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Posted by: Keith Chow on February 11, 2011 at 12:38 pm

After reading the “ripped-from-the-headlines” official description of tonight’s all new Smallville, you’d think The CW was airing an episode of Law & Order: Metropolis:

Clark (Tom Welling) is surprised to see Martha (Annette O’Toole) on the news speaking at a pro-vigilante rally. However, surprise quickly turns to horror when he and Lois (Erica Durance) watch as Martha gets shot on national television.

Granted, the writers of the show came up with the idea long before the tragic events of Tucson, but the parallels are eerily similar. For those of you who don’t watch the show (what are you doing reading these columns anyway?), you might be wondering why Ma Kent is getting shot on national television in the first place. And what does any of that have to do with what happened to Congresswoman Giffords? Well, you see, in the Smallville-verse, Martha Kent is a U.S. Senator from Kansas. Yep. That’s right.

Since its inception, it’s no secret that Smallville has followed its own version of the Superman legend. When it comes to borrowing characters from the DC Universe, the producers have been pretty good at finding a balance between comics accuracy and new interpretation. That said, the writers have not been shy to wildly re-imagine longstanding Superman characters either. Some of these changes have worked out. And some have gone spectacularly wrong.

I’ve always loved Smallville‘s take on the Kents. The family dynamic between Jonathan, Martha, and Clark was my favorite part of the early seasons of the show. They were Clark’s moral center and taught him what it meant to be human. It also helped that the casting was spot on. John Schneider embodied the salt of the earthiness that is Jonathan (I was a huge Dukes of Hazzard fan as a kid–see, I grew up in the South). And Annette O’Toole depicted Martha as a loving mother and wife, but a woman torn between life on the farm and life in the big city.

Things took a turn for the weird some time around Season Five when Jonathan decided to run against Lex Luthor for a state senate seat. Also, in a nod to appease the creators of the forthcoming blockbuster (flop) Superman Returns, the Smallville braintrust decided to kill off Jonathan the night he was elected. This chain of events led to Martha taking over her husband’s seat. Somehow along the way, this ascension to local office eventually landed Martha in a U.S. Senate seat (thanks to some of Lionel Luthor’s machinations).

Senator Ma Kent is weird on several levels. For one thing, you’d think that with all the scrutiny that surrounds national politicians, having an alien son with super powers would be a constant topic on the Smallville-verse’s version of The Glenn Beck Show. It also begs the question: Why is Martha still a Senator when various government agencies–from Checkmate to the Department of Domestic Security to the Vigilante Registration Agency–know that Clark Kent is the Blur? One reason may be that Martha’s election to higher office isn’t her only claim to fame. In the Season 9 episode “Hostage,” it was revealed that Martha was also the mysterious Red Queen.

So that’s Ma Kent’s character progress on the show: a farmer’s wife -> local politician -> mysterious manipulator -> assassination target. A crazy ride, for sure. Still, it’s way more interesting than playing Scrabble with Ben Hubbard.

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Keith is the Editor-at-Large of the groundbreaking graphic novel anthology SECRET IDENTITIES and Outreach Director for SIUniverse Media. Visit the official Secret Identities blog to keep up with Keith and the rest of the SI team
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Waiting for Superman: Ma Kent Goes to Washington