TV Discussion

Smallville 4×19 – ‘Blank’ – TV Rewind

Anytime a television series uses the trope of amnesia it’s very hard for the viewer not to sit back and roll their eyes in exasperation. Soap operas have been known to use it either as a means to find a way to deliver obvious dramas or bring characters back from the dead (the Australian soap Neighbours notoriously did so in the mid-90s), while the first season of 24 ran into a little trouble in season one when the writers had Teri Bauer develop it as a contrived means to keep her separate and in danger for a chunk of its first season.

On that basis it might be easy to roll the eyes with Smallville using the trope here, but this is a Kelly Souders and Brian Peterson script and here they rebound after the weaknesses of ‘Sacred‘ a couple of weeks ago to deliver some great character moments that are a hallmark of so much of their best work.

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On the surface, Kevin Grady (Jonathan Bennett) appears to be very much a typical Smallville monster-of-the-week. His powers of stealing memories ending up incapacitating Clark, but instead of it simply coming down to affecting Clark’s powers, it leaves our lead hero not knowing who he is, and Chloe having to pick up the pieces, while Kevin himself has his own fractured memories hiding pivotal moments of his past. His father being a doctor and someone who works at the Summerholt Institute, which the series has pleasingly returned to for nefarious means throughout its run, allows Souders and Peterson to gently deliver some nicely played twists and turns to the story that add some wonderful complexities to what first appears in the teaser sequence.

On top of all that, it also lets the episode develop wonderful scenes between Chloe and Clark. It’s usually hard nowadays to look at Chloe O’Sullivan in the same way as we did when the series first aired, due to events in the real world, but it has to be said that the Chloe/Clark dynamic has always been one of the most interesting friendships going on in the series, more so than Clark and Lana, which continues to be a maudlin soap opera that one wishes desperately the series would turn away from. While Chloe tenderly helps Clark figure out who he is, finally allowing the character and the series to acknowledge that she knows his secrets (of course, it will revert to the status quo by the end of the episode), we still get dull scenes between Kreuk and Ackles centred in where Lana is going to university. Both actors are clearly capable of great things, so it’s a shame that so many of their scenes come across as filler that isn’t very interesting.

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In comparison, Lana’s scenes with Clark, and the acknowledgement of how things have changed between them over the course of the past four seasons is perhaps some of the best material both Kreuk and the character of Lana has been given all season. It swings back to her relationship, or lack thereof, with Clark but at least there is some fire in its emotional belly, but perhaps it’s another reminder that, despite how great their scenes are, the character at this stage has become stagnant and run her course.

Admittedly there is some typical reliance on the usual tropes and cliches come the final act what with Chloe being kidnapped by Dr Grady and Clark having to save her, but the episode brilliantly redeems itself with a beautifully played final scene between Welling and Mack that hints at the possibilities lying in wait for when the series finally plays the card where Clark learns that Chloe knows his secret.

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