It’s been apparent from the first episode of “Smallville” that the final episode would see Tom Welling’s Clark Kent don the familiar red cape and blue tights, soar off into the sky and complete his transformation into the modern legend that is Superman.
Despite being a foregone conclusion, there are many details to manage on the way to that ending, and it’s a responsibility that exec producers and showrunners Brian Peterson and Kelly Souders take very seriously.
“There have been a lot of restless nights of sleep this year,” says Peterson, who along with writing partner Souders joined the series during its second season. “I think we collectively — with the ideas Al (Gough) and Miles (Millar) had back when they created the show — have come up with ideas that will be really satisfying.”
Adding a twist to planning the show’s final year is the landmark 200th episode of the series, which airs tonight and sees Clark attend his five-year high school reunion.
“At first, it seemed like a bit of a challenge, to be honest, because it’s the 200th episode and it really needs some kind of a big mile marker in it,” says Peterson. “We were a little concerned about where you go after that. But then once we embraced that it really is part of the launch of the final season and part of the first run of episodes, it was great way to look back at the series and pay homage to everything that has come before and also push off and launch the rest of the whole 10th season.”
Making the final season a satisfying one for the cast, crew and fans is a balancing act. While Clark becoming Superman is a given, there is a lot of wiggle room in the specifics of how he gets there and what happens to the large cast of supporting characters.
“The No. 1 thing people want to see (in the final episode) is him be Superman,” says Souders. “Outside of that I think everybody has very different opinions about what that final episode should include and what the conclusions for our show should be for each character.”
Peterson says DC Comics has given the show a lot of freedom to include characters from its superhero universe and to find conclusions for each that works best within the context of the show.
“That’s not saying there’s not a lot of pressure on us to end them right, but we have quite a bit of latitude,” he says.
The final season will see several former cast members return to the series, including John Glover. Souders and Peterson say they hope to see more familiar faces return — both to wrap up individual characters’ storylines and to have one last chance to work with them on the show.
“(It) is not only the fans having the chance to see some of those familiar faces that they love once more, but for us to write and create stories for them again,” says Souders.
There also will be guest stars, with Teri Hatcher set to follow in the footsteps of such other Superman franchise alumni as her “Lois & Clark” co-star Dean Cain and movie series stars Margot Kidder and the late Christopher Reeve.
Yet, Peterson says the final season will be more than a series of encores and guest appearances, and will focus the most on Clark and the final, emotional and intellectual steps of his journey.
“Clark has really taken on a lot of the traits of a hero, so we have a lot of people asking ‘Why isn’t he flying?,’ ‘Why isn’t he Superman yet?’,” says Peterson. “A lot of that is internal, and so this year has been really rich with great character moments, but as any writer will tell you, it’s very challenging to play a lot of internal turmoil.”
Having run the show for its final two seasons — they worked with Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer on season seven after Gough and Millar departed the show — Peterson and Souders say they have come to love and appreciate the comic-book mythos of Superman and are proud to have contributed to it.
“It drives you crazy on the one hand because on most shows they can go to a shop and get any prop they need, and we’re poring over details about Kryptonian scripture on the side of some Kryptonian box,” says Souders. “It’s enough to drive you completely mad but it also makes the job insanely fun.”
“For us, it’s been a dream to enter that world every day with all the crew and cast and it’s going to be very sad to leave all that behind and step back into reality,” says Peterson.
Welling thinks big on ‘Smallville’