Saturday, December 15, 2007

“I have the worst Secret Santa ever!”: Smallville

As Smallville prepares to take another lengthily break, ‘Gemini’ is at once a very silly and very encouraging story for it to go out on. (Obviously intended to tide over the fans, ‘Gemini’ is the last Smallville original until late January at the earliest.) Silly actually isn’t a nearly strong enough word to describe the ridiculous plot twists of this episode, which plays like writer Caroline Dries dared herself to up the ludicrous ante with each act. But if you look past this absurdity (and if there’s one thing Smallville fans have to be good at, it’s looking past absurdity) ‘Gemini’ is a satisfyingly plot-heavy story that fills in a lot of gaps and sends the season gliding nicely forward.

Lois gets a call from a mystery antagonist, claiming Chloe has a bomb on her and threatening to set it off unless Lois follows his instructions. Turns out the caller has a vendetta against Lex (join the club, man) and wants Lois, who is conveniently doing an interview with Lex, to ask him about Project Gemini. Turns out it’s a cloning program, and the caller is one of Lex’s (many) failed experiments. Why do we care? Well, it all ties into Grant Gabriel – or should I say, Julian Luthor. He’s one of Lex’s clones too, only he’s the one that worked (you can tell because he’s so handsome, whereas the other guy is all spotty). Grant/Julian is not too happy to realise this, and angrily tells Lex to just let him live his life. Knowing Lex, Grant/Julian’s days are looking numbered – which is a shame, as Michael Cassidy continues to turn in good work, even if the shifts in his character have weakened his impact somewhat.

Meanwhile, Chloe and Jimmy get stuck in an elevator with a ticking bomb as their only other company. As nice as it is to see these two together again, you’d think Smallville’s two best characters stuck together in a lift would make for better scenes than these. How about the occasional injection of FUNNY, writers? You’ve got two comically adept actors here – let them flex their muscles a bit, for the sake of my sanity if nothing else! I was happy to see Chloe finally confess to Jimmy that she was a meteor freak, as that storyline was getting tired; and their kiss at the end was welcome, if predictable. Sadly, for reasons I don’t understand, Chloe quickly (and harshly!) brushed the kiss under the carpet after the crisis had passed. Despite her saying earlier that her secret was the real reason she’d broken it off in the first place. Lame, pointless stall tactic then? Suppose so, but I can’t wrap my head around any possible reason for it.

Finally, Clark and Lana had a few meandering scenes featuring some very out-of-character behaviour from Clark. Suddenly over his anger at Lana for stalking Lex, he instead agrees to help her bring Lex down. Why the sudden one-eighty? When Clark suggests doing something malicious, there’s only ever one explanation – he’s been overtaken by something evil! In this case Bizarro, Clark’s doppelgänger who we last saw in the season premiere. While I wasn’t a big fan of Bizarro on his first appearance, I’m cautiously optimistic now as his return suggests an evil team-up with Braniac (James Marsters, returning next episode), a promising dynamic.

While none of these three storylines came together as well as they should have, played in sync they made for a fast-moving, entertaining forty minutes. Smallville is at its best when it does the unexpected, and ‘Gemini’ offered a hitherto unprecedented level of plot movement for a typically plodding show. I also liked how writer Dries avoided any sentimental, saccharine uses of the Christmas party setting, instead turning it on its head with Chloe’s discovery that her Secret Santa present was a ticking bomb. Further, the Daily Planet set is quite beautiful, so setting the majority of the episode there was a nice move.

Finally, I’d liked to single out a moment that I especially loved. When Lex tells Lois that she’s been taken off the story, she says that he's not his boss. His response is perfectly attuned to Smallville’s comic book roots (not to mention another lampooning of the Christmas theme): “Merry Christmas Lois. I’ve just bought the Daily Planet.” Ha! Love it. Michael Rosenbaum needs more lines like that one – give him a genuinely great piece of dialogue, no matter how asinine, and he will knock it out of the park every time.

No comments: