TV Discussion

Smallville 2×21 – ‘Accelerate’ – TV Rewind

So many times in my discussion of Smallville, I have referred back to The X-Files. It’s not something I mean to do, but it’s hard not to make comparisons between the two series, as so many times during its first season Smallville‘s structure of monster-of-the-week in a Vancouver-filmed genre series had more in common with Chris Carter’s seminal, decade-defining sci-fi procedural than it did with Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

As season two has progressed, it’s stepped away from that a little, and if there is any connective tissue between the two series it’s that it shares The X-Files‘ ability to combine stand-alone tales with its own mythology episodes, steeped in the lore of the comic books it’s taking it cue from. It’s been a great season where the series has finally found a voice and style of its own, and shied away from the more overt formula that it threatened to fall into. But now we get to ‘Accelerate’ and, in all honesty, the only thing missing is a split second reveal of the Cigarette Smoking Man before we go into those Mark Snow-backed end credits. The fact that Mark Snow is also a composer for both shows is not lost on me.

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This is also a Lana showcase, so the episode will live or die on how much you appreciate Smallville‘s leading lady. Kristen Kreuk is a great actress and has done a lot of good work throughout the series, but given that this is a Superman-origin series and we know that Clark will never end up in a long term relationship with her in the future, the series needs to do a lot of good work to make us buy this relationship right now, and that’s maybe still the one stumbling block of the series at this stage.

Kreuk is great in the role, but the writing of the character and the fact that, for the most part, it keeps replaying variations of the same conversations between herself and Clark over his keeping of secrets from her with whatever gentle rock ballad was popular at the time playing over the soundtrack, means that their scenes and any potential love story between them get bogged down by repetition.

The prospect of a Lana-centred episode as we near the end of the season is one that cannot help but fill you with dread, particularly as it’s one that at first glance appears to be harkening back to the initial idea of making the series ‘The X-Files, you know with Superman as a teen and his friends’. Thankfully it doesn’t stay that way for too long, and this being a Kelly Souders and Brian Petersen script (who are perhaps my favourite writers on the series) means that it gets its knees deep into a storyline involving cloning and Lionel Luthor’s questionable ethics as a businessman.

Of course, the cloning thing itself feels like it should warrant the involvement of the FBI’s finest, but at the very least weird science is part and parcel of the Lex/Lionel lore of the comic books as well, so it stands to reason that the eventual revelation as to what is going on will point right back to Smallville‘s master villain at this stage.

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The threat that Lionel poses, and elevations of John Glover and the character to regular status this season, means that he has become something of an increasingly threatening presence. Like the presence of Lana, there is the feeling of the character being around to kill time until the series can embrace the more famous comic book elements whenever it is at a place where it finally can. The difference being, however, is that it’s a part of the show that is actually working considerably well and the more Smallville continues, the more Glover is fast becoming its biggest asset.

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