TV Discussion

Smallville 5×14 – ‘Tomb’ – TV Rewind

Being a long running network television series that had to produce twenty-two episodes a year, Smallville unsurprisingly would find itself falling into the trap of delivering what younger generations of television viewer might be prone to dub as ‘filler episodes’. It’s also, as evidenced by so much television of this ilk and produced through this very production model, occasionally influenced by genre and stylistic touches of the period in which it was produced.

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The impact of The Matrix, for example, is felt throughout the series as evidenced by its deployment of bullet time visual effects that had a habit of showing up everywhere at the time (even The X-Files and Angel wouldn’t be immune), and when viewing ‘Tomb’ in 2023, one is reminded of just how much Hollywood was eager to attempt to do its own version of the visuals and cliches that were frequently to be found in Japanese horror films of the period, affectionately referred to as J-Horror.

© 2006 Warner Bros. Television.

The Ring, Ju-On: The Grudge and Dark Water were not only huge commercial successes in their home country, but managed to cross over to international success and were subsequently, and inevitably, remade by Hollywood studios. Even Smallville was eager to fall under the influence of the genre as evidenced by this return to the ‘monster-of-the-week’ format and the visual of a dark haired ghost with dark rings under her eyes which all feels reminiscent of the iconic spirit at the heart of The Ring series.

© 2006 Warner Bros. Television.

Despite the derivative nature of some of the visuals here, it does somewhat delve into some of Smallville’s themes of the season, namely death and loss which hovered over the last few episodes given the death of Jonathan Kent in ‘Reckoning‘ a few weeks ago. The plot line involving a spirit being released after her body is discovered and the eventual psychological impact it has on Chloe feels like a plot thread that one might have expected to see on either The X-Files or even Supernatural which had debuted during this particular season of Smallville, and which was, of course the reason Jensen Ackles left the series suddenly after season four.

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While co-creator Alfred Gough is on the record as stating that he feels the episode was the most boring of the season, it’s really not that bad. It says a lot about how great the season has been that this is its weakest instalment, but thankfully, unlike writer Steven S DeKnight’s previous attempts at infusing a sense of the supernatural into the series, ‘Tomb’ at least feels like a natural progression of some of the season’s concerns – death, loss, the impact the incapacitation or death of a parent can have on a child who has to live with the aftermath – and gives Chloe some great material to work with.

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