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Smallville - The Complete Eighth Season Print E-mail
Tuesday, 25 August 2009
Image"Smallville" is the latest episodic television series following the lore of Superman.  I will admit, this review will be a bit biased, as I am an avid Superman fan.  However, I will not lie that this particular season is a bit of a bummer, but there is always a silver lining.  "Smallville's" fan base took quite a hit with its eighth season.  Still, "Smallville" remains one of the best Superman television shows ever created.

The show took a little while to get into the swing of things, but by the third and fourth seasons it was going strong.  The first season in particular was plagued by the villain-of-the-week syndrome.  Eventually the show starting creating story arcs that captured audiences.  The show found a strong foothold in stories about Lex and Clark's early relationship, as well as the struggle to keep Clark's secret.

Season seven ended with Lex discovering the Fortress and the real identity of the traveler.  When season eight opens, we confirm the rumors that many of the big stars of the show have left.  Michael Rosenbaum does not return as Lex Luthor, Kristin Kreuk is out as Lana Lang and Annette O'Toole is out as Martha Kent.  Previously John Schneider already left as Jonathan Kent.  Ultimately, these losses deterred fans.  It limits the storylines that are available to the writers.

Season eight contains silly storylines up the ying yang, but there is plenty of interesting stuff in between.  Like I said, no matter what the storyline I am always able to find something appealing in the episode.

My biggest disappointment with the season is that lack of Lois and Clark screen time.  I know it is meant to be a tease, but that was the best thing the season had going for it.  When Lana briefly returns, we lose Lois.

Aside from the Lois/Clark relationship, the season focuses on Doomsday, Superman's greatest foe.  Doomsday is the offspring of the Brainiac.  Actor Sam Witwer portrays Davis Bloom, a paramedic, aka Doomsday.  He struggles between being a human and the beast that he was always meant to become.  No matter what Clark does he is always overpowered by Doomsday.  His strength is no match for the beast.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Olsen and Chloe tie the knot, only to have their ceremony interrupted by Doomsday.  Jimmy is severely injured and Chloe is kidnapped.  When Doomsday is Davis Bloom he has intense feelings for Chloe and feels that she is the only thing in the world that can keep the beast contained.  As Jimmy makes a slow recovery he believes that he has discovered who Doomsday is by day.  This drives a wedge between Chloe and Jimmy.  Jimmy's life spirals downward as he turns his back on everyone and vice versa. Replacing Lex is Tess Mercer.  She is Lex's right hand girl who takes over LexCorp in Lex's mysterious absence.  Like Lex, she puts her efforts into the mysterious.  She hunts for Lex, discovers long held secrets and tries to manipulate the press through her ownership of the Daily Planet.  She also becomes fascinated with Clark.

Tess is also an acquaintance of the Green Arrow, bringing him back into the picture this season.  The season also contains several other comic book superheroes and villains.  The vast majority of viewers will not recognize most of them.

Personally, I was really disappointed that Kara left the show this season.  Laura Vandervoort was a breath of fresh air in the aging show.  There were almost limitless storylines that the writers could have used with Clark and Kara teamed up together.  Not too mention she is the cutest woman that the show has ever had, next to Erica Durance.  It seems that Vandervoort left more because she went to film "Into the Blue 2" than because the writers no longer wanted her.  However, it occurred, it is truly a loss for the show.

"Smallville's" eighth season is plagued by subpar performances and storylines, but it keeps the legend of Superman alive.  However, I will admit that you have to be a diehard Superman fan to really get into this season.  I know too many people that stopped watching the show after a couple episodes into this season.  That is sad, but hopefully the ninth season of the show will put it back into full swing.  One thing "Smallville" creators have always been able to do is turn out terrific season elosers.  The end of season eight shows great promise for the ninth season.  Keep your fingers crossed.

The Blu-ray edition of season eight contains VC-1 encode with the standard 16x9 aspect of 1.78:1.  The video quality is very similar to the previous seasons that were presented on Blu-ray.  The transfer is rich with bold and vibrant colors that shine throughout the season.  Black levels are inky and shadow delineation is fairly revealing.  Contrast levels are stable.  The picture is hardly ever overblown.  So that is the good.  The bad, well that is more substantial.  The image looks like is has been filtered several times over.  The image constantly looks soft, flat and/or blotchy.  More pressing is that fact that throughout the season there is artifacting, banding and noise.  There is no doubt that the Blu-ray is many times better than the quality put forth by the standard DVD.  It was a pleasure to see this series on Blu-ray after a very subpar high-definition broadcast.  The CW is not known for airing their broadcast properly.

Warner Bros. has decided to let the Blu-ray edition be released without a lossless audio track.  The Blu-ray comes only with a Dolby Digital, which has a slightly higher bitrate than Dolby Digital tracks on standard DVDs.  Unfortunately, the HD broadcast of the show was plagued by clicking audio and incorrectly packed audio streams.  This makes comparing it to the Blu-ray rather difficult.  The surround channels are constantly engaged, but rarely does it create an immersive feeling.  Directionality and panning is inaccurate.  The dialogue is crisp and clear.  The LFE channel is a bit muddy and only kicks in during the action sequences.  Sound effects lack a high-end clarity.  The track is dull in its sound design, so it is hard to fault the transfer for all of it.  Overall, this is a very average audio track that may or may not have benefited from a lossless audio track.

The Blu-ray edition of Season Eight contains some interesting bonus materials for fans.  There are two audio commentaries, one for "Legion" and one for "Identity."  For "Identity," the episode contains commentary offered by the director, executive producer and actress Cassidy Freeman.  This commentary is fairly bland, offering nothing more than surface information.  The commentary by the producers and writer on "Legion" is much more informing.  This commentary delves more into the lore of Superman.

There are some deleted scenes for about half the season.  These episodes don't offer much information but will be liked by fans.  Lastly, there are two featurettes.  "In the Director's Chair" goes behind the scenes with Allison Mack, as she directed several of the episodes this season.  The other featurette is "Smallville's Doomsday: The Making of a Monster" examines the CG creation of the monster.  That's it for bonus materials.

The Eighth season of "Smallville" is not the best out of them all, but it does offer fans some interesting treats.  The video and audio quality is not the best on Blu-ray.  In fact, it is probably at the bottom of the barrel.  Nevertheless, if you are Superman fans, this is certainly a boxset that you need to get.

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