‘Kinetic’ begins very entertainingly with a robbery in the Luthor mansion, all set to the nu-metal stylings of P.O.D – just to remind you that this is the early 2000s. It’s a very effective sequence that begins humorously with Chloe and Clark interviewing Lex, with Chloe, in particular, giving him the third degree in a funny way before being seriously injured in a robbery on the mansion.
We know that Chloe, a regular character and one of the most enjoyable presences in the series, isn’t going to die thirteen episodes into the first season, but her fall and subsequent injuries do hint at an episode that has bigger intentions and dramas on its mind, especially when Jonathan tells Clark that he can’t save everyone all the time. Of course, if you know your Superman lore then you know this is foreshadowing the biggest lesson Clark will learn when he is not much older than he is now, but it leaves one feeling that we might be in for something great with ‘Kinetic’.
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Unfortunately, the first five minutes of the episode is by far the best thing about it because what follows is an episode centred around Whitney, who has never really been Smallville‘s most interesting or entertaining character.
Love triangles are a frequent trope in many teen movies and television series, and sometimes they can mine great drama and debate if a show ensnares a devoted following; just remember all those Team Dawson or Team Pacey debates that kicked up when Dawson’s Creek came to its senses and made Joey and Pacey an item in the third season.
With Smallville, it’s sometimes hard to figure out what the point of Whitney has been other than to come between Clark and Lana and add some angst to Clark’s character. It’s always interesting to see actors in earlier roles before they make it in bigger projects, and Eric Johnson has done pretty well for himself post-Smallville, what with appearing in Steven Soderbergh’s acclaimed television series The Knick. Whitney, however, isn’t exactly the greatest character, showing up, looking daggers at Clark and generally being a pretty bad boyfriend to Lana until Clark reminds him to be better, which Philip Levens’ teleplay pretty much devotes an entire episode to.
The villains, meteorite infected bank robbers who can move through solid objects and have parties with a pre-Lost Evangeline Lilly, take Whitney under their wing and with it a bunch of anti-social behaviour all backed up by early 2000s nu-metal because that’s the soundtrack of bad guys, supposedly.
As always, the visual effects are not only effective for a television series on The WB that aired in 2001, but incredibly impressive for a television series of the time, but it’s hard to really care with ‘Kinetic” because it’s hard to care for Whitney. He’s the jock who always comes good or around to Clark in every episode before the series needs to reset itself the following week and have them be at loggerheads yet again, mostly about Lana, so it does leave the viewer wondering why they should really care about Whitney this hour if nothing is ever going to change in that regard.
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The gang’s attempt at blackmailing Lex over the contents of a computer disc is a much more engaging part of the hour, relying as it does on Rosenbaum bringing a level of complex charm once again to the role that reminds one of how much he truly is the MVP of the series, and just how much of loose thread it is that makes Clark and Lex friends. It’s a thread that we the audience know will come apart in the future, although like the earlier scene with Jonathan Kent and his mini “you can’t save everyone” speech, some of the dialogue between them in one key scene feels like it lays on a little thickly the foreshadowing of their future relationship, but as always with Smallville, it’s hard not to enjoy the fun the series has with moments like this, especially in that brilliantly delivered veiled threat he gives to the gang at the end of the episode.
In the end, it’s the smaller moments like that and the bittersweet scenes at Chloe’s bedside that bring out the best of the episode, but it is one Smallville’s least interesting hours of the season so far, which isn’t really what one expects to say when an episode ends with its main villain being crushed to death by a falling car.