In going through all my notes from the Smallville press roundtables at Comic-Con 2010, I decided for fun to Google how many series in the history of TV hit 200 episodes. After all, in its tenth and final season, Smallville’s 200th episode is the fourth one this year. Not counting shows like Saturday Night Live or 60 Minutes or reality shows like WWE Raw (okay pseudo reality), when Smallville reaches that milestone it will be in company with only 76 other shows. When it completes its run in May 2011, that number dwindles to 53 shows.
“Keep going down this path and I’ll start crying,” said Executive Producer Kelly Souders when I brought up Smallville’s final season to her. She has been with the show since the second season when she started as a writer. “I’m a little bit misty today. It’s very strange. But it’s really an amazing experience though.”
Executive Producer Brian Peterson, who also started at the same time as Kelly Souders, was a bit less emotional but every bit as sentimental. “It’s heartbreaking. It’s our family. The people in Vancouver, Tom, they’re all our family. It’s going to be really, really emotional. We want to go out at the top after ten so I’ll deal with it when it comes. It’s going to be a tough one.”
Cassidy Freeman, who plays Tess Mercer, had the most entertaining answer, probably since she only joined the cast two seasons ago. “I was getting really emotional at the panel. I was like ‘ten years.’ I mean I’ve been here for two. ‘Ten years!’ (fake wipes a tear from her eye). I can’t imagine how they feel. But I’m very thankful.”
By the end of this season Smallville will have earned the title of most episodes ever by a Sci-Fi series. Despite the sentiments though, we were all there to talk about what’s happening in season ten. Sure, we know Clark Kent becomes Superman, but what has to happen in the final 22 episodes to get to that point?
Surprise guest John Schneider, whose mere presence let us know that Jonathan Kent will be coming back this season, knew what role his character is supposed to play. “I think that Jonathan Kent is back because he is the only force, the only person in Clark Kent’s life that can tell him it’s okay to be Superman. That this is in fact ‘the destiny we talked about when you were a child. We’ve always talked about you’re here for something, you’re here for a reason, you’ve got this very specific set of skills, and you are part of what’s right in the world. One of these days you’ll know how to use that out among the people. It’s your destiny son.’”
Erica Durance, who was announced to be in all 22 episodes this year, understood what her character Lois Lane had to do. “Well, I think it’s great that in this season she knows and you see her struggle with accepting her destiny. That’s the cool thing about the show is people accepting their destinies as what they’re for and then breaking and then moving forward. And Lois I think struggles with whether she’ll be able to help when she finds out what an entity he is. And so when she embraces that she is there to make things easier for him, to make it lighter for him. And that’s her role in the mythology, that’s what Lois Lane was, she’s the love of his life and she is helping and that’s what I hope they continue to do throughout the season.”
How much of that responsibility falls on Clark? “I really think last year we put him through the ringer as far as making some decisions that were maybe on the edge,” said Peterson. “He roughed up Tess a little bit, he burned down some buildings, he made decisions that fans actually reacted to a lot that’s not really Superman. We wanted him to see where the boundaries are when you are God and how far you should and can go. So this year hopefully we can take more of a positive spin and watch him as he’s taking those lessons from last year and applying them.”
Justin Hartley (Oliver McQueen, aka the Green Arrow) saw his character benefiting more from Clark’s influence than the other way around. “I think what you’re going to see this year is Clark finding that (his destiny) on his own and maybe he’ll help Oliver a little bit like he did last year.”
Smallville was started by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar back in 2001. They left after the show’s seventh season but have forged much of the blueprint that is still seen today. Will what they visualized for the end of the show happen? “There’s a lot of things that Al and Miles, images that they had and there’s images that Brian and I have had and the writing staff, honestly the cast, the crew, everybody, we’re all fans too,” explained Souders. “So we all have our wish lists and we’re all battling it out. Everybody wants their own wish in there. It will be an amalgamation of a lot of people that work on the show, that last episode.”
After ten years, the fans also have gotten some big expectations. How do they plan on satisfying the fans? “We try every season to do new twists and turns and delve deeper into Clark who he is as a person,” said Souders. “And I think this season because we know its ending in 22 episodes we’re already exhausted. We’re shooting episode two, we’ve been pulling crazy, crazy hours, and we’re so, we just want to do all of it. We just want to do everything. We’re like shooting our own selves in the foot. I know if we’re even going to be alive by the end of the season because we’re killing ourselves so hard, both the crew and the cast. But everyone feels like it’s our last chance to do every iconic moment that we want, every reunion we want to see, everything.”
Erica Durance has noticed all the efforts being put into the show’s final season by everyone for the fans. “I think they want everybody to get the payoff they’re looking for ten years. It’s season ten, run as hard as they can with it, tell them to make people smile and get excited about spending ten years watching it.”
But fan expectations and budget are two different things, especially with how notorious The CW has been with budget cuts in the last few seasons. How does that come into play? “We’re literally are trying to shoot a movie and we don’t have 50 million dollars,” explained Peterson. “We’re the little engine that could up in Vancouver. Every script they get they’re like ‘Really?’ and we’re like ‘You can do it, you’ve done it,’ and they do it.”
What about potential guest stars? Some names were dropped. “Obviously Schneider is back as you know and (James) Marsters is coming back (as Brainiac),” said Souders. “We would love to have Kristin (Kruek) back. The door is wide open for anybody who wants to come back.”
How about Michael Rosenbaum? Have attempts been made to get him back to reprise his role as Lex Luthor? Brian Peterson has tried. “I’m already in splits from doing the pretzel. I’ve bent over backwards three times. Kelly and I have done everything in our power with the support of the studio to invite Michael back. You know, it just hasn’t worked out. We love Michael, he’s a fantastic guy. So the door is open, that’s all we can hope and pray that something works out.”
What about villains? For the past two seasons, there has been one primary villain. This year there will be multiple foes, with the biggest one being Darkseid, a notorious baddie in the DC Universe. How will this play out? “We really wanted to do something different with a villain,” said Peterson. “I think Zod and Doomsday were successful and were really great additions to the show but we didn’t just want to repeat that pattern. So we’re introducing Darkseid in a really different way, kind of gradually unfolding that character through some of his harbingers or minions from the Gods mythology a little bit.”
“Darkseid is a bad guy, or entity, whatever you want to call him,” said Souders. “But he shows up in different ways throughout the season.”
There will also be a visit from the Suicide Squad. “There will be Deadshot, we have Rick Flag, and we’re bringing back Plastique,” revealed Peterson.
Sure, the plans for season ten are promising, but for ten years the rally cry among fans has been “Tights and flights!” It’s a foregone conclusion that it happens, but will Tom actually don the suit? “You’re going to have to put me to a torch to answer that,” answered Peterson. What about in the preview at the panel with Clark scooping up the Daily Planet globe? That looked like flying. “He’s doing his biggest leap ever which is pretty close to flying,” said Souders. When told he has to fly, she could only smile. “We hear ya.”
How does Lois Lane feel about the prospect of flying? That question brought a big smile to Erica Durance’s face as well. “I think it would be pretty sweet. It would be alright. Yeah, that would be okay.”
So where does the cast personally see their characters going? I’d like to see (Oliver) kind of have more of that inner peace,” said Justin Hartley. “The superhero stuff is great but I think Oliver is a good person, a good human being with a huge heart and that’s part of the problem. So I would like to see him get the good end of the stick a few times.”
Cassidy Freeman just wants Tess to be one of the good guys. “I want her to be on the team. I want her to be like ‘Oh, all this bad stuff, screw it. I’m going to be a good guy.’ Like I get walk in that line. You know that shot of all of them like Aquaman and Cyborg and they’re all like ‘da, da, da, da, da.’ I watch that I’m like ‘I want to be on the team.’” (laughs)
In seriousness though, she’d accept being bad as well. “As an actor I want her to go really deep into the evil just because I think there needs to be a balance of that. Clark is going to go good someone has to go bad. So whether it’s me or someone else, I would take that responsibility respectfully.”
What would Erica Durance like to see happen to Lois by the end of the series? “Does she get to fly?”
My favorite story of the roundtables was told by John Schneider, who talked about that memorable conflict scene between Jonathan Kent and Lionel Luthor just before Jonathan had his fatal heart attack in the 100th episode. “Years ago, one of the things that led to my heart attack, Lionel Luthor comes in and hands me something in the barn. I don’t remember exactly what he said but “How’s your family going to be able to survive this!” and he hands me a piece of paper. And I said to the director, it was Greg Beeman at the time, I said what’s on it. He said ‘It’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen, it’s the worst possible news you could get and its life changing.’ I said what’s on it and he said ‘I have no idea.’ I said, ‘Really we’re never going to know?’ He said ‘We don’t know, we’re never going to know.’
So, we did this whole scene. As soon as John Glover hands me the piece of paper they cut to a reverse of him handing it to me and as soon as I grab it and you should be able to see it over my shoulder I crumpled it up and said back ‘How dare you!’ So it’s not unusual for the cast to be in the dark and I don’t mean that in a bad way.”
This scene was brought up to Kelly Souders. Will the message that was on that paper be revealed? “It’s on my wish list,” she replied with a smile.
Also, a few of us did get our brush with the Superman-to-be as we were leaving. Tom Welling was in the press room, but considering he’s known for not attending Smallville press conferences, his attention was commanded by the video press line for this rare chance. Print media tables didn’t get the honor to talk with him. He was by the door finishing up an interview as we were leaving though and he caught notice of our “Thanks Tom!” We got a quick wave and a half smile before he was shuttled onto something else. That’s Superman for you. He’s always in demand.
Smallville premieres for its tenth and final season on September 24th at 8pm EST on The CW.