TV Discussion

Smallville 5×17 – ‘Void’ – TV Rewind

Let’s just say the obvious thing right away. Flatliners. Yep, ‘Void’ is Smallville‘s version of Joel Schumacher‘s 1990 film that featured Kiefer Sutherland declaring that ‘today is a good day to die’ while he and an all-star cast that included Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon and Oliver Platt tested the limits of existence by flatlining to see what it’s like on the other side.  The less said about the recent remake the better.

Its an interesting occurrence that perhaps doesn’t happen as often nowadays since television relies more on a ‘eight hour movie’ approach to writing with less dependence on what many dismiss (unfairly) as filler episodes, but occasionally some TV shows, especially those within the confines of the sci-fi and fantasy genres, would do their own version of a hit movie that was still relatively recent. The best example of this would no doubt that time The X-Files looked to John Carpenter‘s The Thing for inspiration and ended up giving the show one of its earliest classics.

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Like Flatliners, ‘Void’ ends up being a tale about confronting one’s past and charting a course for the future. The movie that was the inspiration here ended up being more a cautionary character piece as opposed to a full-on horror, and thankfully writer Holly Harold realises that’s the best approach to take with her own version of this story. While the episode is kicked into gear by Lana, it also gets a chance to play with looking at where Clark and Lex are in their lives and how they are fully stepping into the roles that destiny (and comic book history) expects of them.

Both characters get a chance to talk to loved ones they miss the most; Lex with his mother and Clark, inevitably, with Jonathan. While Clark gets the chance to reunite with his recently deceased father and the scene is played in as sentimental and moving fashion as fans will expect and want, Lex’s conversations with his mother suggests that perhaps it would be better for everyone if Lex just stayed in the afterlife, a chilling concoction  that the episode plays with very well and which is performed magnificently by Rosenbaum and Alisen Dawn as Lillian Luthor.

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I’m not sure if ‘Void’ could be described as a great Smallville episode, but it’s certainly not the worst. It doesn’t feel as laboured and soul-destroying as previous Lana and the supernatural episodes of the series and there is a lot here to like as it plays into one of the season’s continuing main themes of confronting loss and death head on in the course of growing up. This might be an episode of television looking to the big screen for inspiration, but it allows Harold to get into the emotional gutter of where the series is venturing into at this stage and that makes it another very entertaining episode in what is shaping up to be a great season of television at this stage.

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