TV Discussion

Smallville 5×13 – ‘Vengeance’ – TV Rewind

While the death of Jonathan Kent is a mainstay of the Superman story, it’s very rarely that audiences are afforded a glimpse of the immediate aftermath and impact his loss has on Clark and Martha. Funeral sequence aside in Superman: The Movie, Superman movies have to move on to the next stage of the story as it pertains to the structures of an origin tale and a two hour runtime.

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Television can go a little further since it’s a format that functions in long-form storytelling, and following the emotionally catalclysmic events of ‘Reckoning‘, a brilliant episode, we now get ‘Vengeance’, which hints at a story involving rage and fury but which also becomes concerned with bereavement and justice. It’s maybe not quite up to the brilliance of the previous episode, but there is a lot of understated emotional drama here that is well played and some lovely foreshadowing of the future; something Smallville has always excelled at even if it has always been as subtle as a sledgehammer at hinting at those further developments in the Superman story.

© 2006 Warner Bros. Television.

Stumbling onto the existence of someone who is a reporter by day and a masked, crime-fighting vigilante by night, ‘Vengeance’ plays within the confines of a story which lovingly hints not just at Clark’s future but also at the moral and ethical issues that are at the heart of so much superhero fiction. It also hints at both a very iconic friendship he’ll have with not only a future Justice League member, but also with a future cast member of the series who is not Bruce Wayne.

Denise Quinones is a lot of fun of as Andrea Rojas, aka the Angel of Vengeance, who comes complete with the reporter/crime fighter paradigm of so many fictional crime fighters, but also with a backstory similar to Batman‘s (a mugging gone wrong), but asks the question of what happens when a character like this goes too far. The ‘no killing’ rule is part and parcel of so many stories and moral codes of characters from these worlds that there is something ghoulishly intriguing when the audience and characters of the show are forced to confront what happens when superheroes go too far.

© 2006 Warner Bros. Television.

Andrea is consumed by grief and thirst for vengeance and inevitably she goes very quickly from potential new friend to antagonistic figure, but as is always the case with characters like this, it gives the writers a chance to hold a mirror up to Clark and show the potential that lies in wait that we know he won’t fall into. He might mourn Jonathan’s loss, but he had the presence of Jonathan in his life to fall back on to, not to mention a friend circle that show genuine love and affection in times of strife.

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A broken tractor and missing watch become catalysts for Clark and Martha to just hang on that little bit longer, and after all the action and moralising that is entertainingly done as always, it’s the early and closing scenes involving Clark and Martha struggling to move on that end up being the true emotional bone of the episode, not to mention genuinely heartbreaking.


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