TV Discussion

Smallville 3×10 – ‘Whisper’ – TV Rewind

It is perhaps one of the most often used tropes in superhero fiction: a lead superheroic character finding their abilities, or one of them, depleted. Inevitably, our heroes must prove their worth in a moment of physical weakness, the possibilities of something approaching normality dangled in front of them either in a manner that is tempting or horrifying. The recent Wonder Woman 1984 presented Diana Prince with her powers depleting over the course of the film and having to get them back via an emotional sacrifice. Spider-Man 2 similarly presented Peter Parker having to contend with his powers playing up on him. And Bruce Wayne found himself with a severely broken back at the worst possible time in The Dark Knight Rises.

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Smallville has presented Clark Kent with depleted powers before, and knowing it can’t really go there again so soon without coming across as derivative, writer Ken Horton takes away his vision here and plays with the idea of what might happen when Clark Kent is blind. The episode is as close to early Smallville as the third season has gotten, or at least as close as it has felt in a while. After several episodes of building up the tension between the Luthor clan and the drama surrounding Lex’s mental health issues, Horton’s script sees the series chill out a little with a back to basics approach almost. There is still blowback to be had between Lex and Lionel, and it’s one of the continuing joys of the series that it can always find new ways to play with and continually double down on the tension between those two.

The bulk of the episode is devoted to Clark’s sudden blindness. Just to keep the season one air hovering around proceedings, Clark’s vision loss stems from exploding meteor rocks and the subsequent impact not only playing into the episode, but also in figuring out how he will defeat this week’s antagonist. There is also the impact it has on the inner working of the Kent farm. Jonathan struggling with farm work is a gently amusing acknowledgment of just how much Clark’s abilities are a major part of making ends meet for his adoptive parents, but this being part of the superhero genre means that while one part of Clark is somewhat weakened, another is heightened.

His superhearing ability increasing as a result equally allows the series to have the character discover Chloe’s workings with Lionel that keeps some of the momentum going in regards to the season’s story threads, and the schism that it causes between the two characters is a lot more entertaining and interesting than the developing Clark/Lana/Adam Knight (a superhero name if there ever was one) love triangle. We get the now prerequisite scenes of angst, subtext and brooding YA chemistry all set to WB-approved rock ballads. While Welling and Kreuk gave these scenes their all as always, the Clark/Lana scenes are shaping up to be amongst the weaker parts of the season and it’s a shame.

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Romance goes hand-in-hand with the Superman story, and given the air of inevitability that hangs over Clark and Lex’s friendship and the poignancy that comes with the audience awareness that their bond will be severed, it’s a shame that the writing can’t quite achieve a similar sense of foreboding sadness with the series’ main love story. It’s a writing issue mainly; Welling and Kreuk sell their scenes wonderfully, but where one is dreading the moment Clark and Lex are pitted against each other, when it comes to its romantic side, one is pretty much left awaiting the moment the series will be able to introduce Lois Lane to the mix.

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