TV Discussion

Smallville 2×14 – ‘Rush’ – TV Rewind

Given that its introduction of Red Kryptonite in the episode ‘Red‘ was so effective earlier in the season, it’s no surprise that the Smallville writers were eager to return to that storytelling well. Tom Welling is so good as noble, well-meaning Clark Kent that it would seem a wasted opportunity not to have him play the role in the complete opposite direction as he did so brilliantly earlier in the season.

Like so much with Smallville or even just genre television from the early 2000s, one cannot help but bring The X-Files up when talking about this episode. The fact that this episode features teens in a cave falling to some supernatural prey cannot help but recall that Mulder and Scully also had an episode involving a cave and superpowered teens in their show during the seventh season that was also, strangely enough, called ‘Rush’. Then there are the parasitic worms at the heart of the episode that affect people’s personalities that recalls season one classic ‘Ice’.

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Of course, the story devices are cosmetic and Smallville uses these ideas in its own way and has a lot of fun with them. Part of the course of television shows and something that many series often turn to effectively and entertainingly is when they have an excuse to have their characters act wildly out of the norm. It was what made ‘Red’ so good at the start of the season and clearly, the mandate from the writers’ room, with Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer delivering this episode’s teleplay, is to try and do an episode that has nearly all of Clark’s friends acting in ways that are not in their nature.

While ‘Red’ was a brilliant take on its lead character acting in ways that entertainingly subverted so much of his mannerisms and behaviour, as well as the many scenes that are Smallville‘s bread and butter, one cannot help but feel that while ‘Rush’ is entertaining and good fun and piles on a lot of angst in its final moments as a result of its out of character humour, it also feels like a retread of sorts of last season’s ‘Nicodemus‘ where the show did something similar, albeit with a plant instead of worms.

This would normally be something that one might want to complain about, but what the episode manages to do well, at least until the final five minutes, is to do things with the characters and the relationships that it normally can’t do every week – and does it with considerable verve and impact. Clark tells Chloe about his powers and then the show gets to really go to town with the Clark/Lana/Chloe dynamic and with it a massive uptake in the romantic triangle angst stakes.

When the tables are turned later on and Clark comes back to his senses, Pete becomes something of a clear antagonist, and where earlier in the episode he was prone to using the red kryptonite as a means to get his own way, he then takes on more of a villainous persona by using the dreaded green version.

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While the paradigm and character structures are reset for the end of the episode, and it is a bit of a cop-out for the episode to have Chloe conveniently forget everything, it gives the show a taste of how the series might function if Chloe was no longer on the outside of knowing Clark’s abilities, even if it’s under the influence of parasitic worms.

There are metaphors abounding for teens that are high on life because of drugs, and admittedly Smallville has never been as graceful or as subtle about those metaphors in the manner of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it’s hard not to have a good time with the episode, even if it does resort to characters exclaiming that they are ‘high on life’ just to hammer home the point.

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