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Is Eight Enough for Smallville?

Debuting in October 2001, “Smallville” hit the small screen faster than a speeding bullet with the story of a high school aged Clark Kent (Tom Welling) in this new telling of the Superman saga. During its eight-year run, Clark and his friends have faced many life-defining challenges; the challenges that will form who our flying hero will become in the future. The question on the minds of fans and critics alike is, after almost eight full seasons, how much longer will it take to turn mild-mannered Clark Kent into the Superman of legend?

When you think of Superman, it is natural to think of the red-caped, tights wearing superhero, flying high above the skyline. Unfortunately, this isn’t close to what you’ll see on “Smallville.” Early on, creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar made the statement that the early years of Superman would not involve that famous costume or trips in the sky, taking a firm policy of “no tights, no flights.”

As this flightless period continued, Clark began his turbulent on-again, off-again relationship with neighbor Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk). Despite viewers cheering on the relationship during Clark’s awkward teenage phase, the romance took a turn, swallowing the show and any plausible plotline along with it. Rather than a solid focus on the evil and corruption he was fighting, increasingly more airtime was devoted to pouting over the state of the relationship. Some fans even took to referring to Lana as the “show killer” each time she would begin whining about Clark’s secretive nature.

To fuel the drama from a perspective other than teen angst, Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) was introduced in the pilot episode and became a fast friend of Clark’s – despite his father’s disapproval – after Clark saved his life. Rosenbaum’s portrayal of this budding ultimate bad guy is a gem among the widely inexperienced cast and he adds a depth of ambiguity to the complex character.

In fact, some of the most effective marketing for “Smallville” centered on whether each episode would finally feature Lex’s decent into evil. Once that line was crossed, Lex never looked back.

Not even after he murdered his own father.

Last season – the seventh for the series – featured a number of pivotal moments. Brainiac (James Marsters) nearly succeeded in destroying our superhero and took control of Lana’s mind, taking the love story element with her. External forces for every angle forced Clark to face his destiny and begin to embrace it. And in a masterful maze of plot twists and turns, Lex discovered Clark’s secret, culminating in their ultimate battle during the season finale.

Seven seasons and devoted viewers were being given everything they wanted!

Well, almost.

“No flights, no tights” still reigns supreme on the set of “Smallville.” Clark is still pining for Lana; despite having who we all know is his true love, Lois Lane (Erica Durance), in the wings. Lex, absent from the new season except in occasional mention and shadowy glimpse, is out there somewhere, perhaps to plan his new attack on his nemesis. All of the elements, it would seem, are in place for young Clark Kent to transition into the Man of Steel we know from the big screen.

Unless “Smallville” begins to radically reinvent itself, the plot will continue to appear lacking. The groundwork is already in place for the costume. Clark knows he can fly, though he hasn’t figured out how to do it without being possessed by other Kryptonians. Isn’t eight years long enough for Clark Kent’s character to be shaped? Isn’t it time for Superman to realize all that potential within so “Smallville” can take flight?

Perhaps the second half of Season 8 will answer these questions.

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