Ah, Smallville. The very name fills my brain with nostalgia. I recall being introduced to the series at sixteen by my brother and found myself instantly hooked. By ‘hooked,’ I mean obsessively hooked to the point where I binged the whole first season in a matter of days. Not bad for a teenager who always liked Spider-Man more than Superman.
But that was the magic of Smallville – showing us a younger, more vulnerable Clark Kent before he put on the famous red cape. It was about a young man struggling to find his identity, a literal alien amongst his peers. More importantly, though, it was the DC show that gave birth to all the other DC shows. There would be no Arrowverse without Smallville.
And since Tom Welling’s Clark Kent has briefly returned to our screens in the CW’s extraordinary ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’ event, what more fitting way to celebrate than to reminisce about the show that made him a star by counting down its ten best episodes?
So, pack away your tights and wear some farmboy flannel instead – this will be a doozy.
10. Justice (Season 6, Episode 11)
Long before the Zach Snyder/Joss Whedon-helmed Justice League stunk up the silver screen in 2016, Smallville introduced the first live-action version of the team nearly ten years prior. And while, yes, it’s considerably low-budget compared to the DCEU as mentioned above effort, it does unite characters that Clark met throughout the past couple of seasons before Season Six. Green Arrow, Aquaman, Cyborg and Impulse all radiate charm throughout the episode and undoubtedly paved the way for the many Arrowverse ‘team-up’ episodes years later. For Smallville, though, it gave fans a glimpse of the young Clark Kent’s future as a leader as well as the humble beginnings of what would become a larger superhero outfit in the comics.
9. Heat (Season 2, Episode 2)
Heat is an excellent example of the quirky but grounded nature of the storytelling in early Smallville. Here, Clark kicks off his sophomore year of high school, struggling with super-puberty. The Boy of Steel becomes attracted to his new biology teacher, which inadvertently sets off his heat vision. With the help of his doting parents, Clark strives to learn to keep his heat vision under control – but his new crush also happens to be Lex Luthor’s new fiancée. And what’s more, she has the Kryptonite-fueled ability to get men to fall in love with her and do her bidding. Overall, a charming and funny 42 minutes.
8. Hourglass (Season 1, Episode 6)
From Smallville‘s very first episode, the Powers-That-Be were treating long-time Superman fans with easter eggs and references to the Boy of Steel’s future career as well as his past iterations. One of the most memorable episodes that allow us a glimpse of what was to come was Hourglass. Here, Clark meets a mysterious old woman in a nursing home who has the power to see the future. Through this character, we as the audience understand some glimpses into the futures of Clark and Lex, leading to some powerful scenes.
And yeah, there’s also a ‘freak of the week’ plot where an old disabled man falls into a Kryptonite-filled lake and turns back into his healthy, youthful self – who also happens to be a convicted killer who wants revenge on certain Smallville residents who’ve wronged him in the past. A bit weird, granted, but there’s an undeniable charm to these early villains.
7. Savior (Season 9, Episode 1)
The later seasons drove home a hard fact – Clark Kent wasn’t in Kansas anymore (well, for the most part). In this dark, exciting Season 9 opener, Clark is now a vigilante hiding in the shadows known only as the Blur. A ridiculous superhero name? Absolutely. But the great thing about ‘Savior’ was how it further pushed Clark towards his destiny, how it set up the mystery of where Lois had been the past two weeks, and also Oliver Queen’s path to alcoholism after Jimmy’s death the previous season. Tonally, there was a sense that Smallville was changing, and it was brilliant.
Oh yeah, and it also guest-stars Brian Austin Greene (90210) as John Corben/Metallo. If only he had more than a two-episode arc…
6. Homecoming (Season 10, Episode 4)
By the tenth season of Smallville, the showrunners were bringing out all the big guns. They knew it would be the show’s final season and wanted to get fans’ mouths drooling over the super-goodies to come. One of these goodies was the fourth episode of said season, Homecoming.
At his five-year high-school reunion, Clark meets Brainiac 5 from the future. Sensing the young Kryptonian’s doubts about his future, the anthropomorphic machine takes him to see what his future is like. There, Clark meets the bespectacled, nerdy reporter he’s destined to become – as well as seeing a glimpse of his super-self. He also meets future Lois and finally comes to terms with his father’s death. All in all, a great episode that celebrates what the show is all about.
5. Commencement – Season 4, Episode 22
Commencement is the finale to one of Smallville’s more ‘mixed bag’ seasons. Season 4 was an attempt to get the show back to its roots as a teen drama after the ratings declined the previous year. Thus, for his senior year of high school, Clark decides to join the football team (again), upbeat snarkster and future journo Lois Lane is introduced, and the season employed brighter colors and more silliness (including a best-forgot witch plot).
It’s a funny thing then that the season finale rocks. Between the second Smallville meteor strike, the arrival of new aliens, Jason holding the elder Kents hostage while pressing them for info on Clark and the Boy of Steel’s attempts to unite the three Stones of Power, Commencement is genuinely one of the series’ intense season finales. The episode further emphasizes Lex’s hidden feelings for Lana (which culminate by the sixth year) and introduces the iconic Fortress of Solitude. All in all, super.
4. Reckoning – Season 5, Episode 15
By the time of ‘Reckoning,’ the show had indeed dug its heels into the depths of Superman mythology. The Fortress of Solitude had been introduced, Impulse and Aquaman had joined the universe, and Clark had even gone toe-to-toe with Brainiac, disguised as his history professor, Milton Fine. One thing was readily apparent – the kid wasn’t in high school anymore, and the show was growing up.
So, here comes Reckoning then, to hammer that message home. When Lana dies, Clark begs his alien father, Jor-El, to turn back the clock so that she may live. Despite the AI’s solemn warnings that fate cannot be stopped and that somebody else will die, Clark goes ahead with it – with tragic results. Lana indeed returns in the renewed timeline, but at the expense of Clark’s father, Jonathan Kent. A powerful scene ensues in one of the most notable deaths in the show.
3. Salvation – Season 9, Episode 21
A good season finale not only has to wrap up the story arc of its parent season, but also leave people lusting for more. And boy, did Salvation deliver on this.
Zod unleashes his army of Kandorians thanks to the Book of Rao, and it’s up to Clark and his ‘work-in-progress’ justice league to stop them. Clark inadvertently reveals his identity as the Blur to Lois. Oliver miraculously goes missing. And then there’s that teaser Superman scene at the beginning. Holy moly.
This episode is right just for the final Clark-Zod fight alone, and Clark’s big sacrifice shows just how Super-manly he’s become since his Season 1 day.
2. Absolute Justice – Season 9, Episode 11
The Arrowverse has annual crossover events and seems to be introducing new comic book characters every five minutes or so. But back in the days of Smallville, the idea of classic comic book heroes being added to TV was a real novelty and felt genuinely exciting. There was no DCEU, and the MCU had yet to expand to its current state.
So imagine being a superhero lover and watching the Justice Society of America in live-action on Smallville back then. It’s incredible what was done given the show’s relatively low budget – Doctor Fate, Hawkman, and Stargirl look fantastic. The way they interact with Smallville‘s Justice League – who is the show’s ‘new kids on campus’ – is entertaining, with Hawkman and Oliver developing a rivalry. The only truly disappointing thing about this double-episode is its choice of villain…but alas…
1. Pilot – Season 1, Episode 1
The pilot of Smallville was something extraordinary. It did a fantastic job of laying the groundwork of the show in one episode and leave viewers wanting more. From young Clark arriving in Smallville amidst a fierce meteor shower to his apparent longing after high school crush Lana Lang to finding out he’s an alien to developing a friendship with Lex, this episode is crammed with so many memorable moments and ties it together beautifully. Just watching the episode makes you realize that the show contains what many popular superheroes show lack – heart currently.
Do you agree with this list? What are your favorite episodes? Share your favorites in the comments below!
A writer who loves sci-fi, great TV shows, videogames and more!