TV Discussion

Smallville 3×14 – ‘Obsession’ – TV Rewind

Given the episode’s main storyline, it’s a good thing Holly Harold’s script for ‘Obsession’ makes reference to Fatal Attraction, because that’s all one can think of during its run time. Just for good measure, the Adam Knight storyline dangles the possibility of turning itself into Pacific Heights, another glorious example of the type of mid-budgeted thriller that Hollywood produced during the 80s, 90s and early 2000s.

There is a possibility of a really good episode promised in the opening teaser sequence; Clark saves the life of a fellow classmate using his powers in front of her due to the fact he has no other choice unless he chooses to not save her. There are many directions that the episode could go down with such a tantalising idea, but the one we end up heading towards is teen-Fatal Attraction. Thankfully, no bunnies are killed in a horrifying manner.

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It says a lot about how much of an impact Adrian Lyne’s 1987 blockbuster had, that any movie or television episode dealing with stalking or being obsessed with someone was evoking Glenn Close’s iconic portrayal of Alex Forrest in that film. Only two years before ‘Obsession’ premiered on The WB did Hollywood actually produce a teen variant of the Fatal Attraction story with Swimfan, and here Smallville gives us what is essentially a super powered equivalent. 

There is fun to be had here. The episode could be classified as something of a guilty pleasure. There is a sexual charge to the earlier moments, and the episode gives us a network television played version of a bedroom scene in the early stretch of the episode. Sure enough, that soon gives way to veiled threats, moments of violence and, inevitably with Smallville, Lana being threatened.

Of course, some of these tropes are a harder sell nowadays. There is a deeper story involving mental illness just under the surface to all of this, as there was with Glenn Close’s iconic portrayal, but it’s jettisoned in favour of increasingly melodramatic moments of suspense as opposed to anything that resembles real dramatic weight. In the last few years, Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna’s wonderful musical comedy drama series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is perhaps the best example of taking the stalker theme and turning it into something genuinely insightful.

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There are only one two ways the episode can go: tragic or thriller. ‘Obsession’ chooses the latter, making Alicia the latest monster-of-the-week villain for Clark to go up against, and inevitably fuelled by a need to kill Lana. Like so many Fatal Attraction knock-offs (of which there were many), there is a guilty pleasure level of dark charm to the whole thing. Given how great a season this is overall, it’s a little disappointing that this doesn’t do anything too radical and is another placeholder episode like last week’s Fast and the Furious knock-off. 

Sarah Carter, who would go on to appear in the Arrowverse as a villain on The Flash, gives the role considerably enjoyable energy and she elevates it pretty well all things considered, but you’re left hoping the series will go back  to larger concerns as hinted at by its surprisingly chilling final scene.

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