Countdown To Smallville: The Best Episodes

For 10 years, Smallville has been the agony and the ecstasy of superhero fans across the world. Some, like me, have loved having a weekly dose of Superman on their TV. Others have found it far too cheesy to take seriously. Either way, it’s hard to deny that certain episodes stand out from the pack and really shine. By the time the series comes to an end this Friday, the show will have produced 217 episodes, making it the longest-running science fiction series in American TV history. Love it or hate it, Smallville has delivered some stuff that has turned the heads of even the most hardened skeptics. With so many episodes to choose from, it’s a real challenge to name the very best, but there’s no harm in trying, is there? In the spirit of nostalgia, let’s take a look at the best of the best!

Obviously… SPOILERS for Smallville.

The Top 5

5. Apocalypse
(S7, Ep 18)

This 150th episode of the series provides a Capra-esque look at what our world would be like if Clark Kent never made it away from the destruction of Krypton on that fateful day. For fans of alternate realities and time travel, this episode is a real treat. I can’t remember being so shocked by how much I enjoyed an episode of Smallville. I wasn’t expecting much from this one, and I managed to stay spoiler-free, so when they started throwing President Luthor, nuclear war, BrainIAC, and Linda Danvers at me, I was totally blown away.

4. Rosetta
(S2, Ep 17)

The passing of the torch from Christopher Reeve to Tom Welling (sorry, Dean Cain!) was met with much fanfare. Literally. They teased the John Williams Superman theme for the first time in this episode. This was a real game changer, because it was the first time Clark heard the word “Krypton,” learned about where he really came from, and got a taste as to what his destiny might actually be. Fan service aside, this is still a fantastic piece of storytelling and plot advancement.

3. Justice
(S6, Ep 11)

Aquaman. Cyborg. Impulse. Green Arrow. Superman. Explosions. What more do you need? This was my very favorite episode for a long time. The amazing team-up of the proto-Justice League was one of those moments in Smallville‘s run that made fans as well as critics take notice. It got attention from all over geekdom and made millions of comic book fans say, “Smallville? Is that show still on?!”

2. Reckoning
(S5, Ep 12)

Throughout the first half of Season 5, it was well publicized that one of the main characters was going to die in the series’ 100th episode. For real. No takebacks. But who? Fans were wild with speculation. Some rejoiced when Lana Lang’s truck collided with a school bus and flipped over, and over, and over again. Those same fans were devastated when Clark undid his mistakes and made some new ones, causing his father Jonathan’s death instead. Every time I watch this episode, I actually get chills. Tom Welling and John Schneider spent five years building an on-screen relationship that was so strong, we all believed they were father and son. When Jonathan collapsed and died in Clark and Martha’s arms, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Cut to Peter Gabriel’s “I Grieve” playing at the funeral, and, well… is it dusty in here?

1. Homecoming
(S10, Ep 4)

Episode 200 is my favorite episode of Smallville. So far. In a story reminiscent of A Christmas Carol, Clark goes on a tour of his past, present, and future with the reformed BrainIAC 5 as his guide. After meeting his future self and seeing what he becomes, he’s ready to stop fooling around and embrace his destiny. The first step he takes is to tell Lois that he loves her. I don’t think I’ve ever screamed like a girl so many times in one hour of television. I affectionately refer to this episode as 10×04 “Squee!”

Honorable Mentions

(in no particular order)

Insurgence (S2, Ep 12) — Though it aired in Season 2, some consider this the episode that first demonstrated how amazing it was to have a weekly Superman show back on TV. Clark harnesses his ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound in an effort to save his mom from a hostage situation, and fans everywhere cheer as we see Superman realize that one day, he might actually be able to fly!

Descent (S7, Ep 16) — After seven years of struggling with his identity as he fights the temptation to walk down the path to evil, destiny finally catches up with Lex Luthor. In a series-defining moment, he really does become the villain of the story and murders his father Lionel without remorse.

Commencement/Arrival (S4, Ep 22 & S5, Ep 1) — While these technically are two separate episodes, they play like a feature-length film. (I may or may not have edited them together in Final Cut to enjoy them as a movie.) Disaster strikes Smallville in the form of a Kryptonite meteor shower similar to the one that brought Clark to Earth, but this time the green rocks are accompanied by far less noble passengers: two disciples of Zod and the super-intelligent Brain InterActive Construct (BrainIAC for short)!

Vessel/Zod(S5, Ep 22 & S6, Ep 1) — In another finale/premiere combo worthy of feature film treatment, Zod finally arrives on Earth in the body of Lex Luthor and nearly brings about the apocalypse. Long considered one of the best episodes of the series, this was only pushed into the Honorable Mentions column because of a couple of outstanding efforts made by the show in the seasons that followed.

Pilot (S1, Ep 1) — The one where it all began. We’ve all seen and heard the Superman origin story told time and time again, but never quite like this. Young parents, a modern setting, and a high school environment gave the character a very different vibe and gave America the kind of hope it really needed at the time; let’s not forget that this premiered just weeks after September 11, 2001.

So those are my favorite episodes. Stay tuned throughout the week as we list the worst episodes, say our goodbyes, and much more! I had to leave literally hundreds of episodes off this list for the sake of brevity, so I apologize if some of your favorites didn’t make the cut. Use the comments below! What are your top episodes of Smallville?

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  1. Longest running science-fiction TV series in American History? I like Smallville and all,but have we forgotten Star Trek and Stargate?

    Comment by Sleepygirl519 — May 12, 2011 @ 10:25 am

  2. This is one of the Smallville moments that has always stuck with me http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2oyxsWmqhw

    Comment by demonstrable — May 12, 2011 @ 4:34 pm

  3. I’m pretty sure a crime was committed here in not including Memoria on the list.

    Comment by colors — May 13, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

  4. My top 5 have to be (in no order)
    Finale (2 part)
    Absolute Justice (2 part)
    with Rosetta coming very close!!

    Comment by LZ — July 11, 2011 @ 11:51 am

  5. the finale was terrible, the league wasn’t even in it even after they showed all the bad guys were getting ready to kill them… in the previous episode, that really pissed me off, the only worth while part were the 10 mins they let lex talk

    Comment by DQsalad — July 13, 2011 @ 3:38 pm

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