TV Discussion

Smallville 4×07 – ‘Jinx’ – TV Rewind

Clark joining the high school football team was one of those plot elements that was raised back in season one when Smallville was something of a more straightforward high school fantasy series with its reliance on the monster-of-the-week storytelling device. Season four has seen the series turn away from the mythology-driven component that made seasons two and three naturalistic and expansive in terms of how everyone behind the scenes approached the series, and with each passing week that turning back to what the series was originally like feels more and more like a mistaken piece of backtracking.

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Each passing episode feels like it has very much taken the option of trying to get back to basics, which looks more and more like a sillier decision from the writers given the high quality of season three. It’s a decision that looks even sillier in retrospect if one binges on the series for the first time in a day and age when it’s available on DVD and Blu-ray as well as via streaming services.

There is a clear difference to be seen the more the season has gone on, and ‘Jinx’ feels very much like a season one episode, which is fine when you watch it but it leaves you hankering a little more for last season when the series was taking more chances and swinging for the fences with its story arcs. Not everything worked, but there was a nobility in the episodes that didn’t because they were in the middle of a batch of episodes that couldn’t help but impress the viewer.

The novelty to be had here is in the appearance of Mikhail Mxyzptik (and is that a nightmare to spell), a character very much based on famed antagonist Mister Mxyzptik, sometimes pronounced Mxy (which Supergirl did when they used the character) and played here with charismatic vindictiveness by Trent Ford. A more fantasy-laden villain than the sci-fi flavourings of the likes of Brainiac or the big business aura of Lex Luthor, the character’s mischievous nature and trickster like behaviour is perhaps more comparable with someone like Loki but with an even more magical nature.

The reverting of so much of Smallville to leaning on the fantasy high school component sees the character grounded into a typical teen foe for Clark to go up against, where he tricks and manipulates those around them, uses his powers to disrupt the high school football games for financial gain, and isn’t above being creepy and unsettlingly manipulative with Chloe in scenes which feel even more disturbing today.

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The character makes for a formidable opponent and this is the first episode of the season where Clark being on the football team works rather well because it has some function in the framework of the narrative and Mark Warshaw’s script can do interesting things with the characters.

However, outside of the season premiere and last week’s ‘Transference‘, this is another episode of the season where you’re kind of left wishing that it was better and the drive of the season was comparable and similar to what it was doing at the equivalent stage last season. One might have gotten the sense then that the series was fully committing to being the superhero serial that it always promised to be in those early days, but everything here feels like it’s gone backwards and not forwards. It’s only the seventh episode so you might be forgiven for thinking the season can improve, but sadly that won’t be the case at all.

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