It’s not very often the writing team of Kelly Souders and Brian Peterson deliver a damp squib of an episode, but sometimes it just happens to great writers on great shows, and regretfully, ‘Exposed’ is one of the lesser efforts from the usual iron clad writing team. You can sense the wood through the trees in what the episode is going for, and despite the trope of having to resort to Erica Durance doing a striptease under the guise of an undercover storyline alongside Chloe, this has more of an air of ‘noble failure’ to it compared to last week’s attempt at a Buffy the Vampire Slayer-style episode.
It shows the wonders that come from the elasticity of the show and the twenty-two episode format of American television at the time, that the series is able to flit from vampires last week and its usual plethora of meta-humans to a story that is about the (shock, horror) corruptibility of politics. Turns out the world of politics is dirty and male politicians have a sleazy component to them. Shocking.
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Things begin interestingly enough with the emergence of an old school friend of Jonathan’s showing up on the Kent doorstep, and it was inevitable that the series would throw in a reference to John Schneider’s time on The Dukes of Hazzard by having his co-star of that series, Tom Wopat, appear.
The episode gains much of its power not from necessarily having a Lois and Clark-style investigative mystery for Clark, Lois and Chloe to take part in, as much as having the aura of dirty politics show up at the front doorstep of the all-American cleanliness of Jonathan and Martha Kent. The two characters have always had just a whiff of Norman Rockwell’s America on the periphery, even if this is more of an American teen drama iteration of the characters compared to the Rockwell-style visuals that have populated previous screen versions and their comic book equivalents.
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What we do get here is the intriguing set-up at the end of the episode, that is going to have Jonathan himself running in the senate race that his friend ends up having to exit due to his involvement in the episode’s main scandal plot. It’s here that the episode reveals itself to be just a little bit more important in the long term plans of the season, and potentially beyond.
With Lex now sliding ever more into the realm of an antagonistic figure (we’re not quite at villain stage yet, but we’re getting there), the idea of the Kent’s and Luthor on a collision course that is rooted in their backgrounds and ideals is an enticing prospect for Smallville going forward. And even if this is far from the best episode of the series, and far from the best work of its writers, this still leaves one intrigued as to where this strand is going to go in later episodes.