Smallville has as much to do with Superman as This Week with David Brinkley does!
This review does contain (minor) SpoilersLike you care!
Smallville is as good for the overall Superman Mythos as Anti-Freeze is for the overall ingredients of Canned Soup! Like Star Trek Enterprise, Smallville's counterpart in the Gregory Benford Hall of Fame, this show is a prequel to a much larger mythology. That said, one has to wonder why the producers of this show (who, incidentally, also produce Nickelodeon's All That and The Amanda Show and starred in Head of the Class) would throw in plots about the Villain of the Week, all the while aping The X-Files and Buffy in a shameless Ratings Grab!
Why the tune change? It would be better to have no Superman at all on TV than a wrong Superman. A whole generation of TV Watchers will be introduced to the Mythology of Superman comics through this thing. Eventually people will start asking how some of these ridiculous ideas will match up to the life of Comicdom's first superhero and they'll find out that it can't. Therefore either a whole generation will ignore some of the best comics ever written, or, more likely, DC Comics will be forced to axe their own continuity in favor of cowing to the whims of 2002's sweeps-week! And it still won't work. I've driven Audis with less problems than this show!
"Covenant", Smallville's third Season Finale doesn't just follow this trend, but actually breaks the mold for flagrant stomping on Action Comics #1! What am I talking about? Oh, groan! A beautiful naked chick emerges from the woods in a potential tribute to The Terminatrix and displays some massive Super Powers. Naturally, like every Superman Comic Nerd my mind said "Oh, that must be Kara ('Supergirl')! Too soon, but OKAY!" Well, there goes the neighborhood. This girl turns out to be as much like Clark Kent's cousin as Kevin Costner is like Hulk Hogan! Apparently Jor-El (the voice of Terrence Stamp) is only mostly dead, and is living in a cave just off of the Kent Farm as a displaced, yet somehow super-powered ghost. He's been waiting all this time, inspiring Native American Legends (the ACLU should sue) to corrupt the "Truth, Justice and the American Way" that Kal-El (Tom Welling) has embraced thanks to the Kents!
First off, that in and of itself is wrong and damaging to the Mythos for so many reasons that I should have turned the set off right then. But here's more... teleplay writers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar appear to be trying to slap a Band-Aid on this idiotic idea by continuity assassins Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer. What do they do? Turns out we can all relax! That's not really Kara at all! Instead Jor-El pulled a pretty accident victim down into his cave to spring on Clark now. Why now? Cliffhanger... they just thought of it... or better yet, they just read Clive Barker's The Great and Secret Show and stole the idea from that! At the risk of sounding like a Prego commercial... it's in there!
Like a bad aftertaste I have to confess... it gets worse! Lex Luthor (Clark's "Best Friend", Michael Rosenbaum) has gotten daddy Lionel (good in anything John Glover) sent to prison for patricide (!) and, as revenge, has been outed by Lionel as the real threat to Clark's secret powers. And here's the biggest problem, not just with this episode, but with the entire show: If Lex knows, or even has an idea of Clark's powers, once he's Superman's arch enemy, won't he easily open the phone book, look up Clark and hang a Kryptonite Pendant around his neck? Do I have to explain why the whole mythology doesn't work if the identity of Superman is known to the baddest of the bad guys? They've already used up the "Memory Loss" idea. It's one thing for a Superboy comic to say that Clark and Lex were friends until Lex began to blame Superboy for his hair loss, but to say that this whole time Lex knows Clark is what he is and then to just forget that when they both move to Metropolis... that's... that's... that's Alan Smithee dumb!
It also is a weaker
As we know, the terribly miscast Pete Ross (Sam Jones III) has walked out of Clark's life (in the comic he marries Lana and eventually becomes President). Lana Lang herself (Kristin Kreuk) has opted to run off to Paris, apparently lo live with Carrie Bradshaw and Rachel Green! Meddling Chloe Sullivan (made up for the convenience of this show, and played with cute annoyance by Allison Mack) enters into protective custody by the FBI and just might find that proposition a blast. And Lex's prospects look worse than Al Gore's. Not to mention that Clark is actually considering the choice of joining the horribly mishandled Jor-El character in the Cave or staying in Kansas a choice! Let's just say he'll be talking to Toto soon enough.
It's all just a cheap shot at maintaining 13 year old ratings though. And it's a shame. It could have been something, but as it is, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman had vastly more convergent continuity than Smallville! As a life-long comics (and Superman) fan, I am well aware that Continuity has been updated to fit the age multiple times since the debut of the SUPERMAN in 1938. However, these changes never felt like whims and always took into account that in the future all these characters still have to have secrets when they're adults, man! At this point it would take a brain-damaged heroin addict with a blindfold and ear plugs to be in the same state as Superman and not instantly scream "Hey, I know you, you're Clark Kent!" And the producers aren't helping with these cute little nods to the future. In almost every scene of this episode the kid is wearing a Blue Shirt and a Red Jacket. Could you make it more obvious please? Kids, Supes doesn't wear a mask!
Okay, so why doesn't "Covenant" get the Dog it so richly deserves? Rosenbaum, Glover, and Welling are all three well-cast, good actors and diamonds in the rough rough of this show. That's not to downplay the great contributions of "'80's Lana" Annette O'Toole or "Good Old Boy" John Schneider as Martha and Jonathan Kent respectively. These five folks make great use of the dialogue and blocking they receive. Especially the Kents, when faced with the impossible nightmares this show makes them suffer through, avoid the easy melodrama and give us solid performances. Greg Beeman's directing maintains an air of myth and mystery that almost belies the ridiculously bad premise of a bad episode of an overall bad show. The special effects are superb in an over-lit Macintosh kind of way, and the end sequence featuring a none-too-subtle quadruple image almost makes you forget how bad the rest of the show was. One side note... as good as old Glover is, and he is, his is the corniest and conceptually worst cliffhanger of the many this show makes us eat! The shaving of his notable head and his supposedly chilling final stare into the Camera with a big "Thank you!" makes me want to send Executive Producers Tollin and Robbins a letter urging them to apologize for bending Glover's career over and violating it with a Kryptonite Rod. Glover hasn't looked this silly since Gremlins 2!
Be that as it may, and who knows if it is... Smallville "Covenant" gets only Two Stars out of Five! I haven't been this pissed off about this damned show since they ruined the future of Lois Lane by suggesting that she was just a pseudonym of Chloe's! What's next? Let me guess... Lori Lamaris wasn't really a mermaid, but a Marine Biologist who liked to eat Oysters? Jimmy Olsen is now the forty-six year old benefactor of Perry White and will eventually replace Morgan Edge as the Metropolis Intergang Boss, only he'll be wearing his Turtle-Boy costume? "Bibbo" Bibbowski is Smallville's mayor? Whitney Fordman is actually a robot created by the arising Kenny Braverman to lead the world's children into ruin by teaching them the "New Macarena"? Professor Hamilton was a bad guy? (Oh, wait they actually did that one!) But hey, how about Kat Grant as a Steel-Worker with issues that comes to Smallville to create a Kryptonite-Powered Cell Phone? It's no dumber than the ideas they've been barfing up onto our TV Screens!