Saturday, April 28, 2007

“I understand you’re in a lot of pain. Good.” – Smallville

I love it when Smallville delivers a good episode, because believe it or not, tearing into this show every week gets very boring. I still like Smallville and I think it could easily become a higher calibre of show with only minor tweaks. Yet it continues to frustrate, refusing to give up on the ‘freak of the week’ format instead of just letting its principals hold up an episode on their own. Which is why I really enjoyed this week’s episode, ‘Nemesis’. It started out like a usual episode, with Lex being taken hostage by a woman claiming her army officer husband is being used by Luthercorp for experiments. I braced myself for another tedious forty minutes of this woman torturing, interrogating or just shouting at Lex before he was eventually saved, most likely by Clark, who would grimace a little at the conflicting emotions he was feeling.

However, ‘Nemesis’ quickly reverted my expectations in a most refreshing way. Before the second ad-break, Lex’s capturer was already dead. From here, Clark’s rescue effort is foiled by the kryptonite lining the walls which renders him weak and useless. For once Smallville uses a ridiculous premise for a good cause – a long-overdue confrontation between Clark and Lex. Their exchanges, while hardly revelatory, were highly enjoyable. Clark and Lex’s shift from friends to foes has never felt as dramatic as it should, but this episode successfully conveyed their feelings about one another. Clark has seen too much evidence of Lex’s dark side to ever really trust him again, but he is prone to seeing the good in people and really wants to give Lex another chance in the vain hope Lex will prove him right. Lex, meanwhile, is a businessman at heart and has grown to see Clark as little more than a commodity, as someone he fights to keep on his side merely because he proves an annoyance when he’s on the other. In this way he puts on his best ‘emotional side’ performance whenever Clark is around, knowing Clark is naïve enough to buy into it. He has one crippling flaw though: he truly does love Lana. And something tells me that once he loses her, his dark side will truly reveal itself.

Speaking of Lana, this episode was also unique in that it was the first in a long time to give her something interesting to do; more than that, it actually got me on her side. Lana has been messed around with so much that its become hard to relate to her anymore, but in ‘Nemesis’ she stole the show simply because she got tired of being messed around and bloody well took charge. From blackmailing Lionel Luthor minutes before he was going into surgery, to shooting the locks off Lex’s personal briefcase, to the reveal that she knew where he was trapped the whole time but chose not to tell anybody…Kreuk made the most of this character reversal and for once seemed to be having some fun with the role.

Finally there was the inevitable cliff-hanger revealing that Lex’s assailant was right all along, and he does indeed have her ex-soldier husband (guest star Tahmoh Penikett, of Battlestar Galactica fame, who will return in two weeks) locked up in a Luthercorp basement. With Lana’s secret hatred of him gradually coming to the surface, her and Clark casting constant lustful glances at each other on their every encounter and his father no longer on his side, Lex looks to be growing increasingly desperate. The plot movement in this episode was the most satisfying Smallville has ever delivered and, providing the writers get their act together, should make for a gripping final few episodes.

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