TV Discussion

Smallville 4×04 – ‘Devoted’ – TV Rewind

The most poignant thing about ‘Devoted’ is its dedication to Christopher Reeve. The definitive screen incarnation of Clark Kent, his shadow is still cast to this day on the role and the character, but you might be left wondering why everyone involved in Smallville didn’t pay tribute to the actor with a better episode.

There is a semblance of an entertaining idea in here, and maybe if it had been produced back in season one, it might have worked brilliantly, during a period when the series was still finding its voice. However, we’re into the fourth season now, the series has come on in leaps and bounds over the past three seasons, and its third was the best season of the series by constantly swinging for the fences and gaining more hits than misses.

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Despite the season starting well and brilliantly introducing Lois Lane to its side of the DC universe, one gets the impression that Smallville is somewhat sliding back into old bad habits. It wouldn’t be a problem if the writing here was brilliantly harking back to a style of storytelling and doing it well, but it gives the impression that the series has become somewhat rudderless. There might be some parts of the audience that will lap all of this up, especially the sequences involving Clark trying to make his mark on the football team and finding himself up against a new love rival for Lana that is part of the football team itself, albeit this time in the form of the Assistant Coach.

Some credit is due for making Jason Teague (Jensen Ackles) a likeable character for the most part, who appears to want to be good friends with Clark, but that’s really all that feels different here. The concept of a ‘love potion’ that drives so much of the plot feels more akin to Charmed, a series where witchcraft is part and parcel of the storytelling. In trying to make it part of the meteorite rock lore here, it plays once into what was frequently a recurring problem with Smallville in those early days: always relying on kryptonite.

The character stuff is good here, admittedly. As always the Clark and Lex scenes are great, especially regarding the latter’s attempts to regain his friendship with the former. It once again shows a brilliant ability of the series to play with the Clark/Lex dynamic in a way that makes you think this is the point where it will turn and then it doesn’t. As fun as it is, it maybe suggests in a grander way the biggest problem that Smallville is encountering in its fourth season.

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It’s still in high school, it’s still stuck in the past and really what it needs to do to make things fresh again is to move beyond the high school corridors. It needs to keep moving forward and start flying (no pun intended) in order to gain the traction again that it amassed over the best parts of season two and a large chunk of season three, because an episode like this (and unfortunately some of the stuff coming up) won’t pass muster.

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