Inevitable with American teen dramas on the small screen, and sometimes occasionally on the bigger screen too, we’ve reached the point in Smallville where we’re going to the prom, and since this is the teen years of Clark Kent, it ends up approaching chaos.
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Of course, as is the case with most teen series with a large side order of genre material, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode ‘The Prom’ is something of a gold standard for this type of thing. That breezy, funny and achingly romantic episode was a symbolic moment for the series, and it’s similar here for Smallville, representing a moment where our characters are branching away from the comfy confines of the high school corridor and out into the big bad world. Except, when Buffy delivered its prom episode it was really, really good, and ‘Spirit’ is basically a retread of what has clearly become a recurring theme for Smallville‘s fourth season: characters acting out-of-character.
Chloe takes the stance that she thinks the prom is something of an archaic institution, but then the fun comes in having the character possessed by a dead guest character obsessed with the whole idea of prom, but instead of simply having Chloe be the one possessed, a number of characters are on the receiving end of possession treatment. On paper, this could be really good, but it is another episode this year that has seen the series rely on characters acting against type. Last week we had a great Lex Luthor evil double episode, and earlier in the year Clark and Lionel swapped bodies and the episode went to town with it. This does feel like the series is simply treading on the highs of previous episodes of the season, which is a shame since it’s been the standalone episodes that has seen the season at its best.
There are ‘important’ storytelling markers here involving this year’s arc, and with the reveal that Doctor Crosby has died (off screen, and brought about by complex issues behind the scenes in trying to bring back Margot Kidder to the role that are a bit much to go into here), the episode moves some markers into place for the upcoming finale that, for the first time in Smallville‘s run feels like something to be wary of rather than anticipate.
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As for the rest of the episode, it ends up falling into the same pit as ‘Spell‘ and stepping too far away from the series’ more science fictional type of storytelling and genre. It’s not as bad as that episode, thankfully, but it’s sadly nowhere near as much fun as it should have been either. Once we’ve seen characters behaving out of character several times as much as this season has relied on the trope, it really does feel like we’ve seen it all.