TV discussion

Smallville 1×07 – ‘Craving’ – TV Rewind

You cannot talk about ‘Craving’ without mentioning the most obvious thing about it: this is an episode of a Superman prequel television series with Amy Adams as its central guest star, who, on top of becoming one of the very best actresses in Hollywood (where is that Oscar nomination you cowards?) would later take on the mantle of Lois Lane in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Television shows based on DC Comics characters have a habit of paying tribute to the legacy that they are a part of. The Arrow-verse in particular did this, with its epic crossovers full of references and pieces of casting that pay tribute to the legacy they are a part, and Smallville did it in a big way the longer it continued. But ‘Craving’ marks a point that pre-dates the casting of someone who would play a big part in a future DC endeavour.

Amy Adams is the more high profile casting here, but the episode also marks the first appearance of Joe Morton in the series; a brilliant actor who elevates everything he is in, and would also go on to appear in the DC Cinematic Universe as Silas Stone, Cyborg’s dad, in Justice League.

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Morton’s character of Doctor Hamilton is clearly being set up to play a larger role down the line, while Adams’ character of Jodi is this episode’s ‘freak of the week’, and her character makes for interesting viewing in this day and age, when one can easily see problems that may not have been seen at the time.

Another Michael Green script, the episode plays on the themes of body image, and what one might do to obtain a body image that one is happy and comfortable with. These are themes that have merit and the ability to be powerful, but they’re used here to launch a narrative that includes moments of body horror and a high body count, to the extent that after seven episodes, Smallville High is already starting to feel even more dangerous that Sunnydale High School in Buffy the Vampire Slayer – to the extent that one can only wonder how any parent could be crazy enough to send their children to this school in the first place. And this is only the seventh episode of the first season!

As for the central idea of weight loss being at the forefront of the episode’s horror, sometimes it feels as if Green’s teleplay loses sight of what should be more interesting ideas and instead focuses on the set pieces, including Jodi quenching her hunger by devouring anything in sight, including, in the episode’s most brilliantly put together moment, a deer that she hits with her car.

Yes, one of the nastier students of the school who makes fun of her appearance gets their comeuppance, and the image of her jaw extending beyond normal is deeply horrific and terrifying, feeling like it belongs more in The X-Files or Supernatural. The X-Files similarity isn’t too big of a surprise given that it feels as if it was inspired somewhat by its third season entry ‘2Shy’, an episode that relied on a character that was best described as a ‘fat-sucking vampire’.

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‘Craving’ basically puts its hunger-prone monster and the weight angle into one basket, and yet one cannot help but feel that the episode is maybe pushing this plotline because someone thought it might be funny to have a character who used to be overweight lose said weight but then be punished for trying to be slim.

The episode puts Adams into a “fat suit” for its teaser sequence, and of course, this being Smallville, the weight loss is because of her exposure to the meteor rocks. The biggest source of originality to come from the episode is that it doesn’t resort to having Lana be placed in danger, instead, having Clark’s best friend Pete (Sam Jones III) be the one that is imminent peril.

Despite the issues here, Adams is, of course, great, and it’s the future Lois Lane (not to mention the star of modern classic Arrival) that helps the character work, even if the script here is far from Smallville at its best, or even its most tasteful or emotionally intelligent.

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