TV Discussion

Smallville 3×12 – ‘Hereafter’ – TV Rewind

One could easily describe this as an old-school episode of Smallville: a guest character with supernatural abilities brought on by the meteor rocks, Clark, Chloe and Pete doing some investigating work, and of course, the obligatory scenes of Lana being in danger. It says a lot about the early 2000s that brand name superhero productions such as this and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy frequently found no other ways to engage the audience and the characters thanby placing the love interest of its lead character in danger for the third act.

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Kristen Dunst’s Mary-Jane spent three movies being placed in so much jeopardy that it almost felt like a running joke by the time we got to the more troubled third film of that iteration of Marvel’s famed web slinger, and you get the sense that while Smallville has moved on quite considerably since the days of season one, where at times it seemed to rely almost solely on monster-of-the-week stories, it’s not afraid to go back to its bread and butter if need be. This might sound as if I’m about to be very critical of ‘Hereafter’, and it is perhaps easy to be somewhat sniffy about the episode, given just how much Smallville has been willing to try and move away from the formula trappings of its early days this season, but sometimes meat and potatoes can be a tasty meal when done well, and the familiarity of this one is comforting. 

These type of Smallville tales work best when they’re filtered through character, and this is perhaps where Mark Verheidan and Drew Z. Greenberg’s script excels. The threat posed by the school’s coach is old hat (and immediately puts one in mind of another of Smallville‘s earlier entries, ‘Hothead’), but the emotional drive of the episode is driven less by threat and danger – as so many earlier episodes would have been – and more on Clark’s protective friendship with this week’s guest character, Jordan (Joseph Cross), while the eventual escalation into danger is pushed more by grief and loss as opposed to plain old-fashioned villainy.

The character of Jordan and his abilities of forseeing the future is itself another trope that the series has played with before in season one’s ‘Hourglass’, and while once again it might be easy to roll one’s eyes at just how safe and typically Smallville the whole episode is, the series’ acknowledgment that it’s playing with characters and plots that we know the destination of means that there is some potency to the drama, even if one cannot help but feel that we’ve seen it all before. 

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There is some fun to be had (finally) with the Adam Knight story and his position into something of an antagonist, giving Ian Somerhalder a chance to hint at his later work on The Vampire Diaries. And yet for all the entertainment to be had here – and it is an entertaining episode for sure – you can’t help but shake the feeling of deja-vu about the whole episode, even if it is by any other yardstick an enjoyable hour of television. It just happens to be an episode that, outside of its cliffhanger ending, you could easily skip and not really miss anything.

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