Saturday, October 20, 2007

“I was Jack the Ripper”: Smallville

Is it any surprise that Dean Cain is actually more suited to playing an evil psychopath than he ever was to playing the good guy? The funniest thing is that he plays Dr. Curtis Knox, this week’s one-off villain, pretty much identically to how he once played Superman. There’s something slimy about Cain, making him well-suited for the role of Knox but woefully inadequate as a likeable protagonist, one of the reasons I never much liked ‘Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman’.

Never mind that though. This week’s Smallville, ‘Cure’ was a small step up from last week’s lacklustre offering—if not exactly an original premise. Knox is a scientist who lures meteor freaks with a procedure that will cure them of their affliction. Chloe, who is increasingly panicking at Jimmy’s constant reiteration of how much he hates meteor-infected folks, takes interest. Unlike us, she is unaware that Knox is actually kidnapping some of his patients and transferring their organs to the woman he loves, hoping to make her immortal like he is (a pointless development that is never explained). Ignoring reason and her masses of past experience, Chloe goes to see Knox. He kidnaps her, and is about to harvest her when Clark comes to the rescue. It is at this point that the story takes its most ludicrous turn—Knox accidentally kills his love, and as he cries over her corpse, Clark and Chloe segue instantly from scared to sympathetic. Aww, look, he’s alright, he was only murdering people so that she’d live forever, but now he’s ended up killing her as well! That is some tragic shit! That’s some Shakespeare right there! Vomit.

Also vomit: Chloe and Jimmy’s relationship troubles. It always frustrates me when a perfect couple is not even allowed a single second to be happy before the melodrama kicks in. I understand that there’s no drama in a happy couple, but like George and Callie before them, Jimmy and Chloe always seem to be going through contrived disputes that make no real sense. This week, Chloe totally blows off Jimmy because she's so obsessed by her newfound meteor freak status. Then she finds him hanging out with Kara, and more than looking shocked, she looks thunderstruck. Chloe’s motives in ‘Cure’ are highly questionable. Writers Al Septien and Turi Meyer try to write off Chloe’s out of character actions as a result of high emotion (an excuse too often employed by TV shows) but it’s not buyable, mostly because Chloe has always been Smallville’s smartest character. Still, I like that Chloe is so horrified by her new abilities, and welcome a more creative attempt at exploring these worries in the coming episodes.

What really annoyed me about this story, and what is a constant problem with Smallville, is how it disintegrates its key couples. The thing is, viewers invest in these relationships. Some without realising that (due to the rules of TV writing) they’ll never work out, and some in spite of this knowledge. I fall happily into that latter group. Stupidly, I invest myself in relationships I enjoy. Chloe and Jimmy are a perfect example. Clearly, these two complete each other. They have been set-up as a perfect couple who just took a while to get together properly. This season, they are finally together and happy – or at least they were. ‘Cure’ seem them break it off, again. It’s not that I didn’t see this coming, or that I didn’t buy the reasoning (Jimmy feels ostracized because Chloe refuses to tell him what’s going in her life); I’m just tired. I’m tired of the Smallville writers taking any excuse to break apart a perfectly good couple, then bringing them back together, and then breaking them apart again. It’s not believable, nor is it part of these characters’ journeys – it’s a lack of any other ideas combined with pure laziness. And I’m not just talking about Chloe and Jimmy. ‘Cure’ also sees the beginning of the inevitable problems between Clark and Lana. At the opening of this episode, the two are happy, the perfect couple. That lasts ONE SCENE. We soon find out that Lana has her own disturbing secrets that she is hiding from Clark. To complain about this in the early seasons of a show would be ignorant of how TV works. That I have to complain about in a show’s SEVENTH season shows Smallville’s writers to be the ignorant ones.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh. Smallville is Smallville, you could say (in fact, I’ll be disappointed if Carrie doesn’t post a comment in this vein). ‘Cure’ was ridiculous fun, typically well-structured as Smallville’s ‘freak of the week’ plotlines often are. Yet to praise a contained story while the continuous ones take such infuriating turns would surely be to miss the point.


Carrie said...

I am totally with you regarding the relationship shenanigans on this show. They break people up just because they are too lazy to try and write a stable couple. And in my head, I say "Smallville is Smallville, it's not going to change so we should just accept it." But as TV viewers, we should not accept it. We should be allowed to feel cheated because we have invested SEVEN YEARS in a show and it refuses to learn from its own mistakes. Sigh.

That being said, I did enjoy this episode. I finally realized why the last two have been bearable: no Lois. Lois is my least favorite person on The CW. I hate her.

Joey Sims said...

Yeah, Lois is annoying. Talk about ruining what should be a great character. Thank god they've paired her with Cassidy - hopefully he'll keep her stuff bearable.

angela said...

Pretty much the same way as his Superman? I WISH he played Superman with as much authority and commanding presence as Superman on Lois and Clark. He was a great Clark Kent, but his Superman was lacking. But since the show is not really about Superman, who he plays for about 5 minutes per episode, I don't really mind it.

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