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As its signature show Dawson’s Creek was showing signs of vulnerability, the WB network was in search of another teen hit, and it soon found the answer in an iconic character.

Smallville: The Complete Second Season
The Series
It is October 2001, and the Warner Brothers network premiered a new show which attempted to tell the story of Superman during his teen high school years. Unlike other interpretations of this time period in the Man of Steel's life, this would not be Superboy, but would more reflect how his powers came to be and what events shaped him into the hero he would become. To better reflect that this would be the focus of the show, the producers chose the title Smallville. Instituting a "No tights, no flight" policy, this would be more of a combination of the Superman mythos with a Dawson's Creek feeling to it. It has proven to be wildly successful. One of the WBs highest rated shows, the series really exemplifies the saying of "It's not the destination, it's the journey". After all, we all know that Clark Kent will grow up to be Superman, and that Lex Luthor will become his most hated enemy. We know that Clark Kent and Lana Lang will never get together in the end, and yet it is how we get to all of these points that are the allure of the series. What is the defining moment that will turn Clark and Lex against each other forever? At what point will Clark adopt his hero identity? What proves to be the final straw that dooms the Clark/Lana relationship? How did Clark develop each of his powers? All of these are played out in fine detail week after week.

The show really found it's footing during the latter half of the first season. As the season ended, Lana and her boyfriend Whitney had separated as Whitney had joined the Marines. On her way back from seeing him off at the bus station, Lana was caught up in twin tornadoes that were making their way across the Kansas plains. Meanwhile, Clark had escorted his friend Chloe to the Smallville prom, but left her standing on the dance floor as he rushed to go save Lana. Lex and his father Lionel were locked in their usual personal struggle at Lex's mansion and as the tornado struck, part of the mansion had collapsed on Lionel pinning him to the floor. The second season begins on all these notes....and the first episode continues each of these. I won't tell you all of the detailed plot points (you'll have to find those out on your own!), but during the second season more of Clark's Kryptonian heritage is revealed (through an ancient cave which is found). Part of this revelation occurs in a stand out episode entitled "Rosetta" in which former Superman actor Christopher Reeve plays Dr. Swann, and enigmatic scientist who is able to answer some of the questions of Clark's past. When the John William's score plays at the end of the scene it brings goose bumps—truly an outstanding moment in the series.

Smallville: The Complete Second Season
There are other exceptional episodes as well. The first season had a history for bringing in what was dubbed the "Freak of the Week"...so named because many of the stories revolved around characters developing special powers as a result of their exposure to the green meteorite rocks (later to be called "kryptonite"). Although there was some of this in the second season, it was extremely scaled back. Instead, episodes concentrating on the characters relationships were more prevalent. One entitled "Ryan" brought back a character from the first season and really showed the potential of what the producers and writers could do without resorting to special effects.

Not every episode is a winner, however. One episode, called "Redux" (which was filmed during the first season but aired during the second), also shows that even the writers are sometimes affected by what I will call "writer's kryptonite". But these are few and far between. The season ends firmly entrenched in Kryptonian lore as a voice speaks to Clark (purportedly the voice of his father, Jor-El), and events occur which cause Clark to question whether he was sent to Earth to aid humans or to rule them. In the final moments, Clark's life is altered once again and in a moment in which he gives into his guilt, he is on the run from all of things he knows and loves in Smallville.

The actors in the series all do a fine job. Tom Welling as Clark Kent is truly believable and he does not come across as other incarnations of the young Kent have, as nerdy and mild mannered. Instead, although there is indecision and hesitation present, he is a very strong character in the end, and you see the beginnings of the man who will later become the Man of Tomorrow. Lex Luthor is also excellently portrayed by Michael Rosenbaum, and the series really kicks into high gear during the interactions between Rosenbaum and Welling. The supporting actors also put forth very decent portrayals. John Schneider (of Dukes of Hazard fame) and Annette O'Toole (from the film Superman IV) are Clark's parents and provide him with guidance...not about how to become a hero, but how to become a man. John Glover plays Lex's father and the two of them also share some of the juiciest scenes from the series. There is a definite taste of defiance and even dislike in the air when the two are together, and their constant battles to outdo one another bring about some of the best acted scenes, and some of their situations involve huge story arc alterations.

Smallville: The Complete Second Season
In contrast, Sam Jones III plays Pete Ross, Clark's best friend, and although he is involved in a pivotal episode early in the season, he is underutilized in total. He seems to come and go as a plot device, and never really has a huge impact on the overall direction of the series (with the exception of the early season episode). Chloe (Allison Mack) is used much more in the series (almost as a kind of teenage Lois Lane). She is the publisher of Smallville High's newspaper the Torch, and she takes her position very seriously, sometimes even at the detriment to her friendships. Finally, Lana Lang is played by Kristen Kreuk, a very likeable photogenic woman who plays the part of the always jilted high school girl extremely well. She is willing to allow Clark his secrets as long as she doesn't get lied to.

The writing in the series reaches new heights in this season as well, as the creators brought in a true Superman dictionary, Jeph Loeb, a current writer for Superman’s owner, DC Comics. Loeb writes the outstanding episode “Red” and Gough and Millar write the other most important episodes of the season.

Video
Sporting a 1.78:1 transfer, the show looks great in widescreen, most especially because of the many shots of farmland and open spaces which are depicted throughout rural Smallville. Filmed in Vancouver, the location serves as a great stand in for what is supposed to be the rolling countryside of Kansas. The colours are sharp and the flesh tones are spot on. There is some slight washing out in some of the indoor scenes; however, overall the set is a very good representation video-wise.

Audio
With a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo soundtrack, the music of the series is one of its biggest draws, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. There does not appear to be any substitution of any of the music from its initial broadcast, which is something unusual in today’s DVD world. I can only attribute it to the fact that by 2001, producers were savvy enough to realize that the money paid for music rights needed to include payment for subsequent DVD releases. The accompanying music serves the material well, and continues the spotlighting of some up and coming acts by the WB network.

Dialogue is also very clear and there is no loss of clarity in any of the outdoor scenes (and there are many). Sounds effects which go along with the special effects act to enhance the overall effect in a fine manner.

Smallville: The Complete Second Season
Extras
Unlike the first set, there are some more "standard" extras in this box. The first would be the gag reel which accompanies the discs. This is at times extremely funny, but it becomes clear that Michael Rosenbaum is the true practical joker of the cast. He is the source of nearly 75% of the outtakes highlighted here. His laughter is obviously infectious as he manages to break up almost all of the other cast members at various times.

There is a nice addition to the set in a featurette on Christopher Reeve. Entitled "Christopher Reeve: Man of Steel", Reeve is obviously a permanent part of the Superman legend, having portrayed him four movies (two of which were very good, the other two which were absolutely forgettable). The producers pulled off a huge coup by getting Reeve to portray Dr. Virgil Swann, a mysterious wealthy individual who reveals information to Clark about his true origins. This short featurette speaks to the producers desire to get Reeve for the show and just what they had to go through to make it happen. As outlined above, the scenes between Welling and Reeve provide some of the most riveting moments of the entire series.

A series of scenes originally shot for the internet are included next. "The Chloe Chronicles" are four webisodes (plus an introduction) which investigate the goings on of a local professor and one time employee of Luthorcorp. Loosely tied to some of the series storylines, the webisodes basically were an attempt at "corporate synergy". Available to AOL subscribers (which is part of Time/Warner), "The Chloe Chronicles" was a venture which would give them original internet content while promoting the show. The production qualities are not up to the regular show's standards, but they are an interesting
addition to the set.

A third featurette is one on the special effects of the show. It is an interesting look at exactly what goes into creating the many effects that give the show its supernatural feel. Three distinct special effect laden scenes are deconstructed and outlined for the viewer. For those who are interested in the special effects—and I am one—it is a very good piece.

There are selections of deleted scenes on the set, but none of them really offer any new insight into the story and there is no explanation as to why the scenes were in fact cut.  While I am a sucker for deleted scenes, these really did nothing to me. In contrast, the commentaries were done very well. Two separate commentary tracks exist on two episodes, one by some of the creators and others by the cast with the director of the particular episode. The differences are what one would expect. The creators tends to be much more technical and explain what goes the behind the scenes creative aspect of each episode and the series as a whole. In contrast, the actors and director will break down several scenes and discuss the interaction of the actors on the set. As commentaries go, these are very interesting and move at a good pace. There are no long gaps with no dialogue, and the participants seem to genuine enjoy each others company on the commentary tracks.

Smallville: The Complete Second Season
Overall
Smallville manages to do something that seems to be difficult—to tell a story where the audience knows the ending. They do so in fine fashion. The creators have said that you will never see Clark in the famous blue, red and yellow suit, and that you will never see him fly. Apparently all his other powers are open for exploration, and I can only hope that we continue to see the fine storytelling and acting as each one manifests itself. Already renewed for a fourth season, expect the third season DVD set before the end of the year. In the meantime, run out and grab this season two set, as I expect that this Smallville set will be flying off the shelves!


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