You expect a certain degree of pain when you decide to watch “Smallville”. You know that you’re gonna get slapped around a little, what with the show depending on plot points like the Kents misplacing their son for three months, TWICE, and hoping no one notices or “alien parasites from a cave wall were controlling my brain” being a valid excuse for missing a couple days of school.
The fourth season, though, which I’m watching now, takes flagrant viewer abuse to a whole new level, and the worst part is that they make you think you somehow asked for it just by turning on the television. One second you’re watching Tom Welling’s shirt fall off (or get burned off in a furnace, or get torn off by an Indian shapeshifter, or explode off in a phonebooth through the power of red kryptonite), and the next your suspension of disbelief is cowering on the floor in tears with a red handprint on its cheek while “Smallville” stands over it screaming, “You love to make me hit you!” like Joan Crawford on family dinner night.
In no particular order, here’s my short list of issues with Season 4, which I’m only watching because I was told Season 5 is awesome and Season 6 is slightly less so.
1) The Kents are perpetually on the verge of losing the farm. How the hell does this keep happening? In the first season, they got a bank loan. In the second season, they got a huge settlement from Lex for dead cows. Later, when they took in Lex after he got disowned and financially cut off, he repaid them by paying off all the debt on the farm when he had money again. Martha Kent ran a produce stand, worked as an executive assistant to the CEO of a multinational company, and manages a coffee shop. Somehow, in spite of this, they’re back to losing the farm again. Jonathan Kent isn’t just a bad farmer, he’s also a crappy bookkeeper.
2) The Kents are noble and poor, but they never actually seem to go without anything. They have an endless supply of lumber, tractors, fenceposts, and barn siding to replace the things that get broken when Clark is possessed by Jor-El or spurting heat vision in a state of sexual arousal or overpowered due to solar flares. Clark has an endless supply of flannel shirts (I mentioned above that he goes through a lot of them), and none of them have patches or frayed sleeves or even a button missing. The problem is that we’re always told the Kents are poor, but we’re never shown it. They’re TV-poor, which means that the electricity at the farm never gets shut off and they never have to have pancakes for dinner because flour is cheap.
The only things they actually seem to go without are the large expensive presents that creepy, bachelor Lex keeps giving their pouty-lipped, pectorally-gifted son that he just wants to be closer to and whose secrets he wishes to explore. Listening to the Kents talk about being poor is kind of like listening to the Skywalkers bitch about how horrible slavery is in “The Phantom Menace”: “Oh, it’s terrible being a slave, just awful. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go polish my race car.”
3) Chloe can’t manage to stop herself from making the same mistake, over and over. At the end of the first season, she gave up on Clark because she couldn’t compete with Lana. Oh, and at the end of the second season, she gave up on Clark because she and Lana didn’t want to fight with each other over him. And hey, during the third season she started working for Lionel Luthor to try to get over giving up on Clark because he wasn’t interested. So here we are in the fourth season, and Chloe just got done crying inside because Clark and Lois smiled at each other. I look forward to the episode when Chloe rams a steak knife through her hand because that’s as much fun as falling in love with Clark when you’re anyone other than Lana, and Chloe clearly enjoys that sort of fun.
4) Clark joins the football team in the fourth season, and explains to the coach that he has no idea what position he plays because he’s never been on the football team. He also has to argue with his dad about being allowed to join the team when he could possibly accidentally hurt someone. It’s a plotline that should be full of dramatic tension, just like it was a couple seasons ago. When Clark joined the football team. And argued with his dad about being allowed to. Did all the writers go out to lunch and let the kids running the lemonade stand across the street write this story arc? Maybe before they start working on season seven they should actually sit down and watch the other six, because I don’t feel like sitting through another episode where Lana gets sucked into a tornado and nobody can figure out that Amy Acker is eating people.
5) French witches. That’s all I’m going to say about this season. Sometimes there are good ideas and sometimes there are bad ideas. Devoting an entire season to Clark’s battle against French witches is a bad idea.