Smallville: Skippable Episode Guide

Awhile back I offered to make someone on the Smallville subreddit an abridged guide to Smallville that skipped all unncessary episodes. My offer was ignored, but another user recently found my post and asked me if I would still be willing to make the guide. So here it is! The following is my skippable episodes guide to Smallville.

Please note that I created this guide to cater specifically to that reddit user’s request, who was only interested in the main storyline. This creates some problems because typically when you make a skippable episode guide you only include the best episodes (in addition to ones that follow the main plot) and Smallville‘s main storyline episodes aren’t the best episodes. For example, the Season Four episode “Sacred” is a terrible episode. But in that episode we learn about an important set of stones that are integral to the season. Following the main storyline also skips over a lot of great episodes, like the Ryan episode in the first season (which I snuck in anyway) and the Alicia episodes in the third and fourth seasons (which I also snuck in anyway).

Smallville is also unusual in that it continuously reinvents its history. At first we learn about how Clark fits in with the Native American legend of Naman. Later we learn about how Clark is also known among the Veritas group as The Traveler. By the time we’re learning about The Traveler, the Native American legend is hardly referenced again. So is the Native American legend really part of the main storyline? What I decided was that each season focused on a particular story or villain and I tried to include the episodes that developed that story.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. I’d consider reworking this in order to make the best possible list for the most number of people. For example, if you think the will-they-won’t-they, on-again-off-again Lana storyline is essential, I’m willing to hear that argument. Or if you would just prefer a list of the most pleasant Smallville episodes, let me know.

Final note: If you’re a first time viewer watching the show, I’ve separated the article into two parts: The first part is spoiler-free list of the episodes you need to watch, the second part is spoiler-heavy description for fans to explain why I cut what I cut.

Here is the abridged guide to Smallville that let’s you know what episodes you can skip.

Doctor Strange: Imagery and Storytelling Through His Hands

While watching Doctor Strange I noticed a considerable focus on Doctor Strange’s hands. Because Doctor Strange’s journey begins when he damages his hands, they are a big part of the story’s purpose and the camera spends a lot of time on his hands as he progresses through the story.

Here is a quick breakdown of how images of Doctor Strange’s hands are used to describe his mindset and where he is in his journey.

White and Black Hats: The Morality of Westworld

In Westerns there is a long tradition of good guys wearing white hats and bad guys wearing black hats. I believe Westworld is playing around with this tradition.

White and black hats goes all the way back to silent films. It’s not an absolute rule all Westerns follow. In fact, many films (like The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly) deliberately subvert the idea by eliminating white hats to imply moral ambiguity amongst the characters. However, it is imagery we see again and again in Westerns.

the-man-who-shot-liberty-va

I believe that Westworld is conscious of this traditional Western imagery and is playing with the concept — and that it is worth paying attention to which hat a character wears. Here is a brief analysis of six Westworld characters and the hats they wear.

Joss Whedon: Master of Character

As I re-watch Star Trek: Deep Space Nine I find there are a lot of character building episodes where a character faces a personal challenge and overcomes it. The further in the show I go, however, I realize that these character building episodes result in no real character change whatsoever. By the next episode, the character falls back into their normal personality and rhythms.

This is like false character building, in that the character goes through the process of changing, but never actually changes. While these aren’t bad episodes and are even fulfilling, we as an audience respond more strongly when we get to be party to a character changing, from their beginning state, to the conflict, to the character that emerges. There’s a deeper connection to this kind of character building. But so far, Deep Space Nine is missing that kind of character building.

As I thought about this, I realized other shows skimp on character building too. To help illustrate how character building is done properly, I decided to contrast some poor examples of character building episodes with a few episodes from a master of character building, Joss Whedon. While a couple of the Whedon episodes I mention are written by other writers (Steven DeKnight, Marti Noxon, and Douglas Petrie) many of the character threads that lead to these character building episodes run throughout the season, and for the purposes of making the title of this piece more simple, I’m giving the works of Whedon the nod here, rather than the man himself (though I suspect he had input on these character arcs).

Here are three examples of shows that did character building poorly, and three more examples where Joss Whedon shows did it better.

The Rocketeer: Revisited

The Rocketeer revisited. In this series I re-watch a movie I haven’t seen in a long time to look at it with new eyes, and (hopefully) more experience. This time I revisit The Rocketeer.

For some reason I can’t remember much about The Rocketeer. Watching it again, I mostly recall the zeppelin at the end of the film. I wonder if I fell asleep the first time I watched it …

It’s certainly possible. Sometimes I did that as a kid on movie nights when I was bored. And re-watching The Rocketeer, I can see how that might have happened. The Rocketeer takes place in 1930’s Hollywood. The setting imbues the film with a sense of the era and it isn’t in a big ol’ hurry to get anywhere. On the surface it has pizzazz; The Rocketeer is about a struggling young pilot, Cliff (Billy Campbell), who stumbles across a jet pack that allows him to fly. Unfortunately, a lot people are pursuing that jet pack including the FBI, famous actor Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton), some mobsters Sinclair hires, the Nazis, and a hulking brute named Lothar (Tiny Ron Taylor).

But the film is more about people and relationships than it is about The Rocketeer. Like Cliff’s relationship with Peevy (Alan Arkin), who is Cliff’s friend / roommate / father figure / mentor / partner (it’s a multi-layered relationship). Peevy is a modest mechanical genius who stays up half the night making Cliff a helmet after they find the jet pack, even though Peevy thinks using the jet pack is a bad idea. The other big relationship in the film is the one between Cliff and Jenny (Jennifer Connelly). Jenny is an up-and-coming actress who is just gaga for Cliff. When Cliff takes her to the local airfield diner for the umpteenth time and one of the bumbling regulars splashes soup on Jenny’s blouse, she let’s it slide. She simply takes Cliff’s hand and makes plans for their future, saying they should celebrate at a fancier place when Cliff wins the National Flying competition.

Whatever else The Rocketeer is about, it always comes back to Cliff wanting to become the kind of man who deserves Jenny. That’s something I wouldn’t have caught when I was younger.

Here are four things I noticed when I re-visited The Rocketeer.