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Smallville: Season Three

Gloriously coming into its own in Season Two, the WB teen Superman soaper Smallville sputtered a bit through an uneven third season. The story of Kansas alien Kal-El/Clark Kent (Tom Welling) seeking his destiny, lusting after girl-next-door Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuck), and solving weird, kryptonite-induced problems while coming to terms with his special abilities sped ever forward — with, interestingly, the best storylines involving the relationship between conflicted not-yet-a-bad-guy Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) and his slickly evil billionaire dad, Lionel (John Glover). In a darkly entertaining two-parter, Lex is committed to an especially unpleasant asylum by his dad, who alternately expresses sorrow that parental discretion has come to this and a sick amount of glee over screwing with his son's head — Glover's performance as Lionel has been, repeatedly, one of the best reasons to watch Smallville, along with the richly complicated portrayal of Lex by Rosenbaum. Some of the episodes in Season Three, alternately, test the patience of viewers by making Clark into something of a self-centered jerk — in the season opener, "Exile," Clark goes bad under the influence of a (plot device!) red kryptonite school ring and, frankly, its tough to understand why everyone keeps caring about him — in fact, even when he's not being Evil Clark, his self-centeredness (and tedious non-communicative longing for Lana) becomes wearying. There are some highlights in the season, however — most notably "Perry," with Michael McKean (real-life husband of Annette O'Toole, who plays Ma Kent) playing Clark's future boss Perry White as a burn-out whose career was destroyed by Lionel Luthor; "Legacy," wherein Clark receives messages from his Krypton dad, Jor-El (Superman II's Terence Stamp), sending him down to the caves and into the life of mysterious scientist Dr. Virgil Swann (Christopher Reeve); "Talisman," which revealed the destiny of Clark and Lex through an ancient Indian legend; and the freaky season cliff-hanger "Covenant," with Clark encountering a beautiful girl who claims to be from Krypton and discovering the deal that Pa Kent (John Schneider) made with Clark's alien dad. Unfortunately, the good stuff in these episodes was offset by a fair amount of disposable crap — Lana getting kidnapped by the Baddie of the Week every time she stepped outside to empty a garbage can, a silly flashback episode ("Relic") with Welling and Kreuck playing their own dead relatives meeting 40 years previous; truly stupid stories involving Clark's pal Pete (Sam Jones III) hooking up with some hot-rodders racing kryptonite-boosted cars and getting kidnapped by rogue FBI agents; and the dumb construct of having Lex meet up in the nuthouse with a trio of freaks who had encounters with Clark in previous episodes. All in all, a mixed bag — frustrating for lovers of the show, the week-to-week inconsistency was infuriating. But the occasionally brilliant writing — and the excellent performances by Glover, Rosenbaum, Schneider, O'Toole, and Allison Mack as gal-pal Chloe — were enough to keep fans tuning in for each new episode. Warner's Smallville: The Complete Third Season box set contains all 22 episodes in anamorphic transfers (1.78:1) with richer colors and far crisper contrast than when presented on broadcast television — an outstanding presentation, as with previous seasons' releases. The audio, in DD 2.0 stereo, is adequate to the task and, again, sounds better than broadcast. Extras include commentary tracks on "Exile," "Truth," and "Memoria." Welling — who yakked on Season Two — is notably absent, but Mack and Glover contribute to the track for "Truth," while Rosenbaum appears on the other two. There are a number of amusing but inconsequential deleted scenes, a "making-of" featurette entitled "Producing Smallville: The Heroes Behind The Camera" (22 min.), more of the pointless "Chloe Chronicles," which are fake video-documentary stuff offered on the Season Two set, an "interactive comic book" (read: stills gallery), and a fun gag reel (5 min.). Six-disc folding digipak with slipcase.
—Dawn Taylor

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