It’s always amazing how close in terms of tone and spirit Smallville can be to The X-Files at times. This might be a teen Superman series, but it’s clear that for a television show that has one of the most famous and iconic of superheroes as a lead character, one could be forgiven for not being surprised if Mulder and Scully showed up to investigate; they could offer a job to Chloe who would probably be right at home in that iconic basement office.
The opening teaser with its elements of grisly death and body horror feels particularly like an X-Files teaser, while there’s also Mark Snow on scoring duties. Plus all those Vancouver locations and the guest stars who usually showed up several times as different characters on Chris Carter’s defining 90s’ classic, even having a theme as emotive as the one that ‘Reaper’ is dealing with here.
‘Reaper’ isn’t quite going for the type of thematic heights that something like The X-Files or Millennium would aim for – or at least I hope it’s not because if it is it’s not quite reaching it. In terms of dread and atmosphere, it has a touch of it, but truthfully, this isn’t one of the best hours of Smallville.
It begins interestingly enough, and the visual of Tyler’s (Reynaldo Rosales) victims turning to ash and dissolving is a pretty damn creepy and unsettling one, but once it opts to turn Tyler into a more pedestrian type of villain who can’t get enough of racking up a high victim count, any semblance of potentially interesting material goes out the window.
A character such as this, who initially has a motivation as complex and emotive as the one that drives Tyler the first time we meet him, could give a character like Clark, one whose motivations are driven by right and wrong/good and evil, a chance to see that the world isn’t merely black or white. But that’s not what ‘Reaper’ is driving at and that’s kind of a shame because it could have made things here a lot more interesting than what we end up with.
As always with some of the weaker episodes of Smallville, it’s the surrounding tissue that makes things that little bit more enjoyable than they would be otherwise, even if, as always, the episode is falling back on father and son dynamics; Lex against Lionel, Clark at loggerheads with Jonathan, even Whitney and his own dad, although the latter is a bit of a drag even if it ends up connecting with Tyler’s storyline in an effort to rack up tension that the episode is otherwise lacking.
Admittedly those threads bring out the best in Welling, Schneider and Rosenbaum, who exchange some barbed bits of dialogue here; particularly Welling, who sells Clark’s anger at Jonathan magnificently in a moment that really stings hard, given how brilliantly the writing and both Schneider and Welling have made for a convincing Clark and Jonathan Kent. Rosenbaum is also on fine form too, and while his own scenes with Glover sparkle, the dialogue between them feel like retreads of their dialogue from the last few episodes, even though it’s hard to dispute the fact that both actors are always great when they’re on screen together.
It’s those moments where ‘Reaper’ excels. Everything else is, sadly, a little forgettable.