TV Discussion

Smallville 2×03 – ‘Duplicity’ – TV Rewind

Now, this is more like it. Following the events of the tornado that finished season one and carried into the season two premiere, and with it the ship that brought Clark to Earth ending up stranded in a cornfield, the only question was when and how the writers of Smallville would pull on that ripcord. Well, it didn’t take them long and they’ve actually used it to do something interesting with the Clark/Pete friendship.

Of course, we know why Clark has to keep his powers a secret; protect the ones you love and all that, plus we’ve seen enough sci-fi dramas to know that if the government finds out then Clark’s life will be a living hell. On the opposite side of that coin, there is much drama to be mined from having that secret be revealed and the circumstances in which it does so.

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Once again, Smallville subtly asks some interesting questions about what it means to keep that secret. When the discovery of Clark’s spaceship is raised, the first thing Jonathan Kent does is suggest that Clark find a way to steal it and play dumb about it when Pete asks, while also downplaying Clark’s suggestion that he tell Pete about his powers.

It’s one of those dark little joys when Smallville plays Martha and Jonathan as initiators of a cover-up. We get why they want to keep the secret, there is more drama to be had, but it once again touches on somewhat of a darker heart at the centre of the Superman origin tale that the series is really going to run with in a few weeks. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but once again when confronted with Clark having told Pete, itself a brilliant moment, the first thing they say he should have done was to lie to him.

Clark telling Pete is a lovely game-changer of a moment for the series that seemed happy enough to play with its own version of Clark and the secret identity element of the story. Pete’s reaction plays on many of the fears that Clark always has about revealing his secret to anyone; not that he’ll be poked and prodded by government scientists but that those he loves will look at him as if he is a freak.

Pete does the whole looking around Clark to see if anything’s different from him, but the subsequent conversation that the two characters have has nothing to do with one of Clark’s best friends looking at him as if he’s one of Smallville’s resident monsters of the week and more to do with Clark lying all these years. Which shows another brilliant willingness of Smallville to take the whole secret identity aspect of the series and call attention to it in a way that previous Superman adaptations haven’t.

Pete’s anger is a nicely played by Sam Jones III, and the scenes between Jones and Welling crackle with a tension that runs from the comedic to genuinely dramatic, and going forward it’s neat that the series is willing to do something to shake up its character dynamics.

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It’s an episode filled to the brim with great little moments, once again indicating that Smallville is at its best when playing with bigger picture storylines and ideas. If ‘Heat‘ wearily suggested that we might be coming back to a season with monster of the week style stories, Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer’s teleplay throws itself into a story that is heavily reliant on many of Smallville‘s ongoing story arcs and threads that have been running since last season.

We get the dramatic return of Dr Hamilton (Joe Morton) and his own quest to find the spaceship which ups the drama considerably, while the presence of a now blind Lionel Luthor at the mansion gives the series ample opportunity to play with a new dynamic in the Lex/Lionel relationship, since it was Lex’s fault that Lionel is now a blind man. Although since this is Lionel one cannot help but wonder if he’s being genuine or not; a suspenseful wrinkle that hangs around many of his scenes.

It’s a wonderful hour of television from Smallville, filled with audience-pleasing moments that takes the series into genuinely new territory and which leaves you savouring what will happen next.

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