Alfred Gough and Miles Millar developed an inventive adaptation of Superman's younger years in the immensely popular Smallville (2001-2011) television series. As if puberty wasn't enough to deal with for young Kal-El, Gough and Millar made Clark Kent's titular hometown the Kryptonite capital of the world.
The series revolved around the preeminent trinity of Smallville characters including Clark Kent (Tom Welling), Lana Lang (Kristen Kreuk), and Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum). There was also beloved original character Chloe Sullivan. As the series progressed beyond season seven, Lois Lane (Erica Durance) took the lead as Clark's primary love interest, and Green Arrow joined the cast.
Despite many compelling storylines over the show's ten seasons, and a number of appearances from other notable DC Comics characters, Smallville still managed to lay the occasional egg. In its more troubling moments, the show became rather uncomfortable to watch. So, set your Legion Rings for the early 21st century.
Here are the 15 Most Cringe-Worthy Moments On Smallville.
17 Sam Witwer As Doomsday
The cringe meter nearly exceeded critical mass when the news came out that mighty Doomsday's television interpretation would have a human side. Smallville fans were more than a little disconcerted when showrunners decided to hire actor Sam Witwer to portray the creature during the eighth season. An overriding sense of dread was already clouding the show’s return in the fall of 2008, because of the departure of both actors Michael Rosenbaum and Kristen Kreuk.
Witwer was hired to play paramedic Davis Bloome, who was the alter ego of the Kryptonian killing machine Doomsday. No offense to Witwer, who is a tremendous actor, but this was a huge departure from the comic books. And the decision to try and humanize the creature that killed Superman in 1993 didn’t play well on screen.
It was hard for fans to feel empathy for someone they knew was going to evolve into one of the most notorious murderers in history. Regardless, the Justice League showed up to help, and Clark ultimately buried Doomsday underground. The battle was short and unfulfilling, as Doomsday’s relentlessness was omitted from the final confrontation.
16 Lana Has Kryptonite Poisoning
Hardcore Superman fans already knew that Lana Lang wouldn’t end up with Clark Kent, which was a bummer for some Smallville viewers. But a new level of discomfort was about to be achieved. No one could have fathomed the way in which the showrunners planned to handle the departure of Clark’s first love.
Lana’s desire to fight crime, and make a difference in the world like Clark, culminated in her obtaining a suit that endowed her with super abilities in the episode “Power” (2009). But fans knew that this dynamic duo wouldn't last, as executives prepared to tie up her storyline. It all hit the fan the next week.
It turned out Lex Luthor (Kevin Miller, not Michael Rosenbaum) constructed the suit for himself and that he designed it to absorb Kryptonite. At the conclusion of Lana’s farewell episode “Requiem” (2009), a Kryptonite bomb was set to explode. Clark was helpless, so Lana absorbed the explosive's radioactive energy source.
With her suit fused permanently to her body, Lana was literally made of Kryptonite. Clark couldn't get near her, so she decided to leave him and Smallville. Wait-- what? It was difficult for fans not to recoil here.
15 Darkseid Inhabits Lionel Luthor
Darkseid’s inclusion in the Smallville series finale was a highly-anticipated moment that was overshadowed only by Clark Kent finally becoming Superman. That was until it was revealed John Glover would be portraying the Dark God.
With all due respect to Glover, who is a wonderful actor, Darkseid is a supernatural villain of immense size and stature. Rather than spending money on special effects to create the true essence of Apokolips’ ruler visually, the showrunners took the easy way out and had Uxas use Lionel Luther’s body as a vessel.
With the fate of the world at hand, and as Apokolips threatened to collide with Earth, Darkseid faced off against Clark in the barn on the Kent’s farm. Uxas picked Kent up by the throat and threw him through the air. As he recalled all of his trials over the years, Clark finally summoned the strength to fly.
Hovering in the air, Kal-El raced toward Darkseid and collided with him. Yeah, this painfully lame attack was how Superman defeated Uxas on Smallville. After thwarting the Dark God, the Man of Steel flew into space and hurled Apokolips far away from Earth’s orbit.
12 Booster Gold
Do you ever wish Superman would just punch a poser in the face? Geoff Johns is one of the most well-known and respected comic book writers of the modern era, but his script for “Booster” (2011) in season ten of Smallville was incredibly cringe-worthy. And it led to the arrival of the quasi-superhero Booster Gold (Eric Martsolf).
Booster was obsessed with attention, as he wanted to be revered as much as Superman in the future. So he used a Legion of Super-Heroes ring to travel to present day and try to steal the Last Son of Krypton's thunder.
Rather than just exposing Booster, Clark took the high road and tried to help him better understand what a hero really stood for. During the process, another wannabe superhero the Blue Beetle (Jaren Brandt Bartlett) emerged, but he was unwillingly creating havoc.
In the end Clark aided both Booster and Beetle, but "Booster" was definitely one of the most uncomfortable moments to watch in Smallville history.
11 Clark and Chloe Kissing
Season five of Smallville was arguably the high-water mark for the series. Brainiac (James Marsters) joined the show and he spent his time trying to free General Zod from the Phantom Zone. Posing as a university professor named Milton Fine, Brainiac prepped Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) to be the vessel for Zod’s essence.
In the season finale “Vessel" (2006), all hell broke loose when Brainiac unleashed an electronic virus on the Earth. As things went from bad to worse, Clark’s best friend Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack) decided that it could very well be the end of times. Chloe mustered up the courage and kissed Clark at the Daily Planet. It was a rather awkward moment in an otherwise exciting season finale. Afterward, Luthor was possessed by Zod and Clark was banished to the Phantom Zone.
The showrunners must have realized they made a mistake having Clark and Chloe lock lips again, as they simply swept the issue under the rug. In the season six premiere, after the smoke cleared, Chloe just explained that she did it because it was the end of the world.
So much for unrequited love and meaningful plot devices, as the discomfort level almost maxed out when these two kissed.
10 Clark Refuses To Save Jimmy
Killing James Bartholomew Olsen might have been sacrilegious, but offing older brother Henry James Olsen to end the eighth season of Smallville was one of the show’s most incredulous loopholes. And it wasn’t even the cringe-worthy moment. That came later when Chloe Sullivan begged Clark Kent to go back in time and save her lover.
Following the Doomsday fiasco, Clark somehow didn’t perish at the hands of the monster - as was his fate in the comic books. Jimmy wasn’t as fortunate. While Chloe and the Justice League managed to split Davis Bloome from the beast, courtesy of Black Kryptonite, the human side of the Kryptonian killing machine was still quite corrupted.
Bloome murdered Jimmy right in front of Chloe, and in the season nine premiere “Savior” (2009) she implored Clark to use a Legion ring to go back and save him. When her oldest friend in the world refused, the discomfort of that moment literally buried the needle.
Crying, Chloe mocked Clark by saying how good it was of him to embrace his Kryptonian side. Her final words before leaving expressed how there wasn’t anything human about Clark Kent anymore.
9 Lana Marries Lex Luthor
Here comes the bride? Season six of Smallville was a lot like jumping into a swimming pool without any water in it – painful. As Clark Kent busily tried to apprehend all the criminals he accidentally released from the Phantom Zone, Lana Lang’s relationship with Lex Luthor deepened.
In the episode “Promise" (2007), Lana was about to marry Lex. Still convinced that Clark was hiding another side of himself from her, Miss Lang set a trap for the future Man of Steel using Chloe Sullivan as bait. Lana locked Chloe in a wine vault hoping Clark would save her. He did, and Lana finally saw the full scope of his powers.
She decided to call off the wedding, but Lionel Luther threatened to kill Clark if she didn’t marry Lex. So, as Clark Kent watched from the back of the church, his first love married his deadliest enemy. It was an extremely uncomfortable moment to stomach.
8 Lionel Courts Mrs. Kent
It was bad enough that Lionel Luthor (John Glover) was indirectly responsible for Jonathan Kent’s (John Schneider) death in “Reckoning” (2005), but seeing him try and court Martha Kent (Annette O’Toole) was just excruciating television to behold.
In the episode titled “Rage” (2006), cringe-o-meters everywhere were tested when Lionel almost kissed Mrs. Kent. Martha invited a seemingly-reformed Lionel to Thanksgiving dinner, which was uncomfortable in itself. But when Lionel showed up in person to announce he couldn't attend, Lex's daddy nearly kissed Clark’s mother.
Fast forward to the episode’s ending when Lionel in fact joined the Kents, Chloe, Oliver Queen (Justin Hartley), and Lois Lane to celebrate the holiday. It was a sweet and sentimental moment, but the inclusion of Mr. Luthor at the dinner table was just so out of place.
7 Mr. Kent Walks In on Clark and Alicia
Alicia Baker (Sarah Carter) was an alluring distraction who disrupted the proverbial on-again, off-again fascination with Clana (Clark/Lana).
During the third season of the series, showrunners introduced Alicia in the episode “Obsession” (2004). When an elevator malfunctioned during a school field trip, Clark Kent used his powers to prevent it from plummeting. But Alicia showed off her own abilities when she teleported the pair clear of the accident.
Intrigued by someone else who had superpowers, Clark began to fall for Alicia. She was a rather aggressive girl, though, who decided to teleport into Clark’s bedroom one night. While the pair made out, Jonathan Kent happened to walk in on them. Mr. Kent was more than a little put out with his son’s behavior.
It was one of those moments on Smallville that was sexy, steamy, and so awkward all at the same time. In terms of drawing an audience in, much like a good book might engross readers, the scene was very effective in imparting Mr. Kent’s conflicting embarrassment and anger.
6 Lana's Death In "Reckoning"
Lana Lang’s death in the 100th episode of Smallville galvanized the future Man of Steel into playing God, and the consequences were severe. Season five of the show had been building momentum from the knowledge that someone close to Clark Kent would die, after the events of the third episode “Hidden” (2005).
While being pursued by Lex Luthor on a dark stretch of Route 40, Lana was distracted and crashed into a bus. Clark arrived too late to save her and the young Miss Lang died at the scene. It was an unforgettable moment that sent shudders through the Smallville fan base.
Furious that her life was traded for his, Clark demanded that his Kryptonian father Jor-El (Voiced by Terrence Stamp) bring her back to life. Jor-El told his son that there was only one crystal in the Fortress of Solitude that could save her, but warned that destiny would find another. Stubborn and sullen, Clark didn't heed his father’s advice.
Shortly after Lana was spared, Jonathan Kent died. That in itself was a moment that made fans flinch, but Lana’s bloody demise gets the cringe-worthy nod here.
5 Clark's Heat Vision Is Activated
Seeing a young Superman slowly discover each of his powers was a delight in itself, but it was his ability that developed courtesy of sexual response that left Smallville audiences wincing. In the episode “Heat” (2002), showrunners made both Clark Kent and the fans a little hot under the collar.
When a young Biology teacher named Desiree Atkins (Krista Allen) caught the eye of Clark, things heated up quickly. While sitting at his desk, trying to concentrate on a film presentation, Clark was overcome by his attraction to Desiree.
Suddenly, Clark’s hormones got the better of him as he nearly burned down the projector screen with his newest superpower – heat vision. It was an incredibly awkward moment for Mr. Kent and fans of the show, too.
4 Zod And Kal-El Team Up
Mortal enemies temporarily formed the most unconventional bromance of the century in season nine of Smallville. In the episode titled “Upgrade” (2010), Clark Kent accidentally inhaled some dust laced with Red Kryptonite. Without any inhibitions, Kent was about to get real chummy with Major Zod (Callum Blue). And when Metallo (Brian Austin Green) showed up on the scene again, he had his hands full with two of Krypton’s heaviest hitters.
Zod saved Clark when he first confronted Metallo at the onset of the show, and the Kryptonians suddenly became allies. First, they destroyed Chloe Sullivan’s Kryptonite armory and then the pair decided to make it snow in Seattle.
While visiting the Fortress of Solitude, Zod and Clark faced off against Metallo again. Chloe sent him to help Clark overcome the Red Kryptonite’s influence. Metallo stabbed Clark with a shard of Green Kryptonite, which broke the hold of Red K over him. That also effectively ended one of the most unorthodox and uncomfortable team-ups ever.
3 Clark Crashes Lana and Lex's Wedding Dinner
Clark Kent’s exploits while affected by Red Kryptonite made for some of Smallville’s most intriguing storylines, but things certainly got hairy in the episode titled “Crimson” (2007). Lois Lane decided to sport some lipstick infused with Red K and when she kissed Clark the two became an instant item.
But Clark’s buried feelings for Lana, and her impending wedding to Lex, led to one hell of a catharsis for young Mr. Kent. Together, Clark and Lois crashed Lex and Lana’s wedding dinner, which included Martha Kent and Chloe Sullivan among the attendees.
It was hard not to flinch when Clark got things off his chest. First, he verbally attacked his mother, because of her growing relationship with Lionel. Then Clark let Chloe have it and essentially told her that he had thought about pursuing her as a lover. Lastly, Clark laid into Lana and Lex, before finally spoiling their big surprise in front of a room full of guests – Lana was pregnant.
2 Lois And Clark Caught In The Bathroom
The now infamous “shower scene” might evoke memories of Psycho (1960), but things played out quite differently in the Smallville version. Lois Lane had been investigating her cousin Chloe Sullivan’s apparent death. Lane had teamed with Clark Kent, and the pair decided to get a change of clothes at the Kent Farm.
While Clark was showering, Lois decided to let herself in the bathroom. Mortified, Clark tried to explain that his family usually took turns in the bath. After Clark got out, he quickly covered himself in a towel as Lane continued to jabber. That’s when Mrs. Kent came calling.
Unaware that her son had company in the bathroom, Martha generously brought some fresh linens to Clark. Cocky and unashamed, Lois smiled as she greeted Mrs. Kent from behind a half-dressed Clark Kent. It was one of those moments in the show that really put the audience in the shoes of poor Martha Kent. It was hard not to be embarrassed.
1 Lois Lane Meets Clark Kent
Forget the vaunted Superman suit, because in the season four premiere of Smallville Lois Lane would have been content with Clark Kent wearing anything. Yes, the iconic DC character made her debut on the show in the episode “Crusade” (2004), which was a moment both her and viewers alike wouldn’t soon forget.
While driving to Smallville to investigate the death of her cousin Chloe Sullivan, Lane was driven off the road by a lightning strike. As she gathered herself in a field, another trio of lightning bolts combined and collectively exploded directly in front of her.
Bravely, Lane approached a man in the midst of the carnage, which turned out to be a stark naked Clark Kent. She did her best to look him in the face, but Lane and Kent’s first meeting dialed up the awkward level to an all-time high.
However, despite the uneasiness of the moment, Lois and Clark’s initial encounter led to a beautiful friendship and one of the most passionate love affairs in comic book history.
Which moments from Smallville made you cringe? Let us know in the comments!