances throughout the entire episode by Michael Rosenbaum as he presents a Lex that is not often seen. This Lex has been ostracized an abused because of his position, which makes his playboy persona much more of a façade. In Clark, Lex sees a chance to start anew and develop a real relationship with the “out of touch farm boy” that is Tom Welling’s Clark Kent.

Welling is of course the other standout performer in the pilot, as the entire series hinges on him being a believable Clark Kent. He is easily likeable, yet at the same time strangely distant from his “good friends,” and it is this cautious nature that defines Clark for a large part of the series. Clark does not know who he can trust as he is worried that once his secret is found out, he will be rejected and ostracized by everyone he cares about. You can see that fear in the moment Clark takes his hand out of the wood chipper unscathed and again when he sees his spaceship for the first time. Welling sells that in both scenes and that I believe it is what made this pilot work.

The actual “freak” of said week was Jeremy Creek, and I feel like the writers named him that just for the tongue twister. The visuals of his power while neat don’t help to make up for his rather clumsy backstory and motivation. Yes, Creek is meant to be a parallel to Clark’s fears of being an outsider, but he does not do anything with it. He just seems bitter that he became The Scarecrow, and now wants everyone who has never experienced that scenario to feel pain. Of course this can be contributed to meteor rock induced crazy, but it just seems outlandish in retrospect.

All of the action in this episode was really well done, especially the famous car crash meeting of Lex and Clark. I prefer daytime action as you can actually make out what is going on in the scene, luckily Clark has a distinguishable color pattern that makes him stand out and the final confrontation with Jeremy is a fun one.

So that wraps up the pilot, good overall but not out of this world spectacular. Of course we are going to pick up and have a ball moving forward. Stay tuned for much, much more. This is gonna be fun.

 

Title: As with every other episode of the series, this episode’s is just one word. While it is not uncommon for the first episode of a series to be simply called “Pilot”, in this case, there is an additional meaning: the title could be referencing Clark, who was the “pilot” of the Kryptonian spaceship.

 

Extra Thoughts

-Lana has a very peppy outlook for her necklace. Any other person would be considered a goth or freaky for wearing something made from the object that killed their parents.

-A lot of notable side characters fell to the wayside in the pilot, luckily Chloe develops. Pete is still the comic relief.

– Clark: “People can’t fly, Lex.” Clark’s motto for most of the series.

 

Final Grade: C+

 

+ Clark and Lex’s interactions

+The action and opening minutes

+Great visuals

 

-Very high school drama

-Very piloty

-Creek was not an interesting villain

About the author

Scott Swartz