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Smallville
The Complete 9th Season

release date: 9/7/2010

Season 9 of Smallville should be marked as the year that the show runners finally admitted that the DC Universe was bigger than all of them.

Oh, it had been sneaking in for a couple of years, with various super-powered characters that had familiar names but updated costumes that weren't costumes - "they're not tights!" whines Oliver Queen (Justin Hartley). Then in Season 8 Darren Swimmer and Kelly Souders rethought Doomsday in a way that only stingy show budgeting could defeat. They already had me back and enthusiastic… then they gave us Season 9.

For long-time fans, they laid out a minefield for themselves, bringing in "Major" Zod (Callum Blue). A younger, less-experienced version of the villain made an icon by Terence Stamp (who, confusingly, voices Jor-El on Smallville), the Major is literally on a quest for power that may outweigh the good he may truly have done as a loyal son of Krypton.

Of course, we know he's going to be a super villain, but the magic of Smallville has always been able to give you new ways to doubt it. With Zod teems an army of Kandorians -- Smallville found a new meaning for "bottled city" - and it's clear that though they follow Zod, it's also possible that Kal-El could show them a new way.

And of course showing him a new way, the way some of us have been screaming at him to follow for about eight seasons, is the Justice Society of America. Half-way through the season DC Chief Creative Officer stepped in and wrote "Absolute Justice," the only episode of Smallville that I've had no choice but to watch four times.

Johns made changes necessitated by what has gone before, but giving the DC Universe past a foothold in Smallville is no mean feat. Setting up Checkmate, establishing an entire generation of heroes before Clark (Tom Welling) and bringing Dr. Fate to the masses? Please. Geoff Johns, all is forgiven for the next decade.

Then, maddeningly enough, follows an episode that begins at a comic book convention that proves that half the staff could care less about the show's source material. At least the Star Wars references are right. But that's Smallville for you, driving fans crazy at the same time there's a lot to like. That episode, "Warrior," could also serve as a good backdoor pilot for a Zatanna series, and gives Welling several chances to explain why he doesn't want to wear the tights.

Wear the tights! Wear the tights!

Ahem.

Swimmer and Souders also brought in Zan and Jayna from Super Friends, cleverly nodding to their super monkey Gleek (sob). From this season, you could have at least three possible spin-off series, and yes, I'd hate myself but watch every single one of them. Let's not look back on Birds of Prey.

Two episodes come with commentary, and a few have deleted scenes piggy-backing on them. But the gems among the extras are the featurettes, far more focused and interesting than commentary would be.

One covers the evolution of Zod as a villain, including the thoughts behind bringing him in this season. It would all be standard extras stuff, if not for the participation of Terence Stamp talking about how he came to play the character in Superman II. He acknowledges it as giving him a second run at an acting career, and has a sincere sense of fun about it - before I die, I would like to have Stamp tell me to kneel before him.

Because the episode that got the most attention this year was "Absolute Justice," the second featurette goes in-depth on that one. All the debate over production design gets included, and in a rare instance where this really is a cool extra over a TV show episode, the featurette includes Brent Stait's audition tape for Dr. Fate. Yes, you can tell that that one stayed with me.

That extra also goes to show audiences who the most enthusiastic fans in the cast are - all have been gracious and kind, but no one, no one beats the genuine excitement bubbling from Phil Morris and Cassidy Freeman. And that just pops out of the screen.

So I'm ready for Season 10, and only a little surprised that Season 9 is one that I'm glad to have on my shelf. I may be watching a lot of it again.

Derek McCaw

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